About Fort Worth Fire
- Fire Department Budget for FY2018: approximately $145 million
- Budgeted positions:
- 925 Civil Service
- 61 Civilian
- Estimated population served: More than 854,000 (2012 U.S. Census data); Fifth largest city in the State of Texas, 16th in the nation.
- Square miles covered: 345
- ISO Rating: 1 (1 highest/10 lowest)
- Work week for Operations personnel: Average 56 hours; three rotating shifts of 24 hours on duty/48 hours off duty.
- Facilities: 43 Stations in 6 Battalions
- Frontline Apparatus: 39 Engines, 11 Quints, 4 Trucks, 6 Aircraft Rescue, 15 Brush (4x4) Units, 2 Utility/Light & Air, 3 Water Tankers, 1 Command Unit, 1 HazMat/Rescue Squad, 2 TRT
- Reserves Apparatus: 19 Engines, 5 Quints
- Responses: More than 110,000 incidents annually, 60% related to Emergency Medical Services.
- As a minimum, all civil service personnel are trained as Emergency Medical Technicians-Basic. The department operates as a first responder with patient transportation provided by a third party contractor.
- Specialized areas include:
- Air Shop (SCBA maintenance and repair)
- Aircraft Rescue Firefighting
- Bureau of Fire Prevention (Inspections / Investigations / Explosive Ordnance Disposal)
- Communications / Fire Alarm Office
- Dive Team / Swift Water Rescue
- Fire Apparatus and Equipment Services
- Hazardous Materials Squad
- Office of Emergency Management
- Technical Rescue (high angle / confined space / heavy rescue / structural collapse / trench rescue)
- Training Division (Continuing Education / Fire Trainee Academy / Recruitment)
- Response agreements: 17
- Arlington, Benbrook, Burleson, Crowley, Denton, DFW Airport, Euless, Forest Hill, Haltom City, Hurst, Keller, Lockheed Martin, NAS JRB Fort Worth, Richland Hills, Saginaw, Westover Hills
The plans for the Texas and Pacific railroads in 1872 fueled a boom that nearly doubled Fort Worth’s population. Fort Worth had boasted four square miles when the Texas legislature enacted a bill incorporating it into a city. Destructive fires were commonplace due to the construction of flimsy wood buildings and small tent cities heated by fireplaces and wood stoves.
Organized fire protection might have remained nonexistent for many years if not for Captain Buckley B. Paddock. Paddock was a self-taught lawyer and Confederate officer of the Civil War when he arrived in Fort Worth. He believed in Fort Worth’s potential for commerce and culture, while clearly recognizing that a city defenseless against fire had no future.
In 1873, Paddock took over as editor of the city’s lone newspaper, The Fort Worth Democrat, and publicly mounted a campaign to organize a volunteer fire brigade. Paddock’s plans were met with great resistance, as city fathers saw no reason to deplete their municipal funds in order to pay for equipment or volunteer services. The townspeople of the era were unsympathetic to fire victims and considered fires as acts of nature. After much persuasion, Captain Paddock’s vision of a volunteer fire company became a reality on May 2, 1873.
Hook-and-Ladder Company # 1 began with 60 members mostly made up of merchants and community leaders, who had special interests in protecting their business from the ravages of fire. Proud and independent from city government, as was the tradition of early volunteer companies, Hook-and-Ladder #1 was badly in need of funds. The volunteer company was unpaid and expected to purchase their own equipment. The firefighters staged fund raising events; ice cream socials and local dances were organized to produce badly needed funds to pay for a hook-and-ladder wagon that had been ordered at. a cost of $ 600.
The hook-and-ladder wagon arrived in Dallas by rail and was pulled 40 miles to Fort Worth by a proud group of volunteers, whose fund raising events had proved fruitless in acquiring the money needed to pay for the city’s first fire apparatus. Reluctantly, the volunteers sold the newly named M. T. Johnson Hook and Ladder Company to the city at a cost of $1,000 with the stipulation that the company would appoint their own officers and use a newly devised system designed to combat fires.
The volunteer company’s one critical piece of apparatus was hand pulled and lacked any devices for extinguishing fires.The firefighters had little hope of dousing the flames in time to save the original structure involved, instead they focused on depriving the fire from fuel before it could engulf adjacent structures. Using large grappling hooks and ropes, skilled firefighters could pull down a burning structure in minutes.
