History of the Warner Robins Fire Department
The Warner Robins Fire Department has been providing fire protection to the community since it's organization in 1959. In June of that year, Mayor Kemp Harrison hired Chief Ernest W. Wood to become the department's first Fire Chief. The fire station at 207 Myrtle Street was under construction when Chief Wood hired the first 10 firefighters who assisted in completion of the station. Of those original ten men, two went on to become Fire Chiefs in other cities within the first five years. Carl Hamilton became Chief at Jekyll Island and Tom Nichols in Brunswick, Georgia.
The Early Days
In those early days, there were two shifts with four people per shift. The fire insurance class lowered from a Class 10 to a Class 5 upon inception of the fire department. Warner Robins was approximately nine square miles in size with a population of 18,633. The Myrtle Street station officially opened on October 23, 1959. The city spent $17,000 to purchase the first two fire trucks that year which were GMC commercial pumpers operating at 750 gallons per minute.
Being the first fire department in the state to have 100% personnel trained in advanced first aid resulted in a certificate being presented by the American Red Cross in 1961. In 1962, we increased the number of apparatus with the purchase of two American LaFrance 1250 gallons per minute custom fire trucks. During construction of Watson Boulevard, a trailer was used as a temporary station on South Houston Road for approximately 18 months from 1962 to 1963. It closed when the new fire station built at 117 Chestnut Road opened on August 11, 1963 soon followed by another station at 1111 Green Street on November 17, 1963, which would later become the Fire Department Headquarters.
Fire & Police Department Consolidation
In December 1969, the mayor and City Council voted to consolidate the Fire and Police Departments. Police Chief W.H. Rape was named Director and Chief Wood named Deputy Director. These combined forces operated in such a capacity until February 1973 when they were once again made separate. Over the next few years, the fire department continued it's growth with the addition of Sandra Lunceford as secretary, the purchase of three new 1000 gallon Peter Pirsch pumpers in 1974, the increase of personnel to 50 people, and a change from two to three shifts in 1975. At that time, the fire department was responding to approximately 500 calls a year.
Further expansion took place in 1977 with the addition of new programs. In February, a free blood pressure program was initiated at all stations, and in September, the training division was established. As a result of improved fire protection, the insurance classification in Warner Robins was lowered from Class 5 to Class 4 in July of that year. 1979 saw the opening of our fourth fire station located on Carl Vinson Parkway. This station would later be sold to Houston County in April 2002.
Fire Safety Education Program
The Fire Safety Education Program was implemented in January 1980. Warner Robins Fire Department was one of the first in the state to have such a program whereby fifth graders in the public school system were taught fire prevention. In addition, during Fire Prevention Week, numerous tours were conducted through the fire stations.
Chief West's Leadership
In May 1983, Chief Wood was appointed Director of Public Safety. He served in this position until his retirement on December 1, 1984. To replace him as Fire Chief, Larry West was appointed in January 1984. Under Chief West's leadership, the department continued to flourish. Intensive emergency medical assistance training began in February 1985 and in April that year, a full-time communication division was established. July brought the development of our training center after a parcel of land near Industrial Parkway was donated. By the end of 1986, the department had close to 70 employees.
A first response vehicle for grass and trash fires was put into service in March 1987, and in December an emergency response vehicle was purchased for the Assistant Chiefs in charge of shifts to use while on duty. With the growth of the city, another fire station was opened on Sandy Run Road in September 1987. Upon review by ISO, the insurance classification was lowered to Class 3 in October 1988 and has remained at this classification to the present time. We were the only department in Georgia to achieve this standard without an aerial apparatus.
The Warner Robins Fire Department began aggressive fund-raising efforts in August 1989 to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We have been the top fundraiser in non-union departments in the nation since 1995. Events have included boot drives, barbeques, golf and softball tournaments, calendars, a gospel sing and assisting with the MDA telethon annually on Labor Day weekend.
First Aerial Apparatus
Between 1989 and 1991, three additional fire trucks were purchased from E-One. In December 1991, the Houston County 911 Center opened and assumed dispatching duties for the fire department. Our first aerial apparatus, a 1998 E-One Quint, was purchased in February 1998 for over $400,000. By this time, the department was responding to over 1900 calls a year. Station 6 on Osigian Boulevard opened in March 1999. It was the first two-story fire station and houses the training division on the second floor.
New Fire Chief
Following many years with the Warner Robins Fire Department, Chief West retired in October 1999. The following month Robert Singletary was appointed as Fire Chief to lead the department into the 21st century. Becoming a city employee in 1982, Chief Singletary worked his way up through the ranks to reach this position. In the latter part of 2000, two more E-one fire trucks were purchased and a new Brush truck in 2002.
After the sale of Station 4 on Carl Vinson to Houston County, the fire department was in need of a new Station 4 which opened on Houston Road June 23, 2004. September of 2005 brought yet another milestone with the retirement of Sandra Lunceford who had been secretary at the fire department for the past 32 years. A year later, in September 2006, we added two more Pierce pumpers to the fleet of apparatus and a second aerial, the E-One Bronto platform truck in January 2007.
Continuing to grow, the seventh station was opened on Lake Joy Road on December 12, 2006. To accommodate population growth patterns in the city, the station zones were adjusted accordingly and the engine company housed at Station 2 was relocated to Station 7. The Myrtle Street station was designated for use by the Warner Robins Police Department. Having outgrown the existing headquarters building, a new fire station and headquarters was built at 111 North Pleasant Hill Road and became operational January 9, 2007. The Green Street fire station was also to be utilized by the police department. On February 17, 2007, an official grand opening and dedication ceremony was held for the new headquarters. In honor of the first two fire chiefs, Chief Wood and Chief West, the building is known as West-Wood Fire Station and Administration Offices.
Upon the department being awarded a federal grant, the mayor and City Council approved the hiring of 10 additional firefighters. As a result, a total of 14 men were hired in February 2007 bringing the department total to 110 personnel. It was the largest training class to date and had the highest scores on average in the state of Georgia on the National Professional Qualified Firefighter One Certification Test.
Over the next few years, expansion and advancement has continued. An administrative position was added bringing total personnel to 111. An E-One and two Pierce pumpers were purchased to replace older trucks. The department was granted a logistics cache to be utilized by our Ground Search and Rescue team in the event of deployments. The lot and existing house next to Headquarters was purchased and the Fire Prevention division was relocated. An exercise facility was constructed behind Headquarters providing personnel the ability to maintain and improve physical fitness levels.
A New Chapter
Growth has continued abundantly since 2013. With the city expanding southward and an increase in residential areas, a need became apparent for a new fire station in that zone. Thus, Station 8 was constructed and began operations on July 6, 2015. This also brought an increase in our number of apparatus and personnel. In October 2016, Fire Chief Robert Singletary retired, and Ross Moulton was appointed to succeed him. After an evaluation by the Insurance Services Office, our Fire Suppression Rating dropped from a Class 3 to a Class 2. This was effective as of February 1, 2017.
The City of Warner Robins is one of the fastest growing in the state and the fire department strives to meet the needs that accompany such growth. Keeping current with state and national standards in training and staying up-to-date with advances in technology enables us to provide the best protection and assistance possible to a current population of over 70,000 people covering 37 square miles. The Warner Robins Fire Department responded to 6,596 calls in 2016 and expects to surpass that in 2017. We will continue with loyal dedication to serve the community with the highest degree of professionalism for many years to come.