Actual records of the early years of the Vigilant Fire Company are not available. The official records of the company from that time were lost in the flood of 1817, which swept through many of the homes west of the Codorus Creek.
The exact date of organization is unknown, but a Union Fire Company was organized sometime around 1780. At some point after organizing, a fire engine was purchased from Richard Mason of Philadelphia. The Mason was operated by side levers and threw water direct from the gallery.
On December 11, 1816, by a close vote of the membership, the company was renamed the York Vigilant Fire Company. The reason for the change in name has been lost to time.
In October of 1843, an engine was purchased from John Agnew of Philadelphia. The engine, “with eight inch chambers to play three streams, one from the gallery and one from each side, with four receiving screws on the hoppers,” was purchased for $1,120.00. The Mason engine was then sold to Dover Borough where it continued in service.
On August 7, 1868, a Button steam fire engine arrived for the Vigilant Fire Company at a cost of $3,500.00. The arrival of the apparatus was the inspiration for a parade to commemorate the event. The Hand-in-Hand Fire Company of Philadelphia, the Vigilant of Altoona, the Vigilant of Columbia, the Citizen of Harrisburg and the Laurel, Union and Vigilant of York made up the line of march.
On February 7, 1904, Mayor Gibson of York, upon hearing of the destructive fire in Baltimore, sent a message to Baltimore offering assistance. He was unable to reach Baltimore via Western Union or the Postal Service, but managed to get a message through via the Northern Central Railway’s system. Later that evening, a telegram was received from Mayor McLane of Baltimore requesting that York “send us all the help you possibly can; we can use all you send us.” It was decided that the Laurel and Vigilant companies would respond. Their steamers, hose wagons and horses were loaded onto a special train, which traversed the 58 miles between York and Baltimore in 1 hour and 28 minutes, a record for the line at the time. The companies spent two days in Baltimore fighting the fire.
On October 20, 1913, the Vigilant placed its first motorized apparatus in service after the chemical engine was converted by the Martin Carriage Works of York. The unit answered its first call on November 19, 1913. By January 5, 1917, the Vigilant had converted all of its apparatus to motorized units.
On June 22, 1972 the home of the Vigilant was once again inundated when the Codorus Creek rose out of its banks due to the effects of Hurricane Agnes. Four feet, ten and a half inches of water flooded the first floor of the Vigilant station. The station was not reoccupied until several weeks later.
On February 12, 1973, apparatus and contents were again removed from the station, this time so the building could be demolished for the construction of the existing station at 267-273 West Market Street. The current station contains four surveyed markers representing the high water marks for the four floods that have struck this area of York.