Providence Department Reviews History Eighty-six years ago, in 1854, the Providence, R. I., permanent Fire Department took over the protection of the life and property of the city, superseding the old volunteer department that was formed about a century before. At its organization, the department consisted of eleven companies, each with a jumper hose reel and together with 10,300 feet of leather hose and a ladder company. Today the force numbers 432 paid men. Since its organization, the permanent department has had twelve Chief Engineers. Thomas Cotter is the Chief Engineer at the present time. He was appointed in 1937.