History of the Madison
Volunteer Fire Department
The City of Madison was established in 1809 and served as a river port for pioneers making their way into the Northwest Territory. Citizens formed United Volunteer Fire Company in 1821, but town fathers decided to establish a paid fire company, Union Fire Company, five years later. However, that experiment lasted less than a year and the company was disbanded, leaving citizens to their own devices until 1841 when Fair Play Fire Company No. 1, the oldest fire company in Indiana, was founded.
Washington Fire Company No. 2 was founded in 1847, purportedly by disgruntled members of Fair Play Fire Company No. 1, and today Washington operates out of their original fire station, the oldest active fire station in Indiana.
More Fire Companies Added
As the town continued to grow, fringe neighborhoods felt the need to establish their own fire protection so Western Fire Company No. 3 was established on far West Main St. in 1850 and Walnut Street Fire Company No. 4 was established by descendants of German immigrants on north Walnut Street in 1873.
It would not be until 1952, when Madison annexed the small town of North Madison, that another fire company would be established, North Madison Fire Company No. 5. As the area north of the city on the hills surrounding the valley continued to expand, a new fire company, Clifty Fire Company No. 6, was formed in 1969 in the midst of the commercial zone.
Today, The Madison Volunteer Fire Department is comprised of those six independent, volunteer fire companies that operate under a uniform contract for fire protection at the direction of the Madison Fire Chief who is a city employee.
Fire Companies Still Operating Today
Four of the companies (Engines 1, 2 and 3 and Tower 4) operate in the old town area near the river that includes 103 square blocks of multi-story businesses and homes that have been collectively designated as a National Historic Landmark. The north side of the city that is the area of growth with manufacturing, commercial and residential occupancies is served by Engine 5 and Station 6 that houses a rescue engine and a city-owned aerial ladder. A reserve aerial ladder owned by the city is housed nearby in Madison Township Fire Department, a county department that has a mutual aid agreement with the city.
Although the Madison fire companies are consolidated operationally, they retain their respective identities which are manifested in part by the distinctive colors of their fire apparatus which sport colors of red, white, blue, yellow and green. Madison may be the only city of its size that operates three green aerial trucks.
Funding and Support
Primary funding of the companies comes from the city contract, but several also do fund raising activities to supplement their revenue such as fish fries and golf tournaments. The city recently applied for and received a FEMA grant to purchase new breathing apparatus for all the companies, providing uniformity and allowing better cross-training to improve firefighter safety.
The City of Madison holds an ISO Public Protection Class 4 rating which places it in the top 10% of Indiana’s 1,700 volunteer fire departments and compares favorably to nearby larger cities with fully paid fire departments and at a much smaller budget. The department averages 250 incidents per-year. For details, see the annual reports.
As with most volunteer fire departments, Madison is facing a continuing shortage of trained personnel and we invite you to join one of the companies and serve your community. For information, contact Chief Devries.
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