Department History


The first bucket brigade in Denison was formed in 1872. A few years later, in November of 1875, more than 30 men got together in the home of Captain Kirk to organize a hook and ladder company in Denison. At that time, they estimated that between $800 and $1,000 was needed to get a fire department set up. The company was formed once that much money was raised. A temporary organization was set up and committees were formed to call on businesses to try to sign up volunteers and to sell subscriptions. 

Meanwhile, the minutemen (volunteers) met the third Monday of each month at the Truck House on Skiddy (now known as Chestnut) Street between Burnett and Rusk Avenues. P. Ledrick was foreman and other officers included M.B. Tallent, H. Mamlok, J.C. Montgomery, C.A. Cunningham, and W.S. Lowe.

When the fire bell rang, the volunteer firemen would rush to the station and the fire cart would be pulled by hand to the fire. Back then, however, Denison was much smaller and there were fewer buildings to protect. The volunteers did not have far to go either, because the first known fire station was where 401 West Main now is located. 

Fire protection in Denison progressed from the hand fire cart to a horse-drawn wagon by 1876 when the city bought a team of horses. The live horsepower moved Denison’s fire wagons for 37 years. 

The old fire station was originally built at 320 West Chestnut in 1886. It was built to serve as Denison’s Fire Station with the city hall and jail on the second floor. The City Council and police moved out in 1936. At that time Denison had only 4 wards, and the old bell sounded a certain ring for each ward. 

In June 1910 the city switched its water supply from spring-fed Waterloo Lake that had an 85-foot storage standpipe to Randell Lake. Unfortunately, Randell Lake didn't fill up quite as fast as anticipated and Denison experienced a water shortage. The water pressure was so low that the fire department had a difficult time putting fires out. 

Denison Fire Department became motorized with the purchase of a 1913 American La France type 12 pumper for $2,500. Townspeople turned out in force to see the American La France Machine that could force 750 gallons of water per minute (GPM) through 3 2.5" hoses. 

A demonstration of the truck was held a few days later and citizens agreed that it was just what the city ordered. However, later that summer the First Christian Church, then a frame building, the parsonage next door and 3 other houses went up in flames. The pumper and what was thought to be good water pressure couldn't save the structures.

A second fire station was opened on October 16, 1913 in the 100 block of West Texas to serve residents on the south side of town and was equipped with 1 fire wagon and 2 horses. At that time there was no viaduct across the railroad yards and it took too long for horses to respond to fires in that part of town. 

Fire equipment at the South Side Fire Station included a 1 hose wagon, a horse team of Alex and Ted, 1,650 feet of hose, 2 axes, a crowbar, 2 nozzles, a 3-gallon fire extinguisher and 4 wrenches. The station was active until long after the viaduct was built and motor driven wagons were in use. In about 1926 it closed until the old viaduct was closed, then it was reopened for a period of time. 

In 1916, Denison purchased an American La France 14-4 Combination Service Ladder Truck for $6000. This truck had no pump and was basically used to transport ladders and other equipment to the fire scene. This truck was "in service" until 1952 when the Fire Department purchased a new La France Ladder Truck.

In September of 1919, the second American La France Pumper truck was delivered at a cost of $10,000. It was placed at the first South Side Fire Station in the 100 block of West Texas. 

The next Engine purchased was an Ahrens Fox Model GP-100-There is some confusion about this truck because it was as a 1928 Model, but was purchased in 1930 for $13,000. As with so many of the trucks, it was placed in reserve and eventually wound up in a playground at Morton and Lillis, now Landmark Bank. 

In 1935 Denison again went to La France for another engine. Then, in 1939 Denison called on La France once again for a 550 RC Engine. According to City Council Records, it was traded for a 1941 La France Model. 

In 1942, Denison acquired a very rare La France B-675 CO Engine with a 750 gallon per minute pump. This truck is special because very few non-military vehicles were produced in 1942 as the country was gearing up for war. Denison still has this Engine as a designated "Parade Vehicle." It’s said that future Chief George Cravens drove this engine off of a railroad car in downtown Denison to the old fire station in the 300 Block of West Chestnut Street This truck is still drive able, but at low speeds. It was completely restored while Bill Taylor was Fire Chief. 

In 1949, Denison turned to La France for a Ford F-5 Pumper Engine. It was placed into service at the Station on Texas when it was re-opened for the building of the second viaduct across the rail yards. The cab and motor part of this truck was built by Ford Motor Company, but the pump and hose bed were La France. 