The hook-and-ladder wagon’s chief role was to deliver these hooks to the fire, along with ladders to rescue victims trapped on upper floors, and to transport leather buckets used for carrying water to the fire from a nearby well or horse trough. This system of firefighting was effective and relied on the firefighters abilities to organize and respond quickly when duty called.
The gallant volunteers were considered local heroes, membership in the fire company enabled you intangible benefits of glamour and prestige.
Chief Ben U. Bell: 1872-1873 (Last Volunteer Chief)
Fort Worth’s great expectations for prosperity were soon cut short in September by the Panic of 1873. Crushing financial crisis and nationwide depression caused railroad construction to come to a halt. Texas and Pacific Railroad stopped laying tracks 30 miles from Fort Worth’s boundaries. The population dwindled rapidly, mercantile and homes were abandoned, the grass literally grew in the streets. A Dallas Times Herald story written by Robert E. Cowart characterized Fort Worth as “a town so sleepy that he once saw a panther napping on the steps of the courthouse”. Cowart’s jab was turned to the city’s advantage adopting “Panther City” as its nickname.
A new spirit arose in Fort Worth as panther madness became the rage. The volunteers adopted a panther masthead for their second fire company along with a live panther mascot. Prominent citizens launched a bootstrap effort to complete the remaining rail lines leading to Fort Worth. A local finance company was organized and citizens worked around the clock to construct a railroad before the deadline set by Texas legislature. A jubilant crowd cheered the arrival of the first train to Fort Worth on July 19, 1876.
The railroad boom increased Fort Worth’s population drastically. Meanwhile, public outcry called for more fire protection. On October 3, 1876, a Silsby steam pumper was ordered at a cost of $6,250 and Panther Engine Company # 1 was organized to man it. Four minutes after a fire was ignited within the steamer’s fire box, a whistle blew to announce that a good head of steam was ready to power the pump. One minute later the first signs of water appeared from 100 feet of rubber hose. The steam powered pump sent a 100 foot stream of water skyward. This impressive sight was not to be exaggerated. It was now possible to deliver a large deluge of water into the heart of a fire without relying on inadequate manpowered pumps.
As one problem was resolved another arose, such as the lack of a reliable water works system for fire suppression. The city council allocated $1,025 for the construction of three water cisterns, which when combined held over 63,000 gallons of water. These cisterns provided water for fire suppression until 1882 when the first water mains were constructed. The ever-present threat of change was combated with the volunteers long standing traditions. The notion of their new Panther steamer being horse drawn to a fire was an insult to their manhood.
Only after embarrassing attempts to pull the massive 4-ton steamer through the city streets did they realize it was futile. The city adopted a policy of renting horses. The sum of 10 dollars was paid to the man who would hitch his horses to the steamer in the event of an alarm. Mayor R. E. Beckham was elected in 18 7 8 and campaigned for improvements of Fort Worth’s volunteer companies. The city purchased its first team of horses at a cost of $427.
The 1880’s brought growth and advancement to Fort Worth and to its fire department. The city boasted a population mark of 6,500 residents, horse drawn street cars, major thoroughfares, a water works system with six miles of main and hydrants flowing a water capacity of 4 million gallons a day. The fire department received the state’s first electrical fire alarm system and 11 Gamewell pull boxes were installed, increasing the fire company’s response times.
Significant fire department improvements on equipment and apparatus had begun to put a strain on the city funds. Despite enthusiasm generated by improvements in equipment, the volunteer department soon faced their greatest challenge. The rage during the era of the Panther City was to construct a palace and Fort Worth was certainly with the times. In 1889, the Texas Spring Palace was playing host to the nation, with a huge structure that was “built to burn”. The Spring Palace was constructed entirely of agricultural products from Texas. A framework of large timber pine from east Texas was constructed and covered with wheat, corn, cotton, oats, Spanish moss, and any organic materials available. Captain Paddock was quoted as saying “the Texas Spring Palace is easily the most beautiful structure ever erected on earth.” The great civic pride generated from its construction soon turned to tragedy.
On the night of May 30, 1890, while 7,000 people were dancing on the second floor, a fire broke out. Within 11 minutes, the building was engulfed in flame as guests leaped for their lives from second floor windows. An Englishman, Al Hayne, was killed after he rescued several guests. Miraculously, he was the only fire fatality. Today, at the intersection of South Main and Lancaster, stands a statue that salutes that Englishman, and dedicated to the brave firefighters of the City of Fort Worth. Because of the Spring Palace Fire, it became painfully clear that further progress was needed in fire equipment and personnel.
