Napoleon determined that their village be recognized as the county seat as early as 1835. Yet for the next 37 years, the council fathers provided no protection against the dangers of fire that threatened to wipe out the rapidly growing settlement. If a house or a store caught on fire in those days, the owner had one recourse, to scream for help, hoping that a group of neighbors would start bringing buckets of water.
In November of 1879, the town council became concerned, after a large fire destroyed an entire block of homes and businesses, including a school. They purchased a steam pumper named “Old Betsy Jane” and 300 feet of hose which at the time cost $4,600.00.
On April 17, 1880, the firemen’s group, with 22 members, was organized. It called itself the Hope Hose Co. A year later another group of 15 members formed the Independent Hose and Ladder Co.
A large, three-story, building located on East Washington Street where the current Henry County Bank stands today was called home to the Napoleon Fire Department for many years. On top of the old building was a large fire bell, the first bell used by the department in 1870. This bell can be found in front of the Napoleon Fire and Rescue station today.
Charles Bales, Fire Captain for 38 years, lived with his family on the second floor until the department moved to its next location. The lower floor was used for storing fire apparatus, including a team of horses, and several jail cells.
In 1905 the fire company passed a motion stating that if any member missed three monthly meetings, he was automatically ousted. A volunteer fireman was paid $1.00 for going to a fire, whether it lasted a few minutes or many hours. If a fireman did not show for a call during the night he had to pay the department $0.50 for being absent.
In January of 1929 the Village of Napoleon purchased its first gas powered engine. The Village paid $13,499.99 for a 1928 piston pumper from the Ahrens Fox Fire Engine Company.
In October 1975, a portion of the floor on the West Main Street station fell through to the basement. The firefighters moved all equipment across the street to a city parking lot. For about six weeks, the equipment remained until it could be moved to the new fire station at 265 West Riverview Ave.
The citizens, and firefighters, felt that the new building was a palace compared to the station on West Main Street, which originally was constructed for use as a furniture store.
This new firehouse, which was made possible through federal grant, has a 65’ x 110’ apparatus room with eight bays, breathing air compressor, a storage room, a wash bay, kitchen, and offices on the ground floor. On the second floor, there is bunk rooms with showers, plus a large training room with an attached dayroom.
In December, 1975, a new 1500 G.P.M. Ward-LaFrance pumper was added to the present equipment. In April, 1977, a Sutphen 85 ft. aerial tower, with 1500 G.P.M. pump, was added. 1976, a Dodge Rescue Unit with a Braun body was purchased to replace the 1957 Dodge car used previously.
The fire department, in November, 1976, received a 1952 Jeep from the Civil Defense, and the firefighters, volunteering their time, converted this Jeep into a grass fire unit. A water tank and a new pump were installed.
In April, 1983, the City of Napoleon decided that the 1957 standby rescue unit should be updated. They purchased a refurbished 1977 Ford Chassis with a Braun unit. Since the departments run volume was increasing, this rescue unit was a welcome addition.
When Captain John Fruchey, a veteran of 32 years, retired in March 1983, he was replaced by Captain Marvin “Mike” Weller, a veteran of 17 years. In addition to Captain Weller, they added other full-time firefighters who worked 24 hours with 48 hours off.
The volunteers come from many backgrounds, and are employed in a wide variety of occupations. Their occupations include mechanics, factory workers, delivery men, and carpenters. Volunteers are paid per hour but they welcome the opportunity to serve and help their community. They enjoy a certain comradeship of working towards a common goal. There is pride and joy in their work as they serve their community.
In 1989 the city purchased a 1979 Mack truck, which was made into a 3000 gallon tank truck. A new squad was purchased to replace the old squad, which was a 1976 Dodge/Braun. The city in 1991 hired its first full-time chief to replace retiring Captain Marvin (Mike) Weller, Chief Scott Highley, who came from Cleveland, Ohio. In 1991 the city gave a firefighter test to help the full-time staff grow.
On January 27, 1992 at 12:05 a.m. the department was called out to one of its biggest fires at the New Wellington Hotel. Over 120 firefighters from over 3 Counties responded. Due to this fire three civilians lost their lives.
The city honored 11 firefighters with a letter of commendation and 7 firefighters received Distinguished Service for heroic acts during the fire. As a result of the fire the department created a project to have a Fire Safety House for youth fire safety. This was made possible through county wide donations.
In 1993 Chief Highley moved on and on May 9th, 1994 Chief Allen Woo from Twinsburg, Ohio was hired. In 1994 the City purchased a Heavy Duty Rescue truck, which replaced a 1957 Dodge light truck and a 1956 American-LaFrance pumper. In 1995 the department started offering paramedic services.
In 1999 Lynn Hancock was Appointed Chief until 2004 when he accepted a position in southern Ohio.
During the next ten years the Department added an American LaFrance engine, International/E-One vac tender, and a Ford Explorer command vehicle.
In April of 2015 Clayton O’Brien was appointed Fire Chief.