- In 1902, the local fire department was organized in 1902 as the Lyon Fire Company. The volunteer department was housed in Old City Hall located at Charlotte Avenue. This consisted of a one-reel team with a volunteer membership of 16. The fire chief at this time was Albert Clark.
A one-horse wagon was purchased from Raleigh in 1905. The wagon was used for the Sandhills Fireman's Association water and chemical races. Walter Chisholm was acting chief at this time. The wagon remained in use until 1908, when a two-horse wagon was purchased.
The two-horse wagon was used until 1917 when the City's first motorized pumper -- an American LaFrance with a pumping capacity of 350 gallons per minute -- was purchased. John T. McKernan was chief at this time.
- In 1924, the City installed 26 fire alarm boxes. This brought every home to within two to three blocks of a fire call box. One of these boxes remains on the corner of Hawkins Avenue at Central Fire Station.
- In 1926, a second American LaFrance was acquired having a pumping capacity of 750 gallons per minute.
Chief McKernan held the chief position until 1933. He was succeeded in 1934 by Chief G.G. Dorsett who held office until 1936. In 1936, Reece B. Lemmond was elected to chief.
Chief Lemmond held this position until he was succeeded in 1939 by James Otis Bridges, Sr. During this same year, the department purchased its first American LaFrance Ladder Truck.
- In 1948, the department built a second fire station near the courthouse and purchased a 1948 Mack pumper. In 1958, the City purchased an American LaFrance capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
- In 1962, the City hired Chief Bridges as its first full time fire chief. He had held the job as volunteer chief for 23 years. In 1968, the citizens of Sanford passed a fire bond which allowed a new central station, pumper and aerial platform to be purchased.
- In 1969, fire department headquarters moved from old city hall to the new building, Central Fire Station located on Hawkins Avenue.
- In 1975, Chief Bridges retired after 46 years of service and Assistant Chief Sam Bost was promoted to Chief. In 1976, construction of a new fire station began. In 1977, the old station two was moved from the courthouse to the new firehouse located on Woodland Avenue. This new firehouse contained two new Mack pumpers.
- In 1978, the city's first equipment truck was purchased and put into service at Central Fire Station.
- In 1987, a new 1,000 gallon per minute pumper was purchased and placed at Central Fire Station to help with fire response capabilities. At this same time, the completely volunteer department was restructured and was established as an all paid department.
- In 1988, Chief Sam Bost retired and in 1989 Floyd Caviness was appointed chief of the department. In 1990, the City acquired its first mini-pumper for wild land firefighting capabilities.
- In 1992, the fire department opened Fire Station 3 located on Cool Springs Road. During this period, nine new members were hired, bringing the total department personnel to 47.
- In 1995, Chief Caviness retired and Assistant Chief T. Wayne Barber was promoted to chief.
- In 2009, Assistant Chief Hayden Lutterloh retired in June of 2009.
- In 2009, Division Commander Ken Cotten was promoted to Fire Inspection Division.
- In 2015, Ken Cotten was promoted to Deputy Fire Chief.
- In 2015, the title Battalion Commander was changed to Battalion Chief.
- In 2016, Alex Collazo was promoted to Deputy Fire Marshal.
- Today; The Sanford Fire Department protects around 30,000 people and its jurisdiction covers 28.65 square miles. Wayne Barber is Chief and Ken Cotten is Deputy Chief with a full time membership of 53 employees and three stations.
- Central Fire Station there are 3, 24-hour shifts at the station with 5 personnel assigned to each shift. The Deputy Chief, Battalion Chief, and Fire Inspectors' offices are located at this station.
- Fire Station 2 there are 3, 24-hour shifts at the station with 5 personnel assigned to each shift.
- Fire Station 3 there are 3, 24-hour shifts at the station with 5 personnel assigned to each shift. This is also the administrative office with the Fire Chief and the administrative assistant located here with office hours 8-5, Monday-Friday.