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History Of The Urbana Fire Department
Updated On: Apr 16, 2012

Urbana Fire Rescue History...



Fire fighting in the City of Urbana began in 1870. A group of forty volunteers and twelve buckets provided the fire protection. They were known as the Babcock Fire Company. In 1871 the city purchased a hose reel and hand pump. Funds were also made available to pay volunteers if they attended every meeting and fire for three months. They were given three dollars and seventy-five cents. Did you know that there was a great Urbana Fire? It occurred the same day as the great Chicago fire, October 7, 1871. Children playing with matches in an alley between Main and Broadway at High streets started the fire. It spread north all the way to the Boneyard creek, randomly skipping some buildings along the way.
February 2nd 1880 - Mayor Colonel Busey approved the City to organize a fire company controlled by the City of Urbana. It was known as the Urbana Fire Department. Water mains were installed in 1875. In 1897 Urbana purchased its first horse-drawn fire wagon. In 1908 the fire department moved from 107 N. Broadway to 116. W. Elm. In 1913, Urbana purchased the first motor-driven fire engine to be seen in Champaign County

1915 - City hired full time staff for the fire department. They worked 144 hours per week, 24 hours day, six days a week, with 10 days of annual vacation. In 1931, shifts changed to an 84 hour week, 24 on and 24 off with 10 days of annual vacation. The firefighter’s annual salary was $1,950. The schedule used was two shifts of five people per shift.
1946 - The Urbana Fire Department owned one hook and ladder and two engines, which cost $17,350 each. They ran approximately 200 calls a year with about three calls being false alarms. 


  1. Urbana Firefighters work a 55.08 -hour week, 24 hours on duty, 48 hours off duty.
  2. We operate with 3 shifts (Black, Red, Gold) with a total strength of 52 bargaining unit employees, 3 Division Chief's, 1 Fire Marshal, 1 Executive Assistant, 1 Fire Chief. 
  3. Urbana Fire Rescue operates out of 4 stations (four engines and one truck company)
  4. Urbana Fire Rescue responds to over 4,500 emergency requests a year.
  5. As of 1998, we provide emergency services to the University of Illinois.  





Each shift contains a minimum of 1 Division Chief (Shift Commander),                           1 Captain (Truck Company), 4 Lieutenants (Engine Companies),

5 Engineers, 5 Firefighters.  


As a department, we are active in community Fire Prevention and Education.

-We are responsible for visiting over 6,500 homes on Saturday each year to check smoke detectors.

-We perform over 200 multi family inspections annually and over 500 commercial inspections bi-annually.

-The department hosts Fire Prevention Week activities every Oct.

-We are also committed to the fire prevention programs held at the University of Illinois.

We are a member of MABAS Division 28 and are a MABAS 28 Technical Rescue Team.


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