Fire protection and firefighting began in the City of Decatur in 1909 with the appointment of a fire committee of eight men to study purchasing an Ajax chemical fire truck. These men, the first volunteers, were excused from the street tax (property tax) in lieu of pay, as long as they served as firemen.
1909: The city purchased a Badger chemical fire engine, the first motorized fire engine in Decatur and DeKalb County.
1911: A hook and ladder truck was purchased. At this time the city operated its own water system with an elevated tank of 80,000 gallons behind the Town Hall. Their reservoir was 750,000 gallons and located 2.5 miles from the square off Mason Mill Road with two McGowan pumps providing 500GPM to the city tank.
1913: A bell was purchased to call the volunteers and sound an alarm in case of fire. The bell was made on July 22, 1912 and weighs 800 lbs. C.S. Bell made two types of alarm bells, a series 100 and the improved series 500. Decatur's bell is made of steel alloy and designed for easy installment in towns and villages. As quoted in a 1934 catalogue, "The bell is complete, except ropes; no beams necessary, only a floor or place to rest the sills on, and all bolted together, the bell is ready to ring at once; while with the old way great difficulty is often met within providing a beam to attach the bell and the trouble of attaching the bell to the beam; all these troubles are avoided in our new plan of erection. These bells should be placed on a platform that elevates the bell three to four feet from the floor of belfry." The bell presently sits on a mount in the yard at Fire Station One.
1914: The city purchased a 1914 American LaFrance fire engine and arranged to shelter the fire apparatus.
As the city grew so did the Fire Department. The staff increased from eight to ten with the addition of two paid men. One of the two men paid was Horace H. Ehle. He accepted the position as fireman for $75 per month and had one assistant. They were the Chief and Assistant chief. A phone was installed to receive fire calls. All the 65 street hydrants were raised so they could be connected to the fire engines.
1915: DeKalb County was growing, too, and Decatur had the only fire department in the area. The city agreed to cover the out-of-town areas with fire protection, charging $50 per hour for the first hour and $25 per hour for each additional hour. Decatur also began paying the volunteers $1 for each of the training practices they attended and purchased uniforms for the three paid men.
1916: Fire chiefs were elected yearly and in 1916 the chief was Marcus D. Googer Sr. The chief driver’s pay increased to $90 per month and the assistant driver’s increased to $50 per month. The city installed a phone in the home of the chief driver.
1917: Fire Chief Googer resigned and Mr. Weaver was elected fire chief. N.C. Goss was assistant chief. Mr. Weaver continued as fire chief for 1918 and 1919. The city decided to sell the hook-and-ladder as well as the old one-horse wagon. During this time, Decatur assisted the Atlanta Fire Department on many fires. After having lost a fire hose in one of Atlanta's fires, it was agreed that Decatur would receive 600 feet of new fire hose.
1920: Marcus D. Googer Sr. was again elected fire chief and given the authority to pay the firemen 25 cents to reload the hose after each fire. Sleeping quarters were built for the night driver. Chief Googer resigned in August and R.C.W. Ramspeck was elected. He remained chief until 1923.
1921: A morale problem caused all members of the department to resign but the driver, and required the city to declare an emergency.
1923: Mr. Googer was again elected fire chief, as well as police chief, chief of sanitation and marshall.
1924: The 1911 chemical truck was replaced with a new American LaFrance fire truck at a cost of $12,500.
1929-1930: The department continued to charge $50 per fire call for the unincorporated county.
1931: Chief Googer passed away on March 10 and Mr. Weaver served as chief until C.W. Nunn was appointed fire chief at a salary of $150. A siren was purchased to call the firemen to the fires. Chief Nunn recommended abolishing the volunteers and having a full-time paid department.
1934: Firefighters began working 12-hour shifts.
1935: Lucious N. Morgan was appointed fire chief. The siren was replaced with a telephone to call the firemen to duty when fires occurred.
1937: Chief Morgan passed away.
1930-1940: The city limits grew during this decade when Decatur annexed the Oakhurst community (East Lake and Oakview Road area). Emory started a subscription fire department for the unincorporated areas, with local cities providing aid.
1942: As the country entered World War II, the fire department faced the problem of firemen leaving for higher pay at the Bell Bomber plant in Marietta (now Lockheed). Firemen’s pay was increased in order to keep the city protected. Julius Durand Peek was appointed fire chief.
1946: The Decatur Fire Department continued to provide fire protection for DeKalb County in the 1940s. With such a wide area to serve and protect, it became necessary to replace the 1913 fire engine with an open cab Chevrolet fire engine. At that time Fire Station One was attached to City Hall.
