Prior to 1877, cisterns were dug around the City to supply water for fire fighting. Water was thrown on fires with leather buckets and small hand pumps. The Burlington Fire Department was organized in 1877 with 45 volunteers, a hand-operated pump, and a hand-drawn cart with 500 feet of hose. Hose Company 1 was housed at the old village hall on the corner of what is now the corner of North Pine Street and East Washington Street.
In 1878 the first Hook and Ladder Company joined Hose Company 1 with 35 members. Hose Company 2 was formed in 1896 and their equipment was housed on West Jefferson Street near McHenry Street. In later years these three fire companies moved to common quarters on Commerce Street. In the early days, a bell atop the village hall was rung to summon the volunteers to fires. The bell was later replaced with a steam whistle, then an air horn.
A Nash truck was the first vehicle purchased by the Department. The first "motor driven fire engine" was a 1924 Seagrave pumper. The Nash truck was replaced with a Pirsch pumper. The Seagrave and Pirsch trucks were later replaced with a 1948 Pirsch Quad, a 750 gallons-per-minute ladder truck and a 1954 FWD 100 gallons-per-minute engine. About this time, a U. S government surplus truck with a 300 gallons-per-minute pump was added.
In 1974 the Department placed its first aerial ladder truck, Ladder 921, into service. A 1978 Ford 1 ton 4x4 pickup with slide-in pump and tank replaced the government truck. In 1980 Engine 920 joined the fleet. The slide-in pump and tank were moved to a 1986 Chevrolet 4-door 1 ton dual wheel pickup truck. During 1988, Engine 925 replaced the 1954 FWD engine. 1996 was a big year for apparatus purchases with the arrival of Platform 924 and Engine 923. In 1997 Pickup 922 replaced the 1978 Ford and in February 2001 the 1980 Pirsch was replaced with a new Pierce engine, Engine 920.