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P. O. Box 2806, (32781-2806)
550 S. Washington Avenue
Titusville, FL 32796
Phone: 321-567-3800
Hours: ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday
The City of Titusville, Florida / Titusville Fire Department / Titusville Fire and Emergency Services History

Titusville Fire and Emergency Services History

FROM 1888 TO 2015
Like so many other small towns, Titusville's citizens had banded together to protect their homes and businesses from fires.  They held socials and collected subscriptions to support basic fire protection for their town.  They urged their neighbors to install lightning rods on their homes and clear their lots of overgrowth to prevent fires from starting or spreading. 

When Titusville was in financial crisis in 1888, the citizens of the volunteer fire department donated their fire protection fund to the town fathers to keep Titusville from financial ruin.
Titusville, 1888Titusville, 1888
 Titusville, 1890 Fire Protection Code, 1890
Titusville's monetary difficulties were of short duration and the town continued its rapid growth.  So rapidly in fact that in the spring of 1890, the East Coast Advocate published a letter from Insurance Agent Silas Wright of Deland explaining he was unable to find insurance coverage for their building due to Titusville's rapid growth and the number of wooden buildings liable to go up in flames by the spread of a single fire.  He suggested the town purchase a steam engine and organize a fire department to remedy their insurance situation.
After the town of Cocoa suffered tremendous fire damage in December of that same year, the newspaper’s editor urged the town of Titusville to consider some method of fire protection, proposing the erection of a 50,000 gallon water tank, running a 6” water line in the business district and installing hydrants.  It was suggested that residential properties could be protected with the purchase of a hand engine and reel of hose.  He reminded the Town Council that the Titusville Volunteer Fire Department had come forward and tendered their funds to the City Fathers when the city was in dire necessity with the understanding that it would be returned in brighter days.  The editor stated that the brighter days were here and that reorganizing the volunteer fire department and taking preventive actions should be encouraged, stating: “It behooves our merchants to take early action as we may wake up any morning and find we have deferred the matter just one day too long.
Titusville, 1985 Newspaper from December 13, 1895. "Titusville in Flames". Titusville after the great fire of 1985
That ‘one day too long’ occurred a short five years later when, on December 12, 1985, the majority of the business district of Titusville was destroyed by an arson fire.  Titusville’s central business district was concentrated between Broad Street and Julia Street on South Washington Avenue, with buildings nestled close to each other and built of wood frame construction.  The final toll from the fire was 42 buildings and out-structures destroyed, several people seriously injured and at least one death.  A serious blow to the town was also the loss of the entire contents of the Town Council’s records up to that time, including council minutes, official record books, paper receipts, tax assessments and property records.  It would take most of the next decade to resolve property ownership and tax payment disputes.
It was the heroic efforts on the part of citizens that eventually stopped the fire of 1895.  The foundation of Titusville’s current fire service agency is based on this example of selfless citizens who responded to fight the conflagration when their community and their neighbors' lives and properties were in jeopardy.

Future town councils appointed standing fire committees from among its Council members.  The Fire Committee was charged with making recommendations to the Town Council regarding fire protective actions.  During the next two decades improvements in fire prevention and response measures were undertaken in Titusville.  Some of these included ordinances prohibiting vegetative overgrowth on lots, bans on the use of pressurized gasoline or kerosene lamps, annual inspections of chimney flues, demolishing buildings that constituted fire hazards, regulating fire escapes for hotels and boarding houses and recommending changes in building construction materials from pine wood to brick.  In 1901, the citizens also approved a one year—2 mill tax, the proceeds of which were to be placed in a Fire Protection Fund to help purchase fire equipment supplies.  The Fund garnered a total amount of $213.33. 
"To the memorable town council of the town of Titusville, The undersigned residents and tax payers of the town respectfully request that your board take measures to afford some degreee of fire protection with a view of putting out incipient fires and preventing the spread of larger ones. We are willing to stand a two mill tax for this purpose.

Titusville's fire protection measures in the first decade of the twentieth century also included the purchase of a portable water tank on wheels and lengths of hose along with a fire bell and establishing fire districts.  Underground water drafting tanks were installed and as the town's water lines were extended, these were replaced with fire hydrants.  Sustaining a group of organized volunteers, however, appeared to be like trying to herd a roomful of cats and some years were more successful than others in maintaining a consistent volunteer department.

 By 1913, Titusville's Town Council approached town citizen Burt Johnson to serve as the first volunteer fire chief formally appointed by the town council and under their direct supervision.  When he accepted the position for a salary of $10 per month, he was charged with formulating rules and reforming the town's volunteer fire protection in the town. 

On December 2, 1913 the ordinance outlining the formation of the official Titusville Volunteer Fire Department was approved by the Town Council.  During that same meeting, the Council passed an ordinance establishing the town's fire limits.

