FREDERICKSBURG VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
Like many other institutions of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County, the Fredericksburg Volunteer Fire Department was born of necessity. As early as 1883, a fire department of sorts was organized under the sponsorship and as part of the activities of the Fredericksburg Social Turn Verein. As the moderate growth of the town continued, the Turn Verein saw the need of some organized effort to battle fires. The equipment and time was, of course, simple and limited in quantity and quality. It consisted of leather buckets, pike poles, axes and a few other tools carried on a two wheel cart. In about 1902, according to Mr. Otto Evers, the Turner Club decided that fire-fighting should not be continued as part of their activities.
On the night that his had been decided, Mr. Joe Wilde, Otto Evers, Emil Patton and Albert Schmidt sat down on some rocks along Main Street and decided that a town the size of Fredericksburg should not be without a fire department. That impromptu meeting developed the Fredericksburg Volunteer Fire Department. The first Chief of the new organization was Mr. Wilde. Otto Evers was named Assistant Chief and Emil Patton was the first President of the Department; D.A. Riley was Secretary-Treasurer.
In the same year, 1902, the first pumper, the old hand pump, was purchased through solicitation of the funds from the people of Fredericksburg. In addition to the pumper, the new department had inherited from the Turner Club the cart with buckets, axes, etc. Mr. Wilde had succeeded in obtaining from friends in the San Antonio Fire Department, 10 leather helmets.
In 1906, Otto Evers was elected chief and Emil Patton was still serving as president. A large bell had been acquired which is atop the present fire station. This bell was used to summon men to the station for meetings. At that time, all members paid dues of ten cents per month in order to get some funds into the treasury.
The department had quite a bit of trouble with the hand pumper, so in a meeting held in March of 1907, Mr. A. Walter reported the "engine" out of order and a motion was duly passed that the "resignation" of the pumper be accepted.
The department was also handicapped by lack of men and it was indicated that the commissioners court had been contacted with a view toward increasing the membership. Permission was not granted until January of 1911. The court permitted the fire department to carry on its roll with as many men as it wished. It was decided that fifty men would be the amount needed.
Money troubles also plagued the department. In 1908, it was decided that the ten cents per member be dropped and a committee be appointed to solicit contributions from the people to maintain the department. This practice was kept up until the city was incorporated.
Mr. A. Walter was elected Chief and Joe Stein Assistant Chief in 1907. In 1909, two chemical engines were bought on a 30-day trial. Only one of the engines was purchased.
In 1911, the fire department ordered a "Steamer" at the cost of $1,350.00. Also, "Ebbie" Ruegner had a saddle pony that was trained that when the fire bell clanged, it could hardly wait until "Ebbie" had the saddle on it so it could gallop to the station, wrap the rope attached to the steamer around the saddle horn and go rumbling off to the fire.
In later years, a Model-T Ford was hitched to the steamer. This, too, served as a method of getting the "Ole Steamer" to the fires. At that time the old engine served well and faithfully. It was a very effective piece of equipment and when the calls were not too far out in the country, many houses were saved. The fire department still has this antique engine and it is still in working order.
In 1915, it was decided that someone should sleep at the fire station. Eddie Evers and John Blanchard were given this job. They were given $2.50 a month for sleeping at the station.
Also, in 1915, $475.00 was paid for a used Stoddard-Dayton Roadster. A chemical tank was mounted on it. This was the first step to a motorized department. In order to provide a driver for it, Hugo, Emil and Leo Blachard, at different times, were stationed at the fire house and were paid $40.00 a month for their services.
In 1919, the Stoddard-Dayton unit was replaced by a Model-T Ford truck on which tow chemical tangs were mounted. Louis Kammlah was hired as driver and held this position until his death.
One of the biggest events of the department was the purchase of the 350 gallon-per-minute mobile pumper truck in 1924 from the American La France Company at the cost of $4,950.00. Also bought, was a new siren, additional hose and other supplies with the total expenditure amounting to around $6,500.00. The equipment served the people of Fredericksburg well. The truck was later sold to the fire department of Johnson City, Texas and the siren was later replaced by a new one.
In 1933, the "minute-man" Chevrolet booster truck, later sold to the Stonewall Volunteer Fire Department, replaced the old Model-T Ford truck.
With the completion of the waterworks, the City saw fit to purchase a 500-gallon-per-minute pumper for the price of $18,000.00 in 1940.
In December 1945, the voting of a bond issue was held to build a new fire house. The issue passed and a new station and city hall were built.
It was decided in June of 1948 to purchase a new truck to take some of the stress off of county runs. A new Model-F 7 Ford was purchased from Boening Motor Sales of Fredericksburg and the truck was equipped by Simms Fire Company of San Antonio, Texas for the total price of $15,924.06
To cope with the growing city, the department decided to purchase a 1957, 750-gallon pumper to aid in fire-fighting. The truck was bought from Hill-Country Implement and again Simms Fire Equipment Company of San Antonio equipped the truck for the total price of $19,554.50.
The department again decided in 1965 to purchase another new truck. Again Hill Country Implement of Fredericksburg sold to the city a new truck and Simms of San Antonio equipped it.
With Fredericksburg becoming a modern city, again a bond issue was voted on to remodel the fire station and city hall which now houses today's fire department.
In November of 1967, a Dodge pick-up was purchased from Standard Service Company of Fredericksburg. A camper cab was put on the pick-up and it was equipped with various fire-fighting equipment. This pick-up serves as a "work horse" for the department.
Today, the department is placed on the level with those of other cities. It is completely equipped with modern fire-fighting apparatuses and its men are being trained by competent men who have been trained by the A&M Fireman's Training Schools' instructors. It has, in a smaller degree, tools and equipment that big city departments have. By reason of it being a volunteer department, no member, except the two station attendants, receive pay, which is of small expense to the city.
The men who make up the present fire department are business men, county officials, city officials, truck drivers and clerks in stores. In fact, they are men from all walks of life in the city. The are typical cross sections of the men of the city. They do not receive nor do they expect any reward for performing their services to the people. All they ask is cooperation in the matter of fire prevention and assistance as tax payers and citizens, when and if it becomes necessary to have new equipment so that they may serve them better.
The present membership is grateful to the old-timers for their foresight in establishing a fire department from which the present department has grown. All honor to such men as Emil Patton, Otto Evers, Alfred Riley, Joe Wilde, A. Walter, Otto Stoffers, Joe Stein, R.E. Jordon, Lawrence Krauskopf and a host of others who were leaders at one time or another in the days when the going was really rough, but who persevered and laid a foundation for an organization which is second to none for any community the size of Fredericksburg.
History of the Fredericksburg Volunteer Fire Department
By Richard Burns
Article published in "The Radio Post Fredericksburg, Texas"
Dated Thursday May 6, 1971