The history of the Orange City Firefighters is really a story of men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping people. The heritage of fire fighting has always been one of bravery, loyalty, and devotion to public service. These characteristics, coupled with a strong commitment to a personal calling that places one's life in jeopardy every day, makes the career of fire fighting truly a proud profession.
The Orange Fire Department came into existence on December 14, 1905 at a meeting of the city's Fire and Water Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to organize a volunteer fire department. Those who wished to become volunteers were required to purchase shares of the "Company" for $100. Twenty-nine men purchased shares and were then placed on the rolls of the Orange Volunteer Fire Department. An organization was formed by the members and named the "Orange Volunteer Fireman's Mutual Association," a forerunner of today's Orange City Fire Fighters. E.T. Parker and Ed Cope were elected Chief and Assistant Chief, respectively. Drills were held every Monday evening. The volunteers were paid 50 cents a call if they didn't have to use water to extinguish the blaze but the rate went up to $1 if they did. They were also paid $1 per false alarm.
The first few years saw some pitched battles over which of the local cowboys (volunteers) would be the ones to pull the ladder wagon or hose cart to the fire. Hearing the fire alarm bells, they would race to the Fire Hall, fighting each other to see who would be first.
The fire department was housed in the Fire Hall located at 122 S. Olive, which was built for them in 1906 at the cost of $467. The Fire Hall's most noteworthy feature was its 40-foot bell tower. The volunteers actually owned the Fire Hall and contracted with the city for its use. They answered calls with a horse-drawn hook and ladder and two hand-drawn carts. But in 1912, the department acquired a Seagrave pumper. It was the city's first motor-driven fire apparatus. In 1914, they acquired their first paid fireman, William Vickers, who was hired by the city to serve as a driver. Fireman Vickers lived upstairs at the Fire Hall for $8 a month rent. He was on duty round the clock until 1917 when D.C. "Doc" Squires was hired to spell him.
In 1913, the first fire alarm system was introduced to the City. It consisted of 15 telegraph boxes which were installed around Orange. At Dittmer's Mission pharmacy, residents could obtain a small chart showing the location of all the City's fire alarm boxes. This system remained in use until 1964.
The Fire Hall was used as the fire department's headquarters until November 1935 when a new facility was opened at 153 S. Olive. The Fire Hall was then used as a senior center , but to the chagrin of the department, it eventually burned down. The current headquarters is located on Grand Avenue between Almond and Chapman and has been in use since its dedication on May 9, 1969.
The first motorized fire engine in Orange County, an American LaFrance fire truck capable of pumping 1000 gallons a minute, was purchased for $13,000 by the Orange Fire Department in 1921. In 1934, the firemen built the first rescue truck and put it into service. That year, the Orange City Fire Department handled 18 fires.
The City's first full-time fire chief, Chief George Horton, was hired originally in 1925 as a volunteer fire fighter and was promoted to fire chief in 1952. Chief Horton was instrumental in leading the department into the early expansion and changeover from volunteer to fully paid.
By 1966, the last six volunteers of the Orange City Fire Department retired and the department became a fully paid entity. In 1973, Orange became one of the first fire departments in Orange County to provide paramedic rescue service.
Changing roles and responsibilities of the Orange Fire Department have created new requirements for both personnel and equipment. Today's fire department responsibilities include fire suppression, expanded advanced life support and medical transportation, increased responses for hazardous materials and environmental monitoring, technical rescue operations including urban search and rescue, swift water rescue, confined space and trench rescue, disaster preparedness, public education, fire prevention and fire/arson investigation. Fire personnel training has been changed significantly to meet current and future needs.