During the next year, Volunteer Fire Chief Johnson enhanced firefighting capabilities with the additional purchases of fire hose, fire buckets, fire ladders, two fire extinguishers, a play pipe and he worked to locate and build a shed in which to store the new fire equipment.
By the end of the nineteen twenties, fire wards had been established, the fire bell had been replaced by a fire whistle, and additional fire ordinances were passed restricting automobiles from driving over fire hoses, restricting and taxing the sale of fireworks and establishing a $10.00 fee by the water department charged to downtown merchants who petitioned for more fire hydrants in front of their businesses.  In an effort to help maintain a cadre of volunteer firefighters, the Town Council compensated them with a payment amount.  The initial payment rate developed was $1.00 per volunteer per fire.    Titusville Fire Limits Map, 1900s
Fire car, 1925 fire engine, 1925

One of the biggest leaps forward in firefighting capabilities was in 1925.  With part of the proceeds from the town's half million dollar municipal bond sale, the town purchased a new, fully-mechanized 1925 American LaFrance fire engine and constructed a combination fire station and city Hall. 

To ensure that someone was always available to immediate drive the engine, a full time engineer was hired.  Three years later in 1929, Jim Carliles was hired to replace the prior engineer and he stayed in that position for the next 32 years.
Jim Carlile
Fire Engineer Jim Carlile
Employed 1929 - 1961
For the next quarter of a century, the area's fire service capabilities continued improving.  Titusville built up its fire engine fleet in 1940 with the purchase of a used 1933 fire engine that had a 500 gallon pump on a V8 chassis for a cost of $2,950 and in 1947 purchased a new 1948 Mack fire engine for $8,100.
1953 Volunteers The Titusville Volunteers responded with volunteers in adjacent communities whose trucks were supplied by Brevard County.  Staffing for the Titusville department continued to be based upon 1 paid full-time engineer, with 2 relief drivers and community volunteers.  School boys between 12 and 19 years of age were incorporated into the volunteer component.  The County paid the students $2 a month to keep their gym suits clean and when the big whistle blew, they would leave school in their gym suits to fight brush fires.  Other city employees such as police officers and the water superintendent were also responding as fire volunteers on their days off. 

Development, population growth and increasing need for fire protection within Titusville and the adjacent communities began to spark tensions.  Until 1953, the fire volunteer force was a mixture of citizens of Titusville and members of the outlying properties, with funding support blurred between the City and the County.

County structure.  By the summer of 1953, interagency tensions had risen to the point that Titusville's City Manager and members of the Brevard County Commission met with Titusville Volunteer Chief Sullivan and Asst. Fire Chief Giles to develop solutions to problems within the fire volunteer arena.  At the conclusion of the meeting, the County fire truck was turned over to the City, with the City having complete control over the unit, with the County underwriting its maintenance costs.  The City would pay for all volunteers, whether belonging to the City or County fire units, for fires occurring within the city and the County would reimburse the City for any city volunteers responding to fires occurring outside the city limits.  Chief Sullivan stepped down and Asst. Chief Walter Giles became the department's newest volunteer fire chief.  Shortly thereafter, in 1956, the Indian River City Volunteer Fire Department was formed.  They handled fires in the southern part of north Brevard in what is now the southern portion of Titusville.  Still in existence was the North Brevard Volunteer Fire Department who handled fires within the county area known as Whispering Hills located to the west of the Titusville city limits existing at that time. 

As it had in 1888, insurance coverage continued to play a role in the direction and development of Titusville’s fire service.  Throughout the nineteen fifties, Southeastern Underwriters Association monitored the fire department’s capabilities to establish baselines for insurance companies to charge residential and commercial fire insurance rates.    A continuing criticism in their reporting was the lack of adequate full-time staffing.  These reports, coupled with a growing populist  and Titusville’s expanding size resulted in the doubling of the paid workforce in the fire department in 1959 to 2 full-time engineers and 2 assistant engineers, working a rotating schedule to provide 24/7/365 vehicle response from the fire station.  Combat staffing continued to be provided by the members of the Titusville Volunteer Fire Department, protecting the small town of about 3,000 residents. 

Beginning at the tail-end of the nineteen fifties, small town Titusville crossed the thresh-hold arm-in-arm with the rest of Brevard County, into the era of space.  These beginnings of the boom in the space industry led to what would become a massive number of requests for property annexations into our city from developers of areas adjacent to the existing city limits.  Then, the housing and commercial development began to erupt.

The tremendous and rapid growth of our,  city increased calls for the services of our volunteer fire department, continuing conflicts among the volunteer fire departments servicing the north Brevard area, led to the decision to hire a professional fire chief to lead Titusville's fire department.  He, as a city employee, would be directly answerable to the City Manager and City Council and not the volunteer fire organization itself, giving the City greater control over the direction of the fire agency serving Titusville. 

James Brown, the First Fire Chief Titusville’s first paid fire chief, James Brown, began his tenure with Titusville on May 15, 1961.  This date was a pivotal moment in our department’s journey towards the all-hazard, advanced life support first responder agency it is today, responsible for the protection of over 31 square miles and serving more than 43,000 residents.

