Provo’s First Volunteer Fire Department.
Provo went more than forty years before organizing its first volunteer fire department. It a fire got a good start on a building, the owner saved very little before the flames consumed the structure.
It was in 1879 (thirty years after the city’s founding) that the first serious campaign for a volunteer fire department got underway. That year the Timpanogos Flour Mill, which was located near Provo’s large woolen mills, burned down. Within a year and a half, three disastrous fires had resulted in some $13,000 in losses.
Provo’s newspaper called for the organization of a volunteer fire department and the purchase of a pump wagon, a pair of horses, and a few hundred feet of hose. The newspaper warned readers that very often the stable door was not locked until after the horse was stolen. City government took no serious action because of the expense involved.
Five years later in 1884, the Brigham Young Academy caught fire and was completely destroyed. The only effort to quench the flames was the formation of a bucket brigade leading to the mill race a block away.
The academy fore caused a flurry of action by the city council. The council formed the “Committee for a Fire Department.” After seeing the expense involved in creating a fire department, the city council again lost interest.
Finally, in 1890, city officials realized that merchants were reluctant to invest in a city without a water system and a fire department. The city council voted in favor of financing both. It authorized the purchase of a new horse drawn, steam powered pump.
The new pumper arrived that May and the fire department organized in June. Twenty-three men joined during the first meeting. The department fought their first fire in July. The Brereton barns, sheds, wagons, and animals in the southeast part of town went up in flames before the department arrived, but the men saved the homes of Mr. Brereton and his son.