History of FMB Fire Department

Fort Myers Beach Fire Department Has A Long Successful History

After raising funds from the island residents, the new department purchased a small two-wheeled spray pump, tank, and trailer that was pulled by a borrowed jeep (McCarthy).  These were housed at Red Coconut.  Residents could call the department by dialing 2541, a precursor to 911.  In April 1950, an old international war-surplus fire/rescue crash truck was purchased.  This was a step up from the original truck and was the first real fire apparatus that the department owned.  It lasted until May 1964 when it was sold to Leigh Acres Volunteer Fire Department.


On July 10, 1950, the Fire Department was incorporated as the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, Inc, a non-profit organization with Earl Howie as president and Travis Cowart as vice president. One year later, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District was established as a special taxing district. For this to take effect, the residents of the island needed to ratify the proposal and elect fire commissioners. On June 5, 1951, the ratification election was held, and the district was approved.

On December 15, 1951, the first organizational meeting of the Fire Board was held.  The Commission approved yearly salaries of $1,440.00 for Chief Howie and $1,200 to his second in command. At the time, the Beach Fire Department was only the second department in Lee County to pay their personnel. Just after Christmas in 1951, Don and Ora Zimmer donated land on Estero for a fire station.  They only had one stipulation: “That the described property be maintained as a main and operating fire and engine house,” or the land would revert to the Zimmers or their heirs. 

1960 was an historic year for the fire department according to McCarthy: they got a new, modern fire truck, Motorola radios were installed in the trucks, and the district obtained a radio license and call numbers. In 1960, the population of the island was reaching 2, 500 residents.  The nearest hospital was in Fort Myers with ambulance service being provided by one of the funeral homes in town . It could take up to thirty minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene of the emergency.  In response to this problem, community leaders formed the Fort Myers Beach Rescue Unit which was separate from the FMB Fire Department.  The funeral home donated an old step van bakery truck to be used as an ambulance. The plan was for the new FMB Rescue Unit to transport the patients to Miner’s corner where they would meet the funeral home ambulance that would take them to the hospital.

Later, the FMB Rescue Unit merged with the FMB Fire Department to become the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District.  The rescue unit was established as an official division of the fire department. In December 1966, the commissioners approved a motion to construct a two-story addition to the fire station. In 1969, the funeral home decided they no longer wanted to provide service to the island.  This really was not a big deal for the department since they had already received a license to operate an ambulance service.  They purchased a new rescue vehicle for $2,515.

The department continued to expand into the 70s.  This was the time of massive development with many of the new condos reaching heights not before experienced on the island.  The department needed a truck that could deal with potential fires in the high-rise units that were being built.  They had a 50-foot truck built with “telescoping water” for $60,235.  This was the second ariel truck in Southwest Florida at the time and was called upon throughout the county when needed.

In 1977, the department decided they needed a station on San Carlos Island. The new substation was in operation from 1978 to late 1979 when it was closed, and all equipment moved back to the Donora station.  This was the only station in the district until a new station #2 was built at the northern end of San Carlos Blvd.

In 1981, the district was authorized to operate an advanced life support ambulance.  Legislation passed this year also provided that the local fire board would set the millage rate rather than Lee County. In the 1990s, the department expanded its services to include water rescue.  The Beach Fire Service was one of the first in the United States to operate an advanced life support fire vessel.

After reading this little booklet, I concluded that our Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District should remain as it has been since its inception: an independent organization dedicated to serving the needs of island residents.  As a lifetime resident of the island, I would gladly pay a few dollars more in taxes to keep the Fire Department independent.  As an independent organization, the FMB Fire Control District has been a leader, not only in Southwest Florda, but also in the nation.  I feel certain they will continue to provide the quality service we have always expected, and they deserve our support as an independent organization.

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