LFD History - Summary By Year

1780 First fire brigade was initiated.
1798 Kentucky Legislature granted townspeople the right to form their own fire companies.
1807 A traveling show by the name of Arnold & Company, exhibited an elephant (the first in the United States) in Louisville. The City's Trustees promptly levied a ten dollar entertainment tax on the display, thereby raising enough money to purchase ladders for all the volunteer companies.
1812 To strengthen the city's firefighting apparatus, an ordinance was passed in requiring all property owners of $40 annual income or higher to provide two fire buckets per house for fire protection.
1813 The first horse driven engine. "Baldy" was the first horse ever to pull a Louisville fire engine; "Hope Engine".
1816 Revenue was raised by fining disorderly spectators at fires.
1831 One of the city's first fire prevention acts was witnessed.
1822 A measure was enforced involving prescribed stove pipes for homes in Louisville.
1823 A system of two cisterns and wells had been established.
1827 Louisville experienced its first large fire. The blaze destroyed most of the south side of Main Street between Third and Fourth Streets.
1840 The "Great Fire of 1840" provided a real test for the pumps. Details are sketchy, but the fire engulfed forty houses, originating at John Hawkin's Chair Factory, consuming an area between Third and Fourth Streets, Market and Main Streets and north to the river.
1858 On the evening of May 27, 1858, the General Council organized the Steam Engine Fire Department of Louisville, to be effective June 1, 1858. The Division of Fire consisted of three fire stations. Louisville's First Fire chief ( A. Y. Johnson) with the aid of 65 men, 23 horses and 5 newly purchased steam engines, provided fire protection for the 70,000 inhabitants of the city.
1858 The first official fire run was on July 2 to the home of a Mr. Waters, on Campbell Street between Main and Creek Street.
1861 George W. Levi took over as Chief.
1862 The first Louisville fireman to die in the line of duty was Francis M. Atkinson (06/08/1862)
1864 The first "General Alarm" fire occurred on July 1, it involved ten buildings on the north side of Main Street, between Eighth and Ninth Streets.
1864 The first telegraphic fire alarm system installed. Prior to its installation, the city was alerted of fires by a chain reaction of bells.
1868 City Charter was amended, giving Louisville's citizens the legal right to elect Fire Chiefs by vote. Accordingly, Chief M. J. Paul was elected.
1870 Chief George W. Levi was elected to his second term of office as Fire Chief.
1882 City under the leadership of Chief Edward Hughes.
1882 A new electric communications system called a "Joker System" was installed. The fire alarm activated when a box on a corner was "pulled". The system was in use until 1977.
1886 On November 13 tragedy again struck the Division of Fire. Joseph Connell was killed at the fire at Robinson Brothers Fire at Sixth and Main Streets. A cistern that he was pumping out of exploded.
1889 September 15, five firemen were killed by a falling wall. Two more were injured. Records show that Frank Bess was sent to an "Insane Asylum" due to the injuries he sustained.
1890 Louisville was struck by one of its most destructive tornadoes. It destroyed an area bounded by Parkland (28th and Dumesnil) on the west and the Water Works (Frankfort and Stilz) on the east. The tornado killed 78, injured more than 250 citizens and destroyed 766 buildings. Property damage surpassed two million dollars.
1891 On December 8, four more firemen were killed by a falling wall at the Boone Paper Store fire at Seventh and Main Street.
1891 The city constructed its first "Fire Tower".
1897 On November 9, fireman Charles A. Boos was killed by being run over by the Water Tower at Sixth and Main Street responding to a fire call.
1899 The City installed the telephone into the fire stations to complement the Joker System in dispatching fire alarms.
1899 A City ordinance stated that each Steam Engine Company shall consist of not less than 7 men and each hook and ladder company shall consist of not less than 8 laddermen, one driver and one fuel-cart driver. The firemen were allowed one day off per month, and three hours each working day for meals.
