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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.

Chronological List of Our History

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:

Dear Sir:
In Compliance with your instructions, I have organized a Fire Department for the City of Mobile, consisting of one hook and ladder truck, three steam engines, three hose carriages in reserve, eleven horses and eleven sets of harnesses complete. I have also employed eighteen men to work same.

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.
First Female Firefighter hired and assigned to Fire Company.


MFD Celebrates Centennial.
First fully enclosed fire apparatus purchased.


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.
Established EMS Bike Team.
Established Special Events Uniform.


New "Frank J. Seelhorst" Station 7 Opened.


Urban Search & Rescue Team (USAR) Alabama Task Force 1 Established.


Fire Boat "Ramona Doyle" Decommissioned.
Six New Fire Engines and One New Ladder Truck Purchased and Placed on Duty.
"Matt Sloan" Station 2 Closed and Torn Down.
Engine 2 Taken Off Duty.


Received Fire Act Grant to implement the Wellness/Fitness Program.
Received Fire Act Grant to replace all defibrillators with new Zoll units.
Department of Homeland Security Grant for USAR equipment.
Designated State USAR Team.
Monies approved to purchase new fireboat.
Bureau of Fire Prevention received new vehicles.
Over $150 thousand in Grants received from the Health Department.


Revival of the Trumpet newsletter after a four year absence.
Triathlon team established.
Received new E-One Technical Rescue Truck (TR25).
USAR Takes delivery of two new tractor trailer rigs and one bus.


New Fireboat “Phoenix” Commissioned.
Received three new E-One Squad Trucks.
Received new Ferrara Fire Apparatus (E-22).
Purchased new bunker gear to include traditional helmets for all personnel.
Purchased new furniture for all fire stations.
New Homeland Security/Special Operations Division created.
Central Station Historical room opened on 2nd floor.
Natural gas generators installed at stations.


Received new E-One Aerial Platform Ladder Truck (T-10).
Citizens Academy program begins.
Replaced Chief Officers Ford Crown Vic fleet with Ford Expeditions.
Temporary Station 29 Opened, Engine 29 and Rescue 29 placed on duty.


District 4 reactivated bringing back the number of fire districts in the city to four once again.
New 24’ rigid hull inflatable (RHI) boat placed on duty.
Fire Dog Andy Duke retires after 13 years of service.
Revival of Firefighters Ball
Firefighters Safety Foundation established.


Bureau of Fire Prevention and Supply move into new 25 thousand square foot warehouse/office Complex.
Drive Cams placed in vehicles.

2018 Christened $3.1M Crichton Station in Crichton Community
2018 Achieved Class-1 rating from Insurance Services Office (ISO)
2019 Partners with Veterans Recovery Resources, implementing peer support teams, focusing on stress management and positive mental health
2020 MFRD added to A&E reality show Live Rescue
2020 Mobile Airport Authority announces transition to private fire/rescue staffing at airports, officially ending contract with MFRD
2020 Grand-opening for Station 18 in Spring Hill community, replacing previously demolished station (Aug 2019)
2021 MFRD EMS Division Awarded American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Silver Achievement AwardAwarded Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant in the amount of $5,360,000Second largest class of firefighters (18) in MFRD history graduates paramedic program (Coastal Alabama Community College)
2023 Received accreditation status from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS). 
Currently, there are only 185 accredited agencies out of the 18,228  agencies nationwide. In Alabama Mobile Fire-Rescue Department is the 4th accredited agency out of the 307  agencies in the state and the first Fire Department in the state to become accredited. Nationwide there are only 25  accredited fire departments.
2023 Received Accredited Agency status with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) for meeting the criteria established through the CFAI’s voluntary self-assessment and accreditation program. Becames the ninth fire department in the country that holds the distinction of an Insurance Services Office 1 (ISO-1) rating, Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS) accredited status and Commission on Fire Accreditation accredited status.

Mobile Fire-Rescue Fire Chief's History

Chronological List of Fire Chiefs
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
2017-2020 Chief Paul M. Sealy
2020-2023 Chief Jeremy P. Lami
2023-present Chief Johnny Morris Jr.


To trade or obtain a Mobile Fire-Rescue Department Patch send a self addressed stamped envelope with your request to:

Mobile Fire-Rescue Department
Supply Division
701 Saint Francis Street
Mobile, Alabama 36602