writing, there have been ten fire chiefs
appointed to the Denison Fire Department. Bob Fisher served from 1876
until the mid-1880s, when W.M. Yokum took over
until 1890. In 1890, Vic
Morefield was appointed and served until 1913. His service was interrupted
for about two years around the turn of the century. It was during this time
that Bill Linden served until Chief Morefield returned. In April
of 1913, Mr. C. Cooper was appointed and served until his retirement in
1932. He was succeeded by O.L. Garvin, who served until 1935. Pat
Lowe was then appointed and served until July 1, 1955, when George
Cravens took over and served until his death in September 1985. At that
time, Assistant Chief Bill Taylor filled in until the appointment of Dave
West in June 1986. Dave West served two years before resigning in September
1988, at which time Bill Taylor again became Acting Chief. Mr. Taylor was named
Chief of the Denison Fire Department on December 1, 1988. Assistant Chief
Gordan Weger was appointed Acting Fire Chief after Bill Taylor's
retirement on April 1, 2005, then was appointed Fire Chief effective June 1,
2005, and still serves as chief today.
Denison Fire Marshals
Dick Gray, 1921 - 1941
Joe Cappell, 1941 - 1949
Bob Sherburne, 1949 - 1959
Dwight L. Sharp, 1959 - 1986
James Littrell, 1986 - 2004
John Weda, 2004 - present
much is known about Denison’s first bucket brigade, it is known that it was
formed in 1872.
(Photograph taken in 1947)
Denison fire department started in
July 26, 2012
More than 30 guys got together in
November 1875 in the home of Captain Kirk to organize a hook and ladder company
in Denison. A temporary organization was set up and committees were set up to
call on businesses to try to sign up volunteers and to sell subscriptions.
At that time they believed that
$800 to $1,000 was enough money to get a fire department set up, and the
company was to be formed when that much money was raised.
Meanwhile, the volunteers met the
third Monday of each month at the Truck House on Skiddy (now known as Chestnut)
Street between Burnet and Rusk Avenues. P. Ledrick was foreman and other
officers were M.B. Tallent, H. Mamlok, J.C. Montgomery, C.A. Cunningham and
The fire department grew from
that first meeting when there were wells on Main Street at Austin & Burnett. Water was struck approximately 20 feet down. When the fire bell
would ring, the volunteer firemen would rush to the station and the fire cart
would be pulled by hand to the fire.
Back then, however, Denison was
much smaller and there were many less buildings to protect. The volunteers
didn’t have far to go, either, because the first known fire station was where
401 West Main now is located.
Fire protection in Denison
progressed from the hand fire cart to a horse-drawn wagon by 1876, when the
city bought a team of horses. The live horsepower moved Denison’s fire wagon
for a number of years with the fire bell calling the volunteers to action.
The old fire station was
originally built at 320 West Chestnut in 1886. It was built to serve as
Denison’s Fire Station with the city hall and jail on the second floor. The
City Council and police moved out in 1936. At that time Denison had only four
wards, and the old bell sounded a certain ring for each ward.
The old fire station on Chestnut
was a favorite spot for children to visit. On a trip to the fire house it was a
real thrill to see the firemen slide down the shiny pole from the second floor
quarters at the sound of the bell alarm. The pole was eliminated when the
station became a one-story fire house, taking away a lot of the glamour of the
job as seen through a child’s eyes.
remember when the fire station was in the 300 block  West Chestnut Street,
where the Chevrolet garage is, and horses were used to pull the wagons. They
had a steam pump engine that was a thrill to see the horses run with, while the
smoke poured out. On top of the station was a large bell. It could be heard all
over town. It would signal the fire, then ring one at a time to signal the ward
it was in—as l, 2, 3, etc. John Cooper was the fire chief, and Don
Freels was chief of the south side station at 114 West Texas Street.
—Tom Anderson Memoir
fire department once had four legged horsepower to pull the fire wagon. Fire
station horses George and King pulled the Denison fire wagon before the first
truck arrived on the scene. Fire
Marshal Joe Capelle is seated on the right.
Such animals as Big Mike, George
and Old King were affectionately mentioned in early day records. Old King died
the way a fire horse would like to go: He was making a run to a fire on Main
Street alongside a new horse in harness. While firemen were fighting the blaze,
Old King and the new horse “had it out” and then became a runaway team. Old
King is said to have sideswiped a telephone pole and a splinter from the fire
wagon tongue plunged into his throat and he died a few days later.
Dension Fire Department
300 block, West Main St.
Hunt & Bryant. Denison, Arcadia Publishing Co., pg.14The
Catholic Church blaze of 1900, during which two firefighters were killed when a
wall collapsed on them. They were the first two fatalities of the department.
Courtesy of the Herald Democrat
December of 1908, the Davis Livery Stable caught fire and burned. There were 30
of the town's finest horses stabled in the structure, all of which were lost.
