The City of Anderson was incorporated in 1826, and for many decades it relied on a “bucket brigade” for fire suppression. This was not enough on April 9, 1845, when the businesses on the West side of the Public Square were totally destroyed by fire. The only thing that saved the rest of the town was the weather – it was a still night. This gave the bucket brigade time to place wet blankets on the Benson Hotel helping to put out the fire.
It was not until 1885 when City Council purchased the first fire equipment – a used Steamer from Charleston, that the first fire department, composed of all volunteers, was formed. In 1910 The City hired its first paid Fire Chief and three part-time drivers. In 1915 the department was reorganized, and the town hired a full-time crew, adding its first motorized pumper from Seagraves. This pumper is still on display in the museum.
The fire department has been fortunate that only three firemen have died in the line of duty. William E. Campbell and Robert Dodd, Jr., died October 16, 1913, in a sawmill fire near the viaduct. Another fatality was Tom Davis who died in the line of duty in 1934.
Some of the other major fires over the years:
The fire department was originally located in City Hall at 401 South Main Street. Fire apparatus and a small administrative office were located at ground level, and the living quarters were located overhead on the second floor.
In 1966, as the City expanded northward, Station Two was built at 2411 North Main Street to house an engine crew consisting of an officer-in-charge, an engineer and firemen to respond from that location. This allowed the fire department to maintain a low response time.
In 1985, the present Main Fire Station was built at 400 South McDuffie Street. The building has been touted to be one of the finest in the state. Fire Department tours are available to groups of children and adults free of charge. Fire safety programs are tailored to the group’s needs. Films, talks on fire safety, and the demonstration of equipment by personnel are also available.
In 2009, the newest fire station was built on Simpson Road. It is unique as it houses one Engine Company and an Ambulance from Medshore Ambulance Service.
Tours for children may include a visit to the fire prevention house, a miniature version of a residence, where children are able to experience the real aspects of a fire by the use of simulated smoke.
Firemen on duty built the first fire safety house in 1990 using materials supplied by the Home Builders Association. This wooden structure had to be replaced by the present fire safety house in 1994.
Although fire protection is the main purpose of the Anderson Fire Department, personnel have been actively involved in other rescue operations over the years. In the 1980’s and 1990’s the City of Anderson Bomb Squad was composed of an equal number from both the fire department and police department. This group was highly trained in this dangerous field. In recent years, fire department members have retired, and this function is now overseen by the Police Department.
In 1994, the Anderson City Confined Space Rescue Team was developed to meet OSHA standards for confined space rescue. Noticing the similarity in equipment and training, the team decided to add High Level Rescue, and in 1996 changed its name to The Anderson City Fire/Rescue Team. In 1998, the team joined forces with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Aviation Division and added Air/Rescue. In 1999, membership was expanded to include all City Employees, and in 2001, membership was opened to certain outside agencies. The Anderson Fire Department Technical Rescue Team is currently composed of 33 members from the Anderson City Fire and Police Departments, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and MedShore Ambulance Service. The team is trained in Confined Space Rescue, High Level Rescue, Technical Rope Rescue, Building Collapse, Trench Rescue, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Large Animal Rescue, Swiftwater Rescue, Dive Rescue and Air/Rescue. The team answers all rescue calls within the city limits of Anderson, and when needed it is available to answer Air/Rescue calls within the range of the Huey helicopter piloted by the Sheriff’s department.
From 1994 until 1998, the Anderson City Fire Department, Anderson County Fire Service, and the municipalities of Belton, Honea Path, and Williamston, constructed the Anderson County Fire Service Training Facility, a project that took many years to develop.
This facility provides two burn towers, areas for confined space training, propane gas training, auto extrication training, and a spacious classroom. The facility is operated under the direction of a Board of Governors made up of representatives of each of the active members. It is located in the County on Hillhouse Road on land provided by the City of Anderson under a lease agreement.
The Anderson City Fire Department currently has three frontline pumpers, a platform aerial truck, two reserve pumpers, a command post, a rescue truck, a ladder truck, and four miscellaneous vehicles. The Anderson County Haz-Mat Team vehicle is also housed in the main fire station; and in the event of a hazardous materials’ incident, the fire department would provide a driver to take the truck to the location of the incident.