Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Ready to roll from Springfield Fire Headquarters on North Fountain Avenue

Tuesday, October 11, 2005



Chief Frank Montes De Oca - a veteran of the fire and rescue service in Orange County, Florida - served as Springfield's fire chief in the late 1990s. During his watch, advanced life support (ALS) was expanded to all of the city's fire stations. He was the second chief officer hired from another fire department, the first being Samuel Hunter in 1904. After leaving Springfield, Montes De Oca served as fire chief in Osceola County, Florida. In April 2008, he accepted the position of Director of Emergency Services for Orange County, North Carolina, according to the county's web site.

Photo: Osceola County web site



On April 23-24, 1907, flames consumed the Indianapolis Frog and Switch factory in Springfield, which was owned by Charles Warren Fairbanks, vice president of the United States in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt (1905 -1909) .

The factory, which covered more than two acres, was one of the few structures to survive the East Street Shops conflagration - the worst fire in Springfield's history - a few years earlier. Fairbanks had made a fortune as a railroad attorney.

Fairbanks' factory manufactured railroad switching equiment. A frog is ``a device on intersecting railroad tracks that permits wheels to cross the junction,'' according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

The story on the fire appeared on the front page of The New York Times:

``SPRINGFIELD, Ohio, Wednesday, April 24. - The Indianapolis Frog and Switch Works, owned by Vice President Fairbanks, was destroyed by fire last night. The loss was $250,000. The Kelley Road Roller Company and piano plate works are threatened.''

One of the city's newspapers, the Springfield Gazette, said ``a motorman of a passing car'' reported the fire to the Central Engine House by telephone at 10:45 p.m. on Nov. 23. The night watchman, named Wellington, also sounded the alarm from Box 163.

Within 15 minutes ``the entire roof was ablaze and a few minutes after it fell with a mighty crash,'' the Gazette reported.

Realizing the building was lost, Springfield Fire Chief Samuel Hunter ordered firefighters to prevent the flames from spreading, the Gazette reported. Hunter also sounded a general alarm, calling all of the city's fire companies to the inferno.

``The fire made a huge red glow that could be seen from all parts of the city, and it looked as if the eastern part of the city was on fire,'' the Gazette reported.

Natural gas explosions may have caused the fires as residents near the Indianapolis Switch and Frog plant, which was built in the 1880s, ``heard three muffled reports shortly before they noticed the fire,'' the Gazette reported. Furnaces in the shops were fueled by natural gas.

Hunter, quoted by the Gazette, said: ``It is one of those kind of bad fires that is hard to solve. Of course there is no doubt but the flames were fed by gas all the time the department was fighting them. But when the company had turned off the pressure, the deed had been done and the plant was in ashes.''

The Gazette said: ''The most fortunate part of the whole affair (was) that no one was killed'' although ``Fireman Harry Huffman of Engine House No. 5 had several fingers cut while pushing a hose through a window.''

Additionally, Fairbanks ``was loud in his praise of the work of Chief Hunter and the fire department, and stated that they did all that a human person could do,'' according to the Gazette.


In 1840, Springfield suffered an economic disaster.

According to Beers' 1881 ``History of Clark County: ''

Hitherts the town had been fortunately preserved from fire. The loss of an occasional building of but little value was the most serious damage. But, on the evening of February 21, 1840, an extensive conflagration occurred, which at one time threatened to sweep the entire place. It consumed the entire business block from Maddox Fisher's block on Main street to the alley west of Limestone street, and also the building now known as the St. James Hotel. The buildings destroyed had been but recently erected, and were nearly all store-rooms. The enterprising proprietors were not prostrated by their sudden loss, but immediately began to replace the sites with durable structures of modern pattern, which were a credit to the town. Nearly all the printing materials of the Pioneer office were destroyed by this fire, which delayed the publication of the page four weeks.

Another account in the 1852 booklet ``Sketches of Springfield'' said:

Springfield was visited with a heavy conflagration, which destroyed two large brick buildings, then known as `Linn' and `Murray's' Rows. These buildings had been recently built, and were principally occupied as store rooms. These enterprising gentlemen, (Messrs. Linn and Murray) soon replaced these sites by fine Rows which now are an ornament to this city. This fire originated in a livery stable back of Linn's building.


According to the 1900 book ``Illustrated History of Dayton Fire Department,'' Dayton requested mutual aid from Springfield and other cities on Feb. 1, 1900 - a date ``memorable to Dayton firemen'' - when flames destroyed a large warehouse.

In the era before motorized vehicles and paved highways, fire equipment was often sent by ``special train'' on distant mutual aid runs.

The book reported:

It was a bitter cold morning with a high wind blowing, when they were called to J. P. Wolf & Sons tobacco warehouse, on the corner of First and Foundry Streets. The flames spread rapidly, and for a time it looked as if the department was unequal to the task of extinguishing them. Aid from Cincinnati, Columbus and Springfield was asked for ... The men fought the flames heroically for hours, always at a great disadvantage, due to inadequate water pressure, the intense cold and high wind. ... This was the largest fire Dayton has suffered since the Turner Opera House fire in 1869.

Between 1889 and 1904, the fire divison made at least 22 mutual aid runs to as far away as Columbus, Dayton and Washington Court House, according to Roberds' 1978 book. Engine 2 and Reel 1 made almost all of the out-of-town runs.

On April 26, 1903, Springfield sent reinforcements to Columbus for a general alarm fire that engulfed Union Clothing Co., Botts Bros., Kirbys and the Brunson Building. Sadly, veteran Columbus Fire Captain Dan Lewis, of Hook & Ladder 2, was buried under falling walls and died of his injuries, according to the Columbus Fire Division.

Springfield firefighters also responded to Columbus on Nov. 24, 1893 for a fire at the Henrietta Opera House.


``Signal 3!'' - Working fire! Throughout the 1970s - and in the years before that - the fire division made regular runs to the International Steel Wool plant.

The process of manufacturing steelwool was prone to fire, and the fire division's foam unit - Foam 11 - was placed in service for alarms at the steelwool plant, as well as other industrial sites. Foam 11 was converted from Engine 3's old 1947 American LaFrance pumper in 1976. (Foam 11 was parked at Station No. 1)

The plant was the site of general alarm fire on Sept. 18, 1948 at which ``Old Marie'' - a 1922 American LaFrance engine - saw action, according to Roberds' book. International Steel Wool left town in 2001.

Monday, May 23, 2005



Honor Roll - Springfield and Clark County, Ohio

John Dawson - Feb. 24, 1857

Volunteer Firefighter Dawson was crushed by a falling portico at a house fire on East High Street, according to the Diary of Joseph Osborne as well as Springfield Fire Capt. Cal Roberds' history book, "From Buckets to Diesels."

John Powell - June 25, 1873

Hoseman Powell of the Western Fire Company fell to his death while advancing a hose line to a fire in the belfry of the First Lutheran Church at Wittenberg Avenue and High Street.

Lightning had started the fire.

Powell was a veteran of the Civil War, having served in a local regiment, the 74th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, according to the 1881 book ``History of Clark County.'' The regiment participated in the battles of Hoover's Gap, Dug Gap, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, according to the book.

Oscar Keys - June 28, 1886

Captain Keys fell down an elevator shaft during a fire that destroyed the B&J Funk Wholesale Grocery Store and other buildings on the southside of Main Street just west of Fisher Street, according to Roberds.

Michael J. Haley - Aug. 25, 1897

An obituary in the Springfield Republic newspaper said Haley, a firefighter at the Lagonda station, suffered a ``sudden death'' but didn't provide details.

His funeral was held at St. Raphael's church and ``the firemen of the city, in honor of their late comrade, escorted the funeral cortage to the church,'' the Republic said. ``All of the machines of the city department, completely manned, met the funeral train at Main Street and Lagonda Avenue.''

Dennis Sheehan - Nov. 20, 1913

Firefighter Sheehan died after surgery at City Hospital from complications attributed to a fireground injury several weeks earlier, according to a newspaper account.