Prior to the arrival of Chief Brown, the progress of the city’s fire department waxed and waned, dependent upon the ever-changing vision, leadership qualities and efforts of a series of fire chiefs appointed by their volunteer members and the will of the members themselves.  There were increasing disagreements between the volunteer department members and city leadership regarding limitations placed on providing mutual aid to unincorporated areas using city paid-for apparatus and drivers which left the city unprotected.  Although the citizen members were committed to their mission of providing fire protection, gaining consistent support for funds from City Council to upgrade equipment and supplies was difficult.  Firefighter training consisted of sending one or two volunteers to the new state fire college each year for a couple of days, then holding training sessions to go over what was learned. 
Left to Right: Driver-Engineer Hayes Poppel, Fire Chief James Brown Volunteer, Asst. Chief Melvyn Higgs Left to Right:
Driver-Engineer Hayes Poppel
Fire Chief James Brown
Volunteer Asst. Chief Melvyn Higgs


When they hired a paid fire chief, things changed.  Boy, did they ever change!
It wasn’t long before Chief Brown focused on apparatus, equipment, training and even facilities and the changes came!  There was a new chief in town and he took advantage of his honeymoon period with a vengeance, sometimes stepping on a few toes and sometimes accused of overstepping his bounds.

But unrelated to Chief Brown and his plans to improve what was now “his” fire department, it was a legislative move in 1963 that made the deepest and most dramatic change to the face of fire protection for Titusville.  Depending on whom you talked to and where they lived at that time, 1963 was when either “the big consolidation” or the “big land grab” occurred.  The boundaries of Titusville more than doubled overnight, incorporating the areas previously known as Indian River City and Whispering Hills into its city limits.  The impact of providing coordinated fire protection to such a huge area would have been difficult enough just from the increase in square miles, but tensions from what was now the former Indian River City area and their displeasure about their property being incorporated into Titusville publicly displayed itself in the fire arena.  Although most of the North Brevard volunteers who had protected the Whispering Hills area agreed to join the Titusville Volunteer Fire Department, most of the volunteer citizens with the Indian River City Volunteer Fire Department chose another path. 
1961 Volunteer Chief Badge Titusville- A place to live and thrive 1965 Engineer Badge

Immediately, the number of paid driver-engineers and assistant engineers within the Titusville agency increased, along with tripling the number of fire stations from one to three.  Increased training and professional firefighting tactics and improved equipment were essential in meeting the needs of one of the fastest growing communities in Brevard.  The deliberate movement from a volunteer fire department to a paid, professional fire department was fueled by all of these factors and gained momentum.  In a little over a decade, the department would become a fully paid department, making significant and lasting improvements in facilities, equipment, safety and employee relations while addressing the rapidly amplifying and diversifying requirements of the fire service demanded by the community and government regulations would take a lot longer. 

By 1984, Titusville’s growing land area and protection needs required increasing the number of fire stations from three to four, the number currently in service today.  A Public Safety Referendum in the late 1990’s helped to renovate and construct badly dilapidated fire facilities.  Changing demographics required the movement of the southern-most fire station from Sisson Road/Highway 50 area to a newly constructed station in the south Barna Avenue/Highway 50 area in 2000.  Station #11 was also relocated, moving from the old building on Broad Street to its current location across from City Hall and incorporating Fire HQ administrative staff who were delighted to vacant their leaking, vermin infested trailer!  Station #10 on Singleton Avenue was moved to the old County Vehicle Inspection Building just north of its old location.

In 1984, emergency pre-hospital response at the EMT level (emergency medical technicians) was added to the responsibilities of the fire department, along with hazardous materials responses by the early 1990s.  By 1998, the department was providing advanced life support services (paramedic) to its citizens and with the aftermath of 9/11, bio-terrorism was also incorporated into our response criteria.

The Titusville Volunteer Fire Department had been served by a number of citizens who stepped up to assume the role as volunteer fire chief… G. V. Cooper, Burt Johnson, Hans Walker, J. P. Wilson, D. A. McIntosh, D. Lee Baldwin, S. O. Brown, J. W. Walker, Robert H. Sullivan, Walter Giles, Howard Benzenhafer and Bobby Hartman and others whose names have been lost in the mists of time.  But as a paid professional department, Titusville Fire and Emergency Services has only had six fire chiefs in the past half century…James Brown, Richard Cherry, Tom Harmer, Rick Talbert, Chuck Bogle and the current fire chief, Michael Woodward.

As the fire service grew and adapted over the years, the name of the department changed as well.  Beginning as Titusville Volunteer Fire Department, it was naturally changed to the Titusville Fire Department when it became a paid department.  When specialized and first aid responses were added to its disciplines, the name was changed to the Titusville Fire Rescue Department.  And, in the last decade of the twentieth century when the department provided all of the above-mentioned services and included full pre-hospital medical services and hazardous material responses, it was changed to its current and fully encompassing name—Titusville Fire and Emergency Services Department.

The fire service in Titusville has grown and adapted over the years to meet the challenges of our ever-changing city and its residents.   What hasn’t changed is our commitment to providing whatever is required to meet the needs of our community.  The motto of Titusville Fire and Emergency Services Department:  Service doesn’t come from a manual—it comes from the heart.

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The City of Titusville, Florida
P. O. Box 2806, (32781-2806) - 555 S. Washington Avenue - Titusville, FL 32796 - Phone: (321) 567-3775 - Fax: (321) 383-5704 - Site by Project A

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