Denver Fire Department History
For articles about the history of the Denver Fire Department and firefighting, check out the museum’s blog
1866 to 1869: On March 25, 1866, Volunteer Hook and Ladder Co. #1 organized, the first fire company in the Colorado Territory. The city built the first station at 1534 Lawrence St. A hand pumping draft engine was purchased in 1867 but scant water supplies and manpower limited its use.
1870 to 1879: Three volunteer hose companies were organized in 1872 after a Holly Pressurized Hydrant System was installed. A new Central Station was built at the same address. Colorado became the 38th state and Gamewell installed a 15 fire alarm box system. The next year Hose #4 organized and Tabor Hose #5 in 1879.
1880 to 1889: Broadway Hose #6 organized in 1880. Denver was voted the state capital in 1881 and on May 10th, Denver began to hire firefighters, many from the volunteer ranks. On September 1st paid DFD crews manned Steamer 1, H&L #1 and Hose #1. The steamer was at Central Station, H&L #1 at City Hall Station and Hose #1 at Archer firehouse. By 1884 Broadway Hose disbanded and Steamer 1 moved into their four year old house naming it Engine House #1. The last volunteer company to disband was Tabor Hose #5 in 1885. James Lloyd became the first of 54 Denver firefighters to make the ultimate sacrifice for the City of Denver in 1886.
1890 to 1899: This decade DFD added several new firehouses to accommodate steamers, 11’s, 4’s, 7’s, 10’s, 5’s and 8’s. All have since been replaced. Two annexed stations were 12’s and 13’s. 1892 phone service from dispatch to firehouses begins.
1900 to 1909: In 1903 Chief Owens rules that all steamer and hose companies would be named engine companies. As apparatus was repainted and lettered, the paint scheme was changed from red to white. The DFD purchased two motorized triple combination apparatus in 1909 to begin the transition from horse drawn rigs. The first training tower was built at 12th St. and Curtis St. Five new stations were built.
1910 to 1919: The DFD now has 250 firefighters. 1912 saw Chief Healy begin his 34 years stint as Chief of the DFD on August 1st , badges were changed from station hat badges to shirt badges with seniority numbers, and Station 18 opens as the first bungalow style motorized house in city. Station 8 housed the first motorized engine in 1915 and also the first motorized ladder in 1917. First grade pay was $95 per month with $5 per year of service. Three new fire stations were built.
1920 to 1929: In 1921 to two platoon shift begins. The repair shop moves from municipal shops to DFD shop at 19th and Market St. in 1923. 1924 saw the last of the horses as houses remodeled for motorized rigs. Engine and truck numbers now correspond to station number in 1925. Hydrant colors change from red to yellow. Four new stations were built.
1930 to 1939: 1932 DFD headquarters moves from condemned City Hall to the new City and County Building. Short wave radios in 13 cars. Chief Healy abandons red suspenders for dress shirts. DFD Credit Union opens. Underwater recovery unit formed. In 1937 headquarters moves to 14th St. and Court Place. Five new stations were built..
1940 to 1949: Engine 22 organized a Hangar 5, Stapleton Airport. Fire Alarm opens at 950 Josephine St. and IAFF charters Local 858 in 1946. A machinist and two firefighters die at Moffat Tunnel #10 fire.
1950 to 1959: New training tower built at 19th St. and Platte St. The DFD now has 526 firefighters and workweek reduced to 84 hours with one Kelly Day per month. The Arson Bureau begins with Jim Jordan as investigator. All apparatus on DFD have a two-way radio. Four new stations were built.
1960 to 1969: 1961 jet airliner crash at Stapleton creates need for foam engines at airport. In 1969 starting pay was $500 per month and 56 hour work week. Six new stations were built.
1970 to 1979: In 1971 SCBA breathing equipment put in service. The DFD gains full control of Arson Bureau. A 48 hour split shift work week begins in 1974, changes to 24 hour shifts in 1976. Headquarters moves to 745 W. Colfax Ave. DFD Museum opens to public. Stations 13, 5 and 2 closed. Nine new stations are built.
1980 to 1989: 1st grade pay is $24,000 per year. On August 21, 1985, Heather Larson becomes first woman DFD firefighter. Rocky Mountain Fire Academy facility at 5440 Roslyn is opened. DFD is first department in USA to get a TV broadcast license. Chief Gonzales becomes first appointed Chief since 1904, rank of Division Chief created and truck driver becomes an engineer rank as a result of a charter change. Engine 18 disbanded. Five new stations are built.
1990 to 1991: Dispatch merges with Combined Communications Center at 950 Josephine St., later present CAD system in service. Four new stations at DIA and new Station 10.
2000 to Present: September 11, 2001, WTC attack changes the USA and fire departments nationwide. DIA becomes Division 6. In May of 2006 Lt. Richard Montoya was the 54th firefighter to die in the line of duty. New Station 2 in service in Montbello. DFD gains a Heavy Rescue and Hazmat apparatus courtesy of Democratic National Convention.