Lawrence Bosley - Sept. 23, 1915

Superintendent of Fire Alarm Bosley, 45, was seriously injured in fall from a telegraph pole and died at City Hospital. Bosley, who joined the fire service in the 1880s as a ``minute man,'' was appointed a regular fireman on Sept. 1, 1892. He also served as vice president of the National Association of Municipal Electricians.

According to the Springfield Daily News on the day of the accident:

``Bosley was working on a pole on Main Street, just west of Burnett Road, being near the cross bar, which was about ten feet from the top of a 50 foot pole. His assistant, George Bauer, was on another pole, three poles away ... They were stringing wires. Suddenly, Bosley fell.''

The following day's Daily News added:

"Bosley was still conscious upon his arrival at the hospital and recognzied his wife to whom he spoke three times with one word, `Darling.'''

In many cities, firefighters were responsible for maintenance of municipal fire alarm telegraph systems. A firefighter in Columbus died in a similar accident in 1911.

Walter Reinheimer - Jan. 3, 1920

Firefighter Reinheimer, 34, was recovering from injuries sustained at a fire at Kresge's five and ten cent store on East Main Street on Nov. 7 1919, when he suffered ``a stroke of apoplexy'' at his home, according to the Springfield Daily News.

Reinheimer, who had been a fireman at the Central Engine House for three years, ``was well liked by all who knew him,'' the newspaper said.

A resolution adopted by the captains of the city's nine engine houses said Reinheimer ``set an example of service and self-sacrifice, which is inspiring.''

Reinheimer had been overcome by smoke at the fire. ``He never fully recovered from his injuries, although it was throught he was improving,'' the newspaper said.

He was survived by his wife, Anna, and three children - Edwin, Charles and LaMar.

In its account of the fire, the Daily News reported in its Nov. 8 edition that firefighters ``were badly handicapped by the dense smoke'' and that ``it was impossible for the men to locate the seat of the fire because they could not get into the basement.''

What's more, ``gas masks which were purchased recently by the government were called into play but useless under the conditions,'' the Daily News said.

Several hours after the fire, Reinheimer was take to City Hospital. He ``was suffering from congestion of the lungs ... and could hardly breath,'' the newspaper said.

The rest of the firemen ``were in bad condition from the exposure and strain on their lungs and eyes,'' the Daily News said.

Charles Deam - Jan. 14, 1926

Firefighter Deam, 33, was fatally injured when a commercial truck collided with the pumper from the Central Fire Station at Main Street and Belmont Avenue, according to the Morning Sun. Deam suffered a fractured skull and other injuries. He died at City Hospital.

Another firefighter, John Miller, 34, was also hurt.

The pumper, driven by Captain Edward Garrity, was enroute to an alarm at 705 North Belmont Avenue. Garrity wasn't injured.

The pumper had stopped before entering the intersection ``in accordance with the arterial highway stop order,'' the Sun said. Deam ``was riding on the platform of the rear of the pumper'' and ``when the impact came, he was hurled from the platform,'' the newspaper said.

The pumper, itself, was thrown 25 feet into a utility pole. The driver of the commercial truck said he couldn't stop his vehicle because the streets were slippery after a snowfall. Witnesses said the commercial truck was traveling as fast as 30 mph.

Roy Kelly - March 27, 1932

Kelly, 43, the marshal and ranking officer at Station No. 8, died after taking ill with ``an attack of acute indigestion,'' according to a newspaper account.

He was appointed to the fire division in 1916, promoted to lieutenant in 1920 and marshal in 1928. Kelly ``was regarded by his commanding officers as an excellent leader of men,'' the newspaper said.

Augustus C. Brown - May 11, 1936

Firefighter Brown, a 31-year veteran assigned to Station No. 5, died after ``a week's illness,'' according to the Springfield Daily News. He was 63.

Hugh Garrity - Jan. 7, 1948

Captain Garrity, 69, was overcome by smoke at a house fire at 903 Mound Street, according to the Springfield Daily News.

Garrity, the first man into the fire, had been a member of the fire division for 44 years.

Garrity was in the attic battling the flames when the platoon chief, Luke Marmion, sent him outside for air. After a short break, Garrity went back inside and collapsed on the first floor.

``Chief Marmion immediately called the inhalator squad and an ambulance,'' the newspaper said. ``En route to the hospital, Lt. Joe Heizen tried to revived Capt. Garrity who was described at `partly conscious.'''

Garrity was the brother of the fire division's assistant chief, Edward Garrity. His son, Paul, was a member of the Piqua (Ohio) Fire Department.

Alfred Kime - May 22, 1949

Fire Chief Grover Frock placed the blame for Firefighter Kime's death on the citizens of Springfield. Kime, 33, died May 22, 1949 when a train collided with Truck 1 as it was answering an alarm from the old Central Engine House.

The fire station was located near the city's main railroad lines. A few years earlier voters had defeated a municipal bond issue to move the fire station to a safer location. What's more, the old firehouse - built in 1876 for horse-drawn wagons - was in disrepair.

Two firefighters were permanently disabled in a train collision at the same grade crossing in March 1903, and the Ohio State Fire Marshal, citing the proximity of the railroad tracks, recommended relocating the station in 1924.

For Chief Frock - who had lobbied for a new central station - the accident was the last straw, and he issued a ``denunciation that put part of the responsibility on the shoulders of Springfield citizens,'' according to The Springfield Daily News.

"Had the people of Springfield voted for the bond issue three years ago to move the firehouse from this dangerous location, this accident would not have happened," Frock said.

At about 8:45 p.m. on that Sunday night in 1949, the alarm sounded for a chimney fire at 133 West Main Street, the home of Patricia Kadel.

As the fire apparatus left the station and approached the crossing, the railroad guard, J.H. Duckworth, flagged through the chief's car, driven by Captain Willard Compton, according to the Daily News. (Compton was accompanied by a visiting fireman, Lieutenant Peter Leach of the Memphis, Tennessee, Fire Department.)

Truck 1 followed with a crew of four Springfield firefighters. Kime was the tillerman, steering the rear of the 85-foor aerial ladder truck. James Walker was driving, according to the newspaper. Robert Snider and Robert O'Neil made up the balance of the crew.

Duckworth, the crossing guard, attempted to flag down the New York Central's eastbound ``Mohawk'' streamliner as it approached the crossing at about 8 to 10 mph, according to the Daily News. The nine-car passenger train, bound for Cleveland from Cincinnati, was on time for its 8:50 p.m. stop at the Springfield station.

The newspaper said:

The big truck was struck a fraction of a second before it cleared the tracks, the train's engine crumbling a left rear wheel and part of the frame.

Mr. Kime was riding on the extreme rear of the vehicle, acting as rear steersman for the long truck. He was thrown to the street and landed about 20 feet from the crash site.

Mr. Snider was riding on the right side of the truck and was putting on his boots when the equipment was hit. He said he did not see the train coming and was dazed in the crash.

The other two firefighters escaped injury. Truck 1 stopped about 60 feet east of the crossing. It careened across Wasington street and struck an unoccupied City cab but remained on its wheels, the Daily News said.

A pedestrian, Ramona Costillo, was injured by debris.

Kime, stilling clinging to life, was taken to the City Hospital with a fractured skull. He died about to hours later. The doctors in Springfield had summoned a brain specialist from Dayton but Kime died before the specialist arrived, the newspaper said.

Snider was treated for injuries to his right shoulder and elbow and was release. Miss Costillo was also treated and released.

The train, meantime, continued on its way about 10 minutes after the accident. New York Central Railroad officials said the locomotive suffered ``little or no damage.''

Firefighter Walker, who was driving Truck 1, made the following statement to Fire Chief Grover Frock, according to the Daily News:

I answered the alarm. Went north on Fountain Avenue. No flagman in sight. Could not see train because of the Hotel Francis. Cross the tracks and was struck by the train engine. Shut off my motor and saw Fireman Kime was injured. Crawled through the train doors and returned to the engine house to summon aid.

