NDFD, nation’s oldest university fire department, turns 135

Notre Dame Fire Department poses in front of the Administration Constructing in 1899 (Credit: Notre Dame Archives - not for reuse) Notre Dame Fire Department poses in front of the Administration Constructing in 1899
(Credit score: Notre Dame Archives)

On March 20, 1879, Notre Dame’s founder, Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., was feeling fretful, and he unburdened himself of a persistent fear in a memo to Rev. William Corby, C.S.C., then the University’s president.

“I am glad to uncover you, as I am myself, terribly afraid of fire,” Father Sorin wrote. Recalling such conflagrations as the fire which had come near to annihilating nearby Chicago a few years earlier, he additional thankfully that at Notre Dame “Providence has offered us all the securities that can be wished for, but there is no assure towards carelessness as an Institution. A public habitual dread is our only safety.”

As if cruelly to illustrate Father Sorin’s stage, one month and 3 days soon after he had written to Father Corby, a mysterious fire broke out on the roof of Notre Dame’s Primary Building, destroying the total structure within an hour. Notre Dame college students and faculty had valiantly struggled to form a bucket brigade, and volunteer firemen from South Bend had arrived with a horse-drawn steam-driven fire engine, but only in time to observe the final glowing timbers collapse. Two hours later on, four other campus buildings had been decreased to cinders. There had been a number of small injuries and no deaths, and a southwesterly wind had spared what is now the Basilica of the Sacred Heart from the flames, but to all intents and functions, Notre Dame was no more.

But Father Sorin could yield to no intent or objective that was not his own. “I created it too little,” he said. “So, tomorrow, as quickly as the bricks awesome, we will rebuild it, bigger and greater than ever.”

They did just that, and the University of Notre Dame Fire Division (NDFD), which celebrates its 135th birthday Friday (Nov. 21) therefore grew to become a essential element of the bigger and greater Notre Dame which arose from individuals cooling bricks. The initial university-based mostly fire department in the nation, today it is also the oldest.

NDFD fire engines circa 1940s (Credit score: Notre Dame Archives - not for reuse)NDFD fire engines circa 1940s
(Credit score: Notre Dame Archives)

In these earliest days, it consisted of two hose companies of Holy Cross brothers, seminarians and Notre Dame students doing work out of a firehouse furnished with two bays to hold the hose carts and a tower for hanging moist hose to dry. By 1900, the Notre Dame Scholastic magazine could boast that the NDFD provided the “best fire protection in America,” and “could provide above 2,000 gallons of water per minute inside of five minutes of the alarm.” That old firehouse, just northeast of the resurrected Principal Creating, was torn down in 1945, shortly soon after the division moved into its present headquarters across Holy Cross Drive from the University Electrical power Plant.

The NDFD today has 18 total-time members who react to some 1,800 incidents a yr. “It’s truly a town of more than 15,000 people,” says fire chief Bruce Harrison of the 46556 ZIP code location, the department’s principal accountability.

NDFD relieves the city and county of the cost of fire safety for Notre Dame as nicely as Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s schools, and it also routinely assists neighboring fire departments. Final 12 months, in addition to the 1,765 emergencies NDFD addressed in the Notre Dame neighborhood, its firefighters joined these of the Clay Fire Territory department in responding to 6 incidents and people of the South Bend fire department in responding to two other folks, and this yr the NDFD has assisted Clay Fire Territory in four responses and the New Carlisle fire division in 1 other.

“We’re very good neighbors,” Harrison says.

NDFD’s very first and most noticeable obligation, the provision of fire suppression, rescue and emergency healthcare companies, needs three rotating 24-hour firehouse shifts, every staffed with a captain, lieutenant, and two firefighter/emergency health care technicians. That accountability intensifies sharply on football game weekends, when the population of the 46556 ZIP code area multiplies practically tenfold. “Nobody here will get a game day off,” Harrison says.

But Harrison insists that a lot of NDFD’s most critical operate is accomplished away from the firehouse and with no its state-of-the-artwork engines, trucks, ambulances and squad automobiles.

Notre Dame Fire Department

“I feel we’re a effectively-regarded fire division, and I’m proud of this group,” Harrison says. “Even whilst we’re a single of the busiest ‘response’ departments in the location, we’re also out and close to each day, inspecting and going in excess of all the essential infrastructure of the campus.”

That infrastructure consists of developing fire alarms, water-based automatic fire sprinkler methods and specialized suppression methods for large hazard locations. The campus may possibly without a doubt be a “town,” but it is a town which involves laboratory complexes as well as residence halls, which signifies, as Harrison puts it, “There’s no this kind of factor as a modest fire on a campus.”

“Most of our community is produced up of the students who dwell in those residence halls,” Harrison says, “and in all of our operate, from fire prevention and suppression by way of security schooling, we have to be as mindful of them as if we were standing in for their mother and father. That is a operating piece of how we handle things right here, and to leave that piece out would be a breach of trust.”

Father Sorin would like the sound of that.

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