The Decorah Fire Department was officially established in 1878. The Fire Department was organized in four companies, (one for each ward of the city.) The companies were comprised of 12 or 13 men. Each company had a hose cart and miscellaneous firefighting equipment. Additions to the equipment were added as the need arose. Notification of the companies was done with a fire siren or a big bell.
In 1906 the 4 companies of the Decorah Fire Department were:
- Hook and Ladder Co. 25 men
- Rescue hose Co. No. 1 22 men
- Star Hose Co. No. 2 19 men
- Hose Co. No. 3 20 men (responding to the third and fifth wards.)
In 1920’s the Fire department acquired its first motorized fire truck. Since that time there has been a new truck purchased every 20 years or so according to records. In 1981 the Decorah Fire Department purchased the first “Jaws of Life” in the county. This purchase was made possible by the Department fund raising efforts, the City of Decorah and Winneshiek County rural assistance funds.
Today the Decorah Fire Department is comprised of a maximum 35 volunteer members. The membership includes almost all Firefighter I certified Firefighters, as well as being Hazardous Materials operations certified. The City of Decorah and the Decorah Rural Fire Protective association has a Fire Agreement that provides service to both the City and Rural residence. The Decorah Fire Department has12 pieces of fire apparatus. Including (3) Class 1 pumper, (1) 75 ft. Quint, (2) Rural Tankers, (2) Grass fire pickups, (1) Jaws mini-pumper, (1) Jaws / multipurpose rig, (1) Rescue / operations rig, a rescue boat, Rapid Deployment Craft and a utility ATV. The Fire department has 3 full time engineers who rotate every 24 hours. The full time engineers maintain all the fire apparatus daily. They also notify the volunteers of fires with in the Decorah Fire Department district, (some 212 square mile of fire and 370 square miles for rescue) and provide station tours for Fire Prevention. The engineers also answer the alarms many businesses have for Fire. The City of Decorah has an ISO rating of 5 in the City and the Rural Area of a 5-9. The department is comprised of 1 Chief, 2 Assistant Chiefs, 4 Captains and 1 Training Officer.