The owner of the damaged taxicab, S.F. Bronstrup, said: "I was just coming out of the Arcade Hotel when I heard the crash. I saw a man lying in the street and called an ambulannce immediately."

Kime's death set the wheels in motion for the new Central Engine House that opened in September 1953 at 350 North Fountain Avenue - roughly a half mile north of the old firehouse and a safe distance from the railroad tracks.

According to the Daily News:

Joe Sterling, city commission president, said shortly after the accident Sunday night that a relocation program is included as one of the second year projects he engineered throug the city income tax.

At almost the same time, Carl Berg, executive secretary of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, called the mishap timely ammunition for talks with high rail officials in an effort to iron out the city's traffic problems.

The talks with the top men of the major rail lines serving Springfield are schedules to begin Tuesday in Hotrel Shawnee, Mr. Berg asserted.

Funds for the new station ``had, in the main, been made possible by the 1 percent income tax that the citizens were paying to the city,'' Springfield Fire Captain Calvin Roberds wrote in his 1978 book ``From Buckets to Diesels.

Willard Dale Ritenour, Tremont City - Nov. 4, 1963

Ritenour, a member of the old Tremont City Fire Department, was apparently electrocuted while fighting a grass fire in Clark County.

Brian Fleming - July 17, 2005

"Fleming spent nine years as an active-duty firefighter with the Springfield Fire and Rescue Division and died of congestive heart failure at his home less than 24 hours after his shift ended.
With no known medical conditions, the stresses of Fleming's job were thought to have contributed to his unforeseen death, said Pat Casey, president of the Springfield IAFF Local 333."

- Springfield News-Sun

In September 2006, Fleming was honored with 241 others at the 20th International Association of Fire Fighters Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Observance in Colorado Springs.



It all started with a ``bucket brigade.''

An 1881 book entitled the ``The History of Clark County, Ohio'' - published by W.H. Beers & Co. of Chicago - discussed the development of the fire service in Springfield as well as other apsects of life in the community in the 19th century.

In the introduction to the book, the author - who signed the initials A.P.S. - waxed philosophical when he wrote:

Some one has said truly that " no history is complete until its successor has been written." This, then, may serve as a " datum-plane" from which to reach by comparison a more extended or more complete work in the future. That the great bulk of facts connected with the history of the county is here congregated for the first time, there can be no doubt; it must also be true that many important details are not here recorded, the reasons for their absence being obvious.

The actors in those early scenes have nearly all made their final exit, while of the few surviving, many are "sore with the infirmities of age" and the deeds of their youth are forgotten, or but dimly remembered; many of the private papers and family records have been either destroyed, lost, or are in the possession of descendants whose present whereabouts are not known.

Following are excerpts from that 1881 history:


Prior to 1834 or thereabouts, fires were fought and extinguished by just such means as the inhabitants of Springfield had at hand when required. About the time of the village incorporation, each citizen was required to get one, two or three leather buckets according to the amount of his property. Armed with these buckets the villagers would sally forth, when the church bell sounded the alarm, and, forming a line from the building to the nearest water, would pass full buckets to the fire and empty ones back until the building burned down or the fire was conquered. These buckets continue in use until 1840, after engines had been provided. About this time hand engine companies began to be formed. The members were exempted from certain duties by the law of the State, and were relieved from working the roads, so that no difficulty was found in filling each company's list. The first engine which made its appearance was one that had a big box or hopper attached into which the water was poured by the bucketful. A crank was then lustily turned by two men and the water was thrown out in a stream.

Utility Fire Company

The first fire company on record was the "Utility," organized in 1837. But few of the members of this company are now alive to give an account of its workings. It was the rival of the "Independent" company, and warmly engaged in the strifes that occurred between rival companies in those early days. It disbanded in 1853, having done good service in its time. The major part of its members joined the " Neptune" Company, which was shortly afterward organized. The engine was sold for old iron.

Independent Fire Company

The "Independent" Fire Company met for organization April 7, 1838, Charles Cavileer acting as Secretary pro tem. A constitution and by-laws were drafted and adopted and the company went at once into active operation. The old "Utility" Company was its rival. R. S. McKee was the first engineer Reuben Miller was the first Secretary. The company disbanded in 1853, most of the members going to the "Rover" Company, organized the year following. The company was composed of the best men in the town-men hardened to the work by daily labor.

Their apparatus went to the "Rover" Company with the exception of the engine, which was sent to Lagonda and a new one purchased for the Rovers.

Rover Fire Company

The Rover Company was organized early in 1854. It succeeded to all the fire apparatus of the Independent except the old engine, and a new one purchased for the Rovers. They occupied the building on West Main street known as "The Silver-Grey Engine House," later as the Western Engine House.

They were the rivals of the Neptunes, a company organized shortly after them, and their rivalry reached such a pitch that, on May 9, 1857, they refused to attend two fires because a Neptune man had been appointed their Captain by the City Council. They however attended one fire when the house of one of their members was endangered and succeeded in quelling the flames with a line of buckets and on this account were for a time called the Bucket Company.

At this time, 1857, they organized an independent company, purchased their own engine and other apparatus, built their own engine house on Center street, near Main, and flourished in spite of the opposition and persecutions of the Neptunes. They were befriended by some of the best men in the city and county, and made their influence felt in politics. They attended their last fire in 1873--Ferrell, Ludlow & Rodgers' manufactory. They still own their engine and apparatus, have a fund in bank and a membership of about sixty. The first officers were: President, A. R. Ludlow; Vice President, R. Coverdale; Treasurer, 7. L. Pettigrew: Secretary. E. P'. Stephenson; Assistant Secretary, W. R. Moore; Trustees, David Sparks, J. W. Deardorff, Joseph T. Anderson, Hezekiah Kershner and Thomas Kizer.

Neptune Fire Company

The Neptune Company was formed May 3, 1856.

Jerry Keinfelter was President, Daniel W. Wilson, foreman of the engine company, H. G. Snyder, foreman of the hose company, and Thomas P. Clarke, Secretary., From its inception, this company was the pet of the City Council. It comprised the finest young men of the city, principally clerks, etc. They had many bitter quarrels and fights with the Rover men, and finally carried their differences into politics, almost entirely controlling the muncipal elections for a number of years. They disbanded in 1860.

The quarrels between the Neptune and Rover Companies led to the organization of the Union. The Neptunes were the supposed protectors of property in the central part of the city, and, to avoid fights with the Rovers, would not likely go out of their bound-the Rovers were the supposed protectors of the property in the west end, and would not likely go out of their bound, thus leaving the east end uncared for. The Union Company was organized in 1856. in the room over No. 6-1 East Main street, for the protection of the east end. Daniel Huben, George Seibert, deceased. and W. H. Berger, deceased, were the prime movers. They entered their engine house on Spring street-now the station house in 1857, the year the Rover Company became independent. They first used the apparatus left by the Rovers, then, with the aid of the city in 1858, they purchased new apparatus, the old going to Lagonda. At one time the company contained 320 members. It was really two separate organizations-the engine company and the hose company.

The list of the first officers is as follows:

President, R. D. Harrison: Treasurer, D. V. Huben; Secretary, William Wilson. The company was largely composed of Irishmen and Germans. but contained some of the best men of the town, among them Judges Goode. White and Hunt, William and John Foos, John Baldwin, Saul Henkle and others. They attended all fires and are said to have been a most excellent company. Thev disbanded in 1867.

Silver Greys

When the Rovers became independent, their place was filled by forming a company composed mostly of elderly men, bearing the name Silver Greys. This company did not prove much of a success. No accurate information can be obtained concerning them. They were organized in 1857 or 1858, Dr. H. H. Seys being President and Captain. Owing to the number of old men in the company, it seemed to drag along without ever increasing much, either in members or interest. At one time when an alarm was given the men plodded to the scene of action and were kept working all night. Toward morning two men were detailed to keep up fires so the valves would not freeze. Just after daylight another alarm was sounded, and when the Captain got to the engine he found the fires out. valves frozen and men off tired or asleep. After that he resigned his office. The company disbanded in 1865 or 1866. The Sons of Malta took their fund of 8300 for distribution among the poor.

