Several large fires in the mid-1800s prompted some citizens of Oxford to organize the Oxford Hook and Ladder Company (a private company) on January 31, 1876. This organization was primarily a bucket brigade and was intermittently active for the next twenty years. The group was reorganized in 1905 as the Edwards Hose and Ladder Company, which was named after their leader, J. Frank Edwards. It was composed of two companies, one white and one color. This fire company became the official fire department for the town of Oxford but retained its’ name until it became the Oxford Fire Department in 1915. The colored company, Company #2, was disbanded in the early 1940s.
In 1907, two horses, Big Sam and Mamie, were bought to pull the water wagon and hose reels. These units were previously pulled through the streets by firefighters.
In 1916, the first motorized “auto truck” was purchased for $5500. The most recent engine purchased for the Oxford Fire Department was in 2009 at a cost of $530,000, including equipment.
Firefighters of the Oxford Fire Department have been called into action by a variety of methods through the years. In the beginning, various bells were rung throughout town. In 1904 a fire alarm was placed on the courthouse bell. The town was divided into five (5) districts and the location of the fire was designated by the taps on the bell corresponding to the number of the district.
Then a larger bell containing a Gamewell alarm system was installed in the tower of the Opera House. After the Opera House burned in 1921, the bell was replaced with a Diaphone Compressed Air Alarm System. This system was active until a master phone system replaced in the 1940s. This system would ring every firefighter’s home at once with a recorded message of the fire location.
The master phone system was retired in 1979 when all firefighters were issued personal pagers that allowed them to be notified of an emergency regardless of the time of day or their present location.
The present Oxford Fire Department is located at 112 E. McClanahan St. This station was built in 1993. The original location for the department was on Wall Street behind the present Penny Furniture Company. In 1906, in conjunction with the Granville Grays (the local National Guard unit), a joint fire department, armory, and city hall was rented. Later, in 1908, these agencies moved to a new building on Williamsboro St. behind the courthouse. In 1956, the department moved next door into the old Morgan & Crews Building (formerly known as the Opera House) until its move into the present location. Over the years, about 250 firefighters have served the citizens of Oxford and it is these people, a cross-section of the population, that makes the department the respected and dedicated agency it is.