The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department became a Paid Professional Fire Department September 1, 1888, but to better understand the history of the department we need to take a brief look at the years preceding 1888.
Six years after President Madison ordered Mobile taken from Spanish West Florida to become part of the Mississippi Territory, Mobile began to organize itself to try to protect life and property. Creole Steam Fire Company No. 1 is believe to be the first Volunteer Fire Company followed closely by Neptune Engine Fire Company No. 2.
Courtesy of The McCall Library, University of South Alabama
A City Ordinance was passed that called for the election of twelve Fire Wardens annually, who would supervise the extinguishment of fires and regulate their duties. Compulsory service was demanded of citizens to relieve the members of the fire companies when subjected to lengthened labor, and strangers sojourning in the City were also made liable for duty.
The Mobile Fire Department Association was formed and delegates from six existing companies were present. Laws and regulations were made to properly govern the Organization.
A municipal Ordinance was passed establishing the Fireman's Benevolent Fund to help fire fighters that were sick and infirmed. Later in 1843 a State Law was passed giving the Organization its "Rights, Power, and Privileges." April 9th of this year was the first Fireman's Day Parade and Celebration. This parade and celebration grew over the years to rival Mardi Gras in popularity.
Two major conflagrations occurred this year just two days apart. The first destroyed eleven squares or forty-four blocks. The second destroyed the Planters and Merchants Bank, Madison House, New Hotel and the Post Office.
It is suspected that the Notorious, Copeland Gang set these fires to divert attention away from them so they could remove a large cache of stolen property from Mobile.
Previously in 1836, an attempt was made at a public water system to pump water from a fountain at the foot of Spring Hill, but proved unsuccessful. In 1840, the City entered into a contract with Albert Stein to supply water to the City. This is considered to be Mobile's first successful public water system.
Mobile received its first Fire Alarm Telegraph. This system was an old system purchased from Syracuse, New York.
New Era! The City of Mobile establishes its First Paid Professional Fire Department.
Psychologists say that human beings are very reluctant to make changes. This fact has been proven many times throughout history. The story of Mobile's Fire Department underlines this point.
Volunteer Fire Fighters in late 1800's were reluctant to change to a paid Fire Department, but in doing so, great growth took place. Without this growth, Mobile might have been denied the services and protection of one of the best Paid Fire Departments in the Country.
It was in April 1819 that the first Volunteer Fire Company was organized in Mobile. The City was served by the Volunteer Companies until a disagreement over funding arose in 1888. Mayor J.C. Rich terminated the agreement with the Volunteer Association, under the direction of Chief Mathew Sloan, the paid Department was organized as a regular branch of the City. The City purchased the engine equipment of Phoenix No. 6 Volunteer Company for $3,000.00. Creole No. 1, possibly the oldest of the Volunteer Companies, was found willing to continue service as part of the Professional Fire Department, and its offer was accepted. Many of the former volunteers came forward to offer their services for the new Department and it was quickly organized and commenced operating on September 1, 1888.
1888 Letter to Mayor Joseph C. Rich from Chief Matt Sloan:
The grand total of the annual payroll was fixed at $11,990.00. Chief Sloan's salary was set at $1,200.00 per year and Assistant Chief Walter Soost received $400.00 per year.
Yes, the Volunteers of 1888 fought the changeover, but they would be proud of the Fire Department, as we know it today.
Proud , too, that they played an important role by providing a good foundation for a Fire Department dedicated to protecting the lives and property of its citizens in the most efficient way possible.
The Mobile Fire Department Originated.
State Convention - M.F.D. won award for Fastest Responding Fire Department.
Conflagration - Eleven Squares or 40 blocks. - The Mobile Firefighters waged their greatest battle ever. On May 21, at 3:25 in the afternoon, a fire alarm was turned in for a fire that started in a trash pile in the rear of Howard Cunningham's Grocery Store located at Hamilton and Madison Streets. By the time Companies 3 and 6 arrived from the station at Franklin and Church Streets, the fire had already extended from the pile of trash to the grocery store and was out of control. The fire spread so fast that soon all Mobile fire equipment was committed, and a desperate appeal was made to Pascagoula and Biloxi Mississippi for assistance. Winds sent the fire from house to house, and from block to block. Frantic, but oftentimes, futile efforts were made by residents to save their belongings. A force of 1,000 men under the direction of Manuel Tapia, from the Alabama Dry Docks and Shipbuilding Company, helped prevent the blaze from reaching the water front area. The best efforts of the Officers and men of the Fire Department were to no avail. As darkness settled and the wind died, the fire burned itself out, having consumed everything it contacted. Forty blocks or eleven squares were left in ruins; 1,200 people were left homeless, and 200 homes were destroyed. Many people were injured during the fire, but not one life was lost.
