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CFD History


The History of the City of Cortland Fire Department: Rooted in Tradition

           Before the formation of the Cortland Fire Department, Cortland was an emerging city left to its own resources. As families began moving in during the early 1800’s, so did shops and various businesses. Firefighting at this point was left to the resources of the homeowner, but with the purchase of the “Randall Tub” in 1830 all of that changed. This apparatus was purchased privately by the Randall Family which were local shop owners, and made accessible to the public. This device was a simple water reservoir and nozzle, but it paved the way for the future of the fire department.

randall tub hq CC

            It wasn’t until 1854 that the City of Cortland created its own organized fire service, through the formation of the Water Witch Fire Company and the Water Witch Hose Company. For a long time these two companies were the entirety of the Fire department and were the pride of Cortland. Months after the creation of the Water Witch Companies, their new apparatus “Little Witch” arrived; this engine, with hose and other apparatuses, was monumental in firefighting for its time. As Cortland began growing more rapidly, it became clear that the fire service needed more manpower. The fire at the Eagle Hotel in 1862 further proved this point, which led to the creation of the Excelsior’s Fire Company and the purchase of a hook and ladder apparatus.

watch witch Co1

            1878 was a big year for the Cortland Fire Department, as the Water Witch Hose Co. transformed into the Orris Hose Company, in honor of a prominent attorney in Cortland at that time. The Emerald Hose Company was also organized, and quickly became the pride of the department for their record setting competition wins at the state and national fire competitions. As the years went on and Cortland industrialized, several other departments were created such as the Hitchcock Hose Co. who ran the first horse drawn apparatus in the Cortland fire service.

steamer 1890 house CC

            The Cortland Fire Department grew to develop in all aspects, becoming a host for the NY Fireman’s Association Convention, and the creators of the Cortland Board of Fire Commissioners. The department expanded even further, creating both a paid and volunteer service throughout the city. Cortland Fire Department made its mark on the map with the construction of its central fire station in 1914 on 21 Court St in the heart of the city. With is architectural intricacy and design, it has now become a marker on the National Register of Historic places.

old firemens hall

            From the beginning of its creation, through its many changes and growths, the Cortland Fire Department has made its mark on the surrounding area. From fighting monumental fires such as the Cortland Normal School Fire of 1919 to the more recent Clock Tower fire, Cortland Fire Department has served and protected the residents of Cortland for over 150 years. Their constant training and development has created a diversified group of men and women, willing and proud to serve their community.

Learn more about the history of the City of Cortland Fire Department!
Learn more about our Headquarters and its listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Questions?  Contact us!

Cortland Fire Department

21 Court Street
Cortland, NY 13045

Station 2 
19 S Franklin St 
Cortland, NY 13045


In Emergencies

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©2024 City of Cortland Fire Department