The Isle of Palms Fire Department was organized in 1952 after a fire started in the home of Clyde Dangerfield, then President of the Isle of Palms Exchange Club. A committee of eight island residents was formed to organize the Volunteer Fire Department. The committee of eight, along with the Isle of Palms Exchange Club, played a significant role organizing and raising funds to support the department and to purchase equipment. The department was known as the Isle of Palms Volunteer Fire Department.
Island residents and homeowners were urged to donate $10.00 per household towards the purchase of the first fire engine. A fire engine was purchased from the Eau Claire Volunteer Fire Department that cost $4,500. Several members of the City of Charleston Fire Department assisted with the testing and inspection of the fire engine before it was purchased. According to information supplied at the time by the South Carolina Inspection and Rating Bureau, now known as the Insurance Service Organization (ISO), each homeowner could save approximately $14.00 annually on insurance premiums once the fire engine was purchased. In addition, the committee urged all local men to join the department.
Prior to the formation of the Isle of Palms Volunteer Department, Sullivan's Island Volunteer Fire Department assisted the City of Isle of Palms with fire protection. Each time the Sullivan's Island Volunteer Fire Department was requested to respond to the Isle of Palms, a $100.00 pledge was made to the Sullivan's Island Volunteer Fire Department.
The Isle of Palms Volunteer Fire Department was first known for its swift and courageous response to fires on the Isle of Palms and later took on the responsibility of rescuing people from the ocean.
As of May 1961, the City of Isle of Palms purchased, for $200.00, enough firefighting gear to outfit six firefighters. The firemen conducted an equipment drive to raise funds to purchase ten more sets of firefighting gear. The firemen went door to door asking for $1.00 donations from all homeowners. The goal was to raise $350.00. By comparison, in January 2007, the cost to purchase one full set of gear is approximately $1,200.00 per person. All personnel are issued a full set of gear.
The Department began to transition towards a combination department in the mid '70s. A combination department consists of volunteer personnel and paid personnel. The first three full-time Fire Engineers were hired in 1975. The Fire Engineers worked a 24 hour shift. Nearby resident, Volunteer Herman Lamkin, would run to the fire station to notify the other volunteers whenever the fire truck responded to a call. Three additional Fire Engineers were hired soon after and the first three Firefighters were hired in the early '80s.
Initially, the full-time firefighters worked from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. The City approved and paid for renovating and adding additional space to Fire Station 2 to accommodate more personnel, several more Firefighters were hired in 1985. The additional space enabled more personnel to work a 24 hour shift. In addition to personnel, Fire Station 2 housed a 1980, 75' Mack, Baker Aerialscope, a 1980 Mack Pumper, 1985 E-One Pumper, and a rescue boat. Fire Station 1 housed 1 Engineer and 2 late model American LaFrance pumpers. Two of the Firehouse Rules were posted on the wall at Station 1 at that time included; Must use white sheets on the bed and No hollering at women walking down the street. The first full-time Fire Chief was hired in October 1987. In November 1984, the department's ISO rating went from a Class 7 to a Class 5.
Hurricane Hugo devastated the island on September 21, 1989. Both fire stations were destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Fire Station 1 was rebuilt at #30 JC Long Boulevard, near the original location and Fire Station 2 was rebuilt at #44-41st Avenue in its pre-storm location. During construction, personnel were housed in mobile homes and the fire trucks and boats were housed in large tents. Construction of Fire Station 2 was completed and the building occupied in December 1991 and Fire Station 1 was completed and the building occupied in March 1992.
The City's ISO rating went from a 5 to a 4 in 1993 and from a 4 to a 3 in 2011 after thorough evaluations of the department's personnel, equipment, water supply, communications and response times.
In September 1991 all IOPFD Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) received sixteen hours of training on Automated External Defibrillators (AED). The Isle of Palms Fire Department was the first fire department in Charleston County authorized to use AED's. Today, AED's are used by first responders throughout Charleston County through a County sponsored program.
The Isle of Palms Fire Department is licensed by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), as an EMT - Non Transport Service. The Isle of Palms was the third department in the state to receive the DHEC license. Isle of Palms Fire Department fire apparatus are licensed as non-transport ambulances.