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History of the Lubbock Fire Department


Editors Note: (The first part of this history comes from a Lubbock Fire Department training manual which dates from the 1960's. Some came from an Annual published around 1986. Very little was changed from the original text. Current events will be added at a later time.)

In the latter part of 1908, or the early part of 1909, the town of Lubbock had it's first major fire. The town had no type of fire fighting equipment. The Lubbock Mercantile Company, located at Broadway and Texas Avenue, burned to the ground. The owners of this establishment were Kinch Carter, George Carter, Temple Ellis and Gus Carlile. As a result of this fire, the merchants and citizens of the own called a mass meeting for the purpose of securing money to purchase some type of fire fighting equipment. They procured a horse drawn, gasoline engine, Howe Pumper. This equipment was housed at about the 1000 block of Broadway. The only available water supply for this pumper was limited to a stock tank on the public square of the courthouse, and various windmill tanks scattered around the town. Several dwellings burned to the ground due to lack of water close enough to the fire.

On August 9, 1909, a meeting was called for the purpose of organizing a Volunteer Fire Department. The department was organized with about fifteen members, including Charlie Frederick, who was selected first Chief of the Lubbock Volunteer Fire Department. Mr. Frederick served as Chief for only two months. W.E. Twitty was appointed Chief to fill the remainder of the term, along with L.H. Simpson, in alternating years from 1911 to 1915.

1910 - After the City of Lubbock was incorporated, the citizens recognized the necessity of additional fire fighting equipment. The type of apparatus they purchased was a hand drawn cart, having two wooden wheels and two, mounted, forty gallon chemical tanks of soda and acid. This equipment very seldom reached the fire because it was so heavy that it took five or six men to pull it. Bob Penny was elected Chief of the department.

1915 - The City purchased the first motor driven fire fighting apparatus, a chain driven American LaFrance, 350 gallon per minute pumper with solid tires. This apparatus was housed in a two story sheet iron building which served as the fire station and City Hall at 1103 Main Street.

Fire Department Historical Photo from 1915


1919 - W.E. Twitty was elected Chief and served continuously until 1924 as Volunteer Chief. In 1921 the second major piece of apparatus was purchased, a chain driven American LaFrance, 750 gallon per minute pumper with pneumatic tires. This was the very latest type of fire fighting equipment.

1924 - A great year for the Lubbock Fire Department. A new modern fire station and City Hall was constructed and occupied at the corner of 10th street and Texas Avenue. This year the third major piece of fire fighting equipment was purchased, a quadruple 750 gallon per minute American LaFrance Service Ladder Engine. This same year the fire department went from all volunteer to a part paid department. Chief W.E. Twitty and two other men were employed full time. Full time in 1924 meant working 365 days a year. The Chief's salary was $150.00 per month and the other men were paid $80.00 per month.

Fire Department Historical Photo from 1924


1927 - This year the fire department began to put into operation several revolutionary fire extinguishing techniques, using 11/2 inch hose wyed off of 21/2 inch hose and utilizing 11/2 fog nozzles. The fog nozzles were made by our department because there were none on the commercial market at that time. The Lubbock Fire Department was the first department in Texas to use 11/2 hose and fog nozzles. These revolutionary techniques are the basic principles of present day operations.

The first department substation at 2201 19th street was built and occupied in 1927. Soon after it was put into service a case of smallpox developed at the station and it was quarantined. They could not answer any alarms for six weeks.

Fire Department Historical Photo from 1927


1928 - The department had it's first death in the line of duty on the night of January 8th. Assistant Chief Neuel Bryan was killed when the pumper he was driving overturned while he was attempting to avoid a collision with another car. Also in 1928 the department bought its 5th piece of apparatus, a 750 gallon per minute American LaFrance pumper.

