History of Surprise Fire
Known Past Chiefs:
15616 N. Hollyhock Street
Curtis Ashworth 1960
Julio Arenas 1972
Ray Wallis 1975
Carmen Pruitt 1980
Gilbert Balcome 1984-991
Robert Weekley 1991-1998
John Walter 1998-2002
Michael White 2002-Current
History of Surprise Fire House #1
- From 1960 through the early 1970's, the Fire Department responded fromt he Town Hall at 12731 W. Grand Avenue.
- In the early 1970's, Town Hall moved to 12604 Santa Fe Drive. Eventually this site housed all the functions and departments of the Town. Including a small fire station behind the Town Hall on Hollyhock Street.
- During the 1980's, the station was slowly re-modeled, mainly by volunteer firefighters who added garage doors to open bays so fire apparatus could be parked inside out of the weather.
- In the late 1980's and early 1990's, living quarters were added to the rear of the station to accommodate full-time firefighting personnel and later a much larger modular was brought on site to provide additional space to a growing work force.
- In April 2006, Fire House #1 moved to its new location at 16750 N. Village Drive East behind the City Hall complex. It is a modern 15,000+ square foot, four bay station which provides professional emergency services for many years to come.
The Surprise Fire Department, all volunteer, was originally organized in 1960. The Town of Surprise was incorporated into a 1 square mile area bordered by El Mirage Road on the East, Bell Road on the North, Dysart Road on the West and Greenway Road on the South.
For fire protection, the Town borrowed a small Ford fire engine, used for airport runway fires from the Town of Goodyear AZ.
The original volunteers responded from the Town Hall on Grand Ave. When there was a fire, the Police Department dispatcher would set off a Civil Defense siren alerting volunteer firefighters. The siren would wale and the volunteers would report to the Town Hall/Fire Station and take the fire engine to the scene. This occurred until 1986 when the Fire Department hired full-time personnel and became radio dispatched.
As the Town grew, so did the need for increased fire protection and equipment. The Town purchased its first fire engine, a 1946 International, in 1967. For this purchase to happen, the Town Council had to declare that an emergency existed and petition the State Tax Commission for a budget FY67/68 override for the Fire Department for $6,570.37. This meeting was held and the purchase was approved at the Town Hall on October 26, 1967. This 1946 International is still in the possession of the Fire Department. Through a strong relationship between Management and Labor, and by City Council direction, this engine is currently being restored and expected to be ready for display in October 2008.
In the early 1970’s, the Town purchased land for a new Town Hall at 12604 Santa Fe Drive. Eventually, on this property, there was a small fire station with 3 short open bays, storage room and office built for the Fire Department. This facility, after many re-models, continues to serve the community today.
In 1986, the Town hired its first Full-Time professional Fire Chief, Gilbert Balcome and 3 full-time fire personnel. These 3 individuals worked a 3-platoon system with 1 person on-duty 24-hours and off for 48-hours. In 1987 a part-time on call firefighter was employed to cover for training, vacation and sick leaves of the full-time personnel. The volunteer/reserve firefighters continued to support this operation providing much needed manpower for large incidents.
In 2008, Surprise became a mid-sized all hazard fire department with 7 fire stations, 126 employees and a new 5000+ square foot Administration building which includes a training auditorium with capacity for 70 individuals. Surprise Fire delivers service, 10,000 + times a year, to over 100,000 residents in an 80+ square mile City.
For more history information on the City of Surprise, please feel free to visit our Surprise History Project