The Fort Worth Volunteer Fire Department stood against a salary proposal. For years the hardy men had valued their fire operation and celebrity status among the citizens whom they served. City politicians, more interested in balancing financial accounts rather than preserving a romantic tradition in existence for 20 years, began to push for a salaried department. On November 30, 1893, Fort Worth’s first salaried fire department, with 34 members, reported for duty. The beginning of one era marked the end of another. The proud volunteer brigade quietly stepped into the background, proudly carrying with them the knowledge that Fort Worth, Texas, may not have existed without them.
Chief John C. Cella: 1893-1901
On December 1, 1893, Chief Cella, with 34 men and officers, took over the helm and charted a new course of fire protection in Fort Worth. The city council had secretly voted to abolish the volunteer department and appointed Cella as chief of the first fully paid Fort Worth Fire Department.
Chief Cella was a businessman and the saloonkeeper of the Metropolitan Saloon on Houston Street. Cella elected to attend to his business between fires, finding the $125.00 a month salary insufficient for full time devotion to his duties as chief. The chiefs driver and buggy had orders to stand by at the station until an alarm was sounded, at which time Cella was to be picked up at the Metropolitan Saloon.
It is recorded that Cella was more of a colorful businessman than a chief. He forbade any of his firefighters from borrowing money from the local lending institutions. Instead, Cella provided financial assistance each payday at an interest rate of 10%. He would also cash firefighters’ paychecks provided they purchase a ten-cent beer.
Most records of Chief Cella’s administration have been lost. It is known that his administration grew very little in the eight years he spent as chief, however, during his tenure; the new central fire station was constructed at Monroe and Throckmorton in January 1899. In addition, A. J. Chambers Hose Company No. 6 was created and filled by existing employees. When Chief Cella retired in April of 1901, he retained the same number of personnel as the day he took command.
Chief Jim Maddox: 1901-1905
James Maddox was a man of many hats, holding a position as Fire Chief and a previous position as Chief of Police for the City of Fort Worth. The Maddox family played a prominent role in the City’s early history. They were active in all phases of business and politics.
Maddox was the foreman of Protection Engine Company No. 1 during 18861887. He held the title of Deputy Sheriff before his appointment as Fire Chief on April 8, 1901. On his first day in office, Chief Maddox appointed W. E. (Bill) Bideker as Assistant Chief. Bideker had also worked for Maddox as a Deputy with the Sheriffs Department.
As a strict disciplinarian, Maddox began the practice of charging fines for breaches of conduct. He is also credited with the addition of a new chemical wagon to the department’s list of apparatus. Another first for the Fort Worth Fire Department was achieved with the introduction of white Fire Wagons. This came about from an event that took place every year. The “Pump Race” invited fire departments to represent their City, as the fastest pump crew. Station No. 5 was to represent Fort Worth in this 1904 contest. There was one stipulation, they were ordered to use a reserve fire apparatus. The reserve equipment was in poor condition, so a collection was taken from the firefighters to pay for the repairs. The men raised forty dollars, and paid E.E. Lennox Buggy Works to spiff up the old wagon. Lennox instructions were to make the apparatus the prettiest wagon at the contest. Mr. Lennox painted the wagon white and striped it with gold lettering. Station No. 5 won the contest and $250 prize money. The citizens praised the beauty of the white Fire Wagon and, from then on, the Fort Worth Fire Department painted all of their Fire Apparatus white.
During the four year administration of Chief Maddox, very little change took place. On April 11, 1905, Chief Maddox resigned and went on to serve his second term as Chief of Police.
Chief W.E. Bideker: 1905-1919
Chief Bideker was recorded to be one of the finest chiefs ever known to Fort Worth. Chief Bill, as his men commonly knew him, was a self-proclaimed conservationist, which played an important role during his administration. Bideker was also known for his dry sense of humor and innovative leadership, which in his fourteen years as chief transformed the Fort Worth Fire Department into a professional firefighting team.
When Chief Bideker assumed command, the department held 38 men, 7 stations, and was fully horse drawn. Salaries ranged from $50 to $125 a month. The work schedule consisted of 147 hours per week with a full day off each month. Bideker’s administration was the first to appoint a Fire Marshall, in addition to passing several progressive fire prevention ordinances.
