Detroit Fire Department History – Last Running of the Fire Horses

Today in DFD history – April 10, 1922

The last run of the Detroit Fire Horses took place down Woodward Avenue. 

More than 50,000 people gathered to witness the historic last run or Peter, Jim, Tom, Babe and Rusty, the horses of Engine 37′s steamer and hose wagons.  They  dashed down Woodward on a symbolic final emergency as a fake alarm sounded at the National Bank Building.

last running

Nostalgic spectators lined Woodward from Grand Circus Park to Cadillac Square, cheering while the fire department’s band played Auld Lang Syne.  According to The Detroit News, many in the crowd cried as the horses passed.

1922 preparing for the last run

Preparing for the last running of the Detroit Fire Horses.

The department established a Horse Bureau in 1886.  It was written: “To be an ideal Fire Department horse the animal must possess exceptional intellegence, an even yet strong temperament, tractability, perfection of body, limb and wind, and the required weight.”  During that time, the description of what was needed to be a fireman was much the same, but with one omission Continue reading

Detroit Fire Department History – First Chief of the “New Department”

Today in DFD history – April 1, 1861

James A. Battle was appointed the first Chief Engineer of the “new” Detroit Fire Department.  The transition from an all volunteer department to a new paid department began 6 months earlier.

james battle

In the book “Our Firemen”, it is said of Chief Battle that his “most marked characteristics are accurate appreciation of conditions and promptness of decision and action.  He wastes no time, energy or water in trying to achieve impossible things, and he orders no company or man where he will not go himself.”    Sounds like he was a firemen’s fireman. 

Detroit’s second fire boat was named in honor of Chief Battle in 1900.

fireboat james battle postcard

Battle remained Chief nearly 34 years.  He resigned on February 9, 1895 at which time he was the oldest Chief Engineer in the United States.  Battle died on March 24, 1895, only a month and a half after resigning.  

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Another 7th Battalion Sunrise

You’re on the roof of a 2 flat, chopping through layers of shingles to vent the fire so your guys inside don‘t take a beating. You pound, and pound, and pound again until a good sized opening forms. It spews thick rancid heat like smokestacks of factories in the days before pollution control.

Photo by Denny Moutray

Photo by Denny Moutray

As you straddle the peak of the roof you feel heat Continue reading

Detroit Fire Department History – Detroit Firemen’s Fund Association

Today in DFD history – March 16, 1866

Detroit Firemen’s Fund was organized to assist the widows and orphans of firefighters and to assist firefighters that have become disabled.  It incorporated as a charitable organization on April 13th 1986.  The Firemen’s Fund is still actively supporting Detroit Firefighters and their families.


 The Fund maintains burial plots at Elmwood and Mt. Elliott cemeteries to honor our fallen comrades.   It has also established and maintains the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Rig, which is used to carry firefighters to their final resting places as well as for parades and fire musters.

 memorial rig 4

Each year the Detroit Firemen’s Fund holds events such as Firemen’s Field Day, Zoo Day at the Detroit Zoo and several fundraising raffles.

Detroit Fire Official Job Shirt

The Fund also serves as the Official Department store, selling and assortment of shirts including official duty shirts, patches, hats and more.  Proceeds from the sale of items help the Firemen’s Fund continue to help Detroit Firefighters, their families and our community.  Check out their website


Detroit Fire Department History – March 12 – LODD Warehouse Fire

Today in DFD history – March 12, 1946

 Lt. Oliver J. Strong, E-52 died of smoke inhalation.


Today in DFD history – March 12, 1987

warehouse fire 2warehouse fire 1987 2

A warehouse fire claimed the lives of 3 Detroit Firefighters.  It was the worst loss of Detroit Firefighter’s lives since March 4, 1917.  Those lost were:


Lt. Paul Schimeck, E-10   Lt Paul Schimeck E-10Schimeck Obit

Lt. David Lau                      Lt David Lau E-26Lau Obit

TFF Larry McDonald           TFF Larry McDonald E-26McDonald Obit



More about this incident:
June 1987 Firehouse Magazine article
FEMA Report
Photos from Bill Eisner


Mickey Mouse – Watching over Detroit Firehouses

In nearly every firehouse in Detroit, 24 hour clocks hang near the watch desk. They look similar to the ones in elementary school classrooms. Remember how the school clocks would taunt us, ticking slower and slower as it got closer to recess time? Such good memories. These clocks make me particularly nostalgic when it’s time to “fall back” an hour.

When I first joined the department almost every clock had a Mickey Mouse sticker placed in the center of the glass dome that protects it’s face and hands. Department folklore says that when a certain firefighter was Continue reading

Detroit Fire Department History – March 4

Today in DFD history – March 4, 1917

A fire at Field’s Suite and Cloak Co. took the lives of 5 Detroit Firefighters when the floors of the five story building collapsed.


Those lost were:
Capt. Alexander Cockburn- E2. 
Ladderman Oscar J. Locke – Hose & Ladder Co. 1
Pipeman Alonzo F. Raymond – E2
Pipeman William J. Schill - Flying Squadron 30
Pipeman Otto A. Matick – Flying Squadron 30


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7 Funny comments from a Detroit strip club fire, you’ll love # 3.

On February 19th, 2014 Detroit Firefighters responded to an early morning fire in a strip club in the downtown area.  The club was appropriately named “The Grind”.

the grindLuckily, no one was injured in the fire.  The incident did lead to some very funny comments about the fire.

1.)  The song playing when the fire broke out, “It’s gettin’ hot in here, so take off all your clothes.”

2.)  Sorry I’m late for work, the strip club next to my apartment caught fire. It’s Detroit’s hottest strip club!

3.)  Detroit residents said strip club fire was emitting pungent fumes. They said it smelled like watermelon body spray and regret.

4.)  When the club caught fire, but patrons were unable to “make it rain” quick enough to extinguish it.

5.)  The dancers must have been smoking hot!

6.)  Someone must have been “smokin’ in the boy’s room”.

7.)  Archbishop Vigneron blesses the new Detroit Archdiocese HQ building, the next AM fire guts a nearby strip club. Coincidence?