Realizing the need for community fire protection, the Athens Fire Company No. 1 was chartered in 1849 and incorporated on February 11, 1850. Athens Fire Company No. 1 was located in the center of Washington Street. It housed a hand-drawn pumper named Independence.
With the growth and expansion of the town of Athens in the mid-1880s, a second fire company was incorporated in 1860. Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was formed. Even though volunteer, all fire company members were selected through rigid testing procedures. In 1891 a municipal fire department was formed. The Athens Fire Department had 15 paid firefighters who worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each man was given one hour off three times daily to go home for meals.
In January 1982, the fire department was transferred from the City of Athens to Clarke County. The name changed to Clarke County Fire Department until January 1991 when unification of the city and county governments occurred. The fire department then became known as the Athens-Clarke County Fire Department. There are currently 190 personnel in administration, Fire Prevention, Training, Vehicle Maintenance, and Fire Suppression. Nine engine companies, three ladder companies, and two rescue vehicles are currently housed in the nine fire stations to serve the citizens of Athens-Clarke County. Additionally, a comprehensive fire training facility was dedicated during the summer of 1999.
Numerous changes have occurred over the past 145 years within this department, but since 1849 two things have remained the same: a strong commitment to the community and the desire to help others in their time of need.