early fire apparatus
Early Fire apparatus.
early ems apparatus
Early EMS apparatus.

The origins of the Fire Department of New York City date back to 1648, but it wasn’t until 1865 that the modern-day FDNY first was established with the creation of the Metropolitan Fire Department (M.F.D.). The first professional unit, Engine Company Number 1, went into service on July 31,1865, at four Centre Street in Manhattan. The first ladder trucks were pulled by two horses and carried wooden portable ladders in sizes up to 73 feet. The first reference to the nomenclature F-D-N-Y was made in 1870 after the Department became a municipally controlled organization. The reorganized Department changed leadership, titles of rank and even its name. All usage of M.F.D. was removed and the lettering on all apparatus was changed to the now-familiar F.D.N.Y.

Around the same time, origins of the Department’s Emergency Medical Service began to take shape with horse-drawn ambulances dispatched by telegraph from Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

On January 1, 1898, the Greater City of New York was formed with the FDNY now overseeing all fire services in the newly formed boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. A new charter accompanied the reorganization of the City. The Board of Fire Commissioners, in place since 1865, was replaced by a single Commissioner.

Learn more about Department history at the New York City Fire Museum, the official museum of the FDNY.