1947: A survey was made to determine whether a second fire station should be built to protect south Decatur and the newly annexed Oakhurst district as well as the Scottish Rite Hospital facility. Decatur’s firemen were now full time, paid, with a day shift and a night shift.
1948: Chief Peek purchased an open cab Mack 750 gpm fire engine. H.B. Moon was appointed fire marshal and Marcus D. Googer Jr. was appointed assistant chief.
1950: The city purchased a lot on West Hill Street for a second fire station. Chief Peek remained fire chief throughout the 1950s.
1952: Fire Station Two opened at 356 W. Hill St. The city purchased an open cab 1953 Ford 500 gpm fire engine (overturned in an accident in 1974).
1957: Having outgrown the quarters attached to City Hall, the department awarded a bid to architectural firm Glass, Montgomery, Turner and Associates to build a new fire station on East Trinity Place for $144,491.
1958: The firemen moved into the new Station One at 230 E. Trinity Place. The station was a state-of-the-art facility with an attached training tower, classroom, hose dryers and room for multiple fire engines and a ladder truck. During that time the city was dismantling the old water tower behind city hall after the sale of the Decatur Waterworks to the county. The water tower housed the fire bell and old siren. The fire bell was placed in front of the new station. (In 1977 the bell was placed on a brick pedestal by the Decatur Women’s Club).
1960: The 1924 American LaFrance was traded in for a 1960 open cab Peter Pirsch Ford fire engine. At that time, the color of the engines was changed from red to white in order to distinguish them from the growing number of red county fire engines and also for better night visibility. Hoyt B. Paden was appointed fire marshall after the retirement of H.B. Moon.
1967: The city purchased a 1967 Peter Pirsch Snorkel open cab aerial platform truck to protect the high-rise buildings that were beginning to be constructed within the city.
1968: Chief Peek retired and Chief Marcus D. Googer Jr. was again appointed fire chief, with Hoyt Paden as fire marshall, and John Henry Ford and Lucious N. Morgan Jr. as assistant chiefs.
During the 1970s the Fire Department went to a 24-hours-on-duty and 48-hours-off-duty schedule as did most paid departments in the metro area. In order to meet the pump water flow capacity for the city the department purchased a 1972 Peter Pirsch 1,000 gpm fire engine, which had seating for four firefighters.
1973: Chief Googer retired and Hoyt B. Paden was appointed fire chief. Assistant fire chiefs were Harry F. Johnston and Albert Davis. The fire marshal was Sherrard E. White.
1974: During a fire call the 1953 Ford fire engine was turned over at the corner of Commerce Drive and Church Street. No one was killed; however two firemen were injured and treated at the local hospital. The engine was replaced with a 1976 Ford Peter Pirsch 1,000 gpm for $64,000. It was housed at Station 2.
1978: Chief Paden retired.
1979: George Clancy Pickard was appointed fire chief with Assistant Chief Harry Franklin Johnston and Fire Marshal Sherrard White.
In the early 1980s, the Fire Department made a commitment to lower the insurance rating for citizens. To do this required improving the equipment in service. A 1980 Seagrave diesel fire engine was ordered and new protective bunker gear was acquired for the firefighters. Training was upgraded and SOPs developed. As a result of these improvements, the rating was lowered from Protection Class 5 to Class 2 in 1983.
1982: Sherrard E. White was appointed fire chief, with Mike Lane, Richard Adams and David Rutledge as assistant fire chiefs. The new Seagrave engine arrived and was placed in service.
1983: After the completion of the ISO inspection, the city was awarded a new rating from a class 5 to a class 2.
In the 1990s the city sold the Snorkel Aerial and passed a strict sprinkler ordinance.
1990: Having set up a five-year purchase plan to keep the highest-quality fire engines protecting the city, Decatur purchased a 1,500 gpm Seagrave fire engine, retired the 1972 Peter Pirsch, and sold the 1948 Mack.
Police and Fire Department operations were placed within a Public Safety Department. Richard Bond was appointed director and Sherrard E. White was appointed assistant director of the department. David W. Rutledge was appointed Fire Division commander, with three shift commanders: M. J. Domain, R. L. Still and R. P. Davis.
1994: The division commander title was changed back to fire chief. Sherrard E. White was appointed director of Public Safety. The city purchased a 1,500 gpm Pierce fire truck and a new service truck unit.
1999: The city began reestablishing the Fire Department structure and appointed two assistants chiefs, Jerry W. Malone and Tony P. Parker, as well as the first female deputy chief, Martha A. Clements. David W. Rutledge’s titled was changed from fire chief to deputy director of Public Safety. The deputy chief position became vacant and the city appointed David E. McKinney to assistant chief in 2001, replacing the deputy chief position.
