The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department is one of the finest fire departments in the world. The events that developed this world class fire department did not come very easily nor did it come quickly. The department is what it is today due to the tireless efforts of its members both past and present. Many people have come and gone, many fires have been fought, and many heroic deeds have been performed. The firefighters of today are not any different than the firefighters who took up a hose so many years ago in Dallas. True, they are more educated and better equipped, but they are just as dedicated and inspired. The following is a brief glimpse into what has made the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department what it is today.
A fire of unknown origin occurred in Dallas in July, 1860. The only structure that survived was a two-story building that housed a saloon on the lower floor. This incident promoted the idea of a fire department for defensive purposes. However, actual organization was to be delayed for several years due to the Civil War and the reconstruction that followed.
The constitution and bylaws of Dallas' first firefighting unit, "Company Number One", was adopted on July 4, 1872. Two Gardner Village hand engines and ten small fire extinguishers which were carried on the members' backs were the first equipment used. W.C. "Bud" Connor was elected chief of the 14 member fire department and for a little while, the organization was little more than a bucket brigade.
A horse-drawn steam pumper made by the Silsby Manufacturing Company was purchased in July of 1873. The apparatus became affectionately known as "Old Silsby". The Dallas Hook and Ladder Company became the city's second fire company shortly after the purchase of Old Silsby. In the early months of 1875, "Hook and Ladder Company Number Two" was formed, but the truck was burned beyond repair one month after it was purchased.
A water supply was developed in later years dictated by the fact that the city was growing at a great pace away from the Trinity River. Contracts were let for the construction of six large cisterns as a water supply to meet the city's needs. The cisterns were strategically located on Main and Houston, Main and Poydras, Commerce and Austin, Elm and Murphy, Elm and Market, and Elm and Lamar. All of the cisterns were 600 barrel capacity, except the one on Main and Houston which was 1200 barrel capacity.
The fire department's equipment of early 1879 consisted of one hose cart, one combination engine and hose cart, one engine company, and two hook and ladder trucks. All of this equipment was either hand or horse drawn. A fire in September of that year destroyed the wooden fire station on the courthouse square while the members were watching a circus parade. The bell tower used to sound alarms was also destroyed as a result of this fire.
Partial reorganization of the department occurred in December 1879 and the drivers became paid members. All other members were volunteers, including the Chief of the Department. It is believed that John Linskie and T.A. Myers were the first paid members of the organization, while some accounts say that Dennis Canty was the first paid member in the City of Dallas. The salary of the first paid members was $40.00 per month which was a pricey salary for those days.
In 1881, a new City Hall and fire station were constructed at the intersection of Commerce and Lamar. City aldermen purchased two anvils to sound alarms as well, since the bell tower used to signal firemen when there was an alarm was destroyed in the station fire of 1879.
In 1883, the reins of the department were put in the hands of a prominent citizen named Charles Kahn. Many things changed for the department under Chief Kahn's tenure. In August of 1883, the city aldermen approved the purchase of a new steam pumper from the Ahrens Manufacturing Company. This new apparatus was delivered and placed into service on February 19, 1884, and it was nicknamed "Old Tige" in honor of Mayor Ben E. Cabell. Mayor Cabell received this nickname from his troops while serving as a general in the Civil War. Old Tige is still on display today in the Dallas Fire Department Museum which is located in old Number 5 Fire Station on the corner of Commerce and Parry.
Another change occurring under the direction of Chief Kahn was a complete reorganization on July 25, 1885 which resulted in every member of the department receiving a salary. At the time of the reorganization, the department had grown to 28 members, and the uniforms consisted of red flannel shirts and blue trousers. When they were called out on alarms, they donned high peaked helmets much like the ones we wear today.
In 1887, Tom Wilkerson was appointed to Chief of the Department. That same year, the Department fell victim to another fire loss. The fire station at Commerce and Lamar was destroyed by fire, but the apparatus was saved by the firemen who managed to move it out of the burning building. A replacement station was built on the corner of Commerce and Harwood where the Municipal Building now stands.
The Dallas Fire Department grew rapidly under the leadership of Chief Wilkerson and much progress was made. Another station was built at Commerce and Akard where the Adolphus Hotel is now located. Then, in October of 1897, Chief Wilkerson was replaced by Chief H.F. Magee, a position he would hold for the next 22 years. Under his management, the department started the process of phasing out horse drawn fire apparatus (this process would not be completed until 1921) in favor of motorized rigs. Gradual replacement of horse drawn steam pumpers and hook and ladder wagons with American LaFrance and Seagraves trucks marked the beginning of a new era in the fire service. Incidentally, Chief Magee's buggy was pulled by the best known of the Department's fire horses, a short-coupled dark bay named "Hobson." It was said that Hobson was the only horse on the Department that could race full tilt around corners without losing his footing. He was eventually replaced, however, by the city's first chief's car, a new Franklin loaned to the Department by a local rancher named McIntyre.
