The St. Bernard Fire Department first began as a volunteer fire department back in 1878. The fire equipment consisted of an old, used No. 1 Washington pumper which was purchased from the City of Cincinnati when the City of Cincinnati went to a paid fire department. It was housed in a wood shed.
This Washington pumper took 20 men to operate. At the scene of the fire, eight men worked at the handle bars on each side of the pumper drawing water to the hose line which was manned by the other four men. At the time, there were no fire hydrants so cisterns were built at street intersections. These cisterns were filled by filling barrels with water from the canal and hauling the water by wagon. The water was then pumped using the No. 1 Washington pumper.
When St. Bernard created their water works in 1895, fire hydrants were introduced which gave plug pressurized water to use. The old No. 1 Washington pumper was abandoned and three hose reels were purchased along with a ladder truck. The three hose reels were stationed throughout the city. One hose was located at the old City Hall, one at the water tower and the last one at the water works. When a fire occurred, these three different companies would take great pride in the competition to see who would be the first company on the scene.
Horses were used to pull these hose companies to the fire. These horses were kept and fed at the different hose company locations. Each hose company consisted of 15 men and the hook and ladder company had 10 men assigned.
In 1910, it was decided to change from volunteer fire department to a paid fire department with three seperate companies of men located on one building. George Frede was named the first paid Chief of the fire department. In 1916, the motorization of the fire department began with the purchase of Ahrens Fox fire engine. A second pumper was added in 1919.
In 1921, the fire department moved into its new headquarters located at the intersection of Main (Vine) and Clay streets. A new station was constructed at the same location in 1976 and remained in use until the fire department moved to its current location. In December of 2014, the fire department joined the police department in a move to the newly constructed Public Safety Center located at the corner of Mitchell Ave and Vine Street.