Alachua County Fire Rescue Department History

Ambulance services before 1965 in Alachua County were provided by a number of local funeral homes.
Funeral Homes in the county advised they cannot financially afford to continue providing ambulance services.  Walt Wilson establishes Alachua Ambulance Service  Inc. the first privately owned business that exclusively operates ambulance services in Alachua County.
Beazy Stephens purchases Alachua Ambulance Service, Inc. from Walt Wilson.   Alachua Ambulance Service, Inc., under a sole source contract with Alachua County, provides ambulance service to Alachua County. Three ambulances (two in Gainesville, one in High Springs) answer approximately 4,500 calls a year
The Alachua Ambulance Service, Inc. can no longer operate as a privately owned business. The County formed the Department of Public Safety as the sole EMS (Emergency Medical Service) Provider for Alachua County. The 18 full-time and 5 part time personnel become Alachua County Employees.
The municipal Fire Chiefs in Alachua County negotiate contracts with the Board of County Commissioners to provide fire service in unincorporated Alachua County. Ten fire districts are established including the unincorporated area surrounding the City of Gainesville.
Collection rate for EMS services is approximately 38%.
Privatization of the Ambulance Service is considered by the BoCC.  Performance criteria are established and a Request for Proposals (RFP) is opened. Proposals are received from the private sector. No one can provide similar service for less in County subsidy.
The EMS system is enhanced to a Countywide  Advanced Life Support (paramedics) transport system. County begins hiring dual certified (EMS and Firefighter) personnel.
Eight (8) advanced life support ambulances are located throughout the County. Some units are co-located in existing fire stations others are located in rental units. Annual call load is approximately 16,000 with a ratio 2,000 calls per unit.
City of Newberry refuses to renew their fire services inter-local agreement with the County. County deploys a fire apparatus to its EMS station (Zone 18) located at Half Moon Station (SR45 between Archer and Newberry).  
The City of Alachua annexes large portions of Alachua County and offers a partnership with Alachua County for the County to provide fire service in their corporate limits, as well as unincorporated Alachua County.  The City of Alachua and Alachua County enter into a long term fire rescue partnership.
A temporary facility is constructed in Jonesville on CR241. The fire truck assigned at Halfmoon is relocated to the Jonesville Station. Dual role apparatus are determined to be the most cost-effective method to provide both EMS and Fire  Suppression to an area.
The City of Gainesville requests $675,000 to provide fire suppression by contract in the unincorporated area.
The Office of Emergency Management is established within the Department of Public Safety.
The City of Gainesville nearly doubles their contract cost for fire suppression services and demands $1.1 million. The City also closes GFR Station # 7 on NW 43 St in the Northwest urban "fringe".  
Alachua County purchases equipment and deploys an ALS fire apparatus at NW 34 St. and U.S. 441 (Engine 33) to provide fire service to the unincorporated area previously serviced by GFR Station 7.
The City of Gainesville and Alachua County negotiate a 7-year Fire and First response Agreement. The Agreement identifies personnel training, equipment standards, and station locations that would be built by either government over the following seven years.
The County hires a Fire Inspector to review commercial development plans and conduct on-site inspections based on the NFPA Life Safety and Fire Prevention codes.
A Fire Master Plan is developed for delivery of fire services.
Alachua County hires its first E-911 Coordinator.
Fire Rescue Station 19 opens at SW 20th Ave and 43rd Street. Station houses an ALS engine company, rescue unit, and district chief.
The Ambulance Billing Department is transferred to ACFR Support Services Division from the Clerk of Court (Finance and Accounting). Collection rates immediately increase by 10%.
Fire Rescue Station 16 opens at 1600 Ft. Clark Boulevard. This is a multi-company station that houses an ALS fire engine, a tower-ladder truck, and a heavy rescue truck.
Fire Rescue Station 12 opens at 1200 SE 43 Street. This is a single company station that houses an advanced life support fire engine.
The agreement with the City of Gainesville expires and Alachua County negotiates Inter-local Agreements with 10 municipalities and independent fireboards. The "Fire Services Network" is defined in Alachua County. 
Alachua County and City of Gainesville enter into an Inter-local agreement for the provision of fire/rescue services. The Agreement known as the “Designated Assistance Agreement” or “DAA” will remain in effect for ten years.
The company "Analytica" was hired by the BoCC to examine and produce a report on service delivery. Consolidation of services were discussed with the City of Gainesville.
Fire Rescue Station 15 located at 8900 SW Archer Rd opens. This station houses an  ALS fire engine (Engine relocated from Station 16) and a rescue unit (relocated from the Half Moon Station).
ACFR headquarters moves to their current location at 911 SE 5th St. The facility was the former administrative headquarters for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and the County Jail.
The Alachua County Combined Communication (CCC) and Emergency Operations (EOC) open. The CCC provides centralized receiving point for all 911 calls and emergency dispatch service for nearly all emergency service agencies in the County. The CCC is owned by the BoCC and contractually operated by the Sheriff.
The EOC serves as central command and the voice of county government during disasters, managing information and resources to handle large emergencies. 
First full time Public Educator hired.  Partnership with the Alachua County School Board established to teach all elementary school age children (approximately 15,000) fire and life safety lessons annually.
Alachua County becomes the first Storm-Ready designate County in the State of Florida.
The Department receives funding for 15.0 entry level firefighter positions to address overtime staffing issues.  This significantly reduces the unscheduled and mandatory overtime.
A Non-binding ballot initiative to merge Alachua County and Gainesville Fire Departments into one agency passed by a significant majority
The Department receives funding for an additional rescue unit to address call load capacity. The annual call load had grown to 26,625 calls or 2,663 calls per unit.
Adding the 11th unit resulted in a call load per unit ratio of 2,420 per unit.
The City of Archer and Alachua County negotiate a partnership agreement for the staffing and operation of the City of Archer Fire Station.
EOC is activated for Hurricane Charlie and Tropical Storms Frances and Jeanne during 2004 Hurricane Season. This was the first major activation of new EOC. 
The Department receives funding for an additional rescue unit to address call load capacity. The annual call load had grown to 29,621 calls or 2,693 calls per unit.
Adding the 12th unit resulted in a call load per unit ratio of 2,468 calls per unit.
