The Elgin Fire Department was established in 1867 as an all volunteer department. The first company was the Elgin Hook & Ladder Company and held their first meeting in the city's courthouse on the evening of September 16, 1867. The Elgin Hook & Ladder Company consisted of a ladder wagon and several volunteer firefighters and operated out of the city's first fire house, a small, wood-frame building on Spring Street.
In 1869, the City of Elgin organized two additional companies, the Ed Joslyn Hose Company and the James T. Gifford Engine Company. The City of Elgin purchased its first steam fire engine for $8,475. The engine was dubbed the James T. Gifford, named after the city's founder. The engine was wood-stoked and was able to pump powerful streams of water through several hundred feet of hose. In October of 1871, the City of Elgin offered the engine to Chicago to help fight the Great Fire but was refused for unknown reasons. The James T. Gifford saw almost two decades of service before being removed from service on January 8, 1887.
Over the next several decades numerous fire companies were added to the department, primarily Company 2 in 1891, Company 3 in1896, Company 4 in 1897, Company 5 in 1904, Company 6 in 2005, and Company 7 in 2007.
Today the Elgin Fire Department consists of 7 stations and over 135 full-time firefighters. The modern department protects a population of over 110,000 in a city that is spread over 50 square miles and continues to make history every day.