1929 -
Fire Department Historical Photo from 1929


1930 - Chief Twitty was faced with several major problems including high wind, low humidity, inadequate water supply, and a shortage of manpower. When Lubbock experienced fires they spread very rapidly. The element of getting hose lines into operation quickly was a major factor, also, small fires that were too large for portable extinguishers to handle meant laying large amounts of hose on the ground. Chief Twitty wanted to bridge the gap between these small fires that were extinguished with portable extinguishers and the large fires which required larger hose lays to handle. 21/2 inch hoses wyed into 11/2 lines with fog nozzles helped but that was not good enough. He found a 1929 Packard car with a power take off on the transmission. Using the PTO for power he mounted a pump and water tank on the car and in 1931 the first booster truck was put into service on an experimental basis.

1931 -
Fire Department Historical Photo from 1931


1934 - The straight booster began to pay big dividends that year. In 1934 the department laid only 8,200 feet of 21/2 inch hose, usually laying 30,000 to 35,000 feet. The booster handled 139 of the 148 fire alarms, or 94.9% of all fires for 1934.

1935 - 1942 - The fire department grew very slowly through these years but in 1940 another progressive step was taken. A modern fire station was built at 10th street and Avenue J, and was occupied on March 6th. Personnel manpower was increased form 15 men in 1935, to 24 men in 1942. In 1941 the membership of the department voted to participate in the State Firemen's Relief and Retirement Fund, agreeing to put 2% of their salary into the fund.

Fire Department Historical Photo from 1940


1942 - 1947 - Personnel nearly doubled from 24 in 1942, to 40 men in 1947. In 1943 the department improved working conditions by implementing the two-platoon system. This inaugurated the 24 hours on duty, 24 hours off duty system, thus decreasing the hours worked each week.

1948 - The department made the largest expansion in personnel that year. Twenty men were added, bringing the total to sixty men on duty. Station #3 was opened at 30th and Texas Avenue and two new pieces of equipment were purchased making the total of twelve. The citizens of the City of Lubbock voted to adopt the State Civil Service plan for the fire department.

1949 - This was another year for expansion. Five new pieces of apparatus were purchased including an 85 foot Peter Pirsch, the departments first aerial ladder truck.

1951 - The department bid farewell to it's chief of 42 years. Chief Twitty retired but was retained as a consultant to the fire department. Assistant Chief Glen Smith took over the Chief's position by promoting through the ranks. The benefit of longevity pay was added this year at the rate of $2.00 per month for each year of service. Also, the work week was cut to 72 hours by allowing an extra shift off duty each two weeks. The annual fire loss reached a staggering $632,966.00.

1952 - Six new pieces of apparatus were placed into service including another 85 foot aerial truck. Opening it's doors was station #5 at 10th and Zenith Avenue. Five men were assigned to each shift.

1953 - With the addition of 14 men the total strength of the department grew to 107. The original station #2 was relocated to 22nd and Avenue X, and station #6 was opened at 35th and Indiana. Attempting to promote an understanding of better fire prevention for the city, the Fire Prevention Division was created to eliminate and correct existing fire hazards.

1954 - Station #6 opened with 6 men per shift and the manpower total reached 118. Training facilities were improved by the addition of the four story modern drill tower located at 102 Municipal Drive.

1955 - A new booster and a 750 GPM pumper, along with 7 men were added to the organization. A survey by the National Board of Fire Underwriters brought favorable results. Using a basis of increased protection and knowledge, along with personnel and equipment, the classification rating was raised from grade 7 in 1948 to grade 4 in 1955. Very few departments in Texas have achieved the rating as high as 4.

1957 - Progress was noted by expansion and 30 promotions were made during the year. Sixteen recruits brought the total compliment to 138 men. Station #7 opened at 17th and Utica and ten minutes later had their first run. Three new pieces of equipment were added bringing the total to 28 for the department. A sad occurrence touched the department with the loss of it's second member in the line of duty. Lieutenant Waylon Jack Jenkins answered his final alarm August 3, 1957.

1958 - The 63 hour work week went into effect this year. A training building was constructed near the drill tower.

