Fire Department History
Chief John Fitzpartick 1868-1885
February 1, 1868. City ordinance 186801 approved the purchase of a new hand powered fire pump. This was part of an overall effort to rebuild the fire department. On July 1, 1868 the new engine arrived. It was named the Wallipus when is was off loaded at the rail yard. The new engine was stored in a lean to building on the back of the old market house.
April 24, 1871. An election of the people of Jefferson City created a city funded volunteer fire department. On June 13, 1871 a new Silsby, steam powered, horse drawn fire engine was delivered at the train station. This new engine was named the E.L. Edwards in honor of a local judge and councilman who helped reorganize the fire department. July 19, 1871 John Fitzpatrick was appointed to the rank of fire chief.
December 15, 1875. The fire bell was purchased and installed on the old market house. The market house was a two story brick building on High St. at Monroe. The top floor was used as a meeting room for city business and the bottom floor as a market. By 1885 the fire department occupied the entire ground floor.
February 23, 1883. A large fire destroyed most of the Penitentiary. As a result of this fire, a fire company was formed and purchased their 1883 Ahrens Fox Steam Fire Pumper. This fire company was commanded by Captain Jesse Tolin. By 1884 telephone service available in Jefferson City.
Chiefs Henry Gerstenkorn, Charlie Palmer, John Linhardt Henry Schmidt and Joe Frank 1885-1900
April 21, 1885. Henry Gerstenkorn was appointed to fire chief. On August 3, 1885 Chief Gerstenkorn was authorized to buy a Hook and Ladder Wagon. Captain Charlie Palmer would command the hook and ladder company. During May 1887 Charlie Palmer succeeded Henry Gerstenkorn as fire chief.
January 11, 1888. Jefferson City voters approved a water works. After completion in October 1888, settling basins were filled with water from the Missouri River. From there purified water was pumped into a holding tower 125 feet in height. There were eight miles of water mains with 75 fire hydrants. The water works changed and improved the fire department operations. On August 5, 1889 Chief Palmer was transferred with his company, Western Union to St. Louis. Henry Gerstenkorn was reappointed as Chief.
March 8, 1890. The old market house was sold at auction and torn down. Bragg Hall at Monroe and High, just across the street from the old market house, would now be used as a city hall. During this period the fire department used hand drawn hose carts to protect the city. A new lean to wood frame structure was added on to Bragg Hall for the storage of fire equipment, meetings for the volunteer fire department would be held in the council chambers. On July 7, 1890, local merchant John Linhardt was appointed fire chief.
July 1, 1892, Henry Schmidt succeeded John Linhardt as fire chief. Chief Schmidt's first order of business opened two more hose companies, one on Richmond Hill at Bolivar St. the other in Muenichburg at Washington and Dunklin. The Muenichburg fire company was commanded by Captain Jacob Tanner.
During 1892 the old Silsby steam fire engine was sold. After serving as fire chief for four years Henry Schmidt stepped down and James Frazier was appointed as fire chief. Chief Frazier organized the Fairview fire company on Clark Ave. at E. Miller St. On April 8 1889 a plumber, Joe Frank succeeded James Frazier as fire chief but he only served until May 1900.
Chiefs Louis Ott, Louis Withaup, James Frazier and Ed Gray 1900-1912
Other volunteer fire chiefs included: Louis Ott 1900-1901, Louis Withaup 1901-1903, Louis Ott's second term was from 1903 to 1905, during 1904 Fire Chief Louis Ott placed a new horse drawn hose wagon in service.
Ed Gray was appointed chief in 1905 until 1907 when James Frazier was reappointed until 1909. Ed Gray began his second term as chief April 21, 1909. Little did anyone know he would oversee very important changes in the fire department during his term.
February 5, 1911. Around 6 pm lightning struck the Capitol building igniting a fire that would destroy it. All city fire companies, the prison fire brigade and the state militia all responded to help. Railroad workers and prisoners helped legislators salvage documents. Even the Jefferson City boy scouts were called to help with crowd control. By 8 pm the dome began to collapse over the north wing. Help was requested from as far away as Sedalia Mo. Sedalia firemen quickly loaded a steam fire pumper, a hose cart, their chief W.H. Paul and a crew of four on a special train. The 64 mile trip was made in 77 minutes, a record at the time for the railroad. For the second time in history the Missouri State Capitol burned to the ground. By August 1, 1911 voters in the state of Missouri approved a 3.5 million dollar bond issue for a new capitol in Jefferson City.
