Fire Department History
The first firemen held full time occupations of clerks, salesmen, construction workers and photographers to name a few. Today, you may find a truck driver, school teacher, construction worker, engineer or a car mechanic responding to calls. 61 years later men and women have volunteered their time, labor and on occasion their pay to serving the City of Auburn Hills, putting forth their best effort to keeping their fellow citizens’ lives and properties protected from fire or natural disasters and the preservation of life. The transition from the early beginnings to today has not been without turmoil. Despite our best efforts three firemen have died in the line of duty, either responding to a call or during firefighting operations.
The Auburn Hills fire department has changed immensely from the one station, 20 firefighter department that it started out as in 1942. Today the department boasts three stations and roughly 50 firefighters. The core beliefs of saving life and personal property from fire remains the same, however there have been several changes since that time.
The Pontiac Township Supervisor with 20 men, organized and became the Auburn Heights Fire Department on December 14, 1942. Their front-line and only apparatus at that time was a well stocked 1936 (or 37) Chevy truck. During that time, a citizen had to dial FE4-6860, which rang at 2 gentleman’s houses. Then they would run to the hall, set the alarm and write the address and type of call on the blackboard. A second truck was purchased on August 15, 1945, one of the trucks was then kept at a gas station due to a lack of room at the current fire hall. In 1948 the fire department bought a new International truck, and the Chevy was retired. The sirens that alerted the firemen of a call were tested daily at 6pm. This tradition carries through to today where pagers are tested daily at 6pm.
The first fire hall was located at 3434 Auburn Road. Eight years after the department’s inception on August 4, 1950 Station #220 was built and activated. Before delivery of any apparatus, when there was a call for the new station, trucks were pulled from station #210 and driven past #220. Men were waiting by the side of the street, as the truck slowed down and picked them up. Their first apparatus included a 1,000 gallon GMC tanker and a 500 gallon GMC pumper. Only two years later on October 1, 1952 Station #230 was put in service. A new 1,000 gallon GMC tanker was housed there.
In January 1947, years before the new stations were built, a dreadful accident occurred. Lee Koyl’s residence was near what is now Joslyn and Vinewood. The residents in the north end of the township had limited knowledge of the Township government at the time, including the existence of the Auburn Heights Fire Department. The Pontiac Fire Department was called for the fire, but refused to respond due to insurance not covering them outside city limits. Everyone thought the house was evacuated, but one of the Koyl’s sons hid under his bed and succumbed to the smoke and fire and died. This incident helped speed the construction of stations #220 and #230.
The practice of sounding the sirens for calls ceased in 1965 when home monitors were installed in the homes of the firemen. Now, firemen carry pagers roughly the size of a deck of cards that will alert them to calls. Some of the larger fires that the city has had include the Pontiac Millworks in 1961, a fire at King Brothers Tractor and Lawn Equipment and a large fire started by lightning at Church’s Lumber in 1974.
From the early days of fire halls large enough to hold one vehicle and alerting sirens, we now have 3 stations with a number of apparatus. The Auburn Hills Fire Department now has 3 ladder trucks, 2 engines, 3 ambulances, a special response vehicle, and 9 vehicles used for chiefs, inspectors or as utility vehicles.