1902 The first buzzer system was installed on Hook & Ladder 2. Through a series of signals, the tillerman could communicate with the Driver of the Hook & Ladder.
1904 The Department started using 3" hose to combat fires.
1905 In April, President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in the City, and was driven by a fireman in the parade.
1910 Department under the leadership of Chief Timothy Lehan.
1917 Department under the leadership of Chief A. Neunschwander.
1917 The first-engine fully operated by gasoline was purchased and put into service.
1919 Louisville's first training school was established for the City's firemen.
1920 Establishment of the Fire Prevention Bureau.
1921 The first Louisville Fire Prevention Day was observed, which later would become Fire Prevention Week. It is now annually held on or near the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
1922 The first meeting of Fire Chief's was held in Kentucky.
1923 On December 14 Louisville had its first black Fire Company. Eight black firemen under the leadership of Captain Jim F. McArthy, manned Engine Co. No. 8.
1924 Department under the leadership of Chief Alex Bache.
1925 On March 17, horse-drawn equipment became obsolete when the last horse team was replaced by motorized vehicles.
1926 The Louisville Bedding Company fire. Damage was $250,000, and twenty-five firemen were injured.
1926 The Drug Sundries Company was the scene of a fire during which two firemen slid from an ice-coated roof to their deaths.
1927 Department under the leadership of Chief Edward McHugh.
1927 Department under the leadership of by J. H. Adams.
1929 Special recognition given to Captain "Windy" Newhall, the oldest member, both in age and service, of "the Fire Department at that time. Born in 1866, Newhall was only 10 when he began his "career" in the Department, as a mascot.
1929 The "firetower" was replaced by an elaborate electrical switchboard.
1931 January 6, a fire at the Hillerich and Bradsby Co., located at Jackson and Burnett Streets, destroyed the lumber yard.
1933 A fire of undetermined origin caused between $40,000 and $50,000 damage to the ware house of Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Company. Five alarms were sounded. Most of the blaze was fought from the Louisville Municipal Bridge; no one was killed and only five firemen were injured.
1933 On September 9, 314 of the 341 members of the Louisville Fire Department joined the International Fire Fighter's Association.
1934 Department under the leadership of Chief Edward McHugh.
1936 The cornerstone of Louisville's new $151,000 Central Fire Headquarters was finally laid. Mayor Nelville Miller paid just compliments, by saying, "The people of Louisville are proud of their firemen and their Fire Department." The new building, at 12th and Jefferson, was dedicated to the firemen's dedication, hard work and especially the sacrifice of their own lives to save others.
1937 In January of this year Louisville was paralyzed by a tremendous flood. During the flood, 75% of the city had been inundated and 250,000 residents affected. There were 90 flood related deaths and $50 million in property damages.
1939 In July, fifteen firemen were overcome by heat and smoke while fighting a fire which broke out in a concrete hay barn at the Bourbon Stockyards. The cause was spontaneous combustion.
1941 After 53 years of service with the Louisville Fire Department, The Department's unofficial sidekick, the Salvage Corps, was disbanded. Its job had been to accompany the fire engines to the scene of the call and protect the fire-struck, victim's belongings with tarpaulins.
1943 Department under the leadership of John Krusenklaus.
1943 The City purchased its first fire pumper with "centrifugal pumps." Until this time, all the pumpers were a positive displacement pump.
1945 The Arson Squad of the Division of Fire unofficially began.
1946 The Division of Fire started a new trend in modern fire stations. It was a one story building, with the sleeping area next to the apparatus bay. This eliminated the sliding of the pole at night from the dormitory. This new station housed Engine Company Number 9 at 617 East Breckinridge Street.
1957 A new Training Center was constructed. It consisted of a five story brick building, with a classroom on the first floor. The location was Algonquin Parkway & Gibson Lane.
