By the late 1800s, members of the existing York fire companies occasionally discussed the need of a ladder truck to help protect York from fire. The Laurel Fire Company had seriously considered purchasing a ladder truck, but a purchase was never completed.
On December 7, 1885, a fire at the York Collegiate Institute was instrumental in the formation of a hook and ladder company. Many at the fire felt that a good portion of the building could have been saved had a ladder truck been available for use.
A number of enthusiastic firemen, many from the Laurel fire company, began discussing the formation of a hook and ladder company. The group, led by Rex Stouch, called for a meeting of interested parties on March 26, 1886 for the purposes of forming the company. The company was organized and officers elected at a second meeting on March 30, 1886.
A suitable name for the new company was discussed, resulting in a meeting held at the Temperance Hall on North George Street. A motion was made by William Burnham to name the company Rex, in honor of Rex Stouch, generally regarded as the founder of the company. Mr. Stouch quickly objected, by was soon overwhelmed by the sentiment of the members in attendance. He then withdrew his objection, thanked the members and closed with “Let her go boys, the baby’s name is Rex!”
A committee succeeded in collecting $1,200.00 toward the purchase of a hook and ladder truck, most of which was raised by Mr. Stouch. On April 28, 1887, a new hook and ladder apparatus, built by Gleason and Bailey of Philadelphia, arrived in York and was paraded through the streets of town. The apparatus was initially housed in the carriage house of the York County Agricultural Society, which was then located on East King Street.
The first truck house was built in 1887, a single story building in the 100 block of East Market Street.
A more permanent home for the company was desired, and a committee was appointed to acquire the use of a lot next to the Laurel’s engine house. The Laurel approved the use of the lot for a home for the Rex, providing that the Rex build a station that complimented the architecture of the Laurel. A new station was built and was occupied on September 27, 1888. The two adjoining stations were matched so that from the exterior they appear as one building.
In 1918, the Rex purchased a Boyd ladder truck with a 65 foot aerial ladder. This was the first motorized unit for the Rex. In 1926, an American LaFrance service truck was purchased, carrying 225 feet of ground ladders. The Rex then became a two-truck company.
In 1941, the Boyd truck was replaced with an American LaFrance JOX aerial ladder truck with a 100 foot aerial ladder. On June 22, 1950, the service truck was replaced with an American LaFrance squad truck.
In 1957, an interior doorway was cut between the Laurel station, known as Station 1, and the Rex station, known as Station 8. Prior to then, someone wanting to travel from one station to the other had to go outside and walk around the buildings.
In 1959, the Rex station was selected to house the department’s new base radio station for fire department radio communications. The radio was eventually relocated to the fire headquarters building next door, which continued in use until York County Control was established in 1970. A 100 foot tractor-drawn aerial ladder truck was placed in service in 1964, replacing the 1941 aerial truck. The “tiller” would remain in service until the turn of the century, when it was replaced by a modern tower ladder truck.