The Winter Park Fire Rescue Department is a multi-faceted emergency response agency that provides for the emergency and safety needs of our citizens. Our service is customer based and we are continually evaluating and redefining our services as the needs of our City changes.
Winter Park established its first organized fire protection in 1900. The City’s fire limits were set from Lyman Avenue north to Canton Avenue and from New York Avenue east to Interlachen Avenue. Six fire extinguishers were strategically placed throughout the district to be used to extinguish fires.
Several major fires occurred in the early 1900s including the Seminole Hotel fire, the largest in Winter Park’s history. This grand hotel burned to the ground in September of 1902.
On December 1, 1909, Rollins College lost its only classroom building and all of its scientific equipment in a fire. Knowles Hall burned to the ground during the middle of the night.
Winter Park’s fire protection was enhanced over the following years. In 1915, Fire Chief E.R. Favor purchased a one-horse drawn wagon that carried 500 feet of hose and an extension ladder. By 1916, a motorized vehicle was used to tow the trailer to fire calls.
From 1913 through the early 1950s, Winter Park was protected by an all-volunteer fire department. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s, that the City hired paid firefighters. In 1945, the Winter Park Fire Department answered a total of 128 calls. This is a far cry from the four thousand, three hundred ten calls answered in 1997.
An Easter morning fire on April 6, 1969 placed Winter Park on the map. The Winter Park Mall fire was the first major fire incident in the United States involving an enclosed shopping mall. The initial response of a pumper and a rescue truck with four firefighters was small by today’s standards. However, they sounded a general alarm and firefighters from five departments brought the blaze under control in about four hours.
With the passage of the EMS Act of 1973, the department took on the additional responsibility of providing emergency medical services to our community. Firefighters were trained and certified as emergency medical technicians and paramedics and the department provided first responder, non-transport emergency medical service. The department continued to upgrade and maintain state-of-the-art emergency medical service over the years, however, with the two-tiered system, the fire department would respond, treat and stabilize the patient and then load the patient into a private ambulance. The fire department’s three minute average response provided for more timely treatment than the ten-minute response standard that was required of the ambulance service.
On Jan. 1, 1997, the Winter Park Fire Department implemented EMS transport service in the community. The department had been providing advanced life support EMS since the early seventies and the addition of transport service allowed the department to complete the job. Since 1997, Winter Park Fire Rescue has contributed more than $3,850,000 to the overall operating budget of the City though charging for patient transport services.
Winter Park Fire Rescue once again set the bar for emergency services in 2001 through achieving International Accreditation. The Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) first awarded Accredited Agency status in August 2001. The process of Accreditation reviewed the agencies Strategic Plan, Community Risk Assessment and our response to 244 Performance Indicators. The entire accreditation process was revisited in 2006 with the Agency once again achieving Accredited Agency status.
In January 2006 the City of Winter Park was assessed by the Insurance Service Office (ISO) for our ability as a community to fight fire. The ISO rates communities on their ability to answer emergency calls, delivery adequate water and provide a well-trained and equipped firefighting force. The rating awarded Winter Park a Classification of 2, raising the rating from the previous 4 which had been in place for more than a decade. This Class 2 rating places Winter Park in the top 1% of fire agencies throughout the country. This improved rating provides Winter Park property owners some of the lowest fire insurance rates available.
In April 2006, Winter Park worked with a national manufacturer to improve the safety of America’s ambulances. Known as the Ambulance Safety Initiative, all aspects of ambulance operations were assessed and changes were made. Everything from ergonomically correct passenger restraint systems to the secured placement of loose equipment were reviewed and improved; the resulting initiatives were placed into service in all Winter Park ambulances by 2007. The agency has been recognized by the International Association of Fire Chiefs for bringing the problem to the attention to the forefront of the nation’s EMS community. The ideas born here in Winter Park continue to find their way into national standards for the design of safer ambulances.
The city was once again reviewed by the Insurance Service Office in 2013 and after an extensive examination of our community’s fire protection we were issued the coveted ISO Class 1 Community Fire Protection Classification. Less than one hundred of the more than 35,000 fire departments in America have received the Class 1 rating. With this, the ISO recognizes that properties in Winter Park are less likely to sustain an insurable loss from fire; and if they do, the fire protection systems including the water supply, emergency communications (911), and the firefighters themselves are among the industry’s best.
Another historic milestone was achieved by the agency in December 2014 when Winter Park Fire Rescue became one of only three known agencies in the United States to obtain not only ISO 1 classification and accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, but to also be awarded accreditation from the Commission for the Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS). This dual-accreditation and ISO 1 rating assures everyone Winter Park Fire Rescue has challenged itself to achieve the highest industry best practices.
Looking towards the future, our firefighters are very cognoscente of the rich history of our community. Today’s Winter Park firefighters are leaders in the industry and admired for their continued dedication to the people of this community.