Tuesday marked the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Salt Lake City Fire Department as a paid, professional public safety organization.
Prior to Oct. 1, 1883, volunteer firefighters, having adopted the motto of "We aim to aid and work to save," had been counted on to douse blazes in the frontier community. The volunteer operation had been created by mayoral declaration in 1853 — just six years after Brigham Young brought Mormon settlers into the Salt Lake Valley.
"In the 130 years since the Salt Lake City Fire Department was established, firefighters have served Utah’s capital city to the best of their ability, often placing the needs of others in front of their own," SLCFD spokesman Jasen Asay said.
"It is an honor to be part of such a long-lasting tradition. Today, as the capital city’s fire department, we strive to follow the example of those who came before us by preparing effectively, responding professionally and impacting positively as we serve Salt Lake City," he added.
In 1883, firefighting equipment consisted of 36 leather buckets and 21 ladders, along with a manually operated pump built by brothers James and Thomas Higgs and nicknamed "The Volunteer."
SLCFD historians believe that piston device may have been the first pump of its kind used by firefighters west of the Mississippi River.
The decision to form a paid, full-time fire department came three months after flames destroyed several buildings south of the LDS Church’s Temple Square.
That fire broke out just after midnight on June 21, 1883, inside the Wagon Depot and quickly spread to other wooden structures. Embers from the blaze also ignited fires on the roofs of the Tabernacle and Tithing Office buildings on Temple Square, but firefighters doused those flames quickly.
Today, SLCFD has 313 firefighters and 15 civilian employees serving 14 fire stations throughout the city, including two stations at Salt Lake City International Airport.
Asay said that as of Tuesday, the department had responded to 17,491 medical- and 4,425 fire-related emergency calls in 2013.
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