Fire suppression was the first emergency service offered by the department. Volunteer companies formed in the late
1800's, followed by paid firefighters as the city matured. In the early 1900's, the department switched from horse-
drawn steamers to motorized fire engines. The dramatic decrease in response time expanded coverage areas and
eliminated stations #3 and #9.
With over 100 years of firefighting experience, the department has created a skills and competency expectation
that's second to none. Firefighters pride themselves on making "good stops," meaning an aggressive interior attack
that puts out a fire immediately. Numerous buildings in Duluth exist today because of this approach. In fact, it's
not unusual for personnel to fight a fire and then discover evidence of a previous blaze extinguished by their
The best fires, if there is such a thing, are the ones you never hear about. These are the fires the media doesn't
report because they fall below their damage threshold. The fires are extinguished while small: before they breach
the closet, invade the attic, weaken structural supports, etc. These are the true success stories of the
department, yet they are seldom reported because they're not considered newsworthy. Good stops are a crucial part
of what makes a full-time fire department so valuable to the community.
Proper instruction, an emphasis on safety, and physical fitness are key to preventing injury and/or death on the
fire ground. New employees are now required to have a basic understanding of fire services. They must pass both
Firefighter I & II classes, Hazardous Materials Operations, and certify as Emergency Medical Technicians. Safety is
taught to all personnel. Loss prevention committees and incident critiques make firefighting less risky and more
efficient. There has also been a move towards physical fitness and wellness on the department. Not long ago, fire
halls were filled with cigarette smoke. Now, firefighters are exercising on treadmills and lifting weights to stay
in shape. This new attitude has improved the health of personnel and the welfare of the city.
While firefighters are better trained and equipped with better tools then at anytime in history, the dangers of fire
have also increased. Modern construction materials collapse sooner, building materials containing glues and
plastics that increase the heat and toxic smoke, there are more chemicals in our homes and industry, and fire is
still being used as a weapon to hurt or kill and destroy property.