The Cottonwood Volunteer Fire Department serves a primary response area of near 45 square miles with an approximate population of 5,000. The area is a mix of suburban communities with light commercial structures and extensive woodlands and agricultural use.
No records or evidence of a fire department exist prior to 1946. A photo of then Police Chief L.A. "Red" Granger, Jr. and Citizen Lamar Kelly on an old fire truck provides information that during that year Cottonwood bought a 1913 American LaFrance pumper from the City of Dothan. A second fire engine (1923 American LaFrance) was also bought from Dothan around 1962.
In 1964 the fire department was reconstructed under the leadership of Mayor Jim Lamb and Fire Chief James A. Hughes. The town bought its first new fire truck which was a 1964 Chevrolet custom pumper.
The Cottonwood Fire Department maintains more than 20 active volunteer members. These personnel are dispatched by the Houston County 9-1-1 Center using computer aided dispatch via tone encoded radio and automatic text paging. All members are issued portable multi-channel radios and complete bunker gear. Each fire truck is equipped with a multi-channel UHF radio. The department also has capabilities of direct communications with state and local EMA offices and with Jackson County Florida Fire & Rescue as well as AirHeart Air Ambulance from nearby Marianna, FL.
The fire department averages well over 100 calls for service annually. The department operates three pumpers, one off road brush truck, and a 3.000 gallon tanker. The department provides structural fire suppression, woodland fire suppression, and response to motor vehicle crashes with basic life support, extrication capabilities, as well as defensive hazardous materials operations. The Cottonwood Fire Department provides routine automatic and mutual aid to the Fire Departments of Madrid, Lovetown, Hodgesville, and Lucy as well as areas in nearby Jackson County Florida. In the event of a grass or a woodland fire in the area, Cottonwood Fire is initially dispatched to suppress the fire or to contain the fire for the Alabama Forestry Commission if special equipment is required.
The current I.S.O. (Insurance Services Organization) rating for this department is 5/5y. Insured property within 5 road miles of the station and within 1000 feet of a standard fire hydrant, a dry hydrant, or a suitable drafting point are covered under the "5" rating. The "5y" designates that the area of coverage is still very adequate but no water source is readily available other than water carried on the fire trucks.