Early fire apparatus

These companies all used the old lever hand engines with long lines of rope. by which they were drawn. They were succeeded by the city's paid lire department, which was organized in 1866. A. R. Ludlow, the Chairman of the Council's Standing Committee on the Fire Department, was also the first chief engineer, and served a number of years in that capacity. In 1864, August 31. an ordinance was passed authorizing bonds to the amount of 812.000 to be issued to pay for steam fire engine, and for other purposes connected with the fire department. Chief Ludlow was succeeded by R. Q. Sing, and he by Chief J. C. Holloway, the present incumbent of the office.

They have all the modern appliances, including Gamewell's system of fire alarm telegraph, twenty-eight boxes througnout the city, two chemical engines, two steam heaters. by which the water in the boilers is kept continually hot. Three steam engines, Silsby's make, two Silsby's reels, 4,000 feet of hose, half leather and half rubber, ten trained horses and two hook and ladder traps. The engines are marvels of beauty, being entirely nickel plated, and kept continually bright and spotless. The harness hangs up over the positions of the horses, when at the engine an can be lowered to the horses backs, and by snapping two or three spring hooks fasten the engine to them in less time than it takes to tell it.

There are two large brick engine houses forty-one feet wide, by ninety feet long. The lower part serves as an engine house and stable, the upper part contains the sleeping appartments of the men, reading room, etc. One of them. the central, is on South Market street. It was built in 1876 at a cost of $18,000. The other. the western, is on Factory street, near the corner of Columbia; it was purchased by the city at a sacrifice, $8,000, and converted into an engine house.

There are twenty-three men employed in the department-three engineers at $70 per month, four double team drivers at $50, two single team drivers at $40, one tillerman for' hook and ladder truck at $40, and thirteen minute men at $100 per year.

(In his 1978 book ``From Buckets to Diesels,'' Fire Captain Calvin Roberds suggested some of the descriptions of the apparatus and equipment from the 1881 Beers history may have been exaggerated, based on his research of the early fire service.)

Box alarms

The following is a list of the signals used in the Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph System:

5 Warder street, at Buckeye shops.
6 The Western engine house.
7 Corner of High and Spring streets.
8 Central engine house.
9 Corner Lagonda avenue and Nelson street.
12 Corner Monroe and Spring streets.
13 Corner North and Limestone streets.
14 Corner Chestnut avenue and Limestone street.
15 Corner Main and Limestone streets.
16 Corner Ferncliff avenue and Market street.
17 Corner Main and Center streets.
18 Corner Center street and Obenchain alley.
21 At Spangenberger House. East Main street.
23 Corner Lagonda avenue and Main street
24 Corner York and High streets.
25 Corner Tavlor and Pleasant streets.
26 Corner Linden avenue and Clifton street.
27 Corner Pleasant and East streets.
28 Corner High street and East streets.
29 Corner High and Forrest avenue.
31 Corner Hizer and Limestone streets.
32 Corner Center and Pleasant streets.
34 Corner Factory and Washington streets.
35 Corner Mechanic and Pleasant streets.
41 Corner Yellow Springs and Pleasant streets.
42 Corner Yellow Springs and Main streets.
43 Corner Clifton avenue and Liberty street.
51 Corner North and Plum streets.
52 Carner Main and Light streets.
53 Corner Main and Isabella streets.
61 Champion Machine Company's shops, Monroe street..

Steam whistles will give for a fire signal, nine short and one long whistle.

Relief Association

The Firemen's Relief Association was formed on the 4th of January, 1875, for the benefit of sick and disabled firemen. Though weak in point of numbers, it is extremely strong financially. There were in the beginning seventeen men, they have been in existence as a society but five years, during which time they have paid out in benefits $250, and now numbering but sixteen men, they have a fund of $800. The following is a list of the first officers: W. H. Watters, President; T. B. Condron, Vice President; E. T. Ridenour, Secretary; R. Q. King, Treasurer. The present board of officers are: E. W. Simpson, President; T. J. Monahon, Vice President; W. H. Watters, Secretary; and R. Q. King, Treasurer. Their meetings are held in the office of the City Clerk.

Fire horses

In the beginning, firemen pulled their pumps, hose carts and ladders to a fire, hence the phrase ``Going on a run.''

Horses joined the ranks of the Springfield Fire Division in the mid-1800s and served until the early 20th century, when the fleet was fully motorized. Horses typically received better treatment than the men, and according to one estimate a well-trained fire horse cost more than the salaries of 10 firemen in most U.S. cities.

According to the Toledo Fire Museum:

With the introduction of heavier and more efficient steam pumpers and ladder trucks in the 1850's, horses became an integral part of urban fire departments. Then as now, speed was essential in fire fighting. Intricate systems were developed to hasten the harnessing of the fire horse teams. When an alarm sounded, stall doors were automatically opened and the horses were moved below their suspended harness. The harness, complete with hinged collars, was then dropped onto their backs and quickly secured by the driver. With a good crew, the entire operation could be completed in around two or three minutes. Fire horses were most always draft crosses selected for speed and strength.

In the book ``From Buckets to Diesels,'' Fire Captain Calvin Roberds wrote that most of the fire division's 27 horses were sold at auction in the autumn of 1916 with many of the younger and stronger animals purchased by city's that were still operating horse-drawn fire apparatus. Farmers purchased the others.

Two horses were kept on the roster, though, for Springfield's aerial ladder. They were sold in 1917.

Roberds wrote of the retired animals:

No one who owned a former fire horse would drive him into town where he would be close enough to an engine house to hear the sound of the alarm bell. The horses had been taken out for exercise twice daily while in the fire service and they pretty much knew the way to the engine house. Under those conditions someone was going to be taken for a ride.

Fire horses had their own prayer, according to the Toldeo Fire Museum.

Following is an excerpt:

I will pull the steamer or hose wagon without a murmur, and wait patiently for you long hours of the day or night as you save lives. Without the power to choose my shoes or path, I sometimes fall on hard pavement which I have often prayed might not be of wood or brick, but of such a nature as to give me safe and sure footing. Remember that I am ready at any moment to lose my life in your service, for I now am also firefighter.

Springfield, Ohio
Saturday, May 2, 1868

The Springfield Fire Department:

The fire department of this city comprises at present the following officers and members:

REA, Wm, engineer
WON, Cornelius, engine driver
THOMAS, Rob't, hose reel driver
Hosemen: SEIBERT, Wm.; RHODERICK, F.; WINEGARD, Captain; DALIE, James. Hook and Ladder driver: WATERS, Wm.
BUNDY, John, engineer
WALKER, Wm., engine driver
HAYES, Emory, hose reed driver
Hosemen: ARNETT, John; BOYD, J. Edwin; BETZOLD, Jacob; MYERS, Wm.
WATERS, Mr., [Wm] (as above), who assists the old company as the driver
KING, R.Q., foreman



Engine 8 at Central Engine House
PHOTO: Springfield Fire Rescue Division`
`The Springfield Fire Rescue Division exists to protect lives and property while providing caring services. Care. Serve. Survive.'' - Mission statement

The story of the Springfield Fire Rescue Division is one of dedicated service and innovation against a backdrop of difficult municipal finances and chronic personnel shortages.

In the fire division's 1994 annual report, then-Fire Chief Donald Lee reflected on the dilemma of two-man engine companies and the like when he wrote: ``Many of our first alarm fires which could have extended to extra alarm fires were controlled by the aggressive interior fire attack by our firefighters.'' (National standards recommend staffing levels of four or more firefighters per engine company.)

In addition to aggressive tactics, the fire division has over the decades emphasized fire prevention and training to compensate for its low staffing levels.

In recent years, the fire division has developed the concept of ``combination companies'' to bolster its staffing and meet increased demand for emergency medical services, which account for more than three-quarters of all runs.

The number of employees increased to 141 in 2003 - 139 uniformed and two civilian - from 132 in 2002, according to municipal budget statistics. Following a national trend, the fire division started billing for ambulance services in 2002, raising funds for the additional staff. Annual revenue has topped $1 million, according to the budget statistics.

