The earliest forms of fire protection recorded in Hapeville occured when fire plugs started to be installed and when the City purchased two large hose reels in 1915. The hose reels were kept at the old College Street School and City Hall.
In April of 1924 the city bought a used fire truck. It had a 20 gallon soda and acid tank mounted behind the driver and 150’ of small hose. This marked the beginning of the Hapeville Fire Department. Around 1927, the fire department rented a headquarters on Fulton Avenue. Council Robert McCord’s home on Stewart Avenue burned down in 1930. After the fire, Councilman McCord pressured the city to upgrade the fire department. During this time the city was feeling the effects from the Great Depression. However in 1932, Mayor Quincy Arnold was able to purchase a 750 gallon pumper. Then a committee was created to organize a group of volunteer firemen. Frank French was hired as the department’s first paid firefighter. His duties included driving and caring for the newly-purchased fire truck from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm for $30 a month.
As the country entered into World War II the City realized the need for auxiliary fire protection. It was at this time the Civil Defense was organized with Frank French. An old GMC garbage truck was donated and it was modified into an auxiliary fire truck. The name “Sassafras” was given to this truck. The Sassafras had a large water tank, a skid pump, a stirrup pump, Indian cans, axes, pike poles, ladders, and 200’ of fire hose to go along with a booster line. Sassafras was used and depended on in the outlying areas of; Mountain View, Forest Park, Riverdale, Morrow, Conely Depot, Fairfax subdivision and other rural Clayton County areas. Also, Plunkett Town, Atlanta south of Dill Avenue, the Sylvan Road corridor, Perkerson Road, and Hammond Park area were dependant on the Sassafras Firemen. Shortly after World War II ended, Sassafras was replaced and placed as a reserve unit.
In February of 1941, the City Council separated the Police and Fire Departments and placed J. P. Nunn in charge of the Fire Department. Due to manpower shortages, the plan was delayed. Nunn was shifted back to the Police Department and in January 1945, Gettys Rosser was named Acting Fire Chief. Original firemen were: Jack Buchanan, James Camp, Hill, Elbert Longinn, and Alton Smith. These six firefighters worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off with one extra day off a week. Other duties included manning the Fire and Police “call-in desk” and acting as jailers. One fireman’s salary was paid by Fulton County to compensate for the fire calls in the unincorporated areas near the city. In 1948, J. P. Nunn was transferred back to the Fire Department and in March of 1949, the Department moved into its new quarters. Today this is still utilized as Station #1.
Two-way radios were installed in the fire trucks in 1950. This was also the year when the Department was approved to promote two Lieutenants to supervise each shift. On September 10, 1961, Fire Station #2 was placed in service. In 1968, the Department purchased their first elevated master stream, a Ford 50’ Snorkel. On September 1, 1971, Chief Nunn was in the snorkel bucket at Station #2. The bucket came in contact with high tension power lines and Chief Nunn was severely burned. He died the next day.
Through the late 1970’s and 1980’s the Department experienced tremendous growth and change. Operations personnel changed to a 24 hour on-duty 48 hours off shift. Members changed from day boots to turnout pants and emergency medical services (EMS) started to take off. The 1990’s brought more formalized training. The training that veteran firefighters and recruit firefighters endured during this decade would change the way Hapeville Fire Department would operate for years to come.
By the turn of the new millennium, new firefighters were completing over three months of basic firefighter training and twelve months of EMT school. Today, Hapeville Fire Department has the ability to mitigate a variety of emergency situations. Today’s firefighters respond to all types of incidents’, including fires, emergency medical, hazardous materials, technical rescue, service calls, and acts of terrorism.