Box 254, Haskell and Simpson, was the location of a significant fire on the morning of June 24, 1902. This event proved to be one of the most serious residential fires in the history of Dallas. Before the fire was extinguished, 25 houses were damaged or destroyed and a fireman had died in the line of duty. Fifteen other firemen were overcome while battling the blaze but managed to survive. Fireman John Clark, who had been manning a line with three other firemen, collapsed and died on the scene. Efforts to revive him were futile. This was the Department's first line of duty death. The Firefighter Monument located at the Drill Tower on Dolphin Road was created in his honor. The firefighter on top of the monument was fashioned in his image.
The work schedule in 1908 consisted of 24 hour shifts. The only time off for any member was three hours per day for meals and one day off per month. At the time, vacation was unheard of and each man received a salary of $60.00 per month. The hose that was used was either 2 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch chemical hose. That same year, the great Oak Cliff fire consumed a total of 86 houses. A contributing factor to the extent and seriousness of the destruction was the inadequate water supply. Artesian wells provided the water for Oak Cliff, and the mains would not supply more than a single hose.
The first motorized fire apparatus was purchased in 1910. It was made by Webb and it was powered by a 68 horse engine. The driver sat and steered from the right side. When the vehicle was going downhill, it would reach a speed of 4 mph which terrified the men who were not used to motorized equipment. At the time of its purchase, no one knew how to drive the vehicle, so Chief Magee appointed Leslie Dooley as the driver. Dooley, an automobile salesman, had been trained to drive the vehicle by the manufacturer. He and the other drivers were regarded as the aristocrats of the Department. The men who manned the new motorized equipment were known as the "Flying Squadron."
In 1911, the position of Fire Marshall was created and Mr. Homer Fisher became Dallas' first Fire Marshall.
In 1919, T.A. Myers was appointed Chief of the Department. At this point in his career, he had served 40 years on the department. He was one of the very first men to be paid a salary when he was made a driver in 1879. Much was accomplished under his leadership. Modern equipment totaling $110,000 was purchased, nine fire stations were built, and salaries were increased by $30.00 to $90.00 per month. All of these efforts were due largely to the efforts of Chief Myers. Perhaps most notable among his accomplishments was the inauguration of the two-platoon system of 12 hours on duty, and 12 hours off duty.
R.D. Gambrell became Chief of the Department in April 1927, after nearly twenty years of service. Chief Gambrell had served most of his early career as a driver until he joined the Army during World War I. While overseas, he was appointed to the position of Captain. He served in that position upon his return from duty until he was appointed to Chief.
Chief J.T. Coffman was next to serve as chief having been on the department for 32 years. He was appointed to the top position in May of 1929.
R.D. Gambrell then served a second stint as Chief of the Department starting in May of 1931. This time he remained at the helm until May of 1935.
Fire Marshall S.E. (Sid) Hansen was then appointed Chief of the Department and assumed command of the organization. Departmental growth was continuing and early in 1939 a group of 60 recruit firemen were hired to begin work immediately. The hiring of these 60 men, the largest in department history, had been done in order to comply with a new state law regarding minimum wages and hours.
Fire Marshall L.M. Funk was appointed Chief in November of 1939. World War II began shortly after Chief Funk's appointment, and the department saw some 150 of its members answer the call to duty. This proved to be a very difficult time for the department because of manpower shortages and lack of vital materials and equipment. In addition to these hardships, the city was growing which created crowded housing conditions.
Chief C.N. Penn was promoted from Battalion Chief to the department's highest rank on May 3, 1945. Chief Penn had come to Dallas in 1924 from Oklahoma to work as a pharmacist in his brother's drugstore. Fire department stories related by a regular customer, Captain W.L. Stowe, sparked an interest in the young man. So, he joined the department on December 9, 1926. He was a substitute for about seven months before earning full membership on July 20, 1927. He served the citizens of Dallas for 44 years, 26 of those as Chief of the Department. This is still the longest tenure at the helm by anyone in the history of the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department. Many things changed and considerable growth was realized in Chief Penn's years as head of the department.
Authorized strength grew to 602 men in 1948. This year also saw the start of construction on a training facility on Record Crossing as well as the position of Fire Marshall being elevated to the rank of Assistant Chief.
The Deputy Chief position was instituted in 1953 with each shift of the combat forces being placed under the leadership and direction of the Deputy Chief. Base pay of a private was also increased significantly reaching a salary of $325 a month.