Springfield's hiring of additional firefighters is a major achievement considering other Ohio cities - Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Middletown - have slashed budgets. Cleveland, an extreme case, dismissed firefighters in 2004, according to USA Today.

The fire division also organized a hazardous incident response team - Rescue 1.

Springfield was one of the first U.S. cities to fully motorize its fleet and retire its fire horses.

According to the city's web site:

``In 1909, Springfield received its first motorized fire engine. The Webb engine was the second of its type to be used in the United States. It replaced a steam fire engine, a hose wagon, and five horses.''
Full motorization was completed in 1916.

The fire division has also innovated in the name of firefighter safety.

In 1926, for example, it replaced the steel disk wheels on Engine 2 - a 1916 Ahearns-Fox pumper, model M-K-2 - with Firestone Cord gum-dipped pneumautic tires, according to an Ahearns-Fox fire apparatus web site. ``The men on this engine say that riding on pneumatics is as different as stepping from a jolt wagon to a Pullman car,'' heralded a Firestone tire advertisement, featuring the engine, its crew and Fire Chief Samuel Hunter.


During the 1970s, the City of Springfield had a population of about 80,000 and covered about 20 square miles. There was a vibrant downtown with a department store, two movie theaters and other businesses. The city's economy was primarily manufacturing-based, with truck and bus-maker International Harvester, pump-maker Robbins & Myers, International Steel Wool and others.

The Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad - successor to a number of pioneering roads such as the Springfield, Jackson & Pomeroy Railroad and the Springfield Southern Railroad - served the city in the 1970s. (The DT&I was acquired in 1980 by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad and the line was sold to the Indiana & Ohio Railroad in the 1990s.)

The city was also home to Wittenberg University and Clark State College as well as two hospitals, state retirement homes, the Credit Life Insurance Co. and an Ohio Edison generating plant in the 1970s.

Still, the city never quite recovered from the closing of the giant Crowell-Collier Co. printing plant in 1956 and the resulting loss of jobs. (The plant produced Colliers Magazine and Woman's Home Companion.)

Moreover, in recent years International Harvester closed its century-old Lagonda Avenue complex within the Springfield city limits. (Harvester, now called Navistar International Corp., still maintains a plant in a neighboring township in Clark County.)

Springfield Metallic Casket Co., International Steel Wool and others have pulled up the stakes too, part of a larger national trend in manufacturing. (The steel wool company, which left town in 2001, moved to Mexico where labor costs are lower, according to the Dayton Business Journal. It had employed 100 people.)

Industrial redevelopment

At the start of the 21st Century, the city is redeveloping the old industrial sites. ``Springfield city government is proving that it is possible to provide basic services and to be creative at the same time,'' Mayor Warren Copeland wrote on the city's web site.

According to the Jan. 28, 2005, edition of the Dayton Business Journal, the City of Springfield is attracting new employers:

Companies such as Dole Fresh Vegetables, M&M Restaurant Supply, Gordon Food Service Marketplace and mustard and horseradish maker Woeber Mustard Manufacturing Co., have blossomed in recent years ... "The food industry is one of those that does not run in the same cycle as automotive; it's a little more steady and doesn't have the upswings and the downswings," said Tom Franzen, Springfield's economic development administrator.

The Center City Association, a non-profit corporation, is working to redevelop the Center City, bounded on the north by Buck Creek, on the south by Pleasant Avenue, on the west by South Yellow Springs Street, and on the east by Spring and Water streets, according to the association's web site. The organization employs a full-time staff.

Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, located about five miles south of the city, is home to the Airpark Ohio industrial park project. The airport, home to the 178th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard, has its own fire station.

Boom Town

Springfield - incorporated as a town in 1801 - was so named because of ``the abundance of spring-water found within and around the place,'' according to an 1852 booklet entitled ``Sketches of Springfield'' by Robert Woodward. (Clark County Public Library)

According to the city government's web site:

Springfield was incorporated as a city March 21, 1850. J. M. Hunt was the first mayor of Springfield. He presided at the first meeting of the city council held May 18, 1850. Mr. Hunt served as mayor through 1853.
An 1852 city directory said the settlers that arrived in the late 1700s found ``trees, hazel and plum thickets, and small undergrowth'' and ``not a house nor a sign of a dwelling was any where visible ... Bears, deer, turkeys and other wild game were found in abundance.'' (There's still plenty of wildlife, it seems. News reports in March 2005 told of coyotes trying to attack a dog in Springfield's Kingsgate Commons.)

The city experienced rapid growth in the 1800s. ``The Old National Road was completed through Springfield in 1839, and the railroads of the 1840's provided profitable business to the area,'' according to the Springfield-Clark County Chamber of Commerce. ``At the turn of the century, 54 passenger trains arrived daily in Springfield. Agriculture, then industry, flourished. By the beginning of the Civil War, the two had joined forces to help Springfield become one of the world's leading manufacturers of agricultural equipment.

According to the Chamber of Commerce:

International Harvester Company (now International Truck & Engine Corp.) is noteworthy in this regard. The manufacturer of farm machinery became the leading local industry after a native William Whitely, invented the combined self-raking reaper and mower in 1856. This machine was an improvement over any known farm machinery and was in great demand after the Civil War.

Another native, James Leffel, invented the first practical water turbine in 1862 and began manufacturing it in his Springfield foundry. In the 1880's, P.P. Mast began publishing "Farm and Fireside." Although used initially to advertise his farm machinery, it soon became a leading periodical and was the basis for the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company.
In the 1880's, schoolteacher and superintendent A.B.Grahm, began supervising agricultural extension clubs for boys and girls. In 1902, he organized the clubs on a national basis and that was the beginning of the 4-H Club movement.

In 1845, Wittenberg University was established by the English Lutheran Synod of Ohio and has grown to be a leading educational, cultural, and intellectual force in the mid-west.
According to the Ohio Historical Society's web site, Springfield was designated the terminus of one of the state's earliest railroads:

The Little Miami Railroad was only the second railroad to be built in Ohio. The state legislature granted the Little Miami Railroad Company a charter in March 1836. The purpose was to connect the city of Cincinnati to Springfield. The line was completed between 1837 and 1848.

The Springfield city manager's annual report for 1928 said ``Springfield ranked first among cities of the world in ten manufactured items,'' according to the Ohio State University extension service. ``Two of those were incubators and brooders and commercial thermometers. Buckeye Incubator and Ohio Thermometer were huge - thermometers were used in the chicken equipment - incubators and brooders.''

The city has had several nicknames, including ``The Champion City'' for the Champion reaper, which was made in Springfield in the 1800s, and ``The City of Roses'' for the 33 greenhouses that by 1919 produced the most roses in the world, according to the city's web site.

1975 reorganization

By the 1970s the city's heyday had passed, and the Springfield Fire Division adapted.

The municipal firefighting force was ``reorganized'' to compensate for the chronic manpower shortages. At the same time, the ambulance service - ``the emergency squad'' - was upgraded to provide advanced life support, a wise investment that would pay dividends for the community and the fire division in the years ahead.

On Jan. 1, 1975, Fire Station No. 9 closed and the station's personnel and apparatus were reassigned to other firehouses. Municipal finances suffered as the city's industrial base shrank - a common malady in the 1970s "Rust Belt" - and the fire division operated with sparse resources.

And yet, in January 1976, the fire division started providing paramedic service, thanks to a community fund-raising campaign, sponsored by "Smilin' Bob" Yontz, a local radio personality at WBLY. The ``Smilin' Bob Heart Attack Fund'' started in 1974 and raised thousands of dollars for paramedic training. (``Smilin' Bob" and WBLY have both since signed off.)

In his 1978 book ``From Buckets to Diesels,'' Springfield Fire Captain Calvin Roberds wrote that ``the reorganization of the Fire Division in 1975 was carried out with much necessary preparation during the year 1974. A complete change in the response code was necessary as well as a number of equipment relocations.''

