Wednesday, June 22, 2011

With Denver Fire, 'Number One' is complicated




When you are talking about the Denver Fire Department, and you are trying to identify precisely who and what, and where, is “Number One?” ... It may be more complicated than it sounds. Depends on what “Number One” you are talking about.
“The Denver Fire Department started in 1866 with the Colorado Territory's first fire company, volunteer Hook and Ladder No. 1, and built its first station a year later at 1534 Lawrence Street. That first company served barely 5,000 people,” says information from the department.
“The young state's capital launched its professional fire department in 1881. By the time the department moved into Engine House No. 1 at Broadway and 15th in 1884 and the last volunteer company — Tabor Hose No. 5 — disbanded a year later, the city had exploded to more than 60,000 people and was well on its way to where it is today.”
According to the Denver Firefighters' Museum, that first station dealt with challenges.
“A hand pumping draft engine was purchased in 1867 but scant water supplies and manpower limited its use.

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From 1870 to 1879, three additional volunteer hose companies were organized and a Holly Pressurized Hydrant System was installed. About the same time, a new Central Station was built at the Broadway and 15th Street address and a 15-fire-alarm-box system. Denver became the state capital in 1881 and by May 10, 1881, the city hired its first paid firefighters, many from the ranks of previous volunteers.
“On September first-paid DFD crews manned Steamer 1, H&L #1 and Hose #1. The steamer was at Central Station, H&L #1 at City Hall Station and Hose #1 at Archer firehouse. By 1884 Broadway Hose disbanded and Steamer 1 moved into their four year old house naming it Engine House #1. The last volunteer company to disband was Tabor Hose #5 in 1885. James Lloyd became the first of 54 Denver firefighters to make the ultimate sacrifice for the City of Denver in 1886,” reports information from the Denver Firefighter’s Museum.
Today, the Denver Firefighter’s Museum resides in historic Denver Fire Station No. 1 on Tremont Street in Downtown Denver. For years, part of the operation was financed by a restaurant operation on the second floor of that building. It originally cost the city about $20,000 to build. The structure was built in 1909 by local architect, Glenn W. Huntington, but oddly enough, it is the second Fire Station No. 1.
It replaced the first Station No. 1 at Broadway and 15th Street, when that structure was torn down to build the Pioneer Monument. The monument was constructed in 1910 at a cost of about $70,000 and was meant to commemorate and mark the end of the Smokey Hill Trail. Its construction, design, art production, and evolution over the years combine to make up a fascinating story in its own right.
But if the preceding is not enough to throw you off, there is also the recently revived situation of Denver’s Hose Company No. 1, just west of Coors Field, and described by Denver historic preservationists as one of the city’s oldest and most unique landmarks. “Constructed in 1883 for Denver’s Volunteer Fire Department, it served the neighborhood known as the “Bottoms,” today part of the Central Platte Valley. By 1922 it was no longer serving its original purpose and was instead converted into a print shop and later a welding shop, a purpose it continued to serve until at least the 1980s,” according to information created by Historic Denver.
“In 1985 the owner elected to designate the property a local landmark, asserting that the structure is the oldest standing fire station in the city. The building’s architecture, which is representative of 19th century industrial construction, has only been slightly modified and most of the significant exterior features are in tact. However, the building has been vacant for at least a decade and continued lack of use and stewardship has put it in jeopardy.”
The preservation group says the current owners, who purchased the property in 2005, applied for a demolition permit that would end this 127-year legacy and forever erase the evidence of the “Bottoms” neighborhood, an important part of early Denver.
“The Hose Company building is one of only a handful of historic structures remaining in the area west of Union Station. It was identified in the Platte Valley Plan as contributing significantly to the character of the area, which will continue to experience on-going change and reinvestment as the Union Station complex expands. The Hose Company should not be left out of the plans for this area but be used as a vibrant asset that complements new residential and commercial structures.” according to Historic Denver.
On January 4, of 2011, the Denver Landmark Commission denied the request to demolish Hose Company No. 1, located at 20th and Chestnut.
The working Denver Fire Department Station 1 is now located at 745 West Colfax Avenue, not far from the first two historic locations of D.F.D. Fire Station No. 1.
Other firsts and No. 1 in the department, as reported by the Firefighters’ Museum:
• In 1903, all steamer and hose companies were to be named engine companies, by edict of the chief at the time. As apparatus was repainted and lettered, the paint scheme was changed from red to white.
• The DFD purchased two motorized triple combination apparatus in 1909 to begin the transition from horse drawn rigs.
• The first training tower was built at 12th St. and Curtis St. Five new stations were built. 

1910 to 1919: The DFD now has 250 firefighters.
• 1912 saw Chief John F. Healy begin his 34 years stint as Chief of the DFD on August 1, badges were changed from station hat badges to shirt badges with seniority numbers, and Station 18 opens as the first bungalow style motorized house in city.
• Station 8 housed the first motorized engine in 1915 and also the first motorized ladder in 1917.
• Also, at that time, First grade pay was $95 per month with $5 per year of service. Three new fire stations were built.


• In 1921 two platoon shifts begin. The repair shop moves from municipal shops to DFD shop at 19th and Market St. in 1923.
• 1924 saw the last of the horses as houses remodeled for motorized rigs. Hydrant colors change from red to yellow. Four new stations were built.


• In 1932, DFD headquarters moves from condemned City Hall to the new City and County Building. Short wave radios were available in 13 cars. Chief Healy abandons red suspenders for dress shirts. DFD Credit Union opens. Underwater recovery unit formed.
• In 1937, headquarters moves to 14th St. and Court Place. Five new stations were built..


• In 1961, a jet airliner crash at Stapleton creates need for foam engines at airport. In 1969 starting pay was $500 per month and 56 hour work week. Six new stations were built.


• 1971, SCBA breathing equipment put in service. The DFD gains full control of Arson Bureau.
• A 48 hour split shift work week begins in 1974, changes to 24 hour shifts in 1976.
• On August 21, 1985, Heather Larson becomes first woman DFD firefighter. Rocky Mountain Fire Academy facility at 5440 Roslyn is opened. DFD is first department in USA to get a TV broadcast license. Chief Gonzales becomes first appointed Chief since 1904
• In May of 2006 Lt. Richard Montoya was the 54th firefighter to die in the line of duty. New Station 2 goes into service in Montbello. DFD gains a Heavy Rescue and Hazmat apparatus courtesy of Democratic National Convention, which is hosted in Denver in 2008.
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