OPELIKA FIRE DEPARTMENT
On February 19, 1873, the Opelika Fire Department
was born at a town meeting called for that purpose. A resolution was adopted
expressing concern of the citizenry of “…want of protection; … the influx of inhabitants and capital impeded;…
the rates of insurance more taxing;…a Fire Department is better for security”.
The resolution called for a committee to solicit
subscriptions for the purchase of a fire engine and apparatus; and, also called for a committee to confer with the City Council
for the” … construction of cisterns (underground rain water storage tanks)”.
The Fire Company was organized and equipment
purchased. Despite this preparation, Opelika suffered many destructive fires
during 1875-76. In 1886, a new fire engine was purchased from the Silsby Manufacturing
Company, Seneca Falls, NY.
This equipment met the city’s needs until
1889 when a larger engine and 500 ft. of hose was purchased from the same company for $2,687.
Of this amount the citizens subscribed $1,000
and the city paid the balance of five installments. This engine was consumed
in a warehouse fire prior to 1892.
The first Chief of the Opelika Fire Department
was a Mr. Clements who served three months. He was followed for a few months
by George Robinson, who also served as Superintendent of the Street Department.
The Fire Department’s first paid firemen
were employed in 1906. The men worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with
no time off. At this time, Fireman’s pay was $35.00 per month, and the
Chief received $60.00 per month. The department had a two-horse wagon pulled
by horses named Jim and Frank.
The wagon had 1,700 feet of various sizes of
hoses, including a chemical tank and an extension ladder as well as a roof ladder.
This equipment was shipped C.O.D. by rail;
upon it’s arrival, the City did not have the funds available, and Mayor L.F. Dickson paid $2,750 so the city could obtain
the equipment. The wagon and accessories were housed at the old fire station
on Avenue A adjacent to the present day George W. Andrews Federal Building.
The only fire fighter killed was a volunteer
named Parnell who was killed in a fire truck accident about 1920. The truck on
which Parnell was riding was making a turn at Geneva Street and East Avenue (MLK Blvd) and struck a tree.
In 1924, A.R. Plott was reappointed to serve
as chief form 1924-38. W.B. Whitaker served as chief from 1938-47. Assistant Chief G.A. Mitchell was appointed chief and served 1947-77.
Assistant Chief Charles Albert Smith was appointed
chief and served 1978-90. Charlie Howard Moore was appointed chief and served
1991-96. G. Terry Adkins was appointed chief and served from June 1996 to present.
Throughout the years, the Fire Department has
grown in every aspect. In 1930, the horse drawn wagon was retrofitted to a Model-A
Fort. In 1917, the city purchased a LaFrance pumper.
In 1939, the city purchased a 750 gpm Seagraves
pumper with booster tank. In 1948 Scott Air-Packs were acquired. In 1979, the 911 system was initiated with EMS and Rescue Service mad available for Opelika.
The Opelika Fire Department currently serves
the citizens with approximately full-time certified firefighters, specializing in firefighting services, emergency medical
services, hazardous material incidents, training programs, and fire prevention services.
Information compiled from The Heritage of Lee County, Alabama