Fire Department History

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​Salem, Oregon's first fire company, Alert Hook and Ladder, was formed in 1857. Alert Hook and Ladder's firefighters fought fire with leather buckets, ladders, and few basic tools.

In 1865, Salem purchased a hand-operated fire engine and 300 feet of leather fire hoses to form Capital Engine Company No. 1. Tiger Engine Company No. 2 was added in 1869 and Salem Engine Company No. 3 followed in 1883.

Black and white photo of members of the Salem Fire Department pulling fire hose.

Members of the Salem Fire Department pulling the fire hose.

​Tiger Engine Company No 2. was the first to switch to a steam fire engine in 1883. Without horses, it was necessary to hand pull the 10,000 pound fire engine to the fire or borrow a team of available horses. Today, the steam engine can be seen at the Salem Fire Station 7 Museum.
Salem Fire Department hand pumper.

Salem Fire Department hand pumper.

​In 1893, Salem utilized the labor savings of horse-drawn steam operated fire engines and was able to reduce the 220 man volunteer force to 14 paid firefighters.

The year 1919 marked the end of the horse-drawn era for the Salem Fire Department. Thereafter, the steam fire engine was held in reserve. Its last documented use was in 1935 when the State Capitol Building burned to the ground. The Capitol fire resulted in Salem's first line of duty death.

Firefighter Floyd McMullen, a Willamette University student, was a “sleeper” (volunteer firefighter) at the East Salem firehouse. Firefighter McMullen was killed by a falling cornice.

Contact us

Salem Fire Department
Administration
Monday–Friday
8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
370 Trade ST SE
Salem OR 97301
Mailing address:
370 Trade ST SE
Salem OR 97301
Phone: 
503-588-6245Fire non-emergency number. For emergencies, dial 9-1-1.
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