On April 21 the City of Milton Fire Department celebrates 99 years of service to the citizens of Milton.
After the third of three major fires that destroyed most of downtown Milton occurred on January 31, 1909, the Town of Milton took action to be better prepared to deal with a fire in the future. A system of water mains and fire hydrants was installed throughout the downtown area, supplied by a pumping station and 110-foot tall water tower at the corner of Berryhill and Susan Streets. A fire bell was installed at the courthouse to sound the alarm in the event of a fire. Firefighting equipment, consisting of three hose reels, 1,500 feet of 2-½ inch fire hose, nozzles and spanners (wrenches) was also ordered.
When this equipment finally arrived in March of 1914, the Milton Gazette on March 6, 1914, proudly proclaimed: “We Are Now Fully Equipped For Fire Demon.” The three new hose reels and equipment were to be strategically distributed throughout the town so as to be “as convenient to all sections of the city as possible.” In this same article the Gazette suggested that, “it would be a good idea now to organize a volunteer fire company, and have practice drills as often as once a week so that we may be prepared to use our splendid equipment when the need comes.”
Perhaps encouraged by the newspaper’s remarks, or in response to the recent fire losses, on Tuesday night, April 21, 1914, a number of prominent citizens of Milton met at City Hall for the purpose of organizing a Volunteer Fire Company. The meeting was called to order by Dr. Pinkney McDavid Bruner, who was unanimously chosen as permanent Chairman and appointed as Fire Chief. The company, as organized, consisted of twenty-four members and officers.
The officers were among the most civic-minded men in the town. Chief Bruner was a local dentist whose office was on the second floor of the newly reconstructed First National Bank building. First Captain Isaac B. Krentzman was a partner in the Bates and Krentzman Dry Goods Company on Willing Street, one of Milton’s largest mercantile operations. Second Captain Wiley J. Williams, Jr. was from one of the most prominent business families in Milton, worked as a bookkeeper, operated a store of his own, and served as Town Clerk from 1900 to 1920. Third Captain William Barry was the Engineer and co-owner of the 110-foot steam ship City of Tampa, which ran regular daily service between Milton, Deer Point (Gulf Breeze) and Pensacola. Culver W. Cobb, a bank cashier, served as Secretary and Treasurer. J. Frank Smith owned and operated a furniture store in Milton for many years and later served as Mayor of Milton in 1925, 1926, and 1928. Other members included Attorney G. F. Lewis, Samuel Napoleon Cox and Jonathan Collins.
A committee from the newly organized fire department, consisting of Chief Bruner, S. N. Cox, and J. Frank Smith, presented a letter to the Town of Milton Board of Aldermen, tendering the services of the Milton Fire Department, and requesting to be referred to as the “Milton Volunteer Fire Department.” On July 16, 1914, the Board adopted Ordinance No. 36, “recognizing the Milton Volunteer Fire Department, providing for the election of a Chief of the Fire Department, prescribing the custody of the apparatus, and prescribing certain rules and regulations with reference to the fire department.”
The City of Milton Fire Department has worked diligently over the 99 years since to provide ever more professional and efficient fire suppression, emergency medical services, fire prevention, and public education to the citizens of Milton. Milton’s firefighters are proud of the service they provide to our community.
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