In 1955, there was a major reorganization in the Communications Division. The newly designated Communications Section combined the previous duties and responsibilities of the fire alarm office, fire alarm signal maintenance, and radio maintenance.
1957 marked a reduction in work hours, the first since 1939. The new work week averaged 67.2 hours as opposed to the previous 72 hours. The construction of training facilities at the old Record Crossing drill tower were finally achieved and authorized strength increased to 845.
On October 1, 1959, the advent of the three-platoon system went into effect as the "C" shift was added to the existing "A" and "B" shifts. The overall authorized strength rose to 1063 and the work week was again reduced to 60 hours. These changes came about due to the addition of the third shift.
Old Central Fire Station located at Main and Preston discontinued housing fire apparatus in 1963. Some of the equipment was moved to the brand new Station 3, on what was then Oakland Avenue; it is now called Malcolm X Boulevard. The rest of the apparatus moved to old Station One at Ross and Leonard. The new Station 3 marked the end of an era for the Dallas Fire Department. Old 3's, on Gaston and College, was one of the last stations remaining that had housed horse drawn equipment. Several new pieces of equipment were purchased that year including a snorkel truck, which was also housed at Station 3, and the Love Field Fire Station received a brand new Crash Truck.
Since John Clark had died in the line of duty in 1902, 39 firefighters had lost their lives serving and protecting the citizens of Dallas in various accidents or incidents. However, the department had never suffered a loss like the one that occurred in 1964. On the morning of February 16, an alarm was transmitted on the Golden Pheasant Restaurant at 1417 Commerce. Ultimately, a fifth alarm was transmitted on the fire, both off-duty shifts were recalled, and four firemen had lost their lives. The first alarm was transmitted at 0233. About 0245, as the first alarm companies were attacking the fire, the first floor collapsed into the basement. James K. Bigham, Jerry T. Henderson, James R. Gresham, and Ronald E. Manley were unable to retreat or escape. The last of the four bodies was recovered by their grief stricken brothers some eleven hours later. Six other firemen were more fortunate, averting death by racing uphill to safety as the floor was collapsing. The deaths of these four firemen caused ten children to be orphaned. At one time, it was estimated that 750 firemen were involved in battling the blaze, or sifting through the rubble.
The most sweeping changes in the Department since the 1885 conversion to a fully paid department occurred in 1968. On October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, the latest major reorganization was instituted. An additional bureau, Special Services, was created with an Assistant Chief in charge. Division Chief, a new rank, was created as a staff position, and the four Bureaus were divided into eight divisions. A realignment of forces into Area 1 and Area 2, with a Deputy Chief in charge on each shift, was also a major aspect of the reorganization. A Public Affairs Division was created and staffed as was the Research and Plans Section, later elevated to Division status. Additional pay was granted to individuals for scholastic achievement as a new era in the Department unfolded.
Perhaps the most significant change that occurred in 1969 was a transformation that reflected the changes in civil policies and attitudes that affected the entire country. In November, the first African-Americans were hired as uniformed officers – Kenneth Parker in Fire Control and Rescue, and Milton Washington in Fire Prevention. Another change occurred in 1969 which affected all station personnel. For the first time in thirty years the relief time was changed as 8 A.M. became official and replaced the 12 noon changeover. Base pay was raised to $700 per month and authorized strength surpassed 1300 men.
"Operation Total Involvement" was the name given to the new inspection program which began June 27, 1970. It was a unique program which replaced reliance on explanation and education; legal means of persuasion were to be used only as a last resort. For the six months that the program was in effect in 1970, there were approximately 78,000 inspections, and approximately 38,000 hazards were eliminated. The Fire Prevention and Public Relations Bus was placed in service in 1970, carrying a display of tools and equipment used in the fire service, and displays offering a varied assortment of fire safety literature.
In 1971, the first new Chief of the Department in 26 years was appointed. In November, Assistant Chief Merrell C. Hendrix was appointed to the Department's highest position after Chief Penn retired. That year also saw the adoption of a new concept designed to provide extra manpower in the downtown area and at multiple alarm fires; this came in the form of manpower squads. Squad 1 was activated on April 1, 1971, with a complement of six men. It had a large first alarm district in and around the downtown area, and initially responded to all multiple alarm fires in the city. On August 17, Squad 2 was placed in service, replacing the company known for many years as 1 Salvage, or the "Sack Wagon." They were located in Oak Cliff, and served the same purpose west of the Trinity as Squad 1 did in the East. With their inception, they took over the multiple alarms in the southern and western part of the city from Squad 1. Another racial barrier was knocked down in 1971 when the city hired its first Hispanic firefighter in Andres Enriquez.