Last Horse drawn Apparatus retired and replaced with all Motorized equipment.
Civil Service Board created by State Law.
Fire Department Band abolished
Courtesy of The McCall Library, University of South Alabama
Volunteer Fire Companies Organized through Civil Defense (World War II)
Firefighters fired trying to organize union.
First Radios installed in fire trucks.
IAFF Local 1349 formed.
MFD Hires first Black Firefighter.
Bureau of Fire Prevention established.
Work schedule changed from 72 hours per week to 56 hours. MFD Commissions Fire Boat "Lurleen" named for Governor Lurleen Wallace. Training Center and Drill Tower Built.
MFD Decommissions Fire Boat "Lurleen".
Integrated Fire Department.
Fire Boat "Ramona Doyle" commissioned.
Established Paramedic Program. Changed uniforms from Khaki to Navy Blue. Department patch designed and introduced.
Firefighters Go On Strike!
Hazardous Materials Company/Unit Established.
Computer Aided Dispatching Established.
MFD Celebrates Centennial.
Incident Command System adopted.
New Ambulances Purchased and ALS Transport by Firemedics begins.
High Angle and Confined Space Rescue Team established.
Amtrak Disaster, 47 people killed.
800 Megahertz Trunking Radio System Installed.
Six New Fire Engines Purchased and Placed on Duty.
New "Lloyd J. Freeman" Station 1 Opened.
New "Frank J. Seelhorst" Station 7 Opened.
Urban Search & Rescue Team (USAR) Alabama Task Force 1 Established.
Fire Boat "Ramona Doyle" Decommissioned.
Received Fire Act Grant to implement the Wellness/Fitness Program.
Revival of the Trumpet newsletter after a four year absence.
New Fireboat “Phoenix” Commissioned.
Received new E-One Aerial Platform Ladder Truck (T-10).
District 4 reactivated bringing back the number of fire districts in the city to four once again.
Bureau of Fire Prevention and Supply move into new 25 thousand square foot warehouse/office Complex.
|1888-1901||Chief Mathew E. Sloan|
|1901-1914||Chief Thomas F. Price|
|1914-1919||Chief Charles S. McCosker|
|1919-1924||Chief George W. Myrick|
|1924-1937||Chief Augustus Rehm|
|1937-1941||Chief Manuel Tapia|
|1941-1954||Chief L.L. Petrey|
|1954-1968||Chief C. Dan Sirmon|
|1968-1973||Chief Douglas A. Melton|
|1973-1981||Chief H.H. Edwards, Jr.|
|1981-1984||Chief Frank J. Seelhorst|
|1984-1989||Chief Lloyd Jesse Freeman|
|1989-1999||Chief Edward A. Berger|
|1999-2013||Chief Stephen A. Dean|
|2017-present||Chief Paul M. Sealy|
In 1975 the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department changed its uniform from Khaki to the present navy blue. There was no insignia so the then Fire Chief, H.H. "Buddy" Edwards, Jr., commissioned Firefighter-Driver Joe Hannah to design an insignia for uniforms. Joe designed a patch with different figures that all meant something about the history of the department. The patch was later redesigned to incorporate the name change from fire department to fire-rescue department.
Foremost in the design is the Phoenix Bird with the Sun cresting over its shoulders. The Phoenix was a bird of Egyptian Mythology. The Phoenix lived for 500 years until it flew into the sun and burned. The bird then arose from its ashes and lived for 500 years more. The Phoenix was used as the Emblem because its story is an excellent example of Mobile's past.
The City of Mobile has had two major Conflagrations in its history:
The Fire of 1839 - This fire was actually a combination of four major fires. These occurred on September 29, October 2, 7, and 9. The fire which occurred on October 7 was the largest single fire in the history of Mobile, destroying eleven square blocks of the downtown area.
The Fire of 1919 - This fire occurred on May 21 and destroyed ten square blocks.
After these historical fires, Mobile, like the Phoenix, arose from its ashes.
Behind the Phoenix, are the Flags of the countries which occupied Mobile and which give it its rich history:
Republic of Alabama 1861-1861
The dates shown in the banners are:
1702 - The Year the City of Mobile was founded, which was the first Capital of the Louisiana Territory.
1888 - The Year the Mobile Fire Department was organized as a professionally paid department.
The only change in the patch was in 1996 when the name was changed to Mobile Fire-Rescue to better reflect the expanding role of the department.
To trade or obtain a Mobile Fire-Rescue Department Patch send a self addressed stamped envelope with your request to:
Mobile Fire-Rescue Department
701 Saint Francis Street
Mobile, Alabama 36602