The earliest record of the Arlington Fire Department dates to 1949 when it was started by several local citizens in order to provide fire protection to the Town of Arlington. Before then, the department was organized with a few volunteers that pulled around a large hose reel. When there was a fire, the men would pull the reel to the scene by hand and hook up to the nearest hydrant and fight the fire as best they could. The town’s water supply, at the time, came from tanks used to fill railroad steam engine at Depot Square. Frank Shepard, one of the charter members, and former Fire Chief of the department, recounted this information. Several people played a key part in organizing the first department to include Marshall Herring and Sid Bailey. Sid Bailey would be named the first Fire Chief of the department in 1949 and would remain Chief until 1956.
With the organization of the fire department came the need for an engine, therefore on August 21, 1950, the town approved the purchase of a 1949 Ford Pumper from the Central Fire Truck Corporation for $4,892.50. The town still owns this engine today. When the department was organized it was an all-volunteer department with no official fire station. The engine was housed in a small shed for the first three months after the purchase. A local building owner was delinquent on taxes and the town took over his building located at 12047 Highway 70 as the first official fire station. The station was in the center of town which made it easy for the fire fighters to quickly retrieve the engine and respond to calls.
In 1980 Arlington built a new Fire Station at 11754 Douglas Street along with a new Town Hall at 5854 Airline Road. The fire department moved into their new building and the old station was eventually razed. The department remained an all-volunteer department until early 1980 when paid dispatchers were hired. The dispatchers would work at the station on 8-hour shifts. They would answer alarms since there was no 911 system at the time. This practice remained the norm until 7 am on September 4, 1985, when the first 24 hour paid firefighters were hired. The firefighters worked on three separate 24-hour shifts called A, B, and C Shifts. This shift schedule remains today.
In April of 1995 Fire Chief Chris Campbell would enact an automatic aid agreement with the Shelby County Fire Department to aid the Arlington Fire Department. This agreement remains in effect today as the Arlington Fire Department provides automatic aid to the Shelby County Fire Department and vice versa.
Through the years the staffing of the department has grown from one person on a shift to the current staffing of nine personnel per shift. Major advances in the department have occurred through new equipment purchases, advanced training in fire attack, and increases in the level of services provided. In 2015, under the direction of Fire Chief David Franks, the Arlington Fired Department hired their first three paramedics. This decision allowed the department to provide advanced life support (ALS). The department purchased all the necessary ALS equipment to include cardiac monitor, airway management kits, and medications, which would allow the highest level of pre-hospital care to be administered to the citizens in need, even if an ambulance was not on the scene.
The Arlington Fire Department is continuing to grow, as is the Town of Arlington. The department continues to strive to be one of the best and highest qualified departments in the county. Members of the department have become state certified Instructors, Inspectors, Officers, and members of the FEMA US&R team, TN-TF1. They continue to increase their education and training, so they will be ready whenever they are needed.
First Fire Engine pictured at Fire Station located at 12047 Highway 70 at Mott Street. Unknown date. Photo credit Dick Adelman.
Arlington Fire Department with Ford 1949 Pumper at the Fire Station located at 12047 Highway 70. Circa 1959 Photo
Bottom Row L to R- Eddie Lee Prosser, Frank DeMoss, Winfred Campbell, Sam Wilson, Elmo Davis, C. Manley, Arnie Hubbard Jr., Chief Frank Shepard
Top Row L to R- Dupree Holden, James Wilson, David Marby, Gene Fletcher, Assistant Chief Pete Adkison, Hal Beard
Photo credit unknown