History of the Edina Fire Department

The Edina Fire Department was comprised completely of volunteers when it was created in 1941.

The Edina Fire Department’s dedication to the community and its innovative, progressive practices dates as far back as its formative years in the 1940s.

From its earliest settlement in the 1850s as a rural, farming community just west of the Village of Richfield, to its formal incorporation as a separate Village in 1888, and through the turn of the century, the City of Edina was almost wholly reliant upon the resources of the Minneapolis Fire Department to combat fire emergencies.

That arrangement presented many problems. In the very best conditions, the fire engines of the day could only rush south at a top speed of about 40 miles per hour. More often than not, unpaved and rutted roads hampered response times even further – particularly after heavy rains. Several incidents, including large farmhouse fires and the destruction of the original Edina Country Club clubhouse in 1929, helped convince residents that a new solution was needed.

A steady population influx and residential sprawl south of the town center made an Edina-based fire company the logical answer. In 1941, after several planning sessions, a group of committed residents gained authorization from the Village Council to organize a volunteer fire company and to purchase Edina’s first fire truck.

The Public Works shop at Eden and Brookside avenues then served double duty as Edina’s first fire station. In an era before today’s modern infrastructure, the company relied on a creative two-pronged approach to alert its 24 volunteers to emergencies. A 15-horsepower siren affixed to the building’s roof alerted volunteers in the general vicinity, while a telephone alert system known as the “grapevine” managed by firemen’s wives got the word out to the remainder.

While Edina did not experience a fire emergency on par with the Country Club incident for the first 20 years of the department’s history, the volunteers were far from idle and could be found serving the community in other important ways. During World War II, for instance, they received Civil Defense training to better respond to wartime homeland security emergencies. They also gathered valuable recyclable materials for the war effort as part of the national “Salvage for Victory” campaign.

The Edina Fire Department added its first paid, full-time firefighter to the roster in 1955. Around the same time, the department expanded its fleet and its medical response services with several donated emergency transports. Prior to the mid-1950s, it could take upwards of half an hour for the nearest hospital to dispatch an ambulance and for that help to arrive on the scene.

The late 1950s to the early 1970s proved to be a “major growth period for the Edina Fire Department” in other ways as well, former Edina Fire Chief Ted Paulfranz recalled in a 1999 interview. “We were adding sometimes two or three men each year.” Typically, these paid firefighters were promoted from within from the ranks of the volunteers, who continued to provide much-needed supplemental manpower. In 1955, this expansion necessitated a transfer of operations to the new City Hall facility built off 50th Street and Highway 100, followed in 1970 by a new fire station on Tracy Avenue off Crosstown 62.

“Edina always seemed to be a progressive fire department,” said Bill Feck, whose long career with Edina also culminated with a stint as Fire Chief. “The leadership always appeared to be looking beyond.”

In 1975, the current Fire Chief Bob Buresh and City Manager Warren Hyde set in motion one of the county’s very first programs to cross-train many of Edina’s firefighters as paramedics. Prior to this point, the City’s firefighters received only basic Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and periodic recertification from Hennepin County. That same year, a private donation was pooled with municipal and federal funds to purchase Edina’s first fully equipped ambulance.

In that same innovative vein, the Edina Fire Department for a time joined with the Edina Police Department under one umbrella, a “Public Safety” department with one organizational head. While that experiment came to an official end in 1987, the cooperative spirit remains.

In more recent history, the Edina Fire Department’s growth has kept apace with that of the community. A second Fire Station was built in 1996 on York Avenue for daytime shifts. It was upgraded to around-the-clock status four years later. The aging Fire Station No. 1 on Tracy Avenue was demolish May 2007 and a new, state-of-the art facility was erected in its place.


Buresh, Bob. Interview by Bob Reid (1 Oct. 2001). Edina Historical Society.

Feck, Bill & Ted Paulfranz. Interview by Bob Reid (12 July 1999). Edina Historical Society.

“Volunteers Form First Edina Fire Department.” (Summer 2007). The Edina Historical Society Newsletter. 38, 1, 3.

 

Edina Fire Department

Station No. 1
6250 Tracy Ave.
Edina, MN 55436

mail@EdinaMN.gov
952-826-0330

© 2016 City Of Edina, Minnesota