Prior to the organization of the Herculaneum Volunteer Fire Department, a large industrial company, St. Joe Lead Company provided fire protection for the town of Herculaneum. Fire protection consisted of five hose carts placed at strategic points in town that were manned by the employees of the company. Whenever a fire was reported the company sounded a whistle and employees would use company trucks to pick up the hose carts and respond to the fire.
On Christmas Day 1947, fire destroyed the Herculaneum High School and it became evident that fire protection in Herculaneum had to be improved. Despite the efforts of the volunteers and neighboring fire departments, the school was destroyed. Over the next four years, a group of twelve concerned citizens began the process of organizing a volunteer fire department. In August of 1951, the Herculaneum Volunteer Fire Department was organized and chartered in the State of Missouri. Using the remaining funds from a defunct Veterans of Foreign Wars post and monies collected by a door to door canvas of the town, the men were able to purchase the first fire engine for the town of Herculaneum. The pumper was a 1931 General Monarch pumper which had previously been used by the Kirkwood Fire Department in St. Louis County.
Lacking a building to house the apparatus, the St. Joe Lead Company allowed the department to use an old wooden corn crib on their property for the first "fire house". Eventually, the men were allowed to convert an old church basement into what was truly the first engine house. This building continued to serve as the main fire station until 1971.
Since its inception, the Herculaneum Fire Department was funded through the sale of fire tags, donations, fund raisers and whatever the members of the department could individually contribute. It was not until 1957 that the department was able to purchase their first new fire engine. In that year, the department took delivery on a 1957 Ford 500 gpm pumper manufactured by the Central Fire Truck Company of St. Louis. In 1959, the department added a converted panel truck as their first emergency "rescue" truck. A second pumper was added to the department's fleet in 1966, with the purchase of a 1966 GMC 500 gpm pumper from Towers Fire Apparatus in Illinois.
From the beginning, dispatching of fire calls was handled by the St. Joe Lead Company employees who would sound a whistle when a fire call or emergency was phoned in. Later, fire phones were placed in some firefighters' homes, but the lead company continued to sound the alarm. This practice continued until the department upgraded to a dispatching agency for the first time in 1984. Eventually, dispatching of the department's calls were handled by a county 911 system.