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Carson City Fire Department History

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Service With Pride, Commitment, and Compassion

On August 17, 1863, A.W. Waitz was elected secretary. The notes taken by Waitz at the many meetings that followed are a history in themselves. Detailed and meticulous, the minutes of the early work of the department had interesting sidelights on the development of Carson City.

There were no paid fire companies in the old west. Even the rich metropolis of San Francisco, which was always burning down, didn’t have a paid fire department until 1873; and membership in the socially correct fire brigade was the highest honor in any American community for many decades. The Warren’s members boasted the finest engines, the most ornate uniforms, and the most splendid entertainment anywhere between Chicago and the Pacific coast. Tickets to their first ball in 1863 cost six gold dollars apiece, so you will see that the Warren Company was very grand indeed from the very outset.

Now five months old, the enterprising firemen on October 16, 1863 decided to show the public what they could do in the way of fire fighting, stressing the power and capacity of the engine. The county exhibition took place at the county fair on the plaza, site of the state capitol. While wide-mouthed spectators looked on with amazement, the little engine threw a stream of 209 feet through a ½ inch nozzle and 100 feet of hose, and then two streams of 166 feet through a 5/8-inch nozzle and fifty feet of hose. The climax came when a perpendicular stream was shot 155 feet in the air.

It was one of the first steam pumpers ever seen in the West and it quite outshone in beauty the old piano style hand pumper with its buffalo hide hose held together by copper rivets. A show was planned in The Plaza, as the open space around the Capitol was known, and the Warren men boasted loudly that the new engine would throw a stream right over a two-story pavilion that fronted on Carson Street.

Picture the consternation of the Warren foreman and his socially prominent hose men and engineers, when after having been fired up the fine new engine achieves pressure enough only to throw a sad and faltering stream a dozen or so feet from the nozzle. Truth is, there isn’t pressure enough. The engine could perform splendidly if only there were a better fire in its grate. The green cottonwood with which it has been fired has fouled the flues. Suddenly a resourceful member of the company has an inspiration and dashes off down Carson Street. How red are the faces of the magnificently uniformed Fire Company! How loud are the shouts of laughter from the Carson townsfolk assembled for the great exhibition.

Soon the resourceful fireman returns, his arms piled high with a dozen or more pounds of fat bacon. This will fetch a fire under any crown sheet! And sure enough, soon after the bacon begins to roll forth from the engine stack, the pistons flash more rapidly in their guides and soon the stream of water is cascading triumphantly over the roof of the pavilion in a manner to put out any conflagration which might threaten the town.  The day was saved because the Warrens didn’t save their bacon from the flames.

Elaborate plans were made for the first anniversary celebration on June 17, 1864, and 6,000 feet of lumber was purchased to enlarge the pavilion for the occasion. On June 16 the bar of the pavilion was leased for fruit and refreshments with the provision that no intoxicating liquor be served. The company expended more than $700 on the affair and tickets sold for $5.00.

The Warrens moved into a new house on November 9, 1865. They rented the house from Israel Crawford, paying $30 per month. Later they moved to the Old Kitzmeyer building across from the Wells Fargo office in what was the Fior D’Italia Cafe. On July 15, 1908, the City Trustees authorized the department to take over the Curry House which was built by Abe Curry, 1st Warden of the State Prison. This house had been the department’s headquarters for forty-two years and had undergone many improvements.

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