The Dallas Firefighter's Museum was founded in 1972. It is located at Old Station 5 on the corner of Commerce and Parry, and it has effectively showcased the Department's past and traditions. This was a long-time dream come true for many members as they now got to share their history and traditions with the public.
1972 also saw an addition to our Department that would forever change the fire service as it was then known. The Department assumed the responsibility for Emergency Ambulance Service. This new element did not come overnight. It was the end result of over three years of research and planning. The state of the art EMS systems were researched throughout the United States. Major decisions had to be made in regards to the number of ambulances, where they would be placed throughout the city, manpower requirements, as well as communication requirements. It was finally decided that 16 ambulances in service for 24 hours a day was the most feasible plan from a monetary and efficiency standpoint. A target date of November 1, 1972 was set. At 1:02 A.M. that morning, MICU 738 was dispatched to a "sick call" at 2227 Moffatt Avenue; Paramedics Dan W. Tenney and C.B. Davis transported the woman to Parkland. Dallas's EMS system had officially come to fruition.
In 1973, one of the last remaining traditions of the fire service yielded to the force of change in the United States. The Department hired its first uniformed female members in Donna Cooper (Bone), Maria Baker (Fortunato), Glenda Roberts, Patricia Rozell, and Kay Williams. They were all assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau. Hiring practices were now directed toward all minority groups to assure that all sexes and races were represented within the Department.
One year later, there was another change in the traditional appearance of the Department. The classic red apparatus were now being replaced with lime-yellow vehicles to make them more visible while on emergency runs. Also, in 1974, the first diesel powered fire engine was purchased and was the trend setter for all fire equipment to be purchased in the future.
In January of 1974, EMTs began to train as paramedics. This was a new, supplementary program designed to bring the Dallas Fire Department to the forefront in Emergency Medical Service. 119 EMTs received 400 hours of training in addition to their EMT training. Upon completion of their training, they could administer IV fluids under the supervision and instruction of a medical doctor, transmit EKGs, and take other directions directed by the doctor. On December 16, 1974, the paramedic program went live. Telemetry equipment made it possible for the paramedics to communicate with the doctor at the hospital. This allowed the patient to be transported in a much safer condition than before. In the first year of operations, the Ambulance Division responded to 40,192 calls. This number was one-third higher than anticipated; however, the demand was met with no loss of efficiency or response time.
On April 1, 1975, the Operations work week reduced from 56 to 54 hours per week with the institution of Kelly Days. This system is still in place today. An extra squad was added with the implementation of Squad 42. In addition to this, Squad 1 was now designated as Squad 3, and Squad 2 was renamed Squad 33. 1975 was also the year that Biotel began operating out of a small sized room in Parkland Memorial Hospital with fire department dispatchers manning the radios.
In October of 1975, tragedy struck the Department again as we lost two firemen from separate incidents on two consecutive days. On October 9, Bennie Carroll from Truck 19 was found face down in the debris from the Log Tavern fire on Samuell Blvd. The next day, October 10, Melvin Green was bunking out at Station 3 and fell and struck his head. He was transported 3 hours later after developing a severe headache. He died one month later to the day from his injury. These two line-of-duty deaths were the first for the Department since the Golden Pheasant fire in 1964.
Unfortunately, 1975 would prove to be even more deadly, as December would bring the loss of two more firefighters. On December 23, Captain Ralph Lack (Engine 27 A) and Riley Hurst (Engine 37 A) perished in a 3-alarm fire at the Athena Towers. They became trapped in apartment 1411 after the 14th floor flashed. The two firefighters became disoriented and died of smoke inhalation when they ran out of air.
1976 brought about many changes in the Department. In February, firefighters started using Lexan polycarbonate helmet shields. On May 10th, the U.S. Justice Department and the City of Dallas reached a settlement regarding minority hiring. The agreement contained the provision that 50% of all employees hired for uniformed positions had to be minorities, and 15% had to be female. Compliance with this mandate, especially with respect to females, was especially difficult. However, Dallas managed to become the top department in the country with regards to hiring women.
Chief Hendrix retired in July after serving the city for forty-two years. Later on that month, Dodd Miller was named the twelfth Chief of the Dallas Fire Department. Many changes came about soon after his appointment. In August, the official relief time was changed to 7 A.M. which is still the current relief time. He also changed the position of Deputy Chief from a promotional position to an appointed position so that the best overall candidate could be determined. Deputy Chief Don Stevens would be the last Deputy Chief promoted from a Deputy Chief's list. One month later, in September, polygraph examinations of applicants for uniformed positions were added to the employee screening process.
On February 20, 1977, a Santa Fe train derailed near LBJ and Skillman, rupturing a liquid-propane gas tanker causing it and another propane tanker to explode. The BLEVE was felt as far away as ten miles, damage extended to within a half-mile radius, and the flames which rose several hundred feet in the air were seen from 50 miles away.
