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The history of firefighting in the United States dates to the 1600s when communities would call upon volunteers who would fight fires with buckets. As communities progressed, the development of more professional Fire Departments have evolved into the Departments we have today. Originally necessary due to the volatility of fire, Fire Departments have become essential to modern society. Firefighters do more than just save and protect people from the dangers of fire. Modern day firefighters are also asked to respond to vehicular crashes, some of which require extensive extrication of patients, hazardous materials incidents, where people are exposed to chemicals and more. Firefighters are also first to respond to a variety of special rescue situations such as ice, high-angle, confined-space, structural collapse, trench, or any situation that requires removing someone from harm’s way.
There are 5 stations in the City of Taunton, reflective of the deep history the Fire Department has within the City. Each station was independently run until 1866 when they came together under municipal control. In fact, the second full-time Fire Chief of the Taunton Fire Department was also the Designer of the Bay Street and Weir Street stations.
To further show the deep history of the Fire Department in the City of Taunton, Taunton is home to one of the oldest continuously operating Fire Stations in North America. Central Fire Station was built in 1869, during the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Administration to house firefighting equipment and the horses to pull the wagons. If you look closely at the Central Fire Station, you can see signs of the history of this building from the remnants of pulley systems used to stock hay for horses and dry fire hoses to the original windows.
These features that are so important to the history and prominence of the Taunton Fire Department are also the features that make modern firefighting more difficult in that space. Central Fire Station is home to the emergency dispatch for all Public Safety for the City, but the building itself was not constructed with the idea of modern technology in mind. The technology needed for modern dispatch is well beyond the infrastructure in Central Station. Storage of the heavy equipment needed to fight fires and conduct emergency rescues has an impact on the physical structure of the building. The station floors were not designed to hold the weight of several ladder and rescue trucks, boats, and rescue equipment. Despite investment by the City to keep the station functioning in the 2020s, the historic station has structural and usage deficiencies that are unable to keep up with the advancement of technology and equipment.
After 150 years of continuous use, we are in a position to give the Fire Department and the residents of the City of Taunton a modern Public Safety Complex, designed and constructed for the present and future of firefighting.