History of the Lima Fire Department
The town of "Lima" was on the map before any local record of June 6, 1831, but it was not fully organized until March 29, 1842, and a mayor was elected.
In this same year the Common Village Council gave an order to blacksmith, William Andres, to install a clapper in th courthouse bell at a cost of $1.87. This is said to have been the first move to establish an organized fire department since the bell was used to assembly common pleas court, church and school meetings, and to summon citizens who would arm themselves with buckets, dishpans, and any sort of container that would hold water, and formed bucket brigades to fight a fire.
Fulfilling a Need
Five years later, on April 21, 1847, another important date in regards to fire prevention and fire protection, at a meeting of the Common Council, the "Town of Lima," with a population of 600 people realized the need for fire prevention and the Common Council resolved that it be expedient to take some measures to prevent fires from breaking out in town. A committee of three was appointed to examine the conditions of chimneys and other fire hazards and to make a report at the next meeting. Then two years later at a Common Council meeting on April 6, 1849, on a motion, authorized the purchase of three ladders and six fire hooks to pull burning thatch from roofs. A committee was also formed to examine the houses in town and have the properties secured to prevent danger of fire.
In 1865 a volunteer fire department was organized and the first piece of pumping apparatus, a hand pumper, was purchased second hand from Dayton, Ohio, and was known as the "Pacific Engine Number 1." After a large fire in 1871, two more engines were purchased, the "Champion Steam Fire engine and Hose Co., No 2" and the "Citizens Gift Fire Engine and Hose Company, No. 3." The old "Pacific" engine was sold to Spencerville, Ohio. History tells us there was much rivalry between these two companies in trying to be the first on the scene of a fire.
A city building was built in 1868 on West High Street, just west of Main Street on the south side, and housed the City Jail and the Volunteer Fire Department on the ground floor with other city offices on the second floor. This would be the first of several "Central Stations" in the department's history.
It is not known what the status of the volunteer companies were from this time on until 1890 when the department was fully organized and the community was protected by "Minute Men" which was part paid or "call department." The men were paid for each fire call or for services rendered. At this time, there were 2 steam fire engines, one hose reel, 2 hose wagons, and 1 hook and ladder in service. These were all horse drawn, since horses had been used in the department from 1878 on, and at one time consisted of 21 head of fine stock.
Organizing a Paid Department
In August, 1893, a fully paid department was organized and went into service the following month. This followed the City of Lima building the water works system in 1886, with water being first delivered through the mains on February 1, 1887. The system consisted of 34 miles of street mains, 213 fire hydrants and nearly 2400 service taps.
A second fire station was completed and occupied in 1888 at 216 E. Kibby and a third firehouse was built at 776 N. Main in about 1901. The city's fourth fire station opened in 1908 at 1174 W. High Street. Also, in 1906-07, a new safety building was built and occupied at High Street and Central Avenuenue. This was the second location of the Central or No. 1 fire station.
Moving to Motorized Fire Engines
Early in 1915 the department was motorized, when five pieces of equipment were delivered. At this time many of the fire horses were sold and some were issued to the Public Service Department. It is reported when the fire bell was heard it was difficult to restrain the horses from responding, although drawing a street cleaning apparatus.
On July 8, 1918, No. 5 Station at Lincoln Park, Shawnee and Elm Streets was completed and opened for service, and No. 6 Station, on S. Main Street and Lafayette was opened as well. The fire department operated out of these six fire houses until about 1944 or 1945 when the No. 2 Station was closed. Two new fire stations were built in 1961. One was No. 3 Station which moved to its new location at 1199 N. West and No. 4 Station which moved to it's new location at 1440 W. Spring St. No. 6 station was built in 1975 at a new location, 700 E. Third, and a new Central Station was built at it's third location, 433 S. Main Street. These stations, along with No. 5 Station at Lincoln Park, are the current fire houses in Lima.
The department was placed on a 2 platoon system in 1920, with each platoon working 24 hours and then being off for 24 hours. On September 7, 1939, the "Kelly Day" was established and this meant an extra day off every 14th calendar day, lowering the average work week from 84 to 72. The "Kelly Day" came about as a result of legislation lobbied for by Mayor Edward Kelly of Chicago. This system was replaced in 1969 with a three platoon system or 56 hours a week, and follows what is known as the California Plan, or one day on, one day off, one day on, one day off, one day on, four days off. Another hours reduction took place in the late 1980's and the average work week is 53 hours a week today.
Four firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty over the years. John Wolfe and John Fisher died in the Allen County Courthouse fire in 1929, Frank Kinzer as the result of a fire in the 400 block of North Main Street in 1933 and Cloyd R. Webb died at the Marshal Sporting Goods fire in 1954.
The above information is excerpted from the "Early History of the Lima Fire Department 1865 - 1975" compiled by former Fire Chief George K. Kelley. It contains a wealth of information which is too lengthy to list in it's entirely here. Anyone interested in looking at the entire document can read the 1976 History of Allen County at the Lima Public Library. The Fire Department section begins on page 29.