The history of the Green Bay Fire Department is as old as the city itself. It traces itself back to the year of 1854, when German immigrants recognized the need for fire protection in the small city. The Germania “Rough and Ready” Fire Company was formed but this was nothing more than a volunteer bucket brigade. In 1856 the Guardian “Wide Awake” Fire Company was organized, and fire protection started to take shape.
Between 1858 and 1875 saw the formation of the Astor and Franklin Fire Companies. These years also ushered in the first hand pump fire apparatus, soon to be followed by the first horse drawn steam pumpers. 1875 was the first year the four fire companies were referred to as the Green Bay “Independent Fire Department”. But 1875 also saw the disbanding of the Astor and Franklin Fire Companies. These two companies were replaced by the cities first Hook and Ladder, the Washington Fire Company.
Volunteers Fade: the First Paid Department
Although the exact date is not known, Green Bay moved towards its first full time, paid department around 1891. The habit of naming fire companies had gone, and companies were now simply known as Hose 1 and 2 and Hook and Ladder 1. The newly organized department was comprised of a chief and 12 firemen. These men made between $40 and $50 per month.
Modernization & the New Department
The 1900’s saw significant changes to the GBFD. 1916 saw the first motorized fire apparatus built on automobile chassis. In 1920 the first American LaFrance engine was bought at a price of $11,500. Soon after in 1921 the first motorized ladder truck was bought from American LaFrance. The 75 foot ladder truck cost $15,640. Working conditions and pay continued to improve. In 1921 a firefighters’ yearly salary was $1500. Captains made around $1600. Personnel were also given a reduction in the number of hours worked per week. Firefighters had worked 82 hours a week with two 12 hour shifts off every three to four days. A two platoon system was introduced and cut the time down to 72 hours. It was not until the mid 1930’s that the 24 hour shift was introduced.
Moving Forward-Emergency Medical Services
The period from 1945 to 1969 was a time of great expansion for the department. The manpower had increased from 62 to 187. The number of stations increased from three to six, with apparatus totaling 24. 1946 also saw an increase in wages. A firefighter after three years was making $2190, and a captain was making $2400. Much has changed since then. Moving into the 1970’s and 80’s saw the fire department expand its services. In 1973 the introduction into the world of emergency medicine began.
Although the GBFD can trace its first aid response back to 1927, things really did not take off until now. With no formal paramedic program yet established in the state, a nurse by the name of Delores Collins, set up a course for the local program. 22 members received training and clinical time at Bellin Hospital’s cardiac care unit. During the first year of training GBFD responded to 2879 rescue calls. The department started out with 2 ambulances, and in 1988 a third was put in service. Today the GBMFD operates 5 full time paramedic ambulances responding to over 8,000 medical calls a year for help.
Today’s Metro Fire Department
In December of 2012, the City of Green Bay signed a contract with the Village of Allouez to provide fire and emergency medical services for Allouez residents. Today’s Green Bay Metro Fire Department is comprised of 196 uniformed men and women operating from 8 stations. From two Battalions these members respond with 7 engine companies, 2 ladder companies, 5 paramedic ambulances, and various other specialized equipment to assist the public in their time of need. The GBMFD is a highly trained, professional department that provides a great service to the citizens of Green Bay and the Village of Allouez and all those that visit.