Dodge City Fire Department history

Dodge City Hose Team. Two notable members were Wyatt Earp and Ed Masterson.

According to their mission, they are charged with serving the citizens of Dodge City through protection of life and property from losses from fire or other natural or man-made emergency situations.

Dodge City was founded in 1872, but it wasn’t until 1876 the privately owned Dodge City Fire Company formed with P.L. Beatty as its first Chief. Finally in 1887, the City formally established the Dodge City Fire Department. It was the three major fires in 1885 which led to the establishment of a municipal department. These fires were huge, each destroying entire city blocks.

Merely a day before the first fire struck on Jan. 18, 1885, one of the four of Dodge City newspapers, “Kansas Cowboy,” printed “Dodge City is a little paradise for fire insurance companies…” Before that date, there had been no disastrous fires because Dodge City had been a 24-hour town and there was always somebody awake and alert enough to put out fires or sound an alarm.

The first inferno started in a grocery store and burned eight businesses to the ground. The next devastating fire held off until November 29, 1885 when fire engulfed the block on Front Street between First and Second Avenues. The third fire came only 10 days later and destroyed the block just north of Walnut (Gunsmoke) between First and Second.

These three fires were disastrous financially. The second fire alone cost over $150,000 which is close to four million in 2019 dollars. The heart of Dodge City burned in these three blazes. Among the 14 businesses destroyed in the second fire were the iconic establishments of Delmonico’s Restaurant, Zimmermann’s Hardware, the Long Branch Saloon, Hoover’s Liquor Store and R.M. Wright & Company General Store.

This series of conflagrations would have killed most towns, but like a phoenix, Dodge City rose from the ashes. This was most apparent when Robert M. Wright contracted to have a replacement building constructed as his store was still burning. Dodge City’s newly formed Fire Department quickly made a name for itself when its 15 man fire hose team broke a world record at the 1887 Annual Fireman’s Tournament in Denver. Eleven men pulled a hose cart 450 feet, while two men pulled 100 feet of hose and hooked it to a hydrant, and the other two men shot a stream of water at least 20 feet.

They did all this in just a little under 32 seconds – a record which still stands. For this, the men won $800 (over $21,000 in 2019 money) and a silver fireman’s trumpet which is now at Boot Hill Museum.

It is uncertain where the first fire station was located.

Chalkley Beeson was the first Fire Chief and held the office until 1909. In 1888, Dodge City built a City Hall at Second and Trail which contained the U.S. Land Office, City offices and Fire Department. For the next 33 years the Department was housed there until moving to 313 Walnut (Gunsmoke) in 1921. In 1929, they moved into the new City Hall on Boot Hill. In 1950, the Department opened a south station at 105 South Second, which was replaced in 1995 by the current south station at 709 South 14th. In the meantime in 1990, they dedicated station at 201 Soule Street after moving out of the City Hall building.

Today Dodge City these two stations are manned by paid firefighters and EMT’s. They, along with the Ford County Fire Department, work hard to protect Dodge Citians from fires and to assist during medical emergencies.

Two notable people who have worked for the Dodge City Fire Department: Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson’s brother, Ed.

 

Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
http://www.ksffa.com
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