The Career Department with Chiefs John Case, O.P. "Pode" Jones and Louis Rencheval
The career fire department
October 7, 1912. City ordinance 1089 created the career fire department with four full time firemen that worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fire firemen only would get four hours off per week for personal business and were paid $50 per month. Earlier in May 1912 a new motorized Seagrave hose wagon was purchased with an on board 48 gallon chemical tank to suppress fires. Chief Ed Gray oversaw the formation of a career department and on April 15, 1913 John Case replaced Ed Gray as fire chief. Two major fires occurred during Chief Case's career. March 14, 1918 the Cole County Court House was destroyed by fire. And on February 20 1919 fire destroyed two floors of St. Mary's hospital. Both fires caused major disruptions to the community.
January 7, 1922, The fire department purchased a new Seagrave fire engine capable of pumping 750 gallons per minute. This was the first time since 1892 the fire department had any type of pumping apparatus. June 7, 1922. O.P. "Pode" Jones, who had replaced Chief Case in 1920, stepped down to return to the ranks and Asst. Chief Louis Rincheval was promoted to Chief.
Chief Ferd Robertson 1923-1948
May 7 1923. Mayor Cecil Thomas appointed Ferd Robertson to Chief. This was to be another big change for the fire department. Chief Robertson was the first chief who would remain as a tenured chief for 26 years.
During February 1924, under his administration, manning was increased from seven members to a Chief and 10 members for the purpose of dividing the department into two shifts. Firemen would now work an 11 hour day shift or a 13 hour night shift with one full day off each week.
-New fire apparatus was purchased in 1927 and 1936.
-Two new stations were constructed east and west of the city in 1935.
-By 1936 the fire department had switched to two-24-hour shifts that rotated around each other, firemen would work 24 hours on duty and 24 hours off duty. Sometime after 1948 the firemen received an extra day off every sixth day they worked, this was called a "Kelly Day".
May 3, 1939. Around 7 pm an alarm was received for a fire at the Madison Hotel at Madison and Capital. This fire would test the fire department like never before. The fire started in the ballroom which at the time was decorated with cedars and bunting and spread rapidly toward the elevator shaft, cutting off the exit routes. The police and fire departments were stretched beyond their limits making rescues and controlling crowds. At the time of the fire, some 70 people were on the register for the hotel. There were a number of injuries and one fatality. As a result of this fire, several changes were made to both departments. Today the Governor office building stands on that site.
August 13, 1940. An American La France JOX model, 75' aerial ladder was purchased. Fire crews were trained by factory engineers that same day. On hand that day to be photographed were John Linhardt, James Frazier, L.L. Ott, Joe Frank and Ed Gray, all were chiefs of the volunteer department from the late 1800's into the early 1900's.
September 16, 1940. the Jefferson City Fire Department joined the International Association of Fire Fighters and became local 671.
February 17, 1947 city ordinance 4883 created a retirement fund for the city firefighters. Late in 1948 Chief Robertson retired after serving as chief since 1923.
Chief John Sullivan 1949-1968
January 1, 1949. John Sullivan was appointed fire chief, with Jess Mc Daniel and Arthur Hohenstreet as Assistant Chiefs, and Pete Oliver with Raymond Scholten as Captains.
December 3, 1950. Just after midnight fire broke out at the Missouri Theater in the 200 block of Jefferson, between High and Capitol. About an hour later another fire was reported at 712 W. McCarty With all staffed fire equipment at the theater fire, three off duty, called back firemen responded in the war surplus pumper and on arrival found three homes burning at 710, 712 and 714 W. McCarty near Bolivar. With two major fires burning in Jefferson City, mutual aid was called for from the Columbia fire department. Help from Columbia arrived about an hour later, both fires were under control when they arrived.
January 5, 1952. A new open cab Howe Defender fire engine was purchased.
June 8, 1955. The city council approved the purchase of radios for both the Police and Fire Departments. Today, radios are an essential part of emergency services.
May 15, 1956, The fire department purchased a pair of International / Howe conventional cab fire engines.
May 5, 1958. The manning level of the fire department increased to 23 members.
January 16, 1962. Just before noon fire was reported at Wyandotte Furniture at 121 E. High St. This fire was the dreaded fire in the middle of a block, in a downtown area. On arrival firemen found a large furniture store burning on all floors and the outside temperature was 20 degrees. By 2 pm the fire was under control, firemen would remain until the next morning, pouring water on the old building. Aggressive firefighting saved downtown.
