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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