|Committed to recruiting and retaining a qualified, diverse, inclusive and safe fire workforce.
Notable Department Milestones (1908 - 1991)
1908 – 1930s...
- 1908 (July) - The City of Madison Fire Department
becomes a fully paid department.
- 1910 - The movement to motorized equipment began.
- 1913 - The City enacted a Building Code as Chapter 17
of the General Ordinances. A Building Commissioner and others
were appointed to enforce the code which was a forerunner to modern
Fire Prevention Codes.
- 1919 - The last MFD horses, serving at Station No. 4,
were sold and the motorization of the department completed.
- 1922 (May) - The first two-platoon system
began. Firefighters worked 24-hour shifts every other day and
averaged 84 hours per week.
- 1929 (March) - Chief Heyl retired after 22 years as
Chief, longer than any other Chief in the department's history.
- 1931 (May) - Members of the MFD organized Local 311
and became charter members of the International Association of
- 1936 - Six firefighters (and nine policemen) were
trained as Red Cross first aid instructors in an innovative program
designed to spread first aid education throughout the State.
- 1939 (June) - A drill and fire school was started in
order to efficiently and thoroughly train the men.
- 1939 - Although protective gear was still considered
a novelty rather than an accepted necessity, two self-contained oxygen
masks were added to the supply of six service canisters.
- 1939 (June) - Firefighters Judson H. Holcomb and
Adolph N. Habich were the first Madison firefighters to die in the
line of duty during a fire at the Mary Ann Bake Shop, 602 S. Park
Street, when the floor collapsed.
- 1942 - The MFD was suffering from a lack of manpower
and materials due to the war. Civilian men were trained as
auxiliary firefighters and preparations made for possible air raids
and war-related fires.
- 1942 (October) - Madison held its first Fire
- 1944 (January) - Due directly to the manpower
shortage, the MFD hired its first woman employee. Bettie Ford
began working as the Department's secretary.
- 1945 (October) - A Fire Prevention Bureau was
established to "make the required inspections...as required by
law, thereby reducing the fire hazards and the fire loss in the
city." Aside from inspection, the bureau would also handle
arson investigations, provide community education, and act as a law
enforcement organization when warranted.
- 1946 (September) - The Police and Fire Commission
amended Rule 70: Saluting within Department was abolished.
- 1947 (February) - Firefighters began working a
72-hour week; two platoons continued to work 24-hour shifts.
- 1947 (September) - The Department received two-way
radios allowing communication between dispatch and truck and
truck-to-truck. Madison was the first in the nation to have an
FM radio transmitter on a very high frequency (153.89 megacycles)
designed especially for fire departments.
- 1947 (November) - A third Madison firefighter lost
his life in the line of duty. Assistant Chief Patrick Brown
suffered a heart attack while at a rooming house fire. Chief
Brown was a 41-year veteran of the MFD.
- 1949 - Work to convert an auxiliary truck into
Madison's first rescue squad was completed.
1950 - 1960s
- 1951 (January) - Firefighters began working a 67-hour
week; two platoons continued to work 24-hour shifts.
- 1955 (February) - Firefighters began working a
63-hour week; two platoons continued to work 24-hour shifts.
- 1962 (January) - Five firefighters were promoted to
become the first full-time fire dispatchers. The alarm, radio
dispatch, and switch board operations were handled at Station No. 1.
- 1962 (Summer) - Through the pioneer efforts of Dr.
Carl Siebecker of the UW Hospital and the Dane County Medical
Association, firefighters were trained in heart massage techniques
along with resuscitation.
- 1963 (July) - To aid in fire prevention, the
Department began an in-service inspection program where by carrying
radios, firefighters were able to make building inspections, yet
- 1963 - A public information and education program was
- 1965 (January) - The MFD began providing emergency
ambulance service to the City of Madison. Ambulances were
purchased and operated from Stations 1, 8, and 9.
- 1966 (January) - The department switched to a
three-platoon system. Firefighters no longer worked 24 hours per
day; instead they worked split-shifts with 11-hour days and 13-hour
nights to create a 56-hour work week.
- 1966 (January 8) - Firefighter Daniel P. Parkinson
was killed while fighting a fire in the apartments above the
Sergenian's Carpet Store at 227 State Street. Parkinson was the
fourth Madison firefighter to die in the line of duty.
- 1967 (January) - The department abandoned
split-shifts and returned to 24-hour shifts. Three platoons
continued to work 56-hour weeks.
- 1967 (August) - In an effort to attract and retain
the most qualified personnel, a Police and Fire Incentive Program
began. Extra compensation is awarded to employees who pursue a
college education or job related training.
- 1968 - Station No.1 on West Dayton replaced Central
Fire Station on South Webster Street. An Administration Building
housing the Fire Prevention Division, a new dispatch center, and
administrative chiefs, was built at 325 West Johnson Street behind
Station No. 1.
- 1969 (February-March) - After the City Common Council
voted against parity between firefighter and police pay, on March 27,
the firefighters union (Local 311) went on strike. This was the
first Madison municipal group to go out on strike and the action was
illegal. On March 28, schools were cancelled due to the strike
and seven MFD administrators continued operating a 'fire
department'. Fifty-two hours after the strike began, on March
30, an agreement was reached and firefighters returned to
stations. A return to "normal" did not follow
immediately. Sparring between the MFD Administration, Local 311,
the Police and Fire Commission, and the City Council remained in the
headlines for nearly two years.
- 1972 - The MFD participated in a federally funded
program to train paramedics through the University of Wisconsin
- 1974 (January) - The first civilian "Alarm
Operators" (dispatchers) were hired.
- 1974 (June) - The work week dropped to the present 48
hours; firefighters continued to use a three-platoon system with
- 1974 (August) - Madison hired its first black
firefighters: Johnny Jackson, Jeff Green, and Jerry Greene.
- 1976 (January 6) - A Police and Fire Arson Squad was
created to tackle problems associated with Arson.
- 1976 (January) - Dr. Marvin Birnbaum was appointed
Medical Director of the paramedic program.
- 1977 - The National Apprenticeship and Training
Committee awarded "Professional Journeyman Firefighter"
certificates to MFD personnel who were the first firefighters in the
nation to complete the recommended standards.
- 1978 - Madison hired its first female firefighters:
Marcia Holtz and Mary Freitag. They were released and rehired in
- 1979 (October) - Madison's Fire and Police
Departments were awarded grant money for the establishments of a
"Madison Area Arson Control Program."
1980 - 1990s
- 1980 - Jerry Anderson and Cecil Hendricks were
appointed the Department's first full-time fire/arson investigators.
- 1980 (April) - A Public Education unit was created.
- 1980 - Smoke detectors were required in all new
housing construction and for existing one- or two-family homes within
30 days of occupancy by a new buyer.
- 1981 - A Children & Fire Program (also known as
Juvenile Firesetters) began.
- 1983 - A MFD Lake Rescue Team was formally
- 1985 - Oliver Olson became the last firefighter to
serve as a MFD mechanic and civilians have staffed the Maintenance
Bureau since that time.
- 1987 (June) - The department's new Hazardous
Materials Incident Team was formally placed into service.
- 1988 (July) - Madison Area Technical College began
training at their new firefighter training facility at 1750 Pearson
Street. Students included potential Madison recruits.
- 1989 (January 25) - A county-wide "911"
emergency dispatch system was officially "put on the line"
at 10:30 am. The MFD's civilian dispatchers were hired by the
county and dispatching services within the Department were eliminated.
TO BE CONTINUED...