History of the Mansfield Fire Department
"A look in the past"
The Mansfield Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1901 with fifteen men. Protection began with a two inch water main laid by S.S. Smithee from the Mansfield Oil Mill down the main street with five openings as connections for fire hose. Mr. J. Grow served as chief of the department for fifteen years. The equipment consisted of 250 feet of hose which was wrapped around two pieces of pipe so it could be carried in the same manner as a stretcher. It was housed in Chief Grow's carpenter shop.
There was a serious fire in the business district in 1902. The city donated $50 to the department for additional equipment afterward, and Chief Grow donated $100 and purchased a hand cart with a hand real and 250 more feet of hose. Chief Grow was later reimbursed with $50 from the city and $50 from the Methodist Church. The new equipment was too heavy to be pulled by hand; so the city paid $1 to anyone who was on hand with a team and wagon to pull the cart to a fire.
In 1903, the fire department requested and received funds to build a fire hall. A 14x20 foot building was erected on the back lot of the chief's lumber yard. The members built the building themselves in one day including a coat of red paint. The department was motorized in 1916 and carried one piece of equipment until 1947 in a building approximately 20x20 feet and owned by the city.
In 1947, a fire that began in the Farmers' Lumber Company nearly destroyed the west side of town. This fire was the deciding factor in a re-organization of the department that occurred on October 29, 1947. The twenty men of the re-organization selected Raymond D. (Bulldog) Miller, who operated a welding shop in town, as the new chief. Mayor Charlie Harrison was elected President, and Ira D. Gibson Secretary-Treasurer. Fireman Gibson has served the department in this capacity ever since. The other members of this re-organization included Hubert Beard, Douglas Sims, Clyde Linville, A.I. Romans, Ernest Arber, M.L. Ellis, C.F. Cantrell, L.O. Hall, John Hill, Bill Spencer, J.R. McGuire, O.E. Metcalf, J.W. Henry, Ray Thomas, James Vincent, Harry Noles, J.H. Annen, and W.A. Halbert.
Several new pieces of equipment were added at this time also. There were a 1934 Chevrolet, 500 GPM, 500 gallon Booster Tank; a 1939 Chevrolet, 500 GPM Booster Tank; and a 1941 Ford, 500 GPM, 180 gallon Booster Tank. On January 23, 1948, the department received its first factory built truck. It was a 1942 open cab from Navy Surplus.
The evening of July 31, 1968, will forever live in the minds of Mansfield's firemen.
On this day, more than half of the department was severely burned in a gasoline explosion at Kennedale. As a result of these burns, Chief Harry D. Blissard and fireman Shirley Clyde Copeland lost their lives. Much of the department's equipment was also lost. With the death of Chief Blissard, Assistant Chief H.E. Baxter, Jr. assumed the duties of chief.
During the decade of the Fifties, the city did not have the money to support the department and volunteers were required to raise money by knocking on doors and asking for donations. Many projects were carried out during these trying years by these dedicated firemen. Through this means of raising money, a new three stall fire station was built on East Broad Street, two way radios were purchased, uniforms were provided, and a new 1957 station wagon was purchased for use by the chief and for emergencies. An addition was made to the existing building, and a dispatcher hired.
The Mansfield Firemen's Ladies Auxiliary was organized in February, 1955, with nine members. Losis Meeks was elected President; Geneva Baxter, Secretary Treasurer; and the members were Edna Barber, Helen Beard, Mary Bishop, Steele Gibson, Jo Ann Harris, Ruby Owens, and Rose Putman. The objective for forming the auxiliary was to aid the firemen in whatever way necessary, and to be ready at any time in case of fire or other disaster.
In 1958, the first Fire Phones were installed in thirteen firemen's homes. This was the first communication the firemen had except for a siren that was sounded by the dispatcher. On March 21, 1960, the department worked out with their first new Ford Pumper.
In 1964, the city secured the site for a new fire station at 210 Smith Street, (the present site) at a cost of $15,000. Still unable to finance the construction of the building, the volunteers poured the concrete floor themselves and erected the metal building beginning on April 20, 1964. The first meeting was held in the completed station on July 6, 1964. There is no record of the man hours spent erecting the building, but if you were to ask the wives, they would tell you that their husbands spent more time at the station during that period than they spent at home.
In January, 1975, officers were elected as follows: Chief H.E. Baxter, Jr., First Assistant Chief Bobby Looney, Second Assistant Chief Mac Thompson, Captain James Feagley, Captain Robert Snider, Cook Bobby Prescott, Cook Bob Stulce, Fire Marshal Johnny Paul Howard, President Hubert Beard, Vice President Ronald Baxter, and Secretary Treasurer Ira D. Gibbson. Members are T.G. Ackerman, Don Allen, Earl Andrews, Jim Atchison, Bobby Block, Jim Darden, Dan Gibson, Dick Green, Eddie L. Lamb, John M. Merrit, Deweece Perry, Clifton Perry, C.E. Pressley, Tony Seeton, Si Snider, J.T. Spears, Jerry Tate, Charlie Vess, Joe Walker, Louis Walker, and Joe Williams.
Many things have occurred during this period of time. the following is a very brief outline of some of the highlights.
The years from 1970 to 1980 were considered the boom time. Population in 1970 was 3, 658 growing to 8,102 in 1980. Shortley after the election of the fire department officers in 1975, it became clear to Chief Baxter that the volunteer personnel could not provide adequate fire and ambulance service to the increased population. Efforts between Chief Baxter, the City Manager and the City Council to start the process of hiring paid personnel. The first paid man was hired in October, 1977. This employee worked from 8:00a.m. to 5:00p.m., five days per week. At best, this only provided someone to basically check the equipment to make sure everything was ready for an emergency. Response during the day was bad because of the limited personnel being in town because most were employed in Fort Worth.
The second paid man was employed in January, 1978 which provided two people at the station during the day 8:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m. This improved responses greatly during the day and until the majority of the volunteers returned to the City after work.
The first paid Fire Chief was hired in August, 1978. Then on October 1, 1979 with the employment of additional personnel, shift work started. Two men per shift (fire departments work on 3 shift increments, ie. A shift, B shift, C shift) working 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off duty provided protection to this City.
Fire Station #2 open March 28, 1988 which put men and equipment in the Walnut Creek area where a large portion of the homes in Mansfield are constructed. Also by having Station #2 open, it put equipment and personnel on the other side of the railroad tracks which in time past because of trains going through town we have been delayed in reaching the scene of an emergency.
During 1988 a ladder truck was added to the fire department fleet which increased our defenses greatly.
The Administrative Office Building which is occupied by the administrative personnel was opened March 3, 1990. This facility allowed for expanded work areas for these people.