How It All Began
The San Antonio Fire Department had a very humble beginning. On June 6, 1854, a group of 20 young San Antonians met and organized the first volunteer fire department. They called it the Ben Milam Company. The company was comprised of only a bucket brigade, but with a lot of vim and vigor and determination to do something about protecting life and property against the demon "Fire."
In 1858, the Ben Milam Company purchased the first hand operated fire engine which made the local fire department one of the best in the entire Southwest. However, around 1859, with the burning of Eckenroth's store, it became apparent that the city’s firefighting facilities were still not sufficient to cope with conflagrations.
In 1891, San Antonio boasted a population of 37,363 people. In March of that year, a permanent, paid Fire Department was organized. Two 700 gallons-per-minute steam pumpers, 5 hose carriages, 2 hook-and-ladder trucks, and assorted wagons and carts were provided. Some 45 firefighters were hired. The Fire Chief was paid $100 per month, double-team drivers were paid $55, and privates earned $45 per month.
Since our founding in 1891, the San Antonio Fire Department has built a strong reputation for serving the citizens of San Antonio. From that first hand operated fire engine, the department has continued to be innovative and aggressive in keeping up with firefighting trends, using the best technology, and finding more efficient and effective ways to provide service to the community. SAFD has been a vital part of the city's past and will play an even greater role in addressing the changing issues facing San Antonio into the future.
An in-depth article on the early history of the San Antonio Fire Department is available.
Meet the special individuals that helped to shape the direction of SAFD in The Hall of Fire Chiefs.