The Ambulance Division and its ambulances were now referred to as the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division and Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICUs) respectively. Dallas also received its first nitronox unit, one of only six prototypes in the country. It was placed in service on 706 (Rescue 6) and later 703 (Rescue 3). Thumpers were placed on every ambulance in the city making Dallas the first city to use the devices city wide. This year also saw the use of our first Scott 4.5 air masks, as 50 units were placed in service.
Perhaps the biggest technological advance in the city that occurred in 1977 was the switch from the traditional manual indexing of emergency dispatches to the computer-aided system. Soon, the joker system and the fire alarm boxes were taken out of service, though it took months for all of the boxes to be removed from street corners. Up to that point, the old joker system would "tap" out every box transmitted in the city at every fire station. The process would start with a citizen triggering a pull box on a corner, and the box number was "tapped" onto a punch card at every fire station in Dallas. The person standing watch would log the box number in the watch book and pull the box card on every box transmitted. The speakers would only open at the station if that station had a piece of apparatus responding, or if there was a multiple alarm fire going in the city.
On April 1, 1978, the Department experienced several more changes. The Communication Division, after extensive coordination, made the move from Old Central to the basement of the brand new City Hall. This effort took 4 1/2 hours to complete, and it occurred without a single minute of downtime. They also installed the Centrex phone system which caused the Department to stop using "2" as the prefix for dialing a station on the mainline; members now had to use the current "47" prefix.
In May of 1978, the City of Dallas hired the first female Fire and Rescue Officer in Emergency Response as Sherrie Clark (Wilson) joined the ranks. That same year saw a major change in the way promotional examinations were calculated. The old formula assigned 55% to the written exam score, 40% to the average of the past two efficiencies and 5% was assigned to seniority. The new formula completely eliminated the efficiencies from the overall promotional score. Now, 95% of your final score came from the exam and 5% was based on seniority.
Reverend A.H. Logan retired in August of 1978 as the Department's Chaplain. He had served in that capacity for over 26 years. The Department then did away with the Chaplains position; a decision that was not well received by the members. They fought the decision, and the position was reinstated two years later. In October, the Investigation Division implemented the "984" system, providing an arson investigator on call 24 hours a day. There was also a change in the station uniform worn by members. Chambray shirts, denim jeans and no ties became the official duty uniform.
In May of 1979 the first large diameter hose fire engine went into service at Station 15 followed by Station 8 in November. These engines were 1,000 gpm pumpers constructed on a Ford chassis with a Caterpillar V-8 diesel engine. Each carried 800 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and 1,000 feet of light-weight 5-inch hose arranged for either straight or reverse lays. These soon became standard equipment as well as the task-force-tip (TFT) nozzles which had been tested at Station 6 and Station 23. All of these technological advances (LDH engines and TFT nozzles) are still used on the Department today. In July, the Fire Marshall's Office launched the Anti-Fireworks Program to offset the anticipated $1.5 million in property losses during the July 4th holiday. The result of stopping fireworks purchasers as they crossed into the city limits was a dramatic 83% reduction in the number of fireworks fires that season.
Paramedics were affected in August of 1979 as it was determined that the number of certified paramedics was sufficient enough to allow some of the original members to be replaced. At this time, they had all served seven years as EMTs and paramedics. That same month, the first volume of the Manual of Procedures (Volume 1, Emergency Medical Procedures) was distributed. The proposed series would eventually include twelve volumes in blue binders, with room for expansion if necessary. October saw a raise for medics. The $25 per month Paramedic Qualification Pay included the EMS Division Chief, Section Chief, Shift Duty Officers (called 720s at the time), and all primary and alternate MICU crew members. Additionally, Paramedic Assignment Pay (as opposed to qualification pay) was raised from $25 to $50 per month for primary and alternate crews.
One of the last occurrences in 1979 forever changed building regulations for the City of Dallas. In November, a close city council vote passed a city ordinance banning untreated wood shingle roofs in new construction. The very controversial issue had been fueled by the September five-alarm fire at the Pepper Mill Apartments in North Dallas which caused $2.5 million in damages. After the smoke cleared, 88 apartments had been damaged or destroyed and over 100 people were left homeless.
The 1970's came to a close with the last of the administrative offices being moved from Old Central Fire Station at 2111 Main to the 7th floor of City Hall. Over the weekend of January 4, 1980, Chief Miller, the Assistant Chiefs, Research and Plans, and their staffs moved to City Hall to make it official. After Fire Headquarters being at Central for 50 years, they were all relocated to City Hall and Old Central was marked for demolition.
