• By Albert Depew

Carson City Fire Department History

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Service With Pride, Commitment, and Compassion

Assisting Les Groth was another Warren Engine Company No. 1 veteran, Bernard Sease, who became a paid Fire Captain and went on to become Fire Chief. The first six paid firefighters came on board in 1965, with these six split into three two-man shifts. Many of these first paid firefighters came from Warren Engine Company No. 1 ranks.

In 1967, additional paid firefighters were hired to man the department’s four engines. Firefighters from Warren Engine Company No. 1 continued to respond to emergencies. Off duty firefighters were called back to respond to incidents as necessary. The late 1960s saw the department’s apparatus inventory include two hose trucks, two brush trucks, and a snorkel.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s volunteers continued to provide the bulk of incident response. These well-trained, experienced firefighters were brought up on practical involvement in "hands-on" firefighting as opposed to theory. To hone skills, drills were prevalent. A drill week, a series of stations involving fire situations such as structure fire, vehicle fire, brush fire, propane fire, and smoke drill, was conducted in the evenings and included participants from other Northern Nevada community fire departments. After training, a social event followed and participants enjoyed the camaraderie.

In 1969 six more firefighters joined the paid force, and during the next several years, more paid firefighters were hired, usually at a rate of 2-3 each year. In 1971, a Federal grant program paid for two firefighters. As the paid department continued to increase in size, the number of volunteers declined slightly.

Wages and working conditions remained at status quo with no real increase in wages given the risk involved in firefighting. In 1972, the Fire Department developed a five part program to enhance pay and benefits and presented its proposal to the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors rejected this proposal and, as a result, the paid force unionized under the International Association of Firefighters in 1973. 1998 marked the 25th anniversary of Local 2551, the Carson City Firefighters Association.

During the period 1980-1982, the first paid firefighter/paramedics were hired. The paramedic program was instituted by the shift personnel after approval by Fire Chief Bernard Sease. Prior to the advent of paid paramedics, the city’s emergency medical service was provided by private ambulance service. 

During the 1940s and 1950s and into the early 1960s, a local mortician, Art Kvam, using a privately owned ambulance, responded to emergency medical calls. Because only one ambulance served the community, service was on a first come, first served basis. During the 1960s Warren Barber ran an ambulance service in Carson City. Again, service was limited to one ambulance.

Aides Ambulance Service came to Carson City and operated in the 1970s. The city subsidized this service. In the early 1980s, Medic 1 put an ambulance at Station 1 to replace the service provided by Aides. $15,000 in matching funds was provided to buy a new ambulance, a 1980 Ford F350. This vehicle was outfitted as a Rescue rig.

In 1974, the city added two new stations, Stations 2 and 3, located on College Parkway and Snyder Avenue, respectively.

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