Fighting Fires in DeKalb

Stop! Drop! and Roll!
Who doesn’t remember learning fire safety growing up?  Fire alarms and sprinklers are so much a part of the buildings we enter that we hardly give them more than a moments’ notice.  In the event of a fire, we all know who to call, and we can be assured that there will be a response.  Whether on highways, in neighborhoods, or during the occasional false alarm at school, we have all likely seen a fire truck rushing past with lights flashing and alarm at full volume.

The sense of safety that we get from knowing that fires are not going to be left blazing has not always been a given.  Many fire stations around the County are only about fifty to sixty years old.  The establishment of several fire stations is still very much a part of living memory.  So how far back does the history of fire stations in DeKalb County go?

The very first fire station in the County was not, in fact, County-owned.  A Mr. J. V. Draughn from Tennessee started up a fire service on a subscriber basis in 1934.  The service was established in Druid Hills and required that people pay a fee in order to receive fire protection.  Contracts were signed stating what payment would be given on which properties.

Contract with G. H. Mew on May 30th, 1935

It was not until June 24th, 1937 that the County had a fire station of its own.  With the sum of $5,500 Mr. Vaughn sold his station along with his equipment to the County.  It would be another ten years before additional fire stations were put in place around other parts of DeKalb.  The administration of Scott Candler, from 1947 to 1952, opened eight new stations, which broadened the range of protective services and helped lower insurance rates.

DeKalb County Station No. 1

These stations did not, however, have the same equipment, nor the same facilities.  At one point, a ‘station’ was actually a tent!  The original Station #6, though providing housing for the firemen, had only a tent to cover the fire engine.  In terms of training too, there was no standardized way that County firemen learned their jobs.  A merit-based system was the hiring process.  Training was not done by the County through accredited academies; firefighters instead taught each other through their work.  An accredited Fire Academy was established only as recently as June of 1973.
The DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department has since grown and further established itself.  In addition to fire services, Emergency Medical Services were organized within the fire department.  More recently, public education and youth development programs have also been created, showing the department’s dedication to education and outreach.

Community Education

From that first, privately owned fire station, the County now has 26 different stations across DeKalb County.  The Fire Rescue Department has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings.  It has proven itself time and time again in its commitment to the safety of DeKalb citizens.  This history stands as a reminder that it has taken a great deal of work and service from dedicated members of the Fire Department to ensure the safety we take for granted.
We are incredibly grateful for all that they have done and continue to do.
 
 
Written by Sophia Malikyar
 
Information and images from DHC archives.