Bideker was a strong supporter of water conservation and actively participated in the construction of Lake Worth, which brought an end to the reliance on artesian wells for water.
In July of 1909 the city purchased the first car for Chief Bideker at a cost of $2,140.00. This topless, doorless, Maxwell passenger car came complete with spotlight and fire extinguisher. It became the first step toward a motorized department.
The romantic days of horse drawn hook-and-ladders and shiny brass steamers were soon to become a memory. During the height of the horse era thirty draft horses had filled the fire department stables. By 1919 the department’s transformation from horse drawn steamers to motor driven auto pumpers was complete. The city had purchased ten La France trucks painted bright white with gold lettering and stripes.
Chief Bideker fought hard for labor reform, better salaries, training, and modern stations. When he resigned on November 25, 1919, he left behind a modern fire department complete with thirteen stations and one hundred firefighters. The department was organized into an 84-hour work week with increased off-duty time. The new schedule developed firefighting into a career, making it possible for men with families to pursue this noble occupation.
The Great South Side Fire
A great devastating fire visited the City of Fort Worth on April 3, 1909. The fire started when two boys decided to experiment with smoking. One barn began to burn leading another barn to catch fire. When the fire department arrived on the scene of the incident, several homes were burning. Before the firefighters could set up to extinguish the fire, the blaze had already outdistanced them. The fire began to spread from one wood shingle roof to another aided by 40 mph winds. Chief Bideker attempted a third alarm, but the pull box was unable to transmit due to intensive heat melting the copper telegraph wires. Chief Bideker located a phone and requested a general alarm. The fire was outrunning the firefighters, and to make matters worse, Engine No. 8 had crashed into a telephone pole, killing the lead horses while veering to avoid a collision with a pushcart peddler.
Hose Company No. 5 also met with misfortune when one of the horses slipped on the pavement breaking its leg and putting No. 5 out of service. Company No. 1 Panther Engine answered the general alarm and prepared to attack a wall of flame, but radiating heat began to burn their rubber hoses before water could be pumped through the lines. In a heroic effort the men of Company # 1 managed to pull the Panther Engine from the blaze before it was lost.
The fire was consuming everything in its path. Texas Pacific Railroad’s roundhouse and adjacent shops formed a natural barrier between the downtown area and the Southside of Fort Worth. The railroad roundhouse and shops were consumed by fire, but allowed firefighters to gain control of the blaze and breathe a sigh of relief. If not for this natural barrier, the downtown area would have surely perished. Only one fatality was reported, but more than 290 homes and businesses lay in smoldering ashes in an area that covered 26 square blocks.
Chief Standifer Ferguson: 1919-1939
Chief Standifer Ferguson took command in December of 1919. Being one the original thirty-four paid men of 1893, he boasted a service record of 46 years.
Stations 14 through 21 were added during his administration, as well as the new Central station. Built on the corner of Texas and Cherry Streets, this new headquarters was considered one of the most modern and efficient in the nation. The success of the fire prevention ordinances in Chief Bideker’s administration led to the creation of the Bureau of Fire Prevention, established on October 1, 1925 by Chief Ferguson.
In the midst of the oil boom years the city expanded greatly and a fourth district was created. The Fort Worth Fire Department was well trained and equipped with modern stations and apparatus when the Great Depression hit in 1929. On August 30, 1935, the Fort Worth Fire Department received its union charter and Lieutenant C.C. Killian was appointed temporary president. The union pushed for a minimum wage law and the bill was passed in 1937, resulting in a division between management and labor. The city was bankrupt and salaries were reduced to $114.85 per month for a first private. Paychecks had to be discounted three percent in order to be cashed. The city was unable to pay the minimum wage of $150.00 per month and appealed the bill to the Texas Supreme Court.
On April 23 and 24, 1939, Chief Ferguson called together a special meeting at Central Station. He explained that he was unable to support the firefighters in a lawsuit pending against the city for back pay. Three months later on July 19, 1939, Chief Standifer Ferguson retired. The city council honored him with the title “Fire Chief Emeritus” and granted him half pay for life until he died on January 24, 1948.
Chief Coy C. Killian:1939-1945
On July 20, 1939, Captain Coy C. Killjan was appointed chief and took command. The city and nation began its recovery from the Great Depression with World War II following on its heels. In 1941, the municipal limits had expanded to one hundred square miles and despite having 21 stations within the city’s boundaries, the department struggled to keep up with the increasing demand for its services. The economic tensions of the 1930s prevented the fire department from replacing outdated equipment purchased in the early 1920s.
