Rock Springs Fire Department: Then
When the unofficial Rock Springs Fire Department was first started in 1888 as the Clark Hose Company, it had 24 members that were paid $25 annually and a $1.50 extra per call. These firefighters pulled a hose cart to fires by hand because they didn’t have any horses. Several men rode bicycles to the fires to get there quicker.
Later when they had a wagon and horses and a fire call came in, the first thing done was to fire up the steam engine on the wagon to build up steam so the pump would be ready to use by the time they got to the fire.
In the early days, fire fighters received very little training compared to todays fire fighters. They still bravely went to fires and put their lives on the line.
-Rock Springs Fire Chief, Jim Wamsley
At first, the fire department was a private company paid to render its services, then it became volunteer ran.
In 1904, it officially became the City of Rock Springs Fire Department with the passing of a city ordinance.
Modern day communications were not available in the early days of the Fire Department. Firefighters knew where a fire was in town based off of how many times the fire alarm sounded. The alarm was the Union 1 mine whistle. If it sounded four times that indicated a specific section of town, five times corresponded with another and so on. When they knew the area where the fire was, they would head off there to help.
The Longest Fire Run
In 1916, the Rock Springs Fire Department purchased its first motorized truck dubbed the “Peanut Roaster.” In 1939, it responded to a fire in Pinedale to extinguish a structure fire. The 104 mile trip took two hours and and 10 minutes, a trip that Mr. Ripley, from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, called the longest response by a fire engine to extinguish an actual fire at that point in time.
The longest fire run is said to be one from New York to San Francisco that occurred in 1939, but it was just to raise awareness and they were called to put out a fire started in a barrel near the Golden Gate bridge.
Rock Springs Fire Department: Now
Today 35 personnel, working three 24-hour shifts, responding from three stations make up the Fire Department.
Emergency response is only a small part of the duties that the Rock Springs Fire Department performs. However, being prepared for that emergency response is a large part of why the department exists. Emergency response includes:
- Fire suppression
- Wildland – urban interface fire suppression
- Emergency medical first response
- Hazardous materials response
- Vehicle extrication
- Non-permit and permit required confined space rescue
- High and low angle rope rescue
- Animal rescue
Emergency Responder Jack of all Trades
Today, Rock Springs Fire fighters are trained on at least 65 different skills because they respond to several different kinds of calls. Skills like fire attack procedure, building structure classification to know the amount of time a building is considered safe to be inside while fighting a fire, search procedure while in a fire, treating people for injuries, handling hazardous materials and more. They are trained on so many things you could call them an “Emergency Responder Jack of all Trades.”
In 2014, the Fire Department responded to 2124 incidents that would fit the previously listed categories. That is about 6 incidents a day. So far in 2015, they have responded to 1132 incidents.
The average response time of the RSFD is four minutes, with the national standard being eight minutes. There is an emergency response truck included with the normal fire trucks.
Since its official start in 1904, the RSFD has had 13 fire chiefs including the current Chief Jim Wamsley. When you see a firefighter, thank them for their service.
Special thanks to: The Sweetwater County Historical museum, Rock Springs Historical Museum and Rock Springs Fire Chief Jim Wamsley for images and information for this story.