History of the Fire Department

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Fire Chief Timeline

E.B. Baxter (1906)

Ed Keener (1906)

J.L. Ghere (1906)

G.S. Walker (1921)

J.L. Ghere (1921)

Les Randall (1941)

W.P.Hudson (1953)

C. Howard Fisher (1955)

Willie P. Hudson – first paid Chief (1964)

Bruce Whitely (1967)

Gary Blackford (1973)

Melvin Mashburn (1984)

Ron Osborne (1997)

Dennis McIntire (2004)

Jackie Carner (2008)

Jeff VanDolah (2011)

Jeremy Moore (2014)

Early Beginnings

The Fire Department of Broken Arrow began as a bucket brigade for the Indian Territory, Broken Arrow, in 1902. In the early days of the town, Broken Arrowans showed up with pots, pans, buckets and carried water from town wells to extinguish fires. During the first months of the town, the Ledger urged each business house to fill a barrel or two with water and keep it standing on the sidewalk in case it was needed for fire protection.

By 1904, a better water supply was available from a big well at the Brader & Sons public barnyard where a 125-gallon barrel was kept filled. Also, a Brady & Hill Studebaker 600-gallon street sprinkler could be used during a fire. The first recorded fire alarm sounded when a blaze was discovered at the D.M. (I.M.?) Thompson home. Everyone hurried to the scene with such weapons for fighting fire as they were able to procure.

The bucket brigade had served its purpose by 1906 and an organized effort to develop a volunteer fire department for the city had begun. The city purchased a horse-drawn fire wagon. According to the Broken Arrow Democrat, dated June 22, 1906, the City Council met on June 15, 1906 to formally organize the volunteer fire department. Mayor Taylor, W.L. Stackhouse and secretary Dr. A.J. Pollard organized 50 hustling young men into a fire company. E.B. Baxter was chairman of the committee. The department was divided into three squads (each with a captain) with two engines and one hook & ladder brigade.

Ward Boundaries Created

The firemen soon found that the street naming system that the city fathers had developed made it difficult to locate addresses. East-West streets were named alphabetically starting with A avenue in the North. North-South streets were given numerical names beginning with First Street on the East side of town.

Without house numbers and dividing streets, it was very difficult to locate homes. The fire department proposed the idea of dividing the city into wards to the City Council, Northeast was Ward 1, Northwest was Ward 2, Southwest was Ward 3 and southeast was Ward 4. Mayor W.F. Taylor promised to pay one dollar to the owner of the team of horses that got the first fire wagon to a daytime fire and two dollars for a nighttime fire.

Equipping the Department

By July 1911, the department consisted of a ladder wagon, four ladders, four nozzles, two chemical engines, two hose reels and 1500 ft. of hose.

At the time, a bell was installed at the telephone office to call for the volunteers, which was later moved to the water tower behind the office. On May 27, 1916, the city purchased a big Chalmer's touring car, which was fitted with a 50-gallon chemical tank. Mr. Schuler and Charley Gideon did the conversion and painted the vehicle bright red. U.B. Mader furnished some rubber coats and boots for the department on June 17, 1920.

Later, on September 29, 1920, a Ford truck was added to the fleet. Membership grew to 10 and in 1921, two more members were added. A new electric siren was installed and the first desk solely used for the fire department was received.

The Fire Ward division for the city did not solve the problem of locating homes entirely, so in 1922, Fire Chief G.S. Walker, Frank Smith, J.N. Lacey and J.L. Ghere proposed a better naming system, the one that is still in use today. It was determined that Broadway and Main would be dividing streets.

Commercial Street would retain its name and College Street would also because of Haskell College, which was located on its East end. Streets north of Broadway would be alphabetical and named after cities North of the Mason-Dixon line; streets south in alphabetical order after cities south of that line. Streets east of Main would be numerical, and streets west would be named alphabetically after trees.

Around 1946, the city purchased a big white pumper truck and two hose trucks. When the fire bell rang, the volunteers would race to the fire garage. After arriving, they would hand crank the old wall telephone to get the operator, who would then give them the location of the call. The first volunteer to the fire garage became the driver of the vehicle. Eventually, four red fire engines, 6000 ft. of hose and a 1930 Chevy hose wagon for show purposes were purchased.

No Longer a Volunteer Crew

A milestone for the department took place on January 1, 1964. The department went full-time with a fire chief and four regulars. The department was housed in the old livery stable located at 118 E. Dallas (now the south end of City Hall) until 1972, when Central Fire Station was built at 120 W. Kenosha. The first paid manpower consisted of: Willie Hudson, Fire Chief; Bruce Whitely, Billy Helm, Bill Samuel, and Gary Blackford.

The paid personnel worked a "Kelly Shift", 24 hrs on - 24 hrs. off. Chief Hudson worked a regular 8- hour day, 40-hour work week. Eventually a 24/48 schedule was employed by adding a third shift. City Manager Bill Secrest was responsible for integrating the EMS/Ambulance emergency response into the fire service in 1972, making the Fire/EMS service available as it is operated today. The EMS service was upgraded from basic EMT to ACLS - Paramedic level in 1999.

Today's Fire Department

Central Station was built in 1972 at 120 W. Kenosha Street. Station Two was built in 1973 and located near Franklin Memorial Hospital at 2900 S. Elm Pl. Station. Three was built in 1973 and located at the south end of Elm Pl. Station Four was built East on Bushnell in 1991 and Station Five was built at West Houston in 1998.

The first phase of a new training center was opened in 2005 and is located at 4205 E. Omaha. Phase two building was opened in 2007 and is located just behind the phase one building. A new training tower was used by our 2011 cadet class but was not completed until 2012. The training tower is located adjacent to the training center and will be used for all subsequent fire department academies. Fire Station six was built on the Neinhuis Park property located south of 51st Street on Lynn Lane 3201 N. 9th Street) and opened August 2008. A new Station two was built and opened December 2, 2012 and is now located at 2300 West Norfolk Drive.

The Public Safety Complex opened in February of 2014 providing a centrally located Administration Center which includes all of the Chief officers and the 7 members of the Fire Prevention Section. In addition to the offices and conference areas, a large portion of the building can be used for training and special events for both the Fire and Police departments. The Fire Department also maintains a separate building that includes eight bays for Reserve Fleet needs and several areas for offices and storage.

Currently, the department consists of more than 173 paid personnel, 11 Fire Corps volunteers, 4 full-time and 1 part-time civilians and 7 fire stations. The response coverage is over 105 square miles and protects over 110,000 residents at an ISO level rating of 2. On any given day, there is a minimum of 36 firefighters, one fire investigator, a battalion chief, an EMS officer, 7 fire trucks, 7 squads (EMS units), 6 brush trucks, and one rescue unit available for response. The department also houses a Technical Rescue Trailer equipped to deploy for large scale incidents and it is complemented with a specially trained staff.

The above information was gathered in part from Roberta Parker and records obtained from the Broken Arrow Historical Society, including newspaper articles from the Broken Arrow Ledger and the Broken Arrow Democrat, as well as transcripts from interviews found in the records at the BA Historical Society.