The military received priority for the acquisition of heavy motorized machinery. Fortunately, the fire department acquired six new 750 G.P.M. “Mack” pumpers prior to World War II. Master mechanic, John P. Oliver, conceived the idea of installing a forty-gallon booster tank; with power take off (PTO), driven off of the transmissions of the new 1938 Buick Century coupes. This immediately enhanced the flexibility of the Battalion chiefs, and a Fort Worth first was achieved.
During Chief Killian’s administration conflicts between the management and the new Firefighters Union began to segregate the department into two camps. Most officers secretly supported the Union and were dues paying members. City Manager Bothwell recognized dissension within the ranks and took what he felt was appropriate action. Bothwell stated, “This action taken against Killian is in the best interest of the fire department, that Chief Killian will return to the rank of Captain, to be reassigned by the newly appointed Chief.” In response to Bothwell’s decision, Killian stated, “I will serve this department in any capacity felt necessary.” Having been demoted to Captain, and assigned to Station No. 19, he later rose to the rank of Fire Marshall. Killian retired August 1, 1964, after devoting 42 years of service to the Worth Fire Department.
Chief Claude L. Ligon: 1945-1948
City Manager Bothwell appointed Claude Ligon Chief on August 1, 1945.Chief Ligon came from the ranches of New Mexico, where he had been a cowhand, to Fort Worth in 1904. He was appointed a sub at a starting salary of $45.00 a month. He considered this a noble but temporary occupation until he could find other means of employment. One month later Ligon went regular at Station No. 4 on Chamber Hill. Ligon was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant at the same station on January 1, 1910. Twenty-three months later, on November 1, 1911, he was promoted to secretary of the department and became a fire alarm operator. On October 8, 1925, Ligon was promoted to Assistant Chief, also retaining the rank of Fire Marshall. Ligon served as Fire Marshall for almost twenty years before being appointed Chief of the Fort Worth Fire Department. World War II was at its end and the department desperately needed updated equipment. The department purchased two new American-LaFrance one hundred foot aerial ladders. They also purchased four hose ladder combinations, four 750 G.P.M. pumpers, and three one thousand G.P.M. pumpers all delivered from Buffalo Fire Equipment Company, Buffalo, New York.
Until 1947, many promotions had been politically motivated, so the Texas Legislature adopted major provisions for firefighters and police officers. The result was a Civil Service Act that required departments to fill vacancies and grant promotions through a system of competitive examinations rather than by appointment. This same act prohibited firefighters and police officers from conducting labor strikes. Job security, freedom from political influences, and equality were the results intended by the legislature Chief Ligon’s administration was short yet productive. He retired January 1, 1948, after forty-one years, four months, and twenty-nine days of service.
Chief Paul C. Fontaine: 1948-1962
Chief Fontaine was considered to be an excellent politician, fair handed in dealing with his men, and supportive in their causes for better working conditions. It is recorded that Chief Fontaine showed this support in several appearances before the city council. His critics said he should have been more aggressive in his appropriation of manpower and apparatus for the department.
Numerous public relation campaigns were designed to promote fire prevention. In 1954, fire prevention was being taught at local schools and businesses demonstrating that prevention began in the home and office. The Fire Safety Education Division was created on May 1, 1956. Captain Luther Koch, whose hobby was the study of fire prevention, headed this program up. In the first sixteen months, 415 programs made 81,000 citizens aware of new fire prevention methods. In 1959, the state mandated a sixty-hour work week for all Texas firefighters. The following year, the Retired Firefighters and Widows Association was established to protect encroachments upon their pension system.
In 1961, a squad unit was established with twelve men to aid in the increasing number of industrial and residential accidents. This Squad 2, as it was called, became the cornerstone of the city’s Emergency Medical System (EMS). In previous years, the American Red Cross had trained fire fighters in basic first aid. However, modern advances in medical rescue techniques and equipment provided for more innovative training methods.
In that same year, progressive new strides were also being made in underwater search and rescue. Approval was given to Bob Gibson to organize the department’s dive team. The training program developed for the team was molded after new scuba techniques pioneered by French Oceanographer, Jacques Cousteua. To this date, the dive team has met with great success and developed into an advanced group of highly trained and motivated personnel.
