History of the Department
On January 24, 1876 a volunteer Fire Department was officially organized with 28 men. In April of the same year, the George Washington Stilz blacksmith shop at 619 Main Street was converted into the first firehouse. The one-story wood structure housed Engine Company #1 and Hook & Ladder Company #1. The firehouse burned to the ground on September 23, 1883. A temporary station was placed in another nearby blacksmith shop at 6th and Main Street.
On December 15, 1883 a two-story, two-bay firehouse was dedicated "The City Hall" station at the site of the first firehouse. An office on the second floor was the home of Boise City Hall. This firehouse served Boise until September 1, 1903 when the new Central Station was opened at the corner of 6th & Idaho Street as pictured below.
(Click on any photo to view a larger image)
The Mayor and City Council proposed to eliminate the volunteer department in December of 1901 and establish a new fully paid Fire Department. The volunteers disbanded on June 2, 1902. The newly formed professional Fire Department had one part-time Chief, two part-time Assistant Chiefs, three Drivers, one Assistant Driver, one Engineer, one Hoseman and pay-per-call Stokers and Firefighters. Personnel operated the department from three firehouses, Central Fire Station, Idaho Street Station and Resseguie Station. In July of 1902, horses were added to the companies at Central Fire Station. Mayor and City Council pass an ordinance requiring the Fire Chief to be a full-time position in September 1903. E.B. Tage was hired as the first full-time Fire Chief on November 1, 1903, replacing part-time Chief Major Liddell who did not accept the job.
1912 brought expansion to the Department with an additional 17 firefighters and two stations. The new firehouses were built at 16th and Front Street, which still remains as Fire Station #5, and McKinley & State Street Station, now a private residence after being relocated in 1923.
Tough economical times in the 1920's and 1930's forced firefighters to take pay cuts and company staffing was reduced. From 1932 to 1938 the Department's focus was prevention. Educational programs and fire inspections were initiated in 1932. The first Fire Prevention week was observed in 1935 and a Fire Inspector position was created in 1938. Boise's population starts to grow again in 1940. With a larger city population, the Department strived to modernize. A station was built at Kootenai Avenue and Federal Way. A Fire Combat training program was established in 1951 and the first State Fire School was held in 1952. Radio systems were upgraded in 1957 at the Fire Alarm Dispatch office. On September 1, 1958 Boise Fire received an ISO rating of a class three fire department.
Major structure fires marked the decade of 1950. The Sonna Building, Tennyson Transfer / Storage, the H.B. Eastman mansion, Mode Department Store, Gem State Wholesale Drug and Sprouse-Rietz Variety Store were consumed with fire.
In 1964, the Boise Fire Department expanded by building the sixth fire station on Liberty Street. Also in 1964, a three-platoon schedule was established, increasing staffing to 107 firefighters. For the first time, the department's call volume exceeded 1000 alarms. Boise Fire took over Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) at Boise Air Terminal in 1965 and built a new station at the Airport in 1966. The department was divided into five divisions: Administration, Fire Prevention, Combat, Training and Alarm/Maintenance. Twelve new firefighters were hired to staff the new Fire Station #8 on Overland Road, which was obtained from the Whitney Rural Fire District. By the end of the decade, staffing was increased to 139 employees.
The Department continued to grow and apparatus was added to the fleet in the 1970s. Fourteen pieces of equipment or vehicles were purchased from 1972 to 1977.
In the early 1980s, Boise City reached 102,000 residents and the City suffered over $1 million in fire damages several years in a row. 1982 noted fire damages exceeding $2.46 million due to an arson spree. Personnel were re-hired again or new firefighters filled positions that were once eliminated with the 1% Initiative.Firehouse #3 was relocated to Gekeler Lane in December 1978. The Idaho State Firefighter Collective Bargaining Act was passed into law in 1979 and Boise City recognized and bargained with the local firefighter union. The 1% Tax Reduction Initiative that passed legislature in 1978 reduced the Department's budget by 14% in 1979, forcing lay-offs and demotions throughout all divisions.
In March 1991, Fire Station #6 relocated to a new station on Franklin Road and the Training Division moved into the old firehouse on Liberty Street. The Department grew to 13 stations when Station #10 was built on McMillan Road in April of 1994. The Cole/Collister Fire District station on Emerald Street was sold to Boise Fire in 1996 and Station #12 located on Highway 21 was built in 1998.April 1, 1984 the Fire Alarm Dispatch office was closed and the Ada County Sheriff's office assumed the duty of dispatching fire calls. By 1989, Boise Fire responds to over 7,000 calls annually.
Boise Fire Department entered into a service contract with Whitney Fire District on November 1, 2000. All Whitney firefighters became Boise City employees and the two firehouses were renumbered as Fire Station #21 on Overland Road and Fire Station #22 located on Amity Road. Fire Companies from Station #21 moved to Station #14 on South Five Mile Road which opened in 2007.
January 23, 2006 the Department began operation of Advanced Life Support Engine Companies, staffing Engine 22 and Engine 8 with firefighter / paramedics.
On December 31, 2009 the Department entered into a Joint Powers Agreement with North Ada County Fire & Rescue (NACFR). All NACFR employees became Boise City employees and the three firehouses were renumbered as Fire Station #16 on Glenwood Avenue, Fire Station #18 on Chinden Blvd and Fire Station #20 in Hidden Springs. NACFR District own the buildings and apparatus. NACFR Fire Commissioners and Boise Fire Administration work together on strategic planning for the district. Due to a downturn in the area's economy, Fire Station #18 was closed on October 1, 2010.
Currently, Boise Fire Department has 288 full time employees, 17 Fire Stations, a Hazardous Materials Team, ARFF team, Dive Team and a Technical Rescue Team. The Department serves a population of 218,000 residents in 130+ square miles.