Sunday, July 11, 2010


From $39.00 to approximately $6M (that's million), the Washington Fire Department is moving up in the world.

On April 13, 1833, a Mr. Thomas was paid $39.00 by the Washington City Council to build the first fire house in town, measuring 14 feet in length, 8 feet in width, and 8 feet high.

On December 2, 1852, the city paid $1,255.00 for a new horse-drawn fire engine, hose reel, and hose carriage.

On April 2, 1853, City Council appropriated $150.00 for the building of a cistern for the fire department use, to hold not less than 150 barrels of water. The cistern was located at the corner of Main and Court Streets.

In May of 1891, City Council established the first free public library and reading room which was housed on the second floor of the fire department building. In April of 1893, the library and reading room was moved to the Worthington Building owned by Morris Sharp.

In 1925, the city paid $15.000 for a new Ahrens-Fox combination hose and pump fire truck, which was still a workable fixture in September of 1976, for the Washington Fire Department. By then it was used mostly for parades, but was used in 1970 to extinguish a structure fire in Washington Court House, according to the then (1976) Fire Chief Maynard L. Denen. He had been a member of the fire department for almost 30 years. This particular truck was able to pump 750 gallons of water per minute. It was a right-hand drive truck with a 65 gallon tank capacity. A plaque was afixed to the side of the truck naming the Mayor - Rell G. Allen, and Fire Chief - Earl Leach of 1925.

The 1925 model was not the first gasoline driven fire truck used by the department. In 1913, an Ahrens-Fox pumper truck was purchased by the city for $9,000.00. Until 1913, fires were battled by bucket brigades and horse drawn units. This truck was sold in 1958 as an antique.

The later bigger and combined fire department and police department building, which was used for many years, was demolished to make a parking lot for police vehicles. This was after the new 6 million dollar facility was built and opened in November last year.

The new modern facility has one public entrance; the basement houses a complete weight workout room where all firefighters start their day with exercise. The building houses a large kitchen with commercial appliances and a large seating area. The second floor has 6 bedrooms with all hallways leading to the new modern fire pole, going down to the turnout gear room where the firefighters "suit up." This new building has a 10,000 square foot bay area to house all the fire trucks. The building contains 70 tons of steel, 1,476 cubic yards of concrete, 75,075 bricks, and over 205,000 linear feet of electrical wire. It is one of the finest fire department facilities around.

The department recently received their new "tower truck" (similar to the one pictured) which City Council purchased for $896,000, and is the largest firetruck in their fleet. The 2009 Rosenbauer is a 6-passenger truck with a 1500 gallon water tank capacity and is 74.4 feet long. The 101 foot extended ladder can easily reach the top of the tallest building in the city. The bucket at the top of the ladder holds 4 firemen and has a 1200 gpm nozzle for powerful water delivery.

The current Chief, Daniel Fowler has been Chief for 18 years and plans to retire next year.

In conclusion, do you know why the Maltese Cross is the symbol of the fire service? The symbol is essentially borrowed from the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, a charitable organization that helped the sick and poor by building hospitals and clinics. Later, they assisted the Knights of the Crusades who fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new Saracen weapon - fire. Many warriors were burned and fought to save their fellow men. These men became our first firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firefighters wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross.

The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder rung away from death.

1 comment:

Sue's News said...

This is a great article; although I knew of the history of the Maltese Cross, I did not know that it was adopted as the firefighters' symbol!