As the eighties started, the monthly base pay for a third year Fire and Rescue Officer was $1531. The Department pressed forward in technology as they tried to stay on the cutting edge; they started installing radio-controlled overhead door openers in all of the fire stations. That same year, the Maintenance Division began to make "house calls" to fire stations for minor apparatus repair. The summer of 1980 marked a record-setting heat wave in America. Dallas felt the heat as the Department answered 54 multiple alarm fires in a 79 day span with each of those days averaging 20 grass fires.
1981 brought in a new style of glove as the old cotton gloves were replaced with ones made out of a new fire-resistant material called Kevlar. Innovation continued in EMS as the Department started call-screening by hiring a nurse that screened all requests for medical attention. A great honor was bestowed on us as the Dallas Fire Department received the award for Emergency Medical System of 1981 from the National Association of EMTs. This honor would be short lived, however, as the Department would once again suffer tragedy.
On August 21, 1981, the Department was mourning yet another loss of two firefighters in the same fire. Charles Rogers and Edward Metters died of smoke inhalation when they became trapped after part of the roof collapsed behind them, cutting off their means of egress. They were found next to a large window made of double-pane tempered glass which was unbreakable. They were apparently trying to break the glass out to escape when they were overcome by the smoke.
1982 saw yet another step forward in technology as a video terminal network system was installed in every fire station. This allowed members at the station to check the status of active incidents as well as electronically enter run reports eliminating reams of paper work produced by the old system. Officers on all fire apparatus also received a portable radio to improve communication away from the apparatus and on the fireground. There were several other changes and additions to the Department in 1982. The ambulance transport fee was increased from $75 to $85, the Command Van was introduced, and in October there was a revision to the fire code requiring all buildings that were occupied by more than ten people to have smoke detectors. One other piece of equipment introduced that year was the automatic center-punch for breaking tempered glass. This vital piece of equipment was introduced as a result of the deaths of Charles Rogers and Ed Metters.
The Dallas Firefighter's Association celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1982, and the members now had another employee association available as the Black Firefighters Association was introduced.
The Department received a federal grant in 1983 which helped start the free smoke detector program for citizens of Dallas. The first year saw over 4,000 smoke detectors installed in residences throughout the city. Also that year, the city began using American LaFrance apparatus which began the transition back to red fire engines and trucks.
1984 was witness to more growth and expansion beginning with the opening of Station 10 on April 17th. This marked the 50th station in existence for the Dallas Fire Department, and it was the first fire station built outside of Dallas County. It is in Collin County, but it is still in the Dallas city limits. This station was also the first station to have the number "0" included in its name for many years due to the old joker system's inability to recognize zeros. The new dispatch system now recognized zeros, so the Department could now designate station numbers to include zero. Two additional ambulances were placed in service which brought the Departments total to 20 frontline MICUs. 1984 also marked the beginning of the High Angle Rescue Team (HART) which was the pre-cursor to the present day Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team. There was one program suspended that year; after a controversial complaint, the call-screening nurse program was put on hold while an investigation into the complaint and the efficiency of the program got under way.
The Republican National Convention came to Dallas in 1984. With the whole country watching our every move, a fire broke out at the Texas School Book Depository. This building, and Dallas for that matter, drew a notorious reputation for the role it played in the assassination of John F. Kennedy some 21 years earlier. However, the efforts of the Dallas Fire Department were faultless as literally the whole world looked on; it was a bittersweet moment for the City and Department as its members shined but at the same time lost a piece of history.
1985 marked the 100th anniversary of the Dallas Fire Department as a paid and professional fire department. On February 18th, the first Signal 1-7 in twenty years consumed the Metropolitan Savings Building at 1407 Main Street. The fledgling specialty teams saw changes as their place on the Department began to take hold. Squad 33 was activated as the High Angle Rescue Team (HART). The HazMat program saw a big boost as the budget that year allowed for vast expansions. The Hazardous Materials Spill Plan was revised to include provisions for Level I and II response.
EMS also continued to change, as it should have, for 1985 marked the first year in department history that fire apparatus were dispatched to more medical emergencies than fire emergencies. Medical technology saw advances as nine new automatic defibrillators were being tested in the field. The Department initiated its Peak Demand MICU program as it put 2 of the part-time ambulances in service at Stations 3 and 6, but only on Fridays and Saturdays during "peak" times. Additionally, Parkland Hospital nurses replaced dispatchers at Biotel.
The Department itself experienced change and expansion. Ground was broken on a 39-acre site at 5000 Dolphin Road for a Training and Maintenance Center. There was also a feasibility study in place testing Mobile Data Terminals on Engines 4 and 11 as well as a Research and Plans vehicle. Squads 20, 32, and 46 were placed in service while Boosters 51 and 46 were deactivated. The resiliency of the Department's members showed time and time again as response to major incidents took them beyond the city limits. On August 2, eighteen members of the Dallas Fire Department, along with 4 MICU's, responded to DFW Airport to assist victims of Delta Flight 191 which crashed killing 137 people.
