Fire Department History

The first organized fire protection afforded the then Village of Geneva began in 1806 when three fire wardens were hired to patrol the streets looking for fires. In 1816, the first fire department was organized.

By 1851, Geneva was protected by five volunteer fire companies. In 1866, the Village purchased its first hand drawn, steam driven pump to supply fire fighters with a more reliable source of water.

In 1870, the fire department was reorganized to be manned entirely by paid fire fighters that drove horse drawn fire engines.

In 1880, the Hydrant Hose Company was founded. The Hydrant Hose still serves the City as the oldest volunteer fire company in Geneva. The Hydrant Hose serves as the first due engine company manning Engines 1111, 1112 and 1151.

Two more volunteer companies were formed six years later. In February 1886, the C.J. Folger Hook & Ladder Company was founded, followed a month later by the Nester Hose Company. Both companies continue to serve the citizens of Geneva to this day.

The Hook & Ladder unanimously voted to name the company after Charles J. Folger, a former resident and fire fighter of Geneva.

Folger, who was born in Nantucket, Mass., moved to Geneva when he was 12. A graduate of Hobart College, he was admitted to the bar in 1839 and rose steadily through the ranks serving as the president of the Geneva Village Board of Trustees, a State Senator, and Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Chester A. Arthur.

The Hook & Ladder is the City’s first due truck company manning Quint 1181.

The Nester Hose is named after the Company’s founder, Samuel K. Nester. Nester was a prominent Geneva businessman. He owned the Nester Malt House and the Nester, later the Seneca Hotel. Nester also served as the company’s first president.

The Nester Hose is the City’s second due engine company, manning Engine 1113.

Also in 1886, Geneva installed its first fire alarm bell on Seneca Street to alert volunteers of an emergency. The bell was moved to the corner of William and Pulteney streets in 1891, and replaced by the current fire horn in 1966.

By 1890, Geneva was protected by seven volunteer fire companies: the Hydrant Hose, the C.J. Folger Hook & Ladder, the Nester Hose, the Ogoyago Hose, the Black Diamond Hose, the Kanadasaga Hose, and the Holtz Protectives.

In 1898, the first chemical wagon was bought by Geneva and driven by a paid driver out of the Hydrant Hose Station. The chemical wagon was the first motorized fire engine in Geneva. Five years later, the Nester Hose Company accepted delivery of an American LaFrance fire engine that was also driven by a paid driver.

In 1924, Louis McGuigan became the department’s first career fire chief. After 34 years of dedicated service, McGuigan retired making room for Carlton J. Naegele to become the City’s second chief in 1958.

Naegele continued to update the department’s equipment, purchasing the first diesel engines in 1971. The following year the City’s volunteers donated a rescue truck to the department. In 1974, the department’s apparatus upgrade continued with the first aerialscope in Upstate New York.

After 28 years of service, Naegele handed over the reigns of the department to Ralph DeBolt in 1987. DeBolt prepared the Geneva Fire Department for the 21st century, introducing Enhanced-911 in 1995, computerizing the department’s reports and training records, and, of course, putting the department on the World Wide Web.

In 1996, the Geneva Fire Department responded to a record 806 incidents, including 105 calls for assistance in a 12-hour period on the busiest day in the history of the department, January 19.

In 1998, the Folger Hook & Ladder and the Nester Hose moved from their station behind City Hall, which was built in 1813, to a state-of-the-art facility on Genesee Street.

The new station also paved the way for the arrival of Quint 1181. The new apparatus, which arrived in 2000, is longer than its predecessor and would not have fit in the old station. The 2000 Pierce Sky-Arm is the first of its kind in New York State, has a reach of 100 feet — 25 more than the 1974 Mack-Baker it replaced — and also features a 2,000 gallon per minute pump — a feature not present on the Mack-Baker.

In March of 2005, Bruce Moore was appointed Chief of the Department after serving as Assistant Chief of the Hydrant Hose Company for 14 years.

In August of 2011, Michael A. Combs was appointed Chief of the Department after serving as a career staff firefighter and municipal fire instructor.