After fourteen years as Chief and forty-one years of service, Chief Paul C. Fontaine retired.
Chief H. A. Owens: 1962-1969
City Manager Cookingham appointed H.A. Owens chief in December of 1962. He was one of many men who became a firefighter after a short career in professional baseball. (Several men hired on after baseball season until spring camps rolled around to try their luck at the major leagues. Only to return again to the fire department at the end of the baseball season.) Owens was hired on October 1, 1926. After a short time he was promoted to Fire Marshall. Owens remained in this position for several years until he was appointed Assistant Chief in the Fontaine administration. As Chief, Owens elected to continue Fontaine’s programs of consolidation and relocation. A fifth district was added along with 8 new fire stations. A third platoon system was established and a 72-hour work week was reduced to 56 hours, in compliance with state law.
According to the Engineering Bureau of Texas, the city’s department had fallen short of national standards. The Gamewell firebox alarm system and switchboard, dated 1931, was still in use. It covered a fraction of the city that had doubled in size since WWII, encompassing a total of 194 square miles. The department’s manpower totaled 300 men less than the 850 man force recommended by the Fire Prevention and the Engineering Bureau. From 1962 to 1968, $1,436,000 was spent on new equipment and the remodeling of fire stations. Perhaps the most significant improvement in Fort Worth’s fire service and training came with the opening of the Fort Worth Fire and Police Training Center. Despite skepticism, it proved to be an immediate success, setting an example that continues to be studied by municipalities nationwide.
Chief Owen’s administration was one of growth and modernization that started a trend toward larger and more sophisticated apparatus, and the city continued to annex large tracts of outlying land, thus extending county lines and its service to these areas. But few stations were built to accommodate this new growth, thus, three-man companies were becoming more commonplace with budgetary restraints on the city.
After seven years of service, ‘Chief H. A. Owens retired on June 3, 1969, with 43 years on the Fort Worth Fire Department.
Chief L. R. Himes: 1969-1980
Shortly after WWII, L. R. Himes returned to Fort Worth and was hired as a firefighter on November 1, 1947. He was promoted through the ranks and became Captain over the training division, serving several years until being promoted to Assistant Fire Marshall.
On July 2, 1969, L. R. Himes was appointed Chief. The city reorganized both fire and police departments into a new “public safety” department, under the supervision of ex-police Chief Cato Hightower. The Fire Department promptly took a back seat to law enforcement and began a serious morale decline. Two years later the administration was abolished and duties were turned over to the Assistant City Manager’s Office.
The fire department was reorganized with the elimination of assistant chief and master mechanic positions. Where there had been six divisions, there were now four: administration, suppression, prevention, and services, which included training, dispatch, and maintenance.
With 33 years of service L. R. Himes retired February 15, 1980, and was the last of a 107 year tradition of interdepartmental appointments for the position of Fire Chief.
Chief H. Larry McMillen: 1980-2002
H. Larry McMillen took command on May 19, 1980, and became the first chief ever appointed from outside the department in it’s 107 year history. Chief McMillen had served with the Phoenix Arizona Fire Department for 20 years before retiring with the rank of Deputy Chief. While most officers expressed a concern for such an appointment, McMillen was met with overall acceptance. The department prepared for the winds of change and they were not disappointed.
Within McMillen’s first three years as Chief, he had accomplished most of his newly projected goals. A first responder program was initiated and all firefighters became certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s). This program tripled the number of fire department calls, and a fire ground command concept was established as practiced in Phoenix. A new hazardous material team was established with extensively trained squad members who devoted many hours to the study of “haz-mat”. A newly “state-of-the-art” hazardous materials vehicle was ordered “haz-mat” truck along with crew were put and placed into service. They are unit is recognized as among the nation’s best in dealing with hazardous material incidents suppression.
Innovative techniques were being implemented in the training division as great strides were made to prepare our department members to deal with any situation. A mandatory physical fitness program, which includes an annual medical examination, was established influencing many firefighters to be more conscious of their health, agility, and strength. To this date each member is required to complete an annual physical at the department’s expense. Modern technology and new apparatus became the rule of the day. Updated tools, nozzles, air packs, and 4-inch supply lines were employed. In 1980, Fire Safety Education had began to focus on three programs. The “Learn Not to Burn” program in schools, “Fight Fire With Care”, and “Smoke Alarms Save Lives”. These programs and others have met with great success.