Wildfire Mitigation Program implemented.
The City of Archer adopts the MSTU-Fire millage as a mechanism to pay for Fire Rescue Services within the incorporated area of Archer.
Second full time Public Educator hired to meet program demands from the community.
The Designated Assistance Agreement is replaced with a new agreement between Alachua County and the City of Gainesville for fire/rescue services. This agreement simplifies the reciprocal billing process and provides for closest unit dispatching regardless of political boundaries. This new agreement is titled Fire Services Assistance  Agreement (FSAA).
The Board hires a consultant to assess the possibility of implementing a Fire Assessment as a funding source. The BoCC votes not to implement the consultant’s recommendations.
Smaller Municipalities form the Municipal Fire Authority to negotiate a combined single fire service agreement. The initiative fails and the Municipal Fire Authority dissolves.
Groundbreaking ceremony is held for a replacement station in Jonesville (the initial station was “temporary” when opened in 1986). This is the first “green” certified fire rescue station.
Ground breaking ceremony is held for a new Rescue station (#10) located in central downtown Gainesville (across the street from Headquarters). Station 10 houses two (2) rescue units. Each unit averages approximately ten (10) responses per shift (3,650/year). This is also a certified “green” facility.
The County entered into an inter-local agreement with the City of Gainesville to functionally consolidate the Public Information Officer Positions and responsibilities.  This is the first step toward the possibility of future functional consolidations between Departments.
The City of Waldo consented via ordinance to   impose the MSTU-Fire within the corporate limits and merge their fire department with Alachua County.
Due to budget reductions two positions were eliminated from the Wildfire Mitigation Program (Supervisor and Senior Planner). 
Budget reductions also included a Program Manager which resulted in the elimination of the Department’s Reserve Program.
Due to further budget reductions, the Wildfire Mitigation Program eliminated. The prescribed fire element of the Wildland Mitigation Program is reassigned by the BoCC to the County Environmental Protect Department.
Due to lean budget years and budget reductions the Fire Protection Public Education Program was eliminated. This was a nationally recognized program that reached 15,000 students annually. This was one of the only programs nationally with a documented “save”.
Due to budget reductions the Public Information Office shared between Alachua County Fire Rescue and Gainesville Fire Rescue is eliminated.
Completed Local Mitigation Strategy, which is the planning document that identifies hazards in each of the jurisdictions in the County.
The annual number of Rescue Unit responses continues to increase. Over the last 10 years our responses have increased an average of 4.4% per year. In 2011 we exceed 36,000 responses. The ratio of responses per unit is at an all-time high of 3,000 responses/Rescue Unit. (Fire/EMS Master Plan)
The annual number of Fire Unit responses also continues to increase. Over the last 10 years our responses have increased an average of 7.13% per year. In 2011 we exceeded 15,700 responses. (Fire/EMS Master Plan)
Efforts of Emergency Management Section resulted in Alachua County receiving “Storm Ready” re-designation for the third time.
Enhanced 911 achieved Countywide addressing via inter-local agreements with municipalities except the City of High Springs.
Alachua County becomes one of the first Emergency Alert System (EAS) Authorized Alerting Authorities under the new Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) in Florida.
Fire Rescue partners with Sheriff’s Office and the University of Florida on the use of the County’s rapid emergency notification system, CodeRed.
In a cooperative venture between the BoCC and the Alachua County School Board, the Department’s first training facility is opened at Lofton High School.
In an effort to address the changing advanced medical transportation needs the BoCC approved the funding to implement a Critical Care Transport Unit. This unit specializes in the care and transportation of critical care patients. The unit is devoted to long and medium distance transfers for critical care patients.
The 2012 Fire/EMS Services Master Plan update is adopted by Board.
Completed a significant capital project with the installation of emergency power generators in six Fire Rescue Stations.
ACFR selected for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) award. This Award provides funding for twenty two (22) entry level firefighter positions to increase the minimum daily staffing at our rural stations in the cities of Archer, Hawthorne, and Waldo.
Relocated Station 25 from Grove Park to the newly renovated fire station in Hawthorne.
The Department achieves the Insurance Service Organization’s (ISO) Hauled Water Certification. This allows property owners with improved property that is located within five miles of an ACFR operated Fire Station but not within 1000 feet of a fire hydrant to benefit from the Department’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) class 3 rating.
Two Bariatric units become a part of the ACFR fleet to safely transport patients.
As a result of the increase in call volume, the Alachua County Board of County Commissions authorizes an expansion of the Critical Care Peak Load Division with the purchase of 3 Rescue. The Critical Care units operate on staggered shifts, 13 hours a day, 6 days a week. All units are fully equipped at the Advanced Life Support Level and staffed with Critical Care Paramedics.
The Alachua County Board of County Commission approves the use of projected fund balance to support maintaining the 3 person staffing in rural areas for the remainder of FY 16.
In October 2017, the department renumbered many stations to prevent confusion with the duplication of station numbers.
Station 8 became Station 41
Station 9 became Station 33
Station 10 became Station 30
Station 12 became Station 60
Station 15 became Station 81
Station 16 became Station 23
Station 17 became Station 24
Station 19 became Station 80
Station 20 remained Station 20
Station 21 remained Station 21
Station 23 became Station 40
Station 25 became Station 62
Station 27 became Station 82
Construction of Alachua County Fire Rescue Station 33 at NW 34 Blvd Gainesville.
 Alachua County Fire Rescue Station 40 at Waldo opened August 25th, 2017
ACFR’s Technical Services Branch completes phase 3 of construction at the Loften Training facility.
Alachua County Fire Rescue receives a Certificate of Waiver which provides authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.  The Department begins operating one of the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in Public Safety Programs in North Florida.
Alachua County Board of County Commissioners vote to exit the Fire Services Assistance Agreement with the City of Gainesville.
Three person staffing in  rural areas becomes the standard.
Alachua County Fire Rescue placed Engine 25 in service. Engine 25 will be located in the Hague area once a suitable site has been located.
 Harold Theus named as the new Fire Chief for Alachua County Fire Rescue.

