History of the Fire Department
The West Columbia Fire Department is possibly the oldest department in the city. It was first formed around the turn of the 20th century. According to Henry Anderson, Fire Chief from 1966 to 1975 and a volunteer for many years before becoming chief, the first fire station was located at the intersection of Norfolk Street and a back alley behind Mr. Red Peake’s house. The station consisted of a human-pulled hand pump. Fire equipment was moved to new quarters in 1908 when the City built a new building in the 400 block of Center Street that also housed City Hall.
The Police Department and jail were later located in a building next door. As with most small towns during this time, the firefighters were all volunteers. They were alerted to a fire by use of sirens mounted on buildings or utility poles throughout the city. When the sirens sounded, the men would leave their homes and/or jobs, go to the fire station to get the truck, (often having to push it up the hill and let it roll back to get it started), and then respond. Since the vast majority of the early residents worked at Mt. Vernon Mills, an alarm was mounted at the mill to alert workers. In 1960, the city built a new city complex that housed City Hall, the Police Department, and the Fire Department. At this time, volunteers still comprised the firefighting force. In 1964, City Council employed the first full time firefighters. Volunteer firefighters were still used to supplement the full time forces and the sirens were still used to alert volunteers and off-duty full time employees. This notification method eventually changed to a paging system operated by the department. In 1979, the department moved into its current location.
The station on Center Street was designed to hold four pieces of apparatus, but was packed with six. The new station was designed to hold all of the current equipment with room for growth. In 1980, the city moved from a combination department to a total career department with the hiring of six full-time personnel, bringing the staff to a total of twenty-one. Staffing now consists of twenty-four people.