In the late 1800’s fire protection for the Town of Palm Beach was initially provided by a volunteer group of fire fighters known as the Flagler Alerts. They were organized and equipped by Henry Morrison Flagler in 1894 for the purpose of protecting his properties and local interests. The Flagler Alerts were housed in the City of West Palm Beach. Separating Palm Beach and West Palm Beach is a body of water known as The Lake Worth Lagoon. Before it was dredged and became the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, it was a fresh water lake 21 miles long and up to a mile wide. At that time, no bridges existed which meant the Flagler Alerts could only respond either by ferry or by rail in the event of a fire. Given that firefighting equipment and firemen were not present on the island, Palm Beach was totally dependent on outside assistance.
In 1911 the official name was changed from the Flagler Alerts to the City of West Palm Beach Fire Department. They continued to provide fire protection to Palm Beach for $250.00 per response. The town fathers were concerned about delayed response times and higher than necessary fire insurance rates, so they decided to establish more localized fire protection. In December of 1921, the Palm Beach Fire Department was created and in early 1922, Elmer Schultz was appointed as the first Fire Chief.
Many changes have occurred since then and today the Palm Beach Fire Rescue Department employs 80 full-time employees and eight part time employees which make up the Fire Rescue and Ocean Rescue divisions. These numbers consist of 66 State-certified firefighters who are also medically certified as Emergency Medical Technicians or Paramedics, A Fire Rescue Chief, Administrative Chief, EMS Chief, Training Chief, three administrative support positions, Fire Marshal, Fire inspector, and five full time and eight part-time lifeguards in the Ocean Rescue Division
Fire Rescue Department Today
There are threefire-rescue stations throughout the Town located to minimize response time and provide maximum coverage to all areas of the island. Each Station contains at least one rescue unit and one suppression unit. The Central Fire Station and the South Fire Station both also contain an aerial ladder truck. The department responds to an average of 2600 calls per year.