To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
The City of Orlando Fire Department has been providing fire and rescue service to citizens and visitors in Orlando since 1885. Organized firefighting in Orlando began in the early 1880s following a fire at a hat- and dress-making shop. William Sherman, a former Boston firefighter who moved to Orlando to open a jewelry store, is credited with establishing the cityâ€™s first volunteer fire department and became its first chief. In those days, volunteer firefighters were summoned to action by a bell on top of the firehouse that was rung by any citizen who discovered a fire.
Eventually, all volunteer fire companies in Orlando were consolidated into one organization, Mechanics Hose Company 1. William Dean became the first of Orlandoâ€™s 16 paid fire chiefs in 1908. He served 28 years as chief â€“ the longest of any chief to date â€“ and had a total of 48 years in the fire service. During Deanâ€™s tenure as chief, the Orlando Fire Department became fully paid in 1924. Hook and Ladder Company 1 was the first company to be formed in the new department. Its motto was â€œWe Raise to Save.â€ Deanâ€™s son Gideon succeeded him as chief and became the first Orlando fire chief to die in the line of duty when he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1940.
The present-day Orlando Fire Department, led by Chief Robert Bowman, is an ISO Class 2 department comprised of 14 stations organized into four districts. Bowman is the only person who has served as Orlandoâ€™s fire chief on two different occasions. His first appointment as chief was in 1993 when he served for three years as Orlandoâ€™s 13th fire chief. He was appointed again in 2003 and presently leads a department of 446 uniformed personnel and 62 civilian staff. The department has a coverage area of 100 square miles with a population of 208,000 in the city and 1.8 million in the metropolitan area. During the daytime hours, the population of Orlando swells by a half-million workers and tourists. (Orlando International Airport has its own city-government fire department.)
The Orlando Fire Department operates 15 engine companies with advanced life support (ALS) capability, five tower ladders with ALS and hazmat capability, one heavy rescue squad with hazmat capability, eight non-transport ALS rescue units, one air cascade/light unit, four â€œwoodsâ€ trucks, one Hazmat Team unit, one Bomb Squad vehicle (see page 145), two Dive Team rescue boats, four district chiefs, one division chief and one airport crash-rescue unit at the cityâ€™s general-aviation airport. It also is home to Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4. The department responds to over 83,000 calls for assistance each year, but does not provide ambulance transport service; Rural Metro, a private ambulance service, provides transport for EMS calls.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dave Barker put together the cityâ€™s original hazmat team, patterned after the Jacksonville team, one of the pioneer hazmat teams in the country (watch for a report on the Jacksonville Hazmat Team in an upcoming issue). Following training and deployment of equipment, the Orlando Hazmat Team became operational in 1981. Its first vehicle was a Ford van, followed by a converted beer-delivery truck that stayed in service until 2000, when the team took delivery of its current unit, a Stuffen/Hackney designated as Hazmat 1.
Inside Hazmat 1 is a command center equipped with a video monitor to watch local TV coverage of incidents. Through external ports, members can hook up an outside TV feed to the unit from a television station truck to watch aerial or on-the-ground coverage of an incident using a news helicopter. Video that is to be broadcast to the public can also be reviewed before it goes on the air. Outside telephone lines can be hooked into the unit to supply landlines inside. Satellite telephones are provided in the command center as well.