City of Upper Arlington, Ohio

Since 1930: An Annotated History of UAFD

Upper Arlington fire fighters take great pride in the history of the Fire Division. Throughout the generations who have served the community, all members have shared a commitment to providing citizens with the best safety and emergency services possible.

For as long as there's been a community known as Upper Arlington, there has been a need for brave and dedicated men and women to protect its residents. While it took a few years following Upper Arlington's incorporation as a village to formally create the community's first Fire Division, in 2005 the division celebrated 75 years of service to the community.

Training Fire                                Girl in Plastic Fire Hat

"This marked a very special time for us," said then Fire Chief Mitch Ross. "As we reflect on the division then and now, it's impressive to see how we've evolved over the years. I can honestly say I work with one of the best teams of firefighters and paramedics in Central Ohio. Their commitment and level of professionalism is unparalleled."

This section provides a brief history of the Upper Arlington Fire Division. We hope you enjoy the memories.

History of The Fire Division

The village of Upper Arlington was formed in 1918 after residents voted to gain their independence from Perry Township. By doing so, they took on various tasks such as holding elections, housing village offices and providing fire protection.

In early 1922, Resolution 29 was passed authorizing the Mayor to contract with the City of Columbus for fire protection. Such contracts were handled on a one-year basis.

It was not until November 5, 1929, that voters of Upper Arlington approved the acquisition of a site and construction of a new building. On February 4, 1930, Mr. Dauben presented detailed plans of the new Municipal Building, that would house a new Fire Division, Police and other municipal workers.

In 1930, Upper Arlington's bid for its first fire truck was awarded to the Seagrave Company, which supplied one 600-gallon Special Triple Combination pumping engine with standard equipment for the price of $8,750.

On November 5, 1930, the Safety Committee appointed Wm. S. Bucklew as assistant fire chief, S.L. Foster as lieutenant, and John Throckmorton and Charles R. Scott as firemen. Monthly salaries consisted of $140 for the assistant chief and $115 for the lieutenant and firemen. The men were trained, the truck delivered and by December 1, 1930, the Upper Arlington Fire Division was in service.

Within just one year, it was apparent that more help was needed. At this time, the division began employing students from The Ohio State University as firemen. The students received lodging at the fire station plus 50 cents per day.

In 1938, the Upper Arlington Commission awarded the Seagrave Company the contract for a new triple combination suburbanite fire truck to augment the present firefighting equipment of the village. The commission appropriated $10,000 to cover the cost of the new truck and accompanying fire hose.

On April 27, 1941, Upper Arlington suffered what is thought to be the first fire death in the community. James McNeff was trying to start a fire in his home on Tremont Road, when the flames got out of control and ignited the one-room building.

April 4, 1954, marked a great accomplishment for the division. Under the direction of Chief Foster, who served as chief from 1942 to 1960, the 11-man division hosted the first house burning to be attempted in the central-Ohio area for the purpose of testing and training. Approximately 800 firefighters, along with 20,000 spectators, turned out to watch the demonstration of a new technique called fogging, in which a fire is smothered with a fine mist of water instead of directing streams of water at the base of the blaze. Only 612-gallons of water were used during this test run. It was estimated that 16,200 gallons would have been used with the straight stream method.

April 7, 1955, was a tragic day for the Upper Arlington Fire Division. Lieutenant Jack C. O'Donnell, 35-year-old third ranking officer, became the first Upper Arlington firefighter to die in the line of duty. He became ill after fighting a house fire and never recovered. The death was caused by heart failure due to smoke inhalation and over-exertion.

The Upper Arlington Fire and Police Station #2 was dedicated on December 27, 1959. The station was dedicated to Fire Chief Samuel L. Foster, who headed a staff of 21 men and seven pieces of equipment at the time.

In 1965, the Fire Division had expanded its firefighting force to 29 men and one dog. Sparky the Fire Dog was added to the force to help spread fire prevention information. He was taken around to shopping centers and classrooms where he helped relay his important message.

Groundbreaking on Fire Station #73 occurred on August 30, 1971. The new station was built to serve the northwest area of the City, including residents who were part of the 1969 annexation of 500 acres north of McCoy Road. The new firehouse cost $256,000 at the time.

By 1972, the City had grown to 9.5 square miles with a population of 40,000 people. The City offices were expanding as well, with construction of the current Municipal Services Center (MSC). The Fire Division's administrative offices and the Fire Prevention Bureau were moved from the original City Hall. The MSC provided a training classroom in addition to more office space.

Over the years, Fire Division personnel participated in a series of competitive meets that tested their skills and abilities in first aid and emergency care. In 1974, the division was awarded the world champion trophy by the International Rescue and First Aid Association.

The division was a pioneer in the use of educational methodology to minimize fire problems in the community. Its juvenile fire setter intervention program and its school fire safety education program are considered as models by fire services across the United States.

The Fire Division responded to the most tragic fire in the city's history on Christmas Eve 1980. Two adults and four children perished in a house fire at Kenny and McCoy Roads.

To meet the needs of larger fire apparatus, as well as safety and personnel issues, the old municipal building, now Fire Station #71, at 2095 Upper Arlington Avenue was gutted and underwent a $1 million renovation in 1991.

On September 11, 2001, four personnel from the Fire Division responded as part of Ohio Task Force One's Federal Urban Search and Rescue team to the collapse of the World Trade Center. Arriving in New York early the next day, the Task Force personnel worked for 10 days with other rescuers from across the United States at the site of the largest terrorist attack ever committed on American soil.

WTC Collapse 9/11/01

The Fire Division celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2005 with a yearlong series of activities. The capstone was the reacquisition of the City's original 1930 Seagrave Fire Engine known as "Engine 1." It was restored to running condition through cooperative fund raising efforts by Local 1521 of the International Association of Firefighters, the Fire Division, the City of Upper Arlington and private community benefactors. It is housed in a dedicated storage and viewing space at Fire Station 72 on Reed Road.

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  • UA Insight - March/April 2018
    Look for your latest copy of our UA Insight newsletter, which is now bi-monthly in an effort to bring you useful service updates and news of special projects in a more timely fashion.
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