History of the Oviedo Fire Department
In 1914, with a population of 488, the Hotel Oviedo Fire was the first recorded fire for the Oviedo community resulting in a loss of six downtown buildings leaving only one building standing followed by two years of reconstruction. Farmers, store owners, and town people fought the fire in vain with buckets as their only firefighting equipment.
In 1921, with a population of 685, the home of B.G. Smith would catch fire and spread to the Cushing House, a former hotel resulting in a total loss once again. A Chemical Fire Engine from Sanford assisted in the fire fight. The town began alerting citizens to fire emergencies by ringing the church bells and firing gun shots. Oviedo would achieve official incorporated status in 1925, thus becoming an official city!
In 1928, the population reached 809 when another landmark fire occurred destroying the Brewster House on Lake Charm on a windy March day. The three-story home had twenty-seven rooms and dwarfed other nearby homes.
The Beginning of the Hometown Fire Department
In 1946, with a population reaching 1,119, the Wheeler Fertlizer Plant would sustain a devastating fire in which the Winter Park Fire Department would provide aid although the building was completely destroyed. This fire would prompt the town leaders to begin the first true Hometown Volunteer Fire Department with the purchase of the towns first Fire Pumper, temporary stored in a citizens barn in the downtown. WA. Ward Sr., and C.R. Clonts Jr., became the first recorded Fire Chief and Fire Marshal. In 1950, the first Fire Station was erected after successful fund raising efforts. The Fire Station included a Outdoor Siren used to alert the Volunteer Firefighters to a fire emergency. In 1955, the Saw Mill caught fire and the Volunteer Firefighters prevented the spread of fire to nearby buildings.
In 1960, the population climbed to 1,926, when Hurricane Donna would ravage the state including the Oviedo community. The Volunteer Firefighters would assist with cleanup among the citizens. In 1961, a fire engulfed the Lake Charm Fruit Company and the Volunteer Firefighters would prevent the fire from spreading to other nearby buildings. In 1962, a Naval A3D Skywarrior Airplane based at the Sanford Naval Air Station would crash in the Oviedo area narrowly missing a school ground full of children. The pilot was credited with navigating the airplane away from the school ground, defying orders to eject, and subsequently claiming three of the four crew members lives. The Volunteer Fire Department responded to the tragedy.
Battling Fires of the 1970s
In 1974, the newly purchased Rescue Van was stolen and set on fire completely destroying the van. The person responsible was immediately arrested and convicted for the crime however the loss impacted the Rescue service until a fund raising campaign was completed and a new van purchased.
In 1975, the first Class "A" Fire Pumper was purchased which was a CF Mack. Volunteer Fire Chiefs during this time frame included Kelly Fore, Charlie Beasley, and Vernon Bovaird. The Volunteer Fire Department would secure one of the first "Jaws of Life" extrication tools utilized to remove victims from a car crash. In the 1970's, the Volunteer Siren Alerting System fell silent with alerting switched to special telephones at each members home and large pagers assigned to officers.
In 1978, the Volunteer Fire Department battled a fire at the town's only supermarket Meatworld. The building was saved however the contents were rendered unusable. The smoke was so thick that during the firefight that crews could not see their hand in front of their face according to Fire Chief Andy McDaniel. In 1978, a fire destroyed the two story Smoke House on West Broadway.
The Growing Years
In 1981, under the leadership of Andy McDaniel, the department would hire the first full time Firefighter assigned to work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the Volunteer Firefighters remaining a major force. In 1983, the department would grow again by adding 24 hour staff supplemented still by the Volunteer Firefighters. The department also provided emergency medical service with state certified Emergency Medical Technician certifications.
In 1986, three additional Firefighters were added to the force bringing the shift manning to two Firefighter-Emergency Medical Technicians. Soon thereafter, the department began the delivery of Advanced Life Support with the addition of Paramedics. In 1990, the population reached 11,114 and the second Fire Station was opened on Alexandria Boulevard at the City Hall complex. The new building included Police and Fire quarters. Support staff would be added including a Fire Marshal followed by a Training/EMS Captain, and additional Firefighters.
In 1994, Wayne Martin became the next Fire Chief and led the department to an ISO Class 2 Rating, resulting in fire insurance premium savings to commercial and residential occupancies. The Volunteer Fire Department concluded as the full time professional department continued to expand primarily due to community growth. in 1996, the original Fire Station was renovated and in 1998, the Hometown Department would assist throughout the state in the worst wild fire season in Florida history.
Tragedy would occur on June 8th, 2002 when Firefighter Shane Kelly would tragically lose his life while rendering emergency medical care on the scene of a serious car accident on the Florida Turnpike. Firefighter Kelly was a well respected member of the Oviedo Firefighters and the town rallied to support the department by standing in somber silence during the memorial procession. The Oviedo City Council would rename Winter Miles Park to Shane Kelly Park in memory.
In 2003, the population reached 26,316 and by far the most tragic civilian fire loss occurred whereas four children perished in a residential house fire in which the smoke detectors were found inoperable. The department responded by securing a federal grant for a Fire Safety Education Trailer, the only in Seminole County. Also in 2003, Fire Station 3, a temporary mobile home would be placed into service on the East side of Oviedo to handle the increasing call volume. The department would also join a county wide First Response System for automatic aid in a cooperative sharing program with other fire services in the region.
In 2004, Lars White was appointed as the Fire Chief Emergency Management Director and coordinated disaster response and relief efforts for three major hurricanes. The city would face 6 million dollars in debris cleanup and nearly a dozen structures were deemed inhabitable due to extensive damage including the Citrus Packing Plant. The Department would face an ISO regrade and maintain the outstanding ISO Class 2 rating.
In 2007, Chief White was tasked with implementing a Tornado Siren Warning System for the Oviedo community, the first such system in the state. The department also completed a campaign to replace an aging fleet of Fire and Rescue Apparatus and thereby establishing fleet consistency.
In 2009, Chief White coordinated the construction of Fire Station 3, replacing the temporary Mobile Home Fire Station as well as a new Fire Administration and Emergency Management Building. The new Fire Station included 7,000 square feet of apparatus bays and living space and 6,000 square feet of Administration office space. The site is lushly landscaped with over 100 trees and will serve the community many years to follow.
In 2016, the population reached 36,819 and Chief White coordinated the construction of a new Fire Station 1, replacing the original downtown Fire Station and the City Hall Fire Station into a single Fire Station located at Boston Hill Park. The new station was the result of a road widening project that required the closing and decommissioning of the original downtown Fire Station. The new Fire Station incorporates over 14,000 square feet and was constructed for 3.2 million dollars. The Hometown Fire Department also continues to receive many awards and special recognition including an ISO Class 2 Rating, 98% excellent customer satisfaction rating, Zero Deficiency Rating from the Florida Bureau of Health, Division of EMS, 2012 ICMA Award of Excellence in Fire and EMS Services as the Top 3 of 500 jurisdictions, and 100% Compliance for Safety Programs from the State Fire Marshall's Office.
Oviedo Historical Society
Visit the Oviedo Historical Society for a complete history on the Oviedo community. Oviedo Biography of a Town, by Richard Adicks and Donna Neely is available for purchase from the Oviedo Historical Society website.