Firefighters training

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Peoria Fire-Medical department staff took the time to recall the changes and growth the organization has experienced. 

It also serves as a time of remembrance for Fire Chief Bobby Ruiz and his staff.

“For us it’s more of a memorial for the people who came before us and setting the foundation for the fire department in Peoria,” Ruiz said. 

In 1917, a fire nearly destroyed the entire Peoria district in 1917. Shortly thereafter, local business leaders and the chamber of commerce met to discuss forming a fire department.

In 1921 the Peoria Volunteer Fire Department was formed, and Frank W. Atkins was named the first fire chief. 

During this time, the department had 53 volunteer firefighters until 1954 when the city was incorporated and Jack Ramsey was named fire chief.

Now 100 years later, the department has grown to 196 personnel and 24 administrative support staff with Ruiz at the helm.

Ruiz said the department has changed a lot during his eight years as chief. It grew from about 117 firefighters to 196. 

What was once a volunteer department 100 years ago, now includes paramedics, technical rescue technicians, a hazardous material team, rescue swimmers, wildland capabilities and an all-hazards department. 

“We’ve gone from a volunteer fire department and purchasing one fire truck to being an all-hazard fire medical department,” Ruiz said. 

The department purchased its first fire apparatus, a 1922 Ford Pumper, capable of pumping 55 gallons per minute. It was used until 1930.

The department still owns the 1929 Chevrolet Pumper they bought over 90 years ago. 

Mayor Cathy Carlat expressed her pride in the department and the growth they have experienced.

“I just have to say how impressive the Peoria Fire-Medical department is and, in 100 years, you have never stopped moving forward, gaining more expertise and it’s such a beacon of light in the entire Valley,” Carlat said. 

Although much has changed in the 100 years of service, the community is still what is most rewarding Ruiz said. 

Ruiz expects to see the department and community continue to grow and change. One thing that remains is the commitment to the community. 

“I will continue to ensure that they are very compassionate, caring and loving to the community and customers and empower them to do whatever is necessary to aid those members in the community,” Ruiz said.