Historical image of Ambulance Service provided by funeral home
Historical Image of funeral home ambulances
Historical image of Alachua Ambulance Service personnel and unit

Historical image of funeral based ambulances Historical image of Alachua Ambulance crews on scene of a call 


Historical image of an Alachua Ambulance Service Unit and crew 

 Image of Historical shoulder patch of the Alachua Ambualnce Service

Historical Image of Cardiac Monitor, Life Pack 3

 Image of historical shoulder patch of Alachua County Department of Emergency Services

Image of historical cardiac monitor , Life Pack 5

 Image of historical shoulder patch, Alachua County Department of Emergency Services

 Image of Fire Chief Will May, Retired, circa 1990

Historical Image of Lieutenant John Fearney RIP



Historical Image of cardiac Monitor, Life Pack 10










 Hisotrical Image of cardiac monitor, Life pack 12


Historical image of shoulder patch Alachua County public safety, circa 2001































 Historical Image of Fire Chief Edwin Bailey, Retired, circa 2010



Historical image of cardiac monitor Zoll
















Historical image of Fire Chief William Northcutt, retired, circa 2015








Image of ACFR fire station 40, in Waldo







Image of Harold Theus

If you have information about, historical photos of the department or personnel that we could publish to our site, we would love to connect. Please contact Lt. ​Larry Stewart at

A special thanks to Retired Paramedic Kevin Rolfe for his assistance in putting together this history.