Updating the Fire Department

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Updating the Fire Department


Our Richmond fire department with its several modern trucks and full-time firemen who have been trained in firefighting came from modest beginnings and has gone through several stages of reorganization.

One such occasion of reorganization was in the summer of 1885. A second fire engine similar to the one which the city had had for a few years was purchased. They both were large steam engine water pumps mounted on specially constructed heavy wagons drawn by teams of horses. The firebox of each was kept filled with the "fixins" so that the fire could be started and going well by the time it arrived at the scene of the blaze. The fire department building, which was remodeled that same year, was equipped with a large stove to keep the water in the steam engines from freezing in the wintertime. The three teams of horses were stabled in the rear of the building, their harness was kept suspended by ropes and pulleys so that it could be dropped rather quickly on the horses when they were positioned in front of the engine wagons.

There was also a horse-drawn ladder wagon which, in addition to several ladders, carried several Babcock extinguishers, ropes, axes, hose fittings, and other such hardware. It also carried a large supply of leather buckets which were used when it was necessary to have a bucket brigade to extinguish the blaze.

John F. White was the fire chief of the reorganized department in 1885, with Nick White serving as assistant chief. The force consisted of 20 men who, as volunteers, were paid about two dollars for each alarm they answered.

The captain of Engine No. 1 was H.C. Rice described as "nozzlemen" were John Christopher and Eugene Christopher. Hosemen were Albert Schilling, George White and Ed Huntly.

Captain of Engine No. 2 was Ed Shanks, with Jim Parsons and Humphrey Moneyhan manning the nozzles. Hosemen for this engine were John M. Nelson and "General" Nelson.

The hook and ladder wagon was under the direction of William Perkins. His squad included W.P. Baxter, J.E. Miller, D.R. Shanks, J.B. Horine, and Ed Baxter.

The first fire for the newly organized and outfitted force occurred in October, 1885, when in the middle of the night fire was discovered on the third floor of the W.K. Denny Building on Main Street next door to the Pigg Building. The courthouse bell was rung to give the alarm, and the volunteers and their efficient equipment had the fire out in short order.


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “Updating the Fire Department,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed June 15, 2024, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/720.