A Brief History
Present day Atlanta was originally known as Marthasville. The population was approximately 500 and most of the inhabitants were employed by the Western and Atlantic Railroad. In 1848, the town was renamed Atlanta and in that same year the Atlanta City Council approved the organization of a volunteer fire brigade, which was the beginning of the modern-day Atlanta Fire Department.
As the city continued to grow the need for fire protection increased. Indeed, the expansion of the fire department kept pace with the growth of the city a trend that still continues. The Atlanta Volunteer Fire Department had a long and interesting history and remained a vital part of the city until 1882 when Atlanta Fire Department became official and the city council voted to pay salaries to all its firemen.
No annals of a fire department would be complete without mentioning the important role horses played in pulling the steamers and supply wagons. In 1867, two Norman horses were purchased by Fire Company Number 2 and a new era had arrived the horse drawn fire engine. The horses were magnificent to watch and they knew their mission well. The smell of smoke would make them run faster to the source of the fire and the sight of flames didn't frighten them. As they galloped over the cobblestone streets sparks would shoot out as their steel shoes pounded against the stones. The horses were used for half century before they gave way to mechanization. The last horse was retired in 1918.
The first motorized pumping engine was placed in service in 1911 at Fire Station Number 12 on DeKalb Avenue. By 1914, the city purchased helmets, uniforms, rubber boots and coats for the firemen for the first time.
The Atlanta Fire Department was integrated in 1963 when sixteen blacks were hired. They were all assigned to Fire Station Number 16 on Simpson Road. In 1977, seven female firefighters were hired.
Today the Atlanta Fire Department is one of the most modern, up-to-date fire departments in the United States.
Last updated: May 19, 2015