Department History

The Delaware Fire Department recorded its first major fire in 1910 at Delaware High School on West Winter Street, with damage estimated at $49,000. The department celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2006. The Delaware Fire Department was established in 1831 through the efforts of volunteer 'minute men' throughout the Village of Delaware.  In 1834, the fire department was organized by City Council and reorganized again in 1846 to form six fire association companies.

In 1858, W. Miller became the first Fire Chief.  By 1870, the department retained its first full-time employees to drive station apparatus. The combination use of minute men and paid employees continued until the early 1960s when the department switched and became known as a career fire department. 

History of the Delaware Fire Department

Retired Fire Chief Wilbur Bills has attempted to reflect the history of Fire Protection for the Village and City of Delaware as it unfolded from it inception in 1831. Much of the information was secured from reading the Council minutes from 1831 to 1916. Other sources include materials from the Delaware County Historical Society, early newspapers, Fire Department records, and personal knowledge that Chief Bills acquired from having grown up in a Fire Department family (his father, Fred, was a member for 36 years and Chief for 10 years.) Photographs included in this document are from those that accumulated over the years and ones that he collected.

Credits must go to Fire Fighter Alton (A. B.) Breneman, a member of the department from 1945 until 1956 when he died of a heart attack on the job at the age of 46. He had expressed the first interest in the history of the department having accumulated some early history from the Historical Society. Also, Fire Fighter Williams Adams was the first to begin reading Council Minutes and with the help of his wife, recorded pertinent information. Fire Fighter Adams was a member of the department from 1950 to 1980. Chief Bills began to scan the Council Minutes and ordinances in the early 1970s and, since his retirement in 1980.

Chief Bills served 32 years in the department, including 23 years and three months as chief, longer than any other Delaware fire chief. This history is intended to show the tireless and unselfish dedication that hundreds of fire fighters have given over the past one hundred and sixty years. The beneficiaries of this service have been the citizens of Delaware.

To read more about the history of the department, click here.