1959 - Plans were approved for the new telephone alarm system with telephones located at strategic points across the city. 134 boxes will be installed with more to be added later.

1960 - The new Central Fire Station #1 was opened in February at 6th and Avenue K. In October the department went to the three platoon system which makes for a 56 hour work week. These changes plus the creation of the District Chief position necessitated the hiring of 31 additional men bringing the total manpower to 175. Station #8 was opened at 50th and Avenue V.

1961 - A new voice paging system was installed in the stations. This system allowed the dispatcher to announce fire alarms at each station over a public address system.

1962 - In 1962, realizing the need of fire protection on Cal Farley's Boys' Ranch, the members of the Lubbock Fire Department took it upon themselves to design and build a Booster truck for the ranch. Donations of a 1962 one ton International four wheel drive chassis, two hose reels, cash and many other items were secured from various firms and businesses. Firemen, on their off-duty hours, began work early January, and by April, after approximately 1500 man hours were expended, the Booster was completed. It was with the greatest of pleasure and pride for members of the Lubbock Fire Department to present to Cal Farley in May, a beautiful 300 gallon Booster truck.

1965 - The department acquired a portable tape recorder for the Training Academy and "Resusa-Kate", a full bodied twenty-four-inch resuscitation doll. On December 20th of that year, Resusci-Anne, the life-size rescue breathing doll, was acquired. This was for training of mouth to mouth resuscitation and external cardiac compression. (The Training department also held emergency childbirth and chest heart massage classes.) The Lubbock Fire Department officially started their newsletter in 1965. James Goodwin submitted the name that was chosen for the newsletter. The name was "The Hose Line". After several years the department changed the heading to read The Lubbock Fire Department Newsletter. In the seventies the newsletter was discontinued and started up again in the eighties with a new name, "The Leaking Hydrant". Also in 1965 the First Annual Fire Show began. The public was invited and several events were presented. They had pump races, water polo, house and pit fires, butane fires, and clowns. One clown was dressed up tacky and named Fire Bug. The children got to rooting so much for him and his success in starting fires that he was discontinued.

1966 - Fire Chief Glenn W. Smith retired on January 21, 1966 and Hershel Sharp was hired on May 16, 1966 to fill the vacancy.

1967 - 1967 saw further progress for the fire department, the engine from Fire Station Number 8 was the first of the equipment to be converted to triple combination. This was the start of converting nine pumpers into triple combination and phasing out six boosters. In June the State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Convention was held here in Lubbock. Approximately 2,000 persons attended this three day meeting. On May 1st the use of IBM was first started. The system is designed to quickly and accurately assemble reports for analysis which will be useful in affecting desirable fire and building code amendments and in pinpointing fire hazards that otherwise might go undetected. Station Number 9, located at 50th Street and Vicksburg Avenue, was opened October 29, 1967.

1968 - In 1968 excavation and foundation work began on the "Burn House" at the Training Academy. The work was done by Company B, 980th Engineering Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, Bob Woolsey, Commanding Officer. The triple Combination Number 4 was placed into service and new life nets were acquired.

1969 - In 1969 Station Number 10 opened on May 16th. This station is located at East 48th Street and Martin Luther King Blvd., formerly Quirt Avenue. The city also received its first 85' Snorkel 1250 G.P.M., Combination Volume/High Pressure Pumper, elevating platform truck on February 1, 1969. This apparatus was put into service at Station Number 1. In March the burn house at the Academy was complete. After twenty years as the Fire Department Instructors' Conference the name was changed to The Lubbock Area Firemen's Conference. The Annual Fire Show had its largest attendance ever. This was the worst year for grass fires. Insured fire losses were $804,827.00.