During the 1990s, revitalization activities taking place throughout the city increased the need to update firefighting gear and pumping capacity.
2000: The city ordered a 2001 Seagrave 1,500 gpm fire engine from the FWD Corporation. (See Engine in the Apparatus link) The department took delivery of the new apparatus in 2001. This purchase brought engine pumping capability to 3,000 gpm. A new bunker gear program was established to maintain and purchase firefighting gear on a continuing basis.
2002: Patrick T. Parker was appointed fire chief, with Jerry W. Malone as assistant fire chief, and David McKinney as assistant chief-training.
The Fire Department received $48,243 in grant funds from GEMA-Homeland Security to build a Hazardous Material Decontamination unit. The department evaluated the city’s needs and ordered decontamination equipment, showers, shelter, protection suits and a Wells Cargo Trailer, size 6’ x 6’ x 14’. The project was completed on Dec. 31, 2003. This unit provides equipment to handle potential WMD incidents within the city and local region.
2003: To improve medical response, the department moved the Squad Rescue Unit (1995 Ford 350 super-duty) from medical responses to extrication and fire responses. It now carries the Hurst tools, truck tools and cribbing blocks. In its place is a 2001 Ford Expedition SUV completely retrofitted with medical and suppression equipment. This vehicle allows better maneuverability and faster responses on the city streets.
A DeKalb County ambulance was placed in Decatur Station One to further improve response to citizens’ medical needs.
The department appointed Toronto Thomas as fire inspector to handle inspections of city businesses, schools, and companies requesting or renewing beer and liquor licenses.
2004: A Homeland Security Grant of $260,386 allowed the department to order a Decontamination Prime Mover vehicle with air and light capabilities to further the WMD response program. The unit was delivered from the Hackney Emergency Vehicle Company on Feb. 14, 2005. This unit provides extrication equipment, a 40kw power generator, and scene lighting, along with SCBA air refilling capabilities that have never been available before on one unit. The 1995 Ford squad truck was retired and sold at auction.
2005: The department’s officers remained Fire Chief Tony Parker; Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Malone, operations; Assistant Fire Chief David McKinney, training; and Fire Inspector Toronto Thomas.
With a Homeland Security Grant of $95,280, the department purchased 24 self-contained breathing apparatuses for use on suppression, WMD, and chemical incidents. These units are a major addition in the protection of firefighters. They improve the department’s ability to work in toxic environments.
The fire chief requested from the City Commission approval to design a new apparatus with the capability to operate an elevated stream on a 75-foot ladder. The commissioners approved the request and the Fire Department ordered a new Sutphen 75-foot Quint ladder apparatus, fully equipped, for $595,751.
2006: The Decatur Fire Department underwent an Insurance Services Office inspection. ISO is the organization that establishes the protection class that property insurance companies use to set insurance premiums around the United States. The department was given an excellent evaluation and maintained a Class 2 rating. Decatur is one of only eight municipalities in the state with this exemplary public protection rating.
The city established an Emergency Management Division and appointed Patrick Tony Parker as director. Jerry Wayne Malone was appointed fire chief, with David McKinney assistant chief-training, and Toronto Thomas assistant chief /fire marshal.
The citizens voted a capital improvement bond to replace Station Two, a 50-year-old structure (same location), and to renovate Station One, a 48-year-old structure. (See Fire Stations).
The department took delivery of the new Sutphen 75-foot ladder truck and placed it in service at Station One. This truck provides an elevated stream needed for multi-story buildings and increases the pumping capability to 5,500 gpm. Sutphen Towers Corporation in Hilliard, Ohio, built the truck to Decatur’s specifications.
2007: The commission approved and hired the architectural firm LP3 to design the new Fire Station Two. The new building will be a two-story structure and accommodate two fire apparatus.
In October, the Fire Department was awarded a GEMA Homeland Security Grant of $369,463 for enhancing the homeland security protection within the city. The grant will allow the department to purchase a Special Response Vehicle and equipment.
In November the commission approved and hired the architectural firm of Smith & Dalia to develop renovations plans for Fire Station One.
After the retirement of Assistant Chief McKinney, Captain Tim Hatcher was appointed to handle the training duties to maintain the department's certification.
2008: On Jan. 24 the architects Smith & Dalia met with the building committee along with the Fire Chief Jerry Malone to begin moving forward with architectural planning for Station One.
The Fire Department remains dedicated to protecting the lives and property of the citizens of Decatur with