Stations and companies - 1975 & 1976

Station No. 1 - Fire Headquarters
350 North Fountain Avenue (Downtown)
Engine 1 ("Attack Pumper")
Medic/Squad 1
Chief 3 (Platoon commander)
Squad 12 (Reserve ambulance cross-staffed by Engine 1)
Foam 11 (Foam unit cross-staffed by Engine 1)
Truck 2 (Reserve)

Station No. 2
104 N. Wittenberg Street (Closed 1932 - Great Depression)
Station No. 3
1401 Selma Road
Engine 3
Engine 10 (Reserve)

Station No. 4
1565 Lagonda Ave.
Engine 4
Station No. 5
1125 West Main Street
(Relocated to Commerce Road in 1981)
Engine 5
Station No. 6
422 Ludlow Avenue
Engine 6
Truck 6
Engine 12 (Reserve)

Station No. 7
437 East Home Road
Engine 7
Truck 7
Engine 9 (Reserve)
Truck 1 (Reserve)

Station No. 8
735 West Pleasant Street
Engine 8
Truck 8
Medic/Squad 8
(Station 8 was relocated to 735 West Pleasant Street in 1974, and the city originally intended to house both Engine 5 and Engine 8 at that the station and open a new Station 2. That plan was abandoned and Engine 5 remained a separate company to provide coverage to the west side of the city. "5's" moved to new quarters in 1981. Its old house was built in the 1800s.)

Station No. 9
17 West State Street

(Closed 1975 - Fire Division reorganization)

Box 27 Associates - Volunteers
Canteen/Communications Van - Unit 227
Light and Air Truck - Unit 327
(This equipment was stationed in a city firehouse alongside the paid fire department's apparatus.)

Starting in 1977 or 1978, the fire division switched to lime from traditional red for some of its apparatus, starting with Engine 1, which was scorched in a fire. This was part of a national trend to improve safety. Truck 8 was also painted lime during refurbishment as were the first box-type medic units. Today, traditional red is back in vogue.

Engine and truck staffing in the 1970s

Firefighter staffing has always been a problem in Springfield.

With the 1975 closing of Station No. 9 and the reassignment of personnel, Engine 1 at fire headquarters in downtown Springfield, was designated the "Attack Pumper" to respond citywide on all ``"Signal 3" - confirmed - fires. (In fire service parlance, ``working fires.'')

A minimum of four firefighters were assigned to Engine 1, bringing to fruition a plan first hatched in 1922 by then-Fire Chief Samuel Hunter for a "flying manpower squad." Hunter, a veteran of the Columbus Fire Division, was hired by Springfield for a previous reorganization after a disasterous series of fires in the early 20th century. (He was one of two outsiders brought in as fire chief, the other being Florida firefighter Frank Montes De Oca in 1997.)

Also as a part of the 1975 reorganization, Engine 1 - a 1959 Mack, 1,250 gallon per minute pumper - was equipped with 500-feet of five-inch hose line to ensure maximum water from the city hydrants to its pump with minimal manpower.

The reorganized fire department fielded seven engine companies, three truck (aerial ladder) companies and two medic units/emergency squads. (The Feb. 1, 1977 fire at Tower Hall illustrated the importance of the aerial ladders.)

Ideally, with the reorganization, three firefighters would be assigned to the city's engine and truck companies, with the exception of the four-man or five-man attack pumper.

In reality, most of the engine companies - other than the attack pumper - operated with just two firefighters more than half the time, even as the number of both fire alarms and medical calls increased steadily from 7,590 total runs in 1975 to 8,584 in 1977 - an increase of 13 percent, according to fire division statistics.

In his 1974 report to the city manager, Fire Chief Frank Trempe wrote:

We have need for eighteen additional men to be able to keep a three man minimum on each piece of apparatus. As I have said before, there is little two men can do when they are first in on a serious fire. It is interesting to note that we have less men per apparatus today than we had during the early part of the century and our area of responsibility today has increased many times over. In addition, the hazards we face today were inconceivable only twenty years ago.

Three years earlier - the 1971 annual report - Trempe cautioned:

Every year, in the annual report, the shortage of manpower is stressed but as yet has not been improved. Now the Fire Division desperately needs 15 additional men to operate efficiently under the increasing demands of fire prevention and fire suppression.

The economy moves in cycles - boom and bust - so there had been hard times before.

In 1914, the city dismissed several firefighters for a ``lack of funds,'' according to Roberds' 1978 book.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the city closed Fire Station No. 2 and Fire Station No. 8, though ``8's'' was reopened shortly thereafter. Springfield's firefighters also took a pay reduction in the 1930s to avert dismissals.

``The Great Depression of the 1930s began a chain of events that brought the city’s population growth to a standstill, industries were no longer booming and jobs were being lost,'' according to the web site of the Building Industry Association of Clark County. ``More and more companies sold out or closed their doors for ever, banks went under and thousands of homes were foreclosed.''

The economy of the 1970s was stangled by the Arab oil embargo and runaway inflation. During these hardships, at least, a progressive training program helped maintain an effective fire supression force, and Trempe noted this in his 1972 annual report.

The chief wrote:

Our training programs is constantly improving and, in most areas, we are ahead of other departments in the state. This can be substantiated by comparing per capita loss of $8.86 and an average building loss of $1,231 to the national average of $13.20 and $2,770.
Out on the street, lieutenants were assigned as engine company officers and captains served as truck company officers, with the captains assuming command of an incident until the arrival of a chief officer. On the fire ground, firefighters wore yellow fire helmets, line officers wore red helmets and chief officers wore white helmets. Medics were issued red construction-type helmets in addition to their standard fire helmets.

Firefighters worked 24 hour shifts and were divided into three platoons - A Unit, B Unit and C Unit, with one platoon on duty at all times. In other words, ``24 on, 48 off.'' The platoon that worked the previous day was subject to the first recall in the event of a greater alarm fire.

The three-platoon system evolved over time. The first paid firefighters in the 1800s and early 1900s, were on continuous duty with time off for meals. A two-platoon system was adopted in the 1920s (or thereabouts.) Instead of hiring another full platoon, personnel were divided into the new shifts ("24 on, 24 off") reducing the number of firefighters on duty.

No doubt money was an issue. It most certainly would have been expensive to double the size of the fire division, even in the early 20th century. It can be argued this ``false economy'' contributed to the chronic staffing problems.

Manpower shortages persisted into the 1980s and 1990s, and at one point only the duty chief operated from Fire Headquarters.

On Jan. 1, 1995 - the 20th anniversary of the 1975 reorganization - Company 1 was temporarily disbanded and the firefighters were assigned to other stations. Double companies - engine and truck - were also combined into single units with the purchase of a pair of ``Quints'' - a fire truck that performs the work of both a pumper and an aerial ladder.

The situation has since improved with the establishment of Rescue 1 at fire headquarters, the hiring of additional personnel and other innovations.
But in the division's 1994 annual report, the problem of staffing was evident. ``I am requesting the hiring of 18 new firefighters as quickly as possible,'' Chief Lee wrote. ``This addition of personnel will return the Division to our 1980 manning level.''

In the next year's annual report, Lee said the latest reorganization recognized that with 127 firefighters on the roster ``our past traditional manning had to be changed.'' The chief also noted the Springfield firefighters union expressed ``safety concerns about staffing levels'' in their 1995 contract negotiations with the city.

The city's firefighters are represented in their contract negotiations with the city by the Springfield Professional Firefighters Association, Local 333 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The local became an affiliate of the IAFF in August 1936.

According to Local 333's constitution and bylaws:

The objectives of this Local shall be for fostering and encouragement of a higher degree of skill and efficiency; the cultivation of friendship and fellowship amongst its members; and the elevation and improvement of the morale, intellectual, social and economic conditions of its members and fellow workers.

The first medic units

The Springfield Fire Division started providing regular ``emergency squad'' service in 1949 - and by 1951, the number of emergency medical runs topped the number of fire alarms, 1,742 to 1,050.