In June 1910 the city switched
its water supply from spring-fed Waterloo Lake that had an 85 foot tall storage
standpipe to Randell Lake. But Randell didn’t fill up quite as fast as
anticipated and Denison felt a water shortage for while. Water pressure was so
low that for awhile the fire department had trouble fighting fires with the low
streams of water from fire hoses not being able to reach the fires.
were used to pull fire wagons and horse carts for 37 years in Denison until the
delivery of the first fire engine on April 1, 1913. Earlier, in April that same year,
the fire department added more horsepower – 95 to be exact, when a huge six
cylinder fire machine arrived on the scene.
Fire Department became motorized when in 1912 they agreed to
purchase a 1913 American La France type 12 pumper for $2,500.00 when
the station was located in the 300 block of West Chestnut.
Townspeople turned out in force
to see the American LaFrance Machine that could force 750 gallons of water per
minute through three lines of two and one half inches in diameter. The truck cost
the city $7,500, and those who remember seeing it said it was “a sight to
behold.”A demonstration of the truck was
held a few days later and citizens agreed that it was just what the city
ordered. However, later that summer the First Christian Church, then a frame
building, the church parsonage next door and three other houses went up in
flames. The pumper and what was thought to be good water pressure couldn’t save
A second fire station was opened
on Oct. 16, 1913, in the 100 block West Texas to serve residents on the south
side of townnd was equipped with one fire wagon and two
horses . At that time there was no viaduct across the railroad yards, and
it took too long for horses to respond to fires in that part of town.
Fire equipment at the South Side
Fire Station included a one hose wagon, a horse team of Alex and Ted, 1,650
feet of hose, two axes, a crowbar, two nozzles, a three gallon fire
extinguisher and four wrenches. The station was active until long after the
viaduct was built and motor driven wagons were in use. In about 1926 it closed
until the old viaduct was closed, and it was reopened for a period of time.
It was after this second closing
that Cliff Ramsey moved his Ramsey Manufacturing Co. into the two story brick
building on Texas Street. The company manufactured storm windows and doors,
screens patio covers, carport covers and other items until it closed a number
of years ago. The building now has been renovated into a private residence.
There were horses before fire
January 04, 2012
It’s interesting to learn about
Denison’s “firsts” and our town has certainly had its fair share of being where
many “firsts” have taken place. Through the years stories have been written
about many of them, and no doubt there are many that haven’t been preserved
through the years.
One first that I ran across that
I had not seen before was dated March 19, 1939, in The Denison Herald. A front page picture actually was taken in
1916 in front or the Chestnut Street fire station when the city acquired its
brand new, “rhapsody in white” fire truck, the first truck for Denison.
The article said “a gallant and
romantic chapter in the history of public welfare, the fire horse, was
beginning to be pushed from the picture” with the arrival of the firemen’s
The truck was nicknamed “Old
Betsy,” and the article said that it served Denison for about 18 years before
“wheezing its ‘last mile’ to the scrap pile.” Wouldn’t it have been great if it
had been preserved just for posterity and to look at, ooh and aah over and for
children to crawl over?
1916 American La France Ladder Truck
(Denison FD Files)
The picture featured Charles
Smith, Joe Capelle, Chief J.C. Cooper, Walter Jones, Dave Worsham and Glen
(Slim) Jordan. Most of these names are familiar, but Joe Capelle is more
familiar than the others. His wife, Massie, was a good friend of my grandmother
and I was enrolled in an “expression” class at her house before I ever started
to school. They lived in the 900 block West Main.In 1916 Denison purchased an American La France 14-4 Combination Service Ladder
Truck. It's cost was $6000.00. The first hook and ladder truck was delivered in April of 1916. This
truck had no pump and was basically used to transport ladders and other
equipment to the fire scene. At that time there was no viaduct across the railroad yards, and
it took too long for horses to respond to fires in that part of town. This truck was "in
service" until 1952 when the Fire Department purchased a new La France Ladder
Truck, a picture of which is in Chief Weger's office
In September of 1919, the second American LaFrance
Pumper truck was delivered at a cost of $10,000.00. In 1919 another La France truck was purchased. It was a Type 75
Pumper. It was placed at the first South Side Fire
Station in the 100 block of West Texas. It was to serve the area south of the
railroad track while the first Viaduct was constructed. That station had the
motorized truck along with a Horse Drawn vehicle.
The next Engine
purchased was a Ahrens Fox Model GP-100-4. There is some confusion about this
truck because it was as a 1928 Model, but was purchased in 1930 at a cost of
$13,000.00. As with so many of the trucks, it was placed in reserve and
eventually wound up in a play ground at Morton ~ Hwy. 120 & Lillis, now
1928 Ahrens Fox behind old Central Fire Station 700 West Chestnut
photograph probably taken in the 1950s
1928 Ahrens Fox 1000 GPM Pumper belonging to an unknown City
Note the rolled and pleated seat and
right hand steering.
Denison Fire Department files
Photograph & information