Pace Volunteer Fire Department's History:
This department was founded by a handful of citizens of approximately 10 members. Those few members were citizens of the Pace community and wanted to contribute their time and service to their community. The department established a Corporation in January 1959 and is still going strong.
The department had two trucks that were donated to them to start responding to fire calls. Of course, they had to have funds to operate with. They charged each household in the community $3.00 per year for fire protection. Yes, that seems a small amount for the hard work they performed.
You are probably wondering how did these guys find out there was a fire? Well, there were two households who had what they called fire phones. There had to be someone home at these two households at all times. When a call came in, usually from Milton Fire Department, they in turn, called the fire phone in the Pace community. This was located at these two residences. When they received a call for a fire, they in turn would call the firefighters at their home phone and tell them where the fire was located. They went down the list of names of the firefighters, calling all to have them respond. At the same time, someone would go to the fire station and sound the fire whistle. They had a code for the community when sounding the alarm. The community was divided into 4 sections. The section line was Hwy 90 and Chumuckla Hwy and Floridatown Road. Section 1 was Northwest Corner, any area north of Hwy 90 and west of Chumuckla Hwy; they would get one whistle of the alarm sound. Section 2 was Northeast Corner, any area north of Hwy 90 east of Chumuckla Hwy; they would get 2 whistles of the alarm. Section 3 was south of Hwy 90 and west of Floridatown Road; they would get 3 whistles of the alarm, and Section 4 was any area south of Hwy 90 and east of Floridatown Road. If the firefighter did not have a phone, this was how they knew there was a fire, and knew what area the fire was in. The fire phone was later replaced with the alerting device called "Plectron". The alerting device would sound and advise the firefighter of the call and location.
As time went on, of course, the wives hardly saw the husbands, so they developed a ladies auxiliary. Through the help of the auxiliary, the department had fundraisers to help with the cost of expenses that occurred. The auxiliary had events in the community such as the Fourth of July Parade & Celebration, which was held at Floridatown Park. They had fish frys, chicken dinners, wrestling matches, raffles, spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, and any event that would help them in receiving funds. Eventually, the ladies auxiliary was disbanded. The department still had to raise the dues of the community to offset the expenses. In 1974, the dues were $8.00 a residence. Even though the dues were raised, the guys had more calls to respond to, therefore, the department was still not getting enough funds to get by. They still had donated trucks from other departments that were given to them.
The department had a Board of Directors who ran the administrative meetings and the Fire Line Officers, Chief, Asst. Chief, Captains who were in control of fire scenes. The department had several Fire Chiefs. In the 1970's, the Chief was Elvin Fowler. Then it moved on to Tom Worring, Harry Cook, John Barlow, and now, James Crisco. There were other fire chiefs in the earlier years, 1959 - 1970.
By 1980, the department was receiving funds of approximately $20,000.00 per year, but the equipment they had was so old and worn; so, in 1980, the department had saved enough money in the years before to purchase a new tanker for the department. We had to make payments on the truck, but it was a truck we needed. They were so excited and proud of their new truck. This tanker was needed because of the lack of water in some of the areas we responded to.
To respond to these calls, we had to have firefighters. By now, the department had grown to approximately 35 firefighters. In the beginning, these firefighters fought fire sometimes with nothing but the clothes they had on when they left their residence. Each year we started buying bunker gear for the men. The gear would last 5 to 6 years, but NFPA and fire codes have disbarred old gear. Therefore, every 3 years the department has to replace bunker gear, and again, that costs money.
Several years after that, the Fire Association went together with all the departments in the county and went to the county commissioners and proposed MSBU tax to all households in the unincorporated area. We were one of them. Ever since this tax went into effect, we have been able to purchase more new trucks for the department and keep the men with updated equipment. Also, we have been able to build another 3 sub-stations, which house the new trucks. We are still located at our original station, which is located at 4541 Majors Street. Our #2 Station is located on Woodbine Road on the south side of Stonebrook Subdivision. The land was leased and then paid off, and now that station is ours. Our #3 Station is located on Hwy 90 in the Pea Ridge area. We had to purchase the land and building and the building and land are now ours. The #4 Station is located on Chumuckla Highway in front of the new Soccer Complex at Willard Norris Road. This land was donated by the county to the department and the department paid for the building. With all of our stations, all residences are within a 3-mile radius, which ISO requires. ISO is an auditing insurance company that regulates the rating for homeowners insurance. The lower the fire department rating, the lower the insurance rates are.
We do sometimes have a fund raiser for our community, but this is usually because of the increasing expenses that occur after the budget is prepared at the beginning too the new fiscal year, which begins in October. The only fund raiser we have now is Photo Pictures by Excalibur. One of the fund raisers paid down the ladder truck we have. We had to purchase the truck due to the numerous homes and businesses we have in our area. When we purchased the ladder truck, we had over 75 homes in our community that were over 3 stories. We needed a vehicle that would cover the area and the structures.
In October 1999, we celebrated 50 years with the fire fighters parade ever held in Santa Rosa County. We now hold a firefighters parade every year on the first Saturday in October.
At present, we have 20 fire fighters and 10 associate members. As in all other organizations, there are usually a few that keep the organization going. Presently we have 2 members who have been in the department over 30 years. We have 4 members who have been in the department over 25 years and 3 members who have been in the department over 15 years. We are always in need of dedicated firefighters.
Last year, in 2001, we responded to over 1400 calls. Each year the total calls we respond to are more and more. We are very proud of our volunteers and we could not do without them. We stand behind them and give them the encouragement they need to go out when a call is answered and be there when they come back.
This is just a brief history of our department. We hope you enjoyed it!