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About the Urbana Fire Department


Firefighting in the City of Urbana began in 1870 when the Babcock Fire Company was established with a group of forty volunteers and twelve buckets to provide fire protection. A year later, the City purchased a hose reel and hand pump, and funds were also made available to pay volunteers if they attended every meeting and fire for three months; for their services, they received $3.75.

Great Urbana Fire

Did you know that there was a great Urbana Fire? It occurred on October 9, 1871, the same day as the Great Chicago Fire and Peshtigo Fire. Children playing with matches in an alley between Main and Broadway at High streets started the fire. It spread north all the way to the Boneyard creek, randomly skipping some buildings along the way. Much of the downtown, which was composed of wood buildings, was destroyed in the blaze. One of the structures that survived the inferno is still standing today and operates as the Cinema Gallery.

See photos of the Great Urbana Fire from the Urbana Free Library Archives.

Early Days

  • On February 2, 1880, the Urbana Fire Department was officially established by Mayor Samuel T. Busey.

  • In 1897 Urbana purchased its first horse-drawn fire wagon. In 1908 the fire department moved from 107 N. Broadway to 116. W. Elm. In 1913, Urbana purchased the first motor-driven fire engine to be seen in Champaign County.

  • The City hired full-time staff for the fire department in 1915. They worked 144 hours per week, 24 hours day, six days a week, with 10 days of annual vacation. In 1931, shifts changed to an 84 hour week with 24-on and 24- off schedule and 10 days of annual vacation. A firefighter’s annual salary was $1,950.


Middle Years

  • The southeast Urbana substation opened in December 1968.

  • In 1998, the University of Illinois Fire Department merged with the UFD; since then, the UFD has provided fire protection and rescue services to the UIUC campus.

Today's Department

The Urbana Fire Department is organized into three functional divisions and around a number of different program groups and project groups. Being team-based provides opportunities to fulfill individual potential and contribute toward the success of the department. The functional divisions of the Fire Department include:

Functions include planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling the services and programs provided by the department. These functions are accomplished by establishing an organizational vision, mission and strategic plan. Administration is responsible for budget management and control, human resource management, establishing organizational principles and processes, and providing motivation and discipline. This division is staffed by the Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, and one Administrative Assistant.

Prevention & Education Services
The Prevention and Education Services Division conducts fire code enforcement, review, and revision. This division also conducts plan reviews and issues permits required by fire code. In addition, this division provides public education programs, public information and relations services, and fire/arson investigations. This division is staffed by the Fire Prevention & Education Officer, one part-time Fire Inspector, and Firefighters who serve as building plan reviewers, inspectors, and educators.

This division is staffed by three Division Chiefs, three Captains, 12 Lieutenants, 15 Engineers, and 22 Firefighters. The Division Chiefs serve as the shift commanders and each division chief has specific programs to oversee and administer.  This division is responsible for providing fire suppression, technical rescue, emergency medical, hazardous materials, and disaster response services. In additional, it also provides operations analysis, program evaluation, quality assurance and productivity management. This division also includes support services such as training, safety and risk management information systems, inventory and supply, maps and pre-fire planning, and special services and programs.

Fire Stations

Mission & Values

Equal Employment

The City of Urbana Welcomes Diversity! We foster an environment that values and encourages mutual respect, inclusion of all people, and utilizing differences and similarities as an organizational asset. EOE.


To serve our community by providing effective emergency response services and quality prevention and education programs that will minimize the loss of life and property resulting from fires, medical emergencies and other hazardous conditions. A mission statement is only as valuable as it is practical. In order to help us put our mission into practice, we have established a list of the customers served by our department. We have also defined what we mean by the terms effectiveness and quality.


In order to give direction and focus to the activities, services, and programs of the department, a list of the major customer groups served by the department has been established. This list will be used to guide the development of different services and/or programs that will be delivered and evaluated so that they meet the needs of each customer group.

Customer groups served by the department include: citizens of the community, businesses, education and health care providers, elected and appointed officials, members of the department, other city departments, and local, county, state, and federal agencies.



Effectiveness means that we will establish specific, measurable, and obtainable goals and objectives, and that we will measure our performance against these goals and objectives.



Quality means that our services and programs have value and a beneficial impact or outcome for our customers. Quality also means that we involve our customers in the design, delivery, and evaluation of services and programs.

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