December 2, 1963. A fire occurred in the basement of the 13 story, Jefferson Building. This was a serious fire that disrupted state business for four days. Firemen prevailed at this fire when they used a jack hammer to open the sidewalk in front of the building. Under the sidewalk was a tunnel that led to the capitol complex, once the tunnel was opened, heavy smoke was vented from the basement. On December 6, 1963, at the city council meeting the fire department made a request for 10 additional air packs. The fire department only had five air packs in their inventory before the fire.
July 1, 1963. The manning levels increased to a chief and 28 members.
January 6, 1964. captains were increased from three to five.
June 20, 1966. City ordinance 7800 created funding for three new fire stations and additional equipment. That same ordinance authorized the fire department to purchase two, new, diesel powered, Mack, 1000 gallon per minute fire engines. A Mack 75' Snorkel truck and a Chevrolet tanker truck.
August 18, 1967. New fire station 3 was opened at 2104 Industrial Dr. Housed at station 3 was one of the new Mack engines and the Snorkel with four personnel assigned on each of the two shifts.
Chiefs Donald Hunter, Vincent Willmeno and Interim Chiefs Donald Thompson and Roy Hogg 1968-1979
November 6, 1967. Chief John Sullivan retired, assistant chief Donald Hunter was promoted to chief.
January 1, 1970. New fire station 4 was opened at 820 Ellis.
February 10 1971. Chief Hunter retired, Chief Vincent Willmeno was appointed.
September 26, 1971. New station 2 opened at 2400 E. McCarty. Old fire station 2 at 915 E. Miller closed and was used for other city business, storage and training. A new, cab forward, Howe fire engine was housed at station 2.
Beginning in 1971 the fire department purchased new Seagrave fire apparatus including:
-a 1971 aerial ladder.
-a 1972 pumper.
-a 1973 pumper.
-a 1975 pumper.
-During the spring of 1973 a third shift was added with a total of 67 personnel now in the fire department, each shift was under the command of an assistant chief.
June 11, 1977. Open house was held for new station 1 at W. High and Bolivar St. The old fire station on Missouri Blvd. was closed and demolished for highway improvement.
September 18, 1978. Chief Willmeno retired, Captain Donald Thompson was appointed as an interim chief remaining until June 22, 1979 when Roy Hogg was appointed interim chief. Chief Thompson returned to the ranks.
Chief Robert Rennick and Interim Chief Jason Turner
October 15 1979. Robert Rennick was hired to be Fire Chief for Jefferson City. Chief Rennick had served with the Columbia fire department as their training officer. Some of Chief Rennick's accomplishments included:
-January 1980, Combination of police and fire dispatch operations.
-February 1981, all 3" hose was replaced with new 5" supply hose.
-June 1991, New Station 5 opened at 1005 Fairgrounds Rd.
-Spring 1992 a new fire training center was constructed on Hyde Park Rd.
-July through December 1993 Jefferson City firefighters responded to the events of the great flood.
-June 1995, the fire department hosted the first Missouri State Summer Fire School in Jefferson City. This has became an annual event.
-March 1997 Jefferson City fire department began responding to emergency medical incidents.
The apparatus purchase in 2008, replaced all seven front line fire units. Four piece of older equipment were placed in reserve status at Hyde Park.
October 4-7, 2012. The fire department celebrated a "Century of Full Time Service" to Jefferson City with several events including a parade that over 125 emergency vehicles from across the state of Missouri participated in.
March 8, 2013. Chief Rennick retired after 33 years as the longest serving Jefferson City fire chief. Division chief Jason Turner was appointed to interim fire chief.
June 1, 2013. 75 new Scott 5,5 air packs were purchased and placed in service. This purchase included a new training program for firefighter safety in air management.
August 20, 2014. New fire station 3 opened at 302 Rock Hill Rd. The new station replaced a fire station almost 50 years old and will serve the ever growing west side of Jefferson City for many years to come.
Chief Matthew Schofield
September 2, 2014. Fire Captain Matthew D. Schofield was selected as Jefferson City's new fire chief.
October 5, 2015. New fire station was officially dedicated with a public open house.
March 27, 2015. Thirty Jefferson City firefighters began training for structural collapse emergencies as part of a comprehensive program to create a special response team. This team will benefit the citizens of Jefferson City it times of unusual emergencies.
For over 170 years Jefferson City firefighters have met the challenge of service to its citizens. We will continue to serve and protect in many ways into our next century!