January of 1986 marked a deadly month for the citizens and the Department as 14 civilians were killed in fires. 7 of those individuals (4 adults and 3 children) were lost in a single fire at 218 Terrace; this marked the largest loss of life in a single-family dwelling in the Departments history. Expansion continued as additional apparatus were placed in service with two new MICU's (722 and 732) and Red 3, a Rapid Intervention Vehicle, at Love Field. The infrastructure of operations was also expanded as Battalion 11 went into service. In addition to this, the EMS supervisory system was expanded to three zones. This was also the first year that Nomex firefighting hoods were issued to members.
It had been over five years since the Department had lost one of its own. However, on February 25th, 1987, firefighter Dale Rhine lost his life fighting a house fire in what investigators determined to be a backdraft. The memorial service was attended by over 1800 mourners.
1987 did have positive points; the Training Facility and Maintenance Shop opened at 5000 Dolphin Road bringing about state-of-the-art innovations in fire service training. That was also the year that DFD placed a tiller truck in service at Station 3, the first tiller truck the city had in service since 1975. The Hydrant Maintenance Program was initiated, gas-powered positive-pressure ventilation fans were placed in service, and a new Electronic Messaging system came about in 1987. The only program to be deactivated that year was the SCUBA program.
This year would not end on a good note, however, as the Department would lose another member. On December 3rd, recruit Adrian Cal died after he collapsed several weeks earlier during skills testing at the drill tower. He became the first African-American member, as well as, the first recruit to die in the line of duty. It was determined that he died from a rare medical condition.
1988 marked a big addition to safety technology as the Department started using PAL III Pass devices which were assigned to all companies. These are audible devices worn on the coats of firefighters who are working in a structure fire. Just before entry, the firefighter activates the device. If the firefighter is incapacitated in any way and lies still for a certain period, the device emits a loud noise. This alerts firefighters that another member is down, and it makes the victim easier to locate. This also marked the year that the 911 system began operation. 1988 also saw several things eliminated including 85 uniformed employees positions which included 10 in Fire Prevention, Education and Inspection. The Department also eliminated District 4 and concurrently moved Battalion 1 to Station 4 and Battalion 3 to Station 8. On the other hand, the city did see some additions to its fire department. A new step-raise plan was implemented which set up incremental raises at each rank based on merit. That year also saw the addition of Boosters 18, 20, 51, 52 and 54.
The end of the decade brought about a controversial system of response. In 1989, the new Task Force system was implemented. It consisted of groups of responders called Task Forces and Light Forces. A Task Force consisted of two engines and a truck and a Light Force consisted of an engine and truck. Individual companies' run totals skyrocketed as more manpower and emergency vehicles were dispatched to incidents as simple as a medical emergency. The manpower squads were also eliminated in 1989. That same year the Communications Division moved to its new space in the City Hall basement while going to a 4-shift rotation.
The 1990's brought about more technological advances as Mobile Data Terminals were installed in engines and MICU's to relieve radio congestion and improve response times. That same year (1990), the Department began testing traffic control devices to aid in station apparatus getting out of the house without being delayed by passing vehicles. The Peak Demand MICU program was further expanded with three extra units being placed in service, and they were now running seven days a week. The unpopular Task Force was further enhanced.
There were several new policies and standards implemented in 1991 that are still in practice today. The first standard, which was a safety issue, dealt with minimum staffing, and this was made possible through hirebacks. The substance abuse policy was also started which allowed supervisors to request drug testing with a just cause. In fire prevention, a uniform fire code was adopted. The Fire Prevention and Education Division also introduced two educational tools that targeted children. "Little Squirt" the fire truck and the Fire Safety House where used to educate children on fire safety and what to do in case of a fire.
In 1992, all MICUs were equipped with a cell phone. There was also a plan developed to install underground fuel vaults at all fire stations in the city. And, for the first time in Department history, t-shirts were allowed to be worn during certain activities.
Personnel accountability came to the forefront in 1993 when the Department integrated Personnel Accountability Procedures into the Incident Command System. The Department also established a sexual harassment policy. The Administration Building opened at the Training and Maintenance complex on Dolphin Road in 1993. Arson and Fire Investigation received a new member in their division in the form of a canine. Cinder the arson dog was trained to detect accelerants which helped pinpoint their locations in a shorter time. This proved to be vital as it reduced the amount of samples investigators had to collect and analyze. 1993 also marked the year that the Hispanic Firefighters' Association was founded.