1958 The Department had its first near catastrophe in the age of foam and plastics. On November 2nd, the Department responded to a box alarm fire on the northeast corner of 4th & Jefferson Streets. There was quite a bit of smoke but the fire could not be located. When the 2nd alarm Companies arrived, they were astounded; firefighters lay all over the sidewalks being given first aid. in all, a total of 29 firefighters went to the hospital. The culprit was an open display counter containing foam rubber pillows. The only fire was in an area about 5 foot square! Synthetic materials would prove to be a new and dangerous enemy for firefighters.
1960 The fire at Parkmoor Recreation Center, on Third near Eastern Parkway was fought by 110 firemen. Housing a bowling alley, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a bar and a night club. Captain Joseph Kenneth Buren, Sergeant Jesse P. Wilson and Riley Pryor lost their lives while fighting the spectacular fire.
1961 On June 7 when a new alarm system was put into service. This system was operated by eight 6-volt batteries as opposed to the eight-hundred 2-volt batteries which had controlled the fire alarm boxes around the City previously.
1963 Department under the leadership of Chief Eugene Dodson.
1964 In 1964 the General Assembly passed a law that cut about one-third of the manpower of the Louisville Fire Department by reducing the work week from 72 to 56 hours. The law provided that firemen must be on duty 24 hours and off 48 hours, whereas they had previously worked 24 on and 24 off.
1965 Fire Headquarters at 12th & Jefferson had a new look. A two-story section was added to the old building.
1965 A new fire station was constructed. It was the largest in the City. It combined three Companies in the downtown area; Engine Co. No. 5, Truck Co. No. 2 and Engine Co. No. 3
1965 City purchased a Snorkel Apparatus, something quite different from the other equipment. It had an elevated platform that-had a reach of 75 feet.
1965 Engine 17 was the first Company in the Division history to make 1000 fire runs in one year.
1967 In July, William T. Adams was appointed to the rank of Assistant Chief. He was the first black promoted to a staff position.
1968 Fire Fighters received a new pension plan from the City. The plan allowed a firefighter to work for 20 years and retire with 50% of his base pay.
1970 Department under the leadership of Colonel William J. Cummins.
1971 June 30, Local 345, the firefighters union, could not reach an agreement with the City Administration on a contractual agreement and at 11:00 P.M., the firefighters walked off the job. It was the first time in the history of the Department that the citizens were virtually without fire protection. The strike lasted only 3-1/2 hours.
1971 The rank of Lieutenant was abolished in the fire suppression forces. All those holding that rank were blanketed in as Company Commanders.
1972 Captain Donald LeCompte, died in-line-of-duty.
1973 The Insurance Services Office evaluation gave the Fire Department a Class 1 Rating. This rating was held by only 5 other Fire Departments in the country.
1974 At 4:37 P.M., April 3 the worst tornado since March 27, 1890 ripped a 10 mile-long-path through the City of Louisville. Five deaths were attributed to the tornado.
1974 The Department started purchasing diesel powered apparatus.
1974 Another new piece of firefighting equipment arrived in the Division of Fire, the "Squrt". It eventually replaced the wagon of the two-piece Engine Companies.
1975 Construction of a new fire station at 34th & Bohne that would combine a Police Substation and a Fire Station. There was a lot of controversy regarding the structures twin towers. Engine Co. No. 19 was placed in service at the location together with Truck Co. No. 5
1975 At 3401 Dutchman's Lane (Bowman Field), Quad Co. No. 10's fire station was being expanded to house Engine Co. No. 3 and the 5th District Headquarters. Due to Budget restraints, the Fifth District was not funded.
1976 Department under the leadership of Colonel Thomas T. Kuster.

Mayor Sloane Proposes Budget $3 Million. Of the proposed 412 job cuts, 120 would be from the Fire Department. As of July 1, 1976, fire suppression forces were reduced by 95 men and the remaining 25 would be civilian support personnel. Gone were the days of 6 man Truck and Engine Companies. This reduction in personnel was cause for change in the whole operation of the Fire Department.