A new fire station was built in the 700 block of W Chestnut in about 1950, then demolished in 1975 and the present modern building was built. 

In 1957, the famous Roy Rogers and Mr. McDerby of the Yellow Jacket Boat company donated a 16 foot molded plywood boat known for its speed and durability to the Denison Fire Department. This boat was used until 1970 for water related emergencies/rescues.

On January 1, 1972, the Denison Fire Department took over the ambulance services from the local funeral homes. The first vehicle used as an ambulance was the red van donated by the Johnson-Moore Funeral Home.

In 1975 the City purchased a Ford Booster from Westex Welding and Machine Company for around $21,000.

In 1981 the City purchased a 1981 Ford/Boardman Engine for $80,000. This truck would pump 1000 GPM. water and carried more hose and equipment.

In 1983 the City purchased a second Ford/Boardman for $88,000, also pumping 1000 GPM. water and was similar to the 1981 Model.

In 1986 the City again turned to Ford/Boardman for a third Engine which would pump 1000 GPM. water, plus had a "Deck Gun" mounted on top of the pump and behind the Cab. The truck cost $105,761. 

Beginning in 1993, Denison went from using 2 door Engines with riders on the back to newer, extended Engines with 4 doors and all firefighters riding in the cab.

The first 4-door Engine Denison purchased was the 1993 International/Ferrara Fire Apparatus 1000 GPM. Pumper for $116, 913. It carries 1000 gallons of water. This engine is currently still in service as a back-up.

In 1996, Denison purchased a 75 foot Ladder Truck from E-One. It pumps 1250 GPM. and carries 300 gallons of water. 

In 2005 Denison continued to turn to E-One for its firefighting equipment, but chose the Engine to be built on a Freightliner Cab. It too, can pump 1250 GPM. of water and the ladders are mounted on top of the Engine. It carries 1000 gallons of water.

In 2012, Denison purchased a 2010 Demo Engine from E-One with a custom cab, 1250 GPM. pumping capability, and water and foam storage capability. The cost of this Engine was $373,500.

Denison also has 2 Brush Trucks, 1 Rescue Vehicle, 5 MICU Ambulances, 1 Water Rescue Vehicle with dive equipment, 1 Swift Water Rescue Boat, 1 Water Rescue boat, 1 Command vehicle, and 5 Staff Vehicles.

Line of Duty Deaths

The first line of duty death occurred on August 12, 1899 when two department buggies crashed into one another on the way to a fire tragically costing James D. Nolan his life. On September 4, 1907 Bud Freels, a minuteman for the department was crushed underneath a collapsed wall during the Lone Star Laundry fire. On December 24, 1989 T.O. Fulce died when a roof collapsed while fighting a fire downtown. Finally, on December 30, 2006 firefighter Phillip Townsend was killed after an awning collapsed on him. 

Memorable Fires

Some of the more memorable fires in Denison history include the Catholic Church blaze of 1911, during which 2 firefighters were killed when a wall collapsed on them. They were the first 2 fatalities of the Department. In December of 1908, the Davis Livery Stable caught fire and burned. There were 30 of the towns finest horses stabled in the structure, all of which were lost. In January of 1920, the Denison Hotel burned for a reported 4 days and nights. 3,000 feet of hose was laid, with 6 fire streams used to combat the blaze.

Fire Chiefs

There have been 10 fire chiefs appointed to the Denison Fire Department. Bob Fisher served from 1876 until the mid 1880’s, when W.M. Yokum took over until 1890. In 1890 Vic Morefield was appointed and served until 1913. His service was interrupted for about 2 years around the turn of the century. It was during this time that Bill Linden served until Chief Morefield returned.

In April of 1913 Mr. C. Cooper was appointed and served until his retirement in 1932. He was succeeded by O.L. Garvin, who served until 1935. Pat Lowe was then appointed and served until July 1, 1955, when George Cravens took over and served until his death in September of 1985. At that time, Assistant Chief Bill Taylor filled in until the appointment of Dave West in June of 1986. Dave West served 2 years before resigning in September 1988 at which time Bill Taylor again became acting Chief. Mr. Taylor was named Chief of the Denison Fire Department on December 1, 1988.

Assistant Chief Gordan Weger was appointed Acting Fire Chief after Bill Taylor's retirement on April 1, 2005, then was appointed Fire Chief effective June 1, 2005. Chief Weger retired October 31, 2015. 

Chief Gregg Loyd began his service to the City of Denison on April 1, 2016.