Volunteer to Professional
1908: First Professionalized Fire Department
The first professionalized fire department was organized and created 100 years ago this month by the Aberdeen city council on January 16th, 1908. That day, the Aberdeen Bulletin reported that rumors on the street were circulating that Mayor Eugene France would appoint a dark horse as fire chief and no longer continue with the current volunteer department and it's Chief Joe Graham. Graham who was very unhappy at the thought of change began circulating a petition recommending himself to continue as chief and to keep the existing system as is. In the end that was not the case.
On that night an ordinance was introduced that eliminated the former volunteer department and created a new professional one that would provide for a number of paid and some partially paid employees. Appointed by Mayor France and confirmed that very night by the city council was Aberdeen's very first career Fire Chief, Adam Schneider. He officially started on February 1, 1908 and is monthly salary was $100 per month. Names like Perry Silvey, Chas H Blossom, Authur Plympton and Frank Law were some of the very first paid Aberdeen Firefighters.
One name on the original paid firefighter roster was William H. Tamblyn. Tamblyn would go on to become Aberdeen's second career chief in 1911 and would serve as chief until 1934.
1940: Three Platoon System
The first work schedules had crews working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with only a couple of days off each month. Firefighters were allowed to leave the station for meals and family time for a few hours each day. Just prior to the 1920's, the department went to a two-platoon system that worked around a 10 and 14 schedule. One shift worked a 10-hour day while the other worked 14-hour nights. This eventually led to the current three-platoon system around mid 1940 in which firefighters work a 24-hour on duty and 48-hour off schedule.
The Civil Service system which afforded firefighters some job protection was enacted by the city council in 1932.
1950: Firefighter Training
Initially, firefighter training was “on the job” experience, courage, and a lot of luck. By 1950, formal training had started to become mandatory and all firefighters had to successfully complete a one-year civil service probation period. Today the majority of the training is mandated by the state and must be accomplished annually.