Reliance Hook & Ladder Company Number 1
The City of Waukesha Fire Department has a proud history dating back to July 21, 1852. On this date, the Reliance Hook and Ladder Company Number 1 was formed with a complement of 28 volunteers. The cost for this undertaking was somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 ($70 for a hook and ladder wagon, $14 for 5 ladders, and the rest for 3 pike poles, 4 axes, 20 pails and 100 feet of hose).

Bucket Brigade
These were truly the days of the old "bucket brigade" in that a local ordinance stated that "every householder and every person occupying any mechanic shop, manufactory, store, or mill, within alarm of fire, shall furnish one suitable pail or bucket at the place of such fire for the purpose of extinguishing the same, under penalty of one dollar for each and every default."

Hand-Pump Fire Engine
Following a large fire on March 22, 1856, in which the losses totaled approximately $30,000, the Waukesha Village Board approved the purchase of a $400 hand-pump fire engine. The department was growing up until the Civil War, at which time the department was temporarily disbanded.

In 1869, the department was reorganized and re-equipped. The Village purchased 2 hand pumpers and constructed a frame engine house on South Street for $295. Soon after, the department was reorganized by the Village and a Fire Chief was appointed. George C. Pratt, 58 years old at the time, was appointed as the Village's first Fire Chief from December of 1869 to May 1872.

First Firehouse
By 1867, the department consisted of 51 men. On August 11, 1884, the cornerstone of the Village's first firehouse (on Clinton Street) was laid. (This building was used until 1957.) The first horse drawn piece of fire equipment, a hose wagon, was purchased in early 1896 by the Village Board for $487. Shortly thereafter, the Village Board was replaced by a City Council after Waukesha's incorporation as a city in 1895. Growth continued and in 1910, the City Council created a Fire and Police Commission. At this time, the fire department consisted of:
  • 2 full-time paid drivers
  • 2 horse teams
  • 2 part-time firefighters
  • 22 volunteers
  • A hook and ladder rig
  • A horse-drawn hose cart
  • One Assistant Chief
  • One Fire Chief
  • One steamer
Growth & Expansion
On January 1, 1926, the City of Waukesha Fire Department became a full-time department with 16 paid men. Even more growth continued through the turn-of-the-century. In 1966, the fire department took over the responsibilities of providing an ambulance service from the police department. In 1968, the department introduced the three platoon system that we are using still today. In 1975, the department became the first fire department in Waukesha County to train paramedics and have a paramedic unit staffed around-the-clock. In 1981, the City of Waukesha finished construction on 3 new fire stations, giving us the 4 stations that we currently call home. In 1991, we grew to the point that the City was given an ISO Class 2 fire rating.

Still Serving the Community
Our story still continues through today. For almost 150 years we have served the community of Waukesha in one form or another. Thank you to the citizens and businesses of Waukesha for letting us serve you all of these years. By proceeding with our mission and vision statements, it is our sincere hope that we will be here for 150 more years and beyond.