Heritage of a Noble Profession
Our story begins and continues with the 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. This is a personal calling that places one's life in jeopardy every day, makes the career of fire fighting truly a proud profession.
Establishment and Fees
The Orange Fire Department was born on December 14, 1905, at a meeting of the City's Fire and Water Committee to organize a volunteer fire department. 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. The "Orange Volunteer Fireman's Mutual Association," a forerunner of today's Orange City Fire Fighters, was formed, and. ET. 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, and $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, as the volunteers were known, 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 Early Years
The department was housed in the Fire Hall, which was built for them at 122 S. Olive St. in 1906 and cost $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 2 hand-drawn carts.
In 1912 the winds of change were felt when the department acquired a Seagrave pumper, 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.
Fire Alarm System
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.
Fire Engines and Other Vehicles
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.
First Fire Chief
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.
First Paid Staff
By 1966, the last 6 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.
Current Training and Operation
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. Training has significantly change over the years to meet the needs of our City today, and into the future.