1977 Fire struck the J. Guthrie Coke apartments, 411 West Chestnut Street, on March 23, 1977. Before the fire was out, two people had died and thirty-two were injured. Fourteen firefighters were also injured.
1977 Engine Co. No. 7, at 821 South 6th Street, is 105 years old. Pictures of the front of the original fire station taken at the turn of the Century allowed the Architects to restore the facade to its original design with a few exceptions.
1978 Tragedy again struck the Fire Department on February 1, 1978, when firefighter Larry Straughn died as the result of injuries incurred in an accident on January 8, 1978. Engine Company No. 19 hit a tree while responding on a fire run to a Nursing Home.
1978 At 7:45 A.M. July 14 negotiations between the firefighters and the City came to an impasse and the firefighters walked off their jobs. At 6:00 P.M. the negotiators were back at the bargaining tables. At 6:00 A.M. the next morning the firefighters again had "hit the bricks." This time they would not return until a contract had been agreed upon. The contract was finally agreed upon early on the morning of July 18.
1978 On October 11 a fourth-alarm was sounded for the Cook Lumber Company at 1514 West Main Street. The fire consumed or damaged the block between 15th & 16th Streets, between Main and Pirtle. Cook Lumber Company was the oldest lumber company in the City.
1979 Department under the leadership of Colonel Larry M. Bonnafon.
1979 A new recruit class started its training at Drill School. The only difference this time form the past was that the Department had its first woman in the class. She decided after the first day of training to resign. She stated that "she did not have the upper body strength" to complete the training.
1980 A standard Operating Procedures Manual for the Department is under way. This book of procedures will eventually cover all phases of the operations of the Division.
1980 A new position of Safety Officer was established in the Division.
1980 The Department also started a mandatory mask rule. This means that any man entering an area that has contaminated air must wear a Self Contained Breathing Apparatus.
1983 Manual Fire Alarm Boxes removed from service.
1984 First female recruits hired.
1985 911 Emergency telephone system established.
1986 Department under the leadership of Colonel Russell Sanders
1986 19,000 free smoke detectors installed in residential homes.
1987 1st Annual Service awards & Retirement Banquet.
1988 Established High Angle & Water Rescue Units.
1988 Construction of new 2.5 million Training Academy.
1989 15,000 residents attend the 1st Annual "Great Louisville Fire Drill".
1991 All new recruits trained as EMT's.
1992 Confined Space/Trench/Structural Collapse Rescue Team established (Rescue 11).
1993 New City Ordinance requires retrofitting of sprinklers in high rise buildings.
1994 Fire Companies begin First Responder medical runs after 18" snow paralyzes the city.
1995 Department under the leadership of Colonel John B. Corso.
1995 Louisville EMS merged into Fire Department.
1995 Dedication of memorial for 65 division members killed in the line of duty since 1858.
1996 Fire History & Learning Center opened.
1996 Louisville Fire & Rescue "Pipes & Drums" established.
1997 All fire Units equipped with AED's (Automatic External Defibrillator).
1997 Fire/Rescue Boat put in service.
1997 Worst flood in 33 years, 1,500 citizens evacuated.
1999 Department under the leadership of Colonel Gregory W. Frederick
2001 In October all Truck, Quad & Quint companies were equipped with thermal imaging cameras.
2001 Louisville's smoke detector ordinance amended to require the use of tamperproof lithium battery detectors in non hard wired single family dwellings.
2001 December of this year, Louisville Fire & Rescue adopted the "Passport System" (Personnel Accountability System). Used in conjunction with the Incident Command System (ICS), provides the maximum level of personnel safety while operating at emergency incidents.
2002 MNET - The Fire Prevention And suppression Bureaus partnershiped with other city agencies and Lowe's Home Improvement Centers to install smoke detectors and provide residents with information about services provided by participating city agencies.
2002 In their first year of participation, Division members collected over $53,000 for The Crusade For Children.
2002 Division goes on line with computer based system to track and input medical incident information.