1970 - May 11, 1970, 9:46 P.M. will be recorded in Fire Department history as a time that the abilities and facilities of the Department were taxed to their utmost. The communications center, located at Station Number 1, was totally destroyed by a tornado that tore through downtown Lubbock that night. No calls could be received or dispatched to any of the substations. Communications were kept open through mobile radios to the station monitors, which were manned around the clock. Incoming calls were received through City Hall and the Emergency Operations Center switchboard, and were dispatched by radio from the chief's car, located at City Hall. Very few fire calls were received that night and none in the damaged portions of town. Central Fire Station was heavily damaged, but the equipment, with the exception of the new snorkel truck, was soon back in service. Dispatcher Bob Rascoe was disabled with an injury that ultimately cost him his eye. Captain Luther Dean suffered a cut on his hand. Of the sixteen men in the building when the tornado struck, these were the only two injuries. Bob Rascoe was at his post in the dispatch center when the windows were blown in by the storm. Captain Dean was in the apparatus room near the dispatch center. The doors of the apparatus room blew in and propelled Dean about 30 feet down a hall. The other men were located various places throughout the building. A few minutes prior to the descent of the tornado, the men on duty rushed to the apparatus room in an attempt to raise the overhead doors; however, the wind was already so strong that it was impossible to raise the doors, so the equipment was moved as close to the back of the apparatus room as the men could place them. The men then donned their bunker gear and found what protection they could. Many sought shelter under the trucks as the roof of the apparatus room began to collapse. The roof was prevented from completely collapsing by the snorkel truck, which was parked by the east wall of the building. With the roof resting on the snorkel truck, the men and the equipment were able to escape the heavily damaged building unharmed. Station Number 1 suffered damage in an amount equal to $115,279.00; the repairs on the snorkel truck totaled $8,000.00; the training building suffered $16,620.00 worth of damage. Station Number 3 required a new back door at a cost of $750.00 and various pieces of equipment required minor body work at a cost of approximately $400.00. The men and equipment of Station Number 1 relocated to various other stations until repairs could be completed on Station Number 1. Repair to the snorke1 truck necessitated its return to the factory. Through a valiant effort by all of the members of the department, all repairs were effected rapidly, and by September 15th, things were almost back to normal.

1971 - 1972 - Fire Station Number 11 was opened at the airport. With the opening of the station, a new piece of equipment saw duty in the Lubbock area. A twin application rescue truck was placed in service. The truck holds 1500 pounds of dry chemical powder and 200 gallons of pre- mixed light water, which is a aqueous film forming foam expelled by five high pressure bottles of nitrogen. The application nozzles, located on the truck cab, are remotely operated from inside the truck cab by the driver, Twin hand lines capable of discharging the same fire fighting agents are located on the truck also. Crash, Fire, and Rescue operations were further enhanced with the delivery and commissioning of two new fire and rescue trucks at Fire Station Number 11 in 1972.

1975 - In 1975 Fire Chief Hershel Sharp bid farewell to the department by way of retirement and Thomas P. Foster found his way to the front office by way of promotion from the ranks. A new 85-foot Snorkel truck was put into service at Station Number 9.

1976 -1978 - With the purchase of land to relocate Fire Station Number 1 at 18th Street and Avenue K, the City of Lubbock Fire Department entered a new stage of development in 1976. The station territories and response times were evaluated, and the decision was made to close Stations Number 2 and 3 and incorporate their territories into those of existing stations. The position of Deputy Chief of Operations was created. The Department now had two Deputy Chiefs, one for Administration and one for Operations. On October 25, 1977 the department acquired a hydraulic car opener called "Jaws of Life". It operates on hydraulic pressure with a gasoline engine The Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association held their convention in Lubbock during April of 1978.

1979 - In 1979 Stations Number 2 and 3 were closed, the men and equipment were moved from the Station at 6th Street and Avenue K to the new Central Station at 18th Street and Avenue K. Renovations were started on the building at 6th Street and Avenue K to turn it into Administration Headquarters. The old officers' bedrooms were turned into a new suite of offices for the Fire Prevention Division. On March 25, 1979 a single alarm fire was answered at a restaurant which was being remodeled at 711 - 34th Street. Kenneth H. Haggard, Eddie C. Swafford, and Larry D. Tucker answered their final alarm in the line of duty, succumbing to carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.

