The Monroe Fire Department was originally established in 1872. The first fire engine, a Silsby Steamer, was purchased in July of 1886 for $3,500. It was first stored in a local livery stable. The steamer was a reserve unit by 1902. It was still in reserve in 1922. The steamer remained in service for nearly twenty years. Today it is in the process of being restored and is housed at Station 1. The Monroe Fire Department joined the North Carolina State Firemen’s Association in 1891. The department began as a volunteer organization and transitioned to a fully-paid career department throughout the years. Paid personnel are on record as far back as 1914. Also in 1914 the department had one two-horse hose wagon, one hand hook and ladder truck, and the Silsby Steamer with four hose reels.
In 1922 the Monroe Fire Department consisted of one fully-paid man, three partly-paid men, and 29 volunteer firemen. There was always one man on constant duty for the department. The city population at this time was around 5,550. The fire station was located at the corner of North Hayne Street and West Crowell Avenue. The department had an American LaFrance combination motor truck with a 750-gallon-per-minute pump. It had a 40-gallon chemical tank and 1500 feet of 2 ½-inch hose. There was also a Ford truck with 1500 feet of 2 ½-inch hose and a hand hook and ladder truck with a 40-foot extension ladder. The fire alarm was operated by switch at the telephone exchange. It would ring the bells in the fire station, pumping station, and firemen’s homes. There was a general whistle alarm at the pumping station, and the fire bell would ring at the fire station.
Mutual Aid is a vital part of a fire department. It is used when more assistance is needed from other departments due to large-scale emergencies. This mutual aid was even evident in the 1920’s and 1930’s with Monroe Fire Department. In 1928 Monroe Fire Department received mutual aid from Charlotte Fire Department in assistance with the burning of Franklin Street across from the old court house. Mutual aid was also given in the burning of Benton Heights School. In 1939 Charlotte Fire Department also responded with assistance for the burning of two uptown livery stables.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Monroe Fire Department consisted of a Fire Chief, assistant Chief, ten full-time firemen and six part-time firemen. Personnel worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off. The Fire Chief or assistant Chief was to remain in the city at all times. The department had two 750 gallon-per-minute pumpers and one 500-gallon-per-minute pumper. A 1948 Mack truck was one of the 750-gallon-per-minute pumpers. This truck was a first-alarm apparatus. It was equipped with a two-way radio, various hoses and nozzles, Scott Air Paks, and dry chemical extinguishers, just to name a few.
In 1958 the City of Monroe established a Fire Prevention Bureau. It consisted of three men from the fire department. They were to study all phases of fire prevention and establish a preplanning program for buildings such as schools, hospitals, service stations, and others. The fire loss for 1957 was $40,610.69 and in 1958 had increased to $49,979.75.
In 1980 the Monroe Fire Department merged with the Monroe Police Department to create the Monroe Public Safety Department. Public safety officers performed both duties of firefighter and police officer. This became a strain on the department as the community grew and service demand was increased. In 1999 the Monroe Fire Department was once again a separate fire department; it operated with 22 members operating out of three fire stations.
Today the department consists of five fire stations, a fire administration office, and a fire training center. Fire administration consists of the administration division with a deputy chief, training division chief, fire marshal division chief and other administrative staff. This is a total of ten personnel. The operations division consists of a deputy chief, 3 battalion chiefs, 18 captains, 21 engineers, and 33 firefighters. This brings the staffing total for the Monroe Fire Department today to 86. The operations division is divided into three shifts working a modified 24-hour work schedule. The work day begins at six each morning and ends the following morning. This includes weekends and holidays. The Monroe Fire Department responded to 7,054 emergency and non-emergency calls in 2017. The department currently holds an insurance service office rating of a Class 3.