Since the early origins of the City, the South Bend Fire Department has held a reputation as one of the finest Departments in the Midwest. The area's first organized fire protection entity commenced operations on January 29, 1853, twelve years before the incorporation of the city. The group consisted of unpaid volunteers in two companies. The Department grew to include three engines, three hose companies, and one hook and ladder and bucket company by 1868, and in 1887 became a full-time paid fire department.
The Department continued to expand as South Bend grew. By 1919, the department included sixty-seven men in twelve companies.
The Department presently employees 251 full-time Firefighters in four divisions, and services a population of approximately 101,000. The department’s function has changed from exclusively fighting fires, to an all-hazards emergency response service. Examples of functions provided by the South Bend Fire Department are fire suppression, Emergency Medical Services, water rescue, Hazardous Materials emergency response, technical rescue and other emergency responses.