It’s a City centennial worthy of a celebration. After all, the first fire station in Mount Dora was built in 1923 after a raging fire in 1922 tore through some downtown buildings. Most early towns experienced fires that substantially damaged or reduced their towns to ruin. Wooden structures abutting each other and a lack of fire equipment made towns vulnerable to destruction from fires. Mount Dora’s “great fire” occurred on February 22, 1922, when someone reportedly left an electric iron plugged in. Without a fire department or equipment, local residents formed a bucket brigade until the fire engine from Eustis arrived and ran a hose from Lake Dora. By then, it was too late to save the burning building and the damage done to the Town Hall. New structures were built of brick to reduce the risk of losing an entire block of businesses.
Understanding the need for a firehouse, in 1923 the City built the first one in the Royellou Alley on property donated by John P. Donnelly. The small building had a double-bay door that housed a 1926 Type 75 American LaFrance fire engine manned by a volunteer fire department. The low weight and maneuverability made that engine the most popular fire apparatus of its day. It had a 6-cylinder T-head engine and a 750 GPM (gallons per minute) rotary gear pump. The building later did double duty when jail cells were added to the north side of the fire house. The cells remain there to this day.
In 1941, the Mount Dora Fire and Police Department moved to a new firehouse on 4th Avenue, just west of Donnelly Street, which could house the larger trucks that became available and were in need.
George Hall was the first paid fireman. He and his wife, Mildred, lived on the second floor above the new station. When a fire call came in, George drove the truck to the fire while Mildred notified the volunteers.
By 1969, the Fire and Police Department had outgrown their space and moved to a new building on Third Avenue. By this time, the force operated with four paid firefighters and many volunteers. Carroll Griggs became the first Fire Chief appointed by the City in 1971. In 1974, the Fire Department and the Police Department became separate entities. Today, they still share the same public safety campus located at the corner of Lincoln and Donnelly Streets north of downtown.
In 1979, the original fire station building became the home of the Mount Dora History Museum. The Mount Dora Historical Society is celebrating the centennial of the fire station in downtown Mount Dora on Saturday, February 11, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Centennial celebration will span the entire block of the museum located at 450 Royellou Lane. Antique fire apparatus will be on hand, including a 1928 American LaFrance fire engine and the current Mount Dora Fire and Police Departments will feature their new equipment. Tophats Sutlery will provide a hand cart for children to pump water and imagine the lives of early firefighters. There will also be music and plenty of photo opportunities in the historic jail cells. The museum itself will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information or to take part in the centennial, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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