The fire division got into the medical business in 1916 with the acquisition of a ``Pulmotor" pressure-driven resuscitation device, also known as a "Lungmotor" or "Lung-o-motor." The number of emergency runs slowly increased from one in 1916 to 128 in 1948, when the firefighters' union donated a ``Resuscitator'' to the city, according to Roberds' book.

With the introduction of advanced life support service in 1976, medic units debuted at Fire Stations No. 1 and No. 8. Lieutenant James Oldham served as the fire division's medical officer and supervised the paramedics. His office was at Station No. 1.

The new service often provided remarkable results, as documented by the Dayton Daily News in 1979 or 1980:

SPRINGFIELD - A baby girl was born by Caesarean section after her lifeless mother was rushed to Community Hospital here early today.

Springfield paramedics rushed the woman to the hospital, according to Fire Chief Frank Trempe. He said it is believed the woman choked to her death in her sleep.

The baby is in guarded condition in Community's intensive care unit and a spokesman said the infant would be moved to a pediatrics hospital when her condition stabilizes.

The fire division's efforts to resuscitate the mother no doubt kept the baby alive long enough in the womb for the doctors at Community Hospital to make the emergency delivery.

It was a remarkable feat.

Special standards were established for the medic units.

Minimum staffing for the new medic units was two paramedics, and in the event minimum staffing wasn't available, a medic unit would be reduced to "basic life support" or emergency squad status.

A reserve emergency squad was also on the roster in the event Medic 1 and Medic 8 were on calls. The reserve unit - Squad 12 - was cross-staffed by members of Engine 1.

In the event of a cardiac arrest or other life-threatening medical emergency, the nearest engine company or truck company would also be dispatched.

Patients were transported to Mercy Medical Center or Community Hospital.

A major breakthrough in emergency medical care came in 1965 when CPR - cardio pulmonary resuscitation - became widely used in hospitals and on ambulance across the U.S., according to the Public Service Training Center at Monroe Community College in Rochester New York.

Impressed, the medical community lobbied for non-physicians to administer more advanced care - drugs, IVs, defibrillation, intubation - in the field, and the first fire department paramedics went to work in Los Angeles County, California. (The 1970s TV show ``Emergency!" popularized the concept.)

California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the state's Wedworth Townsend Paramedic Act in July 1970. Reagan's motivation was personal. His father died of a heart attack because an ambulance refused to cross jurisdictional lines, Reagan was quoted as saying. Other states followed California and enacted similar legislation.

Advances in technology also helped pave the way for paramedics.

In 1968, Motorola Corp. introduced APCOR, a radio that allowed a continuous EKG to be transmitted from the field, according to the research from Monroe Community College.

The portable defibrillator also debuted.

According to Medtronic Inc., manufacturer of the device, battery-powered defibrillators and heart monitors ``changed the face of emergency medical care in the late 1960s ... The device revolutionized emergency response.'' In 1972, the manufacturer introduced the LIFEPAK® 2 defibrillator/monitor - ``the first portable defibrillator to allow transmission of the patient's ECG signal from an emergency vehicle to physicians waiting at the hospital.''

Some of the first portable defibrillators weighed 40 or more pounds, heavier than today's compact models - but still lighter than the first of the hospital-based defibrillators

Fire alarm and dispatch

``Communications is the heart of the Division,'' Chief Trempe wrote in the 1974 annual report, and in the 1970s, the City of Springfield was served by both a modern 911 telephone system as well as antiquated street corner fire alarm boxes - the Gamewell Fire Alarm telegraph system.

911 calls rang into the Police Division at the old City Building and were transferred to the fire alarm officer housed in cramped quarters in the basement of fire headquarters. The Gamewell system rang into the fire alarm office as well as the city's seven fire stations. (At one time, the city room at the Springfield News & Sun was wired into the system to monitor the bells. The newspapers used to publish a daily list of all fire and squad runs.)

According to a ``virtual museum'' of electronics called ``Reverse Time Page" (

Fire alarm telegraph systems came into use in the mid 19th century, and were a primary method of reporting fire alarms throughout the 20th century. ... The fire alarm telegraph system relied on the familiar red fire alarm boxes located throughout a city or town. These were the transmitters ... Each alarm box contained a code wheel which was unique to the particular box in which it was installed. When the alarm was activated, the code wheel turned and operated a switch. This transmitted the coded pattern over the telegraph system to the receiver (register) in the fire house which punched holes in a moving strip of paper. The pattern of holes served to identify which alarm box had sent the signal and, thus, the location. This register was generally used with a bell to alert the fire fighters on duty.

Trempe lamented the condition of the once state-of-art Gamewell system, writing in the 1974 annual report:

The Gamewell alarm system is in poor condition and we are already removing street boxes in residential areas. This has become necessary because of false alarm incidents and the condition of cable, both underground and overhead. The Signal Bureau is to be congratulated for their attempts to keep this antiquated system in operation.

For Springfield, the typical response to a structure fire, depending on the type of building, was either two engines, a truck and the platoon commander, or three engines, two trucks, a medic or squad and the platoon commander. Engine 1 - the "Attack Pumper" - would roll on a ``Signal 3'' confirmed fire if not already assigned on the alarm.

Greater alarms, depending on the magnitude of the fire, would summon other companies as well as off-duty personnel. In the event of a general alarm, township fire companies would send equipment to cover the city's fire stations.

The volunteers of Box 27 Associates would also respond on greater alarms with their canteen unit and light and air unit. Box 27 Associates was named for the alarm box at the East Street Shops fire, a blaze of epoch proportions that leveled a huge industrial complex in the early 20th century. (Some newspaper reports said that alarm was actually transmitted from Box 63, according to Roberds' book.)

Alarms received by telephone would be dispatched over a public address system linking the city's firehouses and by radio. The street boxes would tap out a signal - or box number - over the bells in firehouses, and firefighters would count the clangs and check their ``running cards'' to determine if they were assigned on the first alarm.

When a fire was declared under control, the platoon commander would radio the fire dispatcher to ``put an out-tap on the box'' - and the dispatcher would ring the house bells one time to signal the flames had been extinguished. (A familiar radio message in the 1970s: ``Chief 3 to the Fire Dispatcher ... You can put an out tap on that box.'')

Two-way VHF radios were introduced in the years following World War II and the first portable ``handie-talkies'' were issued in 1977, vastly improving fireground communications. The fire division also provided radio communications for Clark County's volunteer fire companies.

By 1979, all dispatching was by radio, and the Gamewell system as well as the public address system had been placed out of service. (The Gamewell system was prone to malicious false alarms and equipment malfunctions, especially in sub-freezing temperatures, and the typical response to a "pulled box" was reduced to a single engine company in the 1970s.)

Today, fire and police communications are handled by a Central Dispatch Center instead of separate police and fire dispatch offices.

The city also replaced its VHF two-way radio system with a modern UHF ``trunked'' radio system. According to, the city operates a G.E. Ericsson Digital/Analog System on the following frequencies: 866.1000 Mhz, 866.8875 Mhz, 867.3875 Mhz, 867.9125 Mhz and 868.4625 Mhz. The fire division ``talk groups'' on the trucked system are as follows:
10-000 (All Call), 10-007 (Stations), 10-020 (System), 10-021 (Dispatch), 10-022 (Fire Ground 1), 10-023 (Fire Ground 2), 10-024 (Fire Ground 3), 10-025 (Support)
and 10-027 (Fire Prevention).


The old Central Engine House in the city center was replaced in 1953 by the Fire Headquarters station on North Fountain Avenue, near the Wittenberg University campus.

(The relocation was prompted by the old fire station's age as well as the danger posed to fire apparatus by the station's proximity to railroad tracks. Firefighter Alfred Kime died May 22, 1949 when a train collided with Truck 1. Fire Chief Grover Frock admonished the citizens of Springfield after the accident for voting down a bond issue to build a new headquarters, according to Roberds' book. A similar train-fire truck accident in 1903 permanently disabled two firefighters.)

