Bermuda’s first evidence of fire protection is recorded in 1840 when a Common Councilor informed the Corporation of Hamilton of the purchase of six (6) leather buckets from New York. In 1842 another hundred (100) buckets were purchased.
In 1846 the same Common Councilor suggested that a Fire Engine be purchased and in 1850 a Manual Fire Engine was purchased from England for 120-125 pounds sterling. In 1878 a Steam Fire Engine was purchased which was able to pump 300 gallons of water a minute and send a jet of water 150 feet high.
The first legislation concerning the establishment of a Fire Service appears under the Fire Brigade Act 1905. In February 1907, the Corporation of Hamilton approved a set of regulations regarding the appointment of three (3) Fire Wardens, four (4) Fire Constables, twenty (20) firemen, eight (8) Engine men and one (1) Engine Keeper. Other legislative clauses appeared under the Municipalities Act 1923 and the Fire Brigade Ordinance as revised in 1972.
The Hamilton Fire Brigade later came under the control of the Bermuda Government with the assent of the Fire Service Act in 1982.
The Hamilton Fire Brigade was housed in the “Old Town Hall”, 113 Front Street Hamilton. On September 6, 1968, the Hamilton Fire Brigade was moved to its present location. This building provides an appliance bay for twenty (20) Fire Service vehicles, a Fire Dispatching facility, offices, workshops, and a training facility. The Fire Service Headquarters is now located at # 49 King Street, Hamilton.
On December 24, 1971 one fire appliance was established at the west end of Boaz Island (West Sub Fire Station). This station was later relocated to the United States Naval Station Annex in 1984 until being quartered in March 1987 at its present location a purpose built facility, Port Royal Station, Middle Road, Southampton.
The Naval Fire Department provided mutual Aid. In June 1996 the Bermuda Fire Service opened the “Clearwater Fire Station” at Corregidor Avenue which provides emergency coverage to the eastern end of the Island.
Both the Port Royal and Clearwater Fire stations are staffed 24 hours a day by four (4) personnel per shift. The Hamilton Station is staffed on a 24 hour basis by five (5) personnel operations and two (2) personnel fire dispatch per shift.
In the past the Fire Service was mainly staffed by volunteers however following the fire on September 4, 1958, which gutted the Bermudiana Hotel, serious consideration was given to establish a professional Fire Service. Mr. Martin Grimes, QFSM.FIFireE was the first Commissioner of the Fire Service and helped in its reorganization.
The Volunteers or Fireman’s Social Club, as they were known, was brought out by the Corporation of Hamilton and the club was dissolved. However, Volunteers remained a very important resource to the Fire Service for many years. Today the only remaining group of Volunteers is in St. George’s under the jurisdiction of the Corporation of St. Georges.
In addition to the reorganization of the Fire Service, three engines were purchased which were capable of pumping 1,250 gallons of water per minute at 150 pounds of pressure per inch.
The Bermuda Fire Service employs one hundred and four (104) staff nine (9) of which have an administrative function only.
The rest of the staff is divided into Training, Fire Prevention, Operations and Engineering Divisions.
The Operations Division is the largest of the Departments with eighty (80) staff at its disposal. In 2003 the Operations Division responded to 6237 calls of which 877 were fire related. Three hundred and sixty two (362) were rescue, salvage and flooding type incidents.
The Bermuda Fire Service has recently taken the responsibility of providing Emergency Medical Services. To this end, part of the Services training includes personnel being qualified as Emergency Medical Technicians.