1980 - On January 15, 1980 an amendment to the fireworks ordinance was submitted to the City Council. It was passed and became illegal to possess fireworks in the City. A new Station Number 12 was built at 79th Street and Slide Road, and Station Number 4 received extensive remodeling and repairs. The dispatch center was remodeled, and a completely new, six channel radio system went into operation throughout the department. A computer terminal was installed in the dispatch center. The department received fifty-eight mobile units, eighteen walkie-talkies, seven walkie-talkies with pagers, twelve pagers, and sixteen porta mobiles. Land was purchased for Station Number 13. This was a big year in the updating of fire fighting apparatus, with the arrival of three new 1250 gallon per minute pumpers. Unit #25, a 1980 Mack pumper was delivered in January. The hose trucks at Stations Number 1 and 9 were redesigned and equipped with the departments first four-inch hose.

1981 - The Carbon Monoxide Check program was initiated with publicity to the public. The citizens of Lubbock could request a carbon monoxide test of their home and/or business by calling the Fire Marshal's office. Training began on the Tex-Firs System (Texas Fire Information Reporting System), which was created by state law, requiring fire departments to report certain information about the alarms they answer, to insurance companies, manufacturers, and builders across the nation.

1982 - Unit #19, a 1982 Mack Pumper and Unit #20, a 1982 Mack Telesquirt arrived. Station Number 13 opened on June 2, 1982 and Station Number 9 was remodeled. Forty smoke cutter flashlights were purchased and installed on all units. On September 24th, Nomex Bunker Gear arrived for each fireman. This new bunker gear was recommended by the N.F.P.A. In 1982 no deaths were reported for fire related incidents.

1983 - In 1983 the City Manager, Larry Cunningham, hired the management consultant firm of Cresap, McCormick, and Paget to conduct a study of seven departments of the City government of Lubbock, with the Fire Department being one of them. This study was conducted over a five month period in early 1983. The firefighters of the Lubbock Fire Department, along with some city departments, finished the new Training Academy and Fire Station Number 2 in October 1983. Fire Station Number 7 was remodeled and Unit #21, a new 1250 GPM Mack Pumper arrived. The year of 1983 ended the Lubbock Fire Department's record of two years and two months without a fire related death.

1984 - In March 1984 a new ladder truck was delivered. On August 10th 4,400 feet of five-inch hose arrived, after testing, the crews could only get six hundred feet on each engine. It was decided the other section of hose would be carried in a compartment on the engine. August 24th started the training of ten men for the Dive Team. They were certified in open water, advanced open water, rescue, and specialty in search and recovery. The Justice Department approved the annexation of the Carlisle area, beginning December 27th, at 4:00 P.M. the Lubbock Fire Department responded to fire alarms in the new annexed area.

1985 - In February 1985 the contracts were signed to start physical fitness testing on all firemen. These tests were very productive and helped to save lives. In fact, during the testing it was found that twelve men had to see a cardiologist. Three had by-pass surgery, one had angioplasty, eight were diagnosed as having high blood pressure, and one was diagnosed with Leukemia. Most of these men were unaware of serious health problems, and could have gone down on the job. April 27th saw the opening of Fire Station Number 14. Chief Thomas P. Foster retired on January 31, 1986 after thirty-four years on the Lubbock Fire Department with ten of those years as Chief. He accepted a position with the Firemen's Training School Engineering Extension Service at Texas A&M University. Chief Horace E. Anglin, former Deputy Chief of Operations Retired, was appointed as the new Interim Chief.

1986 - On March 17, 1986 the department hired six new firemen, the first rookie class since 1982. The rookies were put through intensive training for fourteen weeks. The new Chief, Donald L. Stevens came on board August 25, 1986. Don was the Deputy Chief in charge of the Training Division for the Dallas Fire Department. He had worked for the Dallas Fire Department for twenty-six years.