Frank Trempe was the chief of the fire division in 1976. He joined the fire division in 1947. His radio designation was ``Chief 1.''

Two assistant chiefs answered directly to Chief Trempe in the chain of command. They were Jack Gram, assistant chief for operations, who joined the fire division in 1951, and John Malowney, assistant chief for administration, who joined in 1940. Gram's radio designation was ``Chief O-2'' and Malowney's was ``Chief A-2''.

Each of the three platoons or units - A, B and C- was led by a platoon commander. Another platoon commander was assigned as the drillmaster.

Line officers were also assigned to headquarters for the fire prevention bureau, the training bureau and the paramedic service. Additionally, a fire inspector was assigned to each shift, and in the nighttime served as the platoon commander's aide.

Civilian employees handled vehicle and hydrant maintenance and clerical duties.

The fire prevention bureau - which had consisted of a lieutenant working alone - was reorganzied in 1972 ``by taking three men from our fire supression forces and assigning them to the bureau,'' Trempe wrote in his annual report for that year.

The chief noted:

``We cannot afford the loss of firefighters on apparatus but the duties of Fire Prevention have become so complex that one man could not possibly handle the workload. Another advantage to the reorganization is that we now have a Fire Prevention specialist on duty 24 hours a day.''

City Charter

The city charter was adopted in 1914 establishing a city commission that appoints a city manager and other senior civil servants. Section 93 of the charter established the fire division, and it was last amended in 1990. Springfield firefighters are today called ``firemedics'' reflecting fire division's increased medical responsibilities.

There is established within the government of The City of Springfield a Fire Division. The Fire Division shall protect the lives and property of the people in case of fire and shall perform emergency medical and/or rescue services in The City of Springfield, and shall be the sole and exclusive, publicly-funded enterprise providing these services.
The said Fire Division shall consist of:
1. No fewer than 127 firemedics and/or firemedics/paramedics, including a Fire Chief of the Fire Division;
2. In addition to the above described 127 firemedics and/or firemedics/paramedics, such additional officers and employees as are established by ordinance and law.
Each firemedic and/or firemedic/paramedic in the Fire Division shall be a paid, full-time employee of the city of Springfield who is assigned to that position for no fewer than forty (40) hours per week who is pursuing or who has successfully completed a firefighter training program approved and established pursuant to Ohio law.
The City Manager shall fill firemedic and/or firemedic/paramedic vacancies no later than twenty-one (21) days after a vacancy in said position occurs.

21st Century

Some of the staffing problems of the 1970s seem to have been surmounted. The fire division - now called the Springfield Fire Rescue Division - operates 10 companies from its seven stations. Minimum staffing on all fire and medic units is 3 firemedics and/or paramedics.

Six of the companies are designated ``combination (or combo) companies,'' and respond with either an engine or a medic unit depending on the nature of the alarm. The city's three truck companies are primarily for fire suppression.

Rescue 1 - a combination rescue squad and pumper - is the 21st century version of the 1970s attack pumper and operates from fire headquarters. Rescue 1 responds citywide as the Hazardous Incident Response Team. A hazmat unit, which responds across Clark County, is also on the roster at the headquarters station.

The fire division also has sufficient staffing to provide a ``Rapid Intervention Team - (RIT)'' on the fireground in the event a firefighter becomes trapped or disoriented.

The city started charging a fee for medical service, a common practive in many parts of the country, to raise funds for the fire division. Revenue from providing emergency medical services totaled $1.2 million in 2003, up from $1.1 million in 2002, the first year of billing, according to municipal budget statistics.

According to a Citizens Guide to Emergency Medical Services Ambulance Fees posted on the City of Springfield's web site:

A separate fund has been established for the receipt of monies generated from Emergency Medical Service billing. The expenditure of such monies will serve to enhance Fire Rescue Division services provided by the City through increased manpower, new vehicles, and equipment. ... The money from this new billing program will allow us to increase from three paramedic units to six paramedic units. In addition, each unit is now staffed with an additional certified EMT or Paramedic. Six of our companies are now combination companies. Depending on the nature of the emergency, crews will respond with either an ambulance or a fire truck (not both), whichever is appropriate.
The citizens guide also noted:

You will NOT be responsible for any direct payment of ambulance fees. The City will accept whatever (if any) amount your insurance company or Medicare pays on your behalf. You will be asked to sign the Springfield Fire Rescue Division's EMS run report that will authorize us to collect directly, all insurance benefits for services provided, and to obtain/release any medical information necessary to process the claim.

Of the 12,793 requests for emergency services in 2003, 10,824 - 84.6 percent - were medical, according to fire division statistics. (The population of the city was 65,358 in the 2000 Census, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's 7.6 percent below the 199o Census.)

In his 2003 report to the city manager, Fire Chief J. Mike Beers wrote that the fire division hired nine additional firefighter/paramedics, allowing the division to ``build upon an already successful service delivery approach using multi-functional companies to manage various requests for service.''

Beers also wrote:

``With these additions we were able to establish ten individual fire companies, six being multi-functional (fire and EMS) that currently provide service from seven fire stations, thereby providing us an opportunity in the future to staff three new fire stations. We will continue to review our response times ... so we may identify strategic locations for those new fire stations and the opportunity to better serve.''

Statistics from the 2003 also suggest an emphasis on fireground safety has helped to lower the number of firefighter injuries from previous decades. Nine firefighter suffered injuries in 2003 ``resulting in lost work time,'' according to the annual report. In the annual report in 1971, Chief Frank Trempe reported 31 firefighter injuries.

Nonetheless, firefighting remains a dangerous enterprise.

The Springfield News-Sun reported Dec. 26, 2004:

A Springfield firefighter, searching a burning house Christmas morning, was rescued after the floor under him collapsed and sent him crashing into the basement.

Lt. Doug Buffenbarger survived after firefighters standing by on the rapid intervention team rushed into the burning duplex at 805-807 Innisfallen Ave. and lowered a ladder to him.

Buffenbarger climbed out with minor injuries.

Staffing - 21st Century

According to the city budget, 2003 staffing consisted of the following:

Fire Chief - 1
Assistant chiefs - 2
Secretary - 1 (Civilian)
Clerk typist - 1 (Civilian, part time)
Battalion chiefs - 3
Captains - 12
Lieutenants - 25
Firefighters and paramedics - 96

Fire protection is an expensive business, and vital to life and commerce. But that's often lost on a community - until it's too late.

In his book, Roberds discussed the necessity of adequate funding, maintaining a successful fire prevention program and supporting an effective fire suppression force:

Considering the primary mission of the fire service - fire prevention - the fire division has done its work most effectively when the engines are in the engine houses.

Yet the average citizen is apt to feel that engines not in use are not needed.

Conversely, when the firefighters and engines are hard at work on a major fire, the first mission of the fire service has already been lost.

The secondary purpose of saving lives and protecting property becomes the paramount concern.

Because this activity is very spectacular, and often dangerous, the general public has mistakenly assumed that this activity is the primary function of the fire service.

When the fire service is able to fulfill its primary function of fire prevention and the need for actual suppression forces seems small, important financial support is often reduced with sometimes disasterous results.

Population: 65,358
Square Miles: 23.53
Average Annual Precipitation: 35 inches
Median Age: 34.5 years old
Number of Households: 26,254
Number of Persons Per Household: 2.38
Miles of Streets: 270

Number of Firefighters/Paramedics: 139
Number of Fire Stations: 7
Number of Fire/EMS Companies: 10
Insurance Rating: Class 2 ALS/EMS
Number of Police Officers: 133

Community Hospital: 345 beds
Mercy Medical Center: 369 beds

Number of Wells: 12
Miles of Water Mains: 306.7
Average Daily Consumption: 15.7 MGD
Maximum Daily Capacity: 35.0 MGD
Miles of Sanitary Sewers: 169
Miles of Storm Sewers: 48

Dayton -15 miles
Columbus -23 miles
Cincinnati -72 miles
Cleveland -174 miles

SOURCE: Springfield City Government
Springfield-Clark County Chamber of Commerce