Another first in the department’s history was the employment of women firefighters. Controversy arose, as it often does with drastic change, and the walls of tradition began to fade. In time, the women firefighters were accepted through the ranks. In the absence of significant funds, McMillen’s plans for reorganization called for no major increases in the number of personnel. In 1981, the appropriation of $2.1 million for new apparatus was the largest ever requested and approved in the city’s history. The control of apparatus maintenance was recaptured and a maintenance section was installed within the department. As the first responder program began to unfold, a new system was designed to handle the overload of calls on the present dispatch operation. A bond election raised $3.3 million to fund the new Computer Aided Dispatch system. It went into effect in 1985, and is in use today with great success. Seven modern stations were constructed during Chief McMillen’s administration, and there are still more on the drawing board. The newest of bold concepts in EMS became the AED or Automated External Defibrillator. Every apparatus was outfitted with the device, with extensive training provided to fire personnel, to further enhance a person’s chance for survival in cases of a heart attack.
Chief McMillen’s administration continued to make great strides through its progressive attitudes on training, equipment, and fire service to the citizen’s of Fort Worth. Under his leadership the Fort Worth Fire Department established itself as one of the finest in the nation.
On May 31, 2002, McMillen retired after serving 22 years as Fire chief. His years of service give him the distinction as the longest tenured Fire Chief in the History of the Fort Worth Fire Department.
Chief L. Charles Gaines: 2002-2006
After a nationwide search Charles Gaines, a Deputy Chief with the Oklahoma City Fire Department was selected to become the 11th professional fire chief, and first African-American, to head the department. His selection was confirmed by the City Council on October 22, 2002
During his tenure he was instrumental in improving the collection of data relating to the daily operations of the department. Two new stations were opened, one in 2003 and another in 2005, while three addtional stations were being built or planned for the expanded areas of city to the north.
Unfortunately, his time as fire chief was tragically cut short when he succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 49 on September 23, 2006.
Chief Rudy Jackson: 2006-2018
Following the death of Chief Gaines, the City Manager appointed Deputy Chief Rudy Jackson to serve as Interim Fire Chief while a search for a new chief was conducted. Jackson had served as a Deputy Fire Chief in the Gaines administration.
After a nationwide search that saw 50 applications submitted and an intensive interview process, Jackson was selected as Fort Worth’s 12th fire chief since the city went to a professional fire service in 1893. The selection by the city manager was confirmed by the City Council on March 20, 2007.
During Chief Jackson’s administration many accomplishments have been achieved. Notable among them are:
- The city’s Public Protection Classification rating improved in 2007 from a rating of a three (3) to a two (2) and was lowered again in 2017 from a two (2) to a one (1) as assigned by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). The ISO rating is based on a number of factors including training, staffing, number of fire stations, equipment dispatched to fires, equipment on trucks, fire prevention, investigation, fire safety education, construction code enforcement, hydrant maintenance, water supply and the ability of the 9-1-1 call center to answer and dispatch calls.
- The addition of four new fire stations in the far north section of the city and a fifth in the South. The city population continues to experience record growth and additional territory was added through annexation. Stations 38, 11, 34, 41 and 42 were added to ensure emergency services could be delivered in a timely manner.
- The relocation of Station 27, Station 5 and Station 17. Fort Worth Fire Station 27 had been housed in a building in Hurst, TX since the 1960s. Fort Worth Fire personnel moved into a new fire station in Fort Worth in 2010, located at the corner of Precinct Line Road and Trinity Boulevard. Redevelopment of the Evans Avenue/Rosedale Street corridor made it necessary to move Station 5 a few blocks south. A new Station 17 was built at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex.
- The rank structure of the department is as follows; Fire Chief, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief, Battalion Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, Engineer and Firefighter. The ranks of Firefighter through Battalion Chief are promoted ranks based on civil service testing. Assistant Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs are appointed by the Fire Chief.
- The implementation of new hiring procedures that include the use of groupings to allow more flexibility and a broader candidate pool.
- The approval and construction of a new Public Safety Training Center. This $100 million project, completed in 2015, relocated the Fire and Police Training Center to the former GSA property on Felix Street. The Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex is a world class facility that will help the Fort Worth Fire Department continue to be one of the nation’s top fire departments well into the future.
Chief Jackson led one of the most progressive and innovative fire departments in the country.
Interim Chief Pat Vasquez: 2018-present
The department is currently led by Interim Fire Chief Pat Vasquez.
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