Fire Department History

Weatherford Fire Department’s Unique History
1854 - Firefighting with Buckets. In 1854, two years before the City of Weatherford was chartered, a group of patriotic citizens of the frontier settlement gathered and organized a Fire Brigade.

The first action of the brigade was to obtain some large barrels and buckets, fill them with water, and place them in strategic points in the town.
Hence, at the time of a fire, they could go at once to the nearest barrel, form a line of men, and pass buckets of water along the line until it reached the fire. In those days, a bucket was sometimes a very valuable asset.

Hook & Ladder No. 1
Often when the fire alarm was sounded, there were no buckets available. This caused the firemen a great deal of trouble until a light-weight, hand-pulled rig was built, upon which the buckets, an axe, and some badly needed ladders could be carried. This rig, or truck, was known as Hook and Ladder No. 1 and was stored in a little shack, approximately 10 x 18 feet, facing onto Waco Street at the corner of Waco Street and Dallas Avenue . Located near the County Jail, the building was under the watchful eye of the Sheriff or Jailor at all times. This, in fact, became Weatherford’s first fire station.

Early 1880’s - New Iron Firehouse
In the early 1880’s, a new corrugated iron firehouse was erected in the 100 block of Palo Pinto Street to house all the rigs.

A bell was mounted atop the building as a means of sounding a fire alarm. The bell replaced the earlier method of spreading a fire alarm - the firing of six shooters and Winchesters.

1878 - Chartered
The Weatherford Fire Department was chartered on April 2, 1878.

New Hook & Ladder Truck
Later that year, a large well-equipped Hook and Ladder truck was purchased. It was, reportedly, the latest and best-equipped piece of firefighting equipment in use at that time. Sporting a 45-foot wooden ladder, the truck was capable of reaching some of the tallest buildings in town.

The truck was also outfitted with a number of smaller ladders, long ropes with large hooks, long poles with hooks, axes, crowbars, and a dozen or more large leather buckets.

1882-1884 - Hose Company & Engine Company
By 1882, a Hose Company was formed, and a hose reel and hand pump were purchased. On August 7, 1884 an Engine Company was formed and a Silsby Steam Engine was placed in operation, destined to see a great deal of service. The Silsby Engine pumped its last fire for the City in 1914.

1895 - Adding on to the Station
Around 1895, a two-story, wooden structure was built on the ground of the old iron structure and an additional 25 feet was added. This provided the department with a meeting place in the Station and sleeping quarters. It was also used by the City Council for its meeting room.

New Air Whistle
As the years passed, the fire bell rang out many an alarm to call our firemen to duty. The City grew and the bell could no longer provide the audible alert needed and required, so the Fire Bell was replaced some years later with an “air whistle.” The Fire Bell now sets in a memorial next to the current Fire Station Number One. By 1911, a larger, more modern, two-story brick building was built in the same location on Palo Pinto Street replacing the old wooden two-story Fire Station.

1895 - Water Lines & Plugs

In September 1895, the City passed an ordinance authorizing the construction of water lines and plugs to replace the water barrels and cisterns in use. At first, only 13 plugs were placed because of the financial condition of the City.

The Weatherford Volunteer Fire Department began using horses to pull its firefighting apparatus in 1898.

1898 - Horses
Up until 1898, the department had to borrow horses to pull the fire rigs to and from the alarms.

John & Dave
At the request of the Chief, a pair of large gray horses, John and Dave, was purchased to pull the fire apparatus. They were also put to use by the Street Department. This proved to be unsatisfactory, as the horses would often be many blocks away when an alarm came in. Valuable time was lost getting the horses and apparatus to the fire.

Rex & Larry
In time, the Fire Department obtained its own horses. Rex and Larry were the first team of horses dedicated to fire duty. The station was remodeled with stalls built close by and harness hangers added near the Hose Wagon.

Bob & John
The most notable and historic of the horses was a big black matched team named Bob and John. The intelligence of the horses seemed almost human. At the sound of the fire alarm, both would take their places at the Fire truck, nose their way into their collars, and wait for the driver to take his seat. Until the driver took hold of the lines, they never moved. Then both horses would dig in with their hooves, get the truck in motion, and gallop away.

Bob & John with Driver Kitt Thomas
A memorable picture of Bob and John was taken with both of them harnessed to Combination Hose and Ladder No. 1 with Driver Kitt Thomas at the reins in August 1913. Of special note, Kitt Thomas holds the distinct honor of being the last team driver and the first motorized truck driver.

Fire Department History Continued