The City of Bartow Fire Department's orgins go back to 1883. The town was growing at a very fast rate, several men from the community realized that Bartow needed a fire service. Warren Tyler, John Jeffcott, H.W. Snell and S.E. Reed raised the funds and gained support from the community to establish a fire service. The first fire station was a shared building with city hall. In 1886 the funds was raised to purchase the old Polk County Jail and convert it into a fire station, also in this same year Bartow Fire Department faught its first major fire recorded. The fire happened on the block south of the historic courthouse.
In 1900 the fire station was torn down to rebuild a new, more efficent station for the time. The station was rebuilt on the same property. In 1913 the fire department responded to a structure fire on Mill Avenue. The department only consisted of 17 members, tragically the fire resulted in two young girls losing their lives. These fatalities caused the community to come together and raise the funds to purchase a new fire truck. In 1914 Bartow recieved two new American LaFrance fire trucks.
In 1926 the fire station again went under construction to add a additional bay for trucks and additional firefighters. The department had grown to 25 members along with the first two paid employees Vernon Brooks and Carl Adams.
On November 7, 1927 the fire department recieved a American LaFrance ladder truck which was one of the first ladder trucks in Polk County. On May 10, 1928 the construction of the fire station was complete and members invited the commissioners, city manager and the families to attend a appreciation dinner at the station.
With the fire department growing the department gained even more volunteers. In the mid 1930's the department recieved a air raid siren to alert all of its volunteers around town that a fire had been called in. The one paid driver on duty would circle the 100 block of Main Street and pick up all available volunteers, then would respond to the fire.
On March 22, 1937 the city had another disasterous fire which destroyed a whole city block. The fire spread from Broadway Avenue to Central Avenue and Main Street to Summerlin Street.The fire was finally brought under control when it was stoped by a twenty four inch brick wall.
On Feburary 13, 1942 a fire occured in the courthouse when a worker was lighting the boiler room in the basement to heat the building. A milk delivery man noticed the smoke pooring out of the building and notified the fire department. Tragically the fire claimed the life of the worker.
In the 1960's the existing fire station was torn down and construction began to build the largest station the city had ever seen. On May 18, 1966 the station was offically dedicated and named the Ellis Gibson Fire Station 1 in memory of the past chief. In 1975 the fire department grew to 43 members and recieved its first Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). The department also added more paid full time firefighters (4 per shift).
Throughout the years the department continued to modernize and improve. In 2001 the fire department had twenty one full time members and eighteen active volunteers.
On June 5,2005 the city would once again suffer from another large downtown fire. When the fire was brought under control the city lost two of its large downtown buildings. In January 2008 Bartow Fire sent personnel and a truck to Interstate 4 to assist multiple agencies in the largest crash to date in Polk County history.
Presently the City of Bartow Fire Department consists of 15 firefighters and 3 Lieutenants along with 2 administrative staff. We cover 56 Square miles out of our downtown location. With the projected future growth of the city the fire department will continue to grow with it. Through education and training the Bartow Fire Department will always be ready and prepared for any emergency we may face today, tomorrow and in the future.