The Philadelphia Fire Department kicks off its 150th anniversary celebration on March 15, 2021 with a ceremony at Fireman’s Hall Museum, followed by additional commemorations throughout the sesquicentennial.
The PFD officially went into service on March 15, 1871 with 355 men staffing 22 engine companies and 5 truck (ladder) companies.
The department today has 60 engine companies, 27 ladder companies and 60 ambulances housed in 63 stations across the city. In all, more than 3,000 dedicated men and women provide firefighting, emergency medical care and all-hazards response 24x7x365 for a city of nearly 1.6 million people.
The PFD’s roots actually go back nearly three centuries. On Dec. 7, 1736, Benjamin Franklin joined more than two dozen other Philadelphians to establish the Union Fire Company in what is now the Old City neighborhood. That organization is considered to be the nation’s first volunteer fire company.
The number of volunteer companies grew steadily over subsequent decades. Eventually, the City of Philadelphia decided to consolidate this loose network of independent firehouses into a single municipal agency with paid, professional employees. Thus the Philadelphia Fire Department was created in 1871.
The PFD is lucky to have its history preserved by Fireman’s Hall Museum, which was founded in 1967 in anticipation of the department’s centennial. Follow the PFD and the museum on Twitter to find out about future 150th anniversary activities!
Commemorative merchandise can be ordered from the museum’s online gift store starting March 15.