In 1994, the Communicable Disease Coordinator position was created in EMS to help paramedics and firefighters keep up with immunizations as well as stay informed of communicable diseases. The drug abuse policies were further expanded with the implementation of random drug testing at all fire stations. And, the Firefighter Memorial was moved from Fair Park to its current location in front of the Academy Building at 5000 Dolphin Road.
In 1995, the Departments first ever Health Fair was held. This was a program developed to offer employees and their families low cost health care screening and exams. This program was extremely successful and it is still, to this day, a highly attended event. FPE&I held its first annual Fire and Safety Fun Day in 1996 at the Drill Tower on Dolphin Road; this public service event was well-received.
As EMS celebrated 25 years of service, 1997 turned out to be another year which witnessed expansion and growth on the Department, including the City of Dallas. In January of 1997, the DART railway tunnel was officially opened. This new facility, along with the implementation of the whole DART rail system, sparked new additions to the Manual of Procedures as well as extensive training to prepare members for related emergencies. In December, the 311 system began operating giving the citizens of Dallas a means to access city services in a non-emergency capacity.
The close of the century brought about change in the Department's equipment, safety standards, and leadership. The city also had to prepare for the technological issues which would be brought on by Y2K. In May of 1999, the Department approved the use of helmets with goggles attached to them. The safety of members would forever be changed with the implementation of the 2 in/2 out procedure. The turn of the century would prove to be a time of great focus on the safety of firefighters across the country; this was initiated with the 2 in/2 out system.
After 23 years at the helm of the Dallas Fire Department, Chief Dodd Miller retired on December 22. The Department had experienced a great deal of change and expansion throughout his tenure. Chief Miller stated that one of his crowning achievements during his tenure was the building and completion of the Drill Tower at 5000 Dolphin Road; the facility would be named after him several years later.
As the new century was born, the City experienced little to no difficulties with the Y2K technology conversion. This was in part to the extensive preparations that had taken place over the previous couple of years. There was also an addition to the ARFF program when Red 49 became continually staffed on February 7th to cover the needs of Dallas Executive Airport. Prior to this, the crash unit was manned by personnel at Station 49 whenever it was needed.
In July of 2000, the Department broke tradition by hiring its first Fire Chief from outside of the Department. Steve Abraira was named Fire Chief after a 26 year career with the City of Miami; he took over the Dallas Fire Department on July 31. He was eager to continue our department's goal to be a progressive and top-rated department. In order to do this, some simple as well as drastic changes had to take place. The first of which was changing the name of the Department from the Dallas Fire Department to the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department. We also stopped calling the ambulances MICUs (Mobile Intensive-Care Units) and began calling them Rescues (February 1, 2001). Chief Abraira put into place procedures to insure the safety of members as they worked incidents on major highways. Truck companies are now dispatched to all of these incidents to block the oncoming traffic from firefighters working at the scene. It also increased the run numbers for truck companies at a time when it was rumored that some truck companies were on the chopping block.
2001 saw the start of the Explorer Program which is a tool to educate youth on the nature and complexity of the fire service. This program also serves as a recruitment tool for potential firefighters.
On March 10, 2001, the Department would be suffering the loss of another one of its members. Gerald Fields suffered a major heart attack and died while on duty at the station. His death was one of the first times that a heart attack was recognized as an "in the line-of-duty" death. Before then, only firefighters who died while responding to or actually engaged in duties at an emergency scene were recognized as a death in the line of duty. His death prompted the Department to add the names of firefighters who had died from natural causes while on duty to the Firefighter's Monument and have their pictures added to the halls of the Academy.
All occurrences on our Department or any occurrence in the country for that matter paled in comparison to the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. The country's sense of security and the face of public safety would forever be changed when two hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City. Among the 3,000 plus Americans that died that day were 343 of our brothers and sisters.
2002 would prove to be a roller-coaster year as the Department would see multiple ups and some tragic downs. On February 11, Firefighter Vincent Davis lost his life as he fought a six-alarm fire in Oak Cliff. He and a fellow firefighter (Chuck Womble) were buried under a pile of brick and rubble after a wall collapsed on them as they walked past.
That summer, on July 11th, the Department would see its greatest fire loss in a single family dwelling in the Department's history. A six-alarm fire on Strait Lane raged out of control doing an estimated $20 million dollars worth of damage to a 43,000 square foot home which was still under construction. Fortunately, there was no loss of life in the incident. Then, in December, the training program for paramedics changed drastically. Instead of the trainees going straight-through paramedic school after finishing the Academy, they were assigned to a district and shift somewhere in the city. Then, on one of their days off, they attended paramedic school and clinical rotations.
2002 would close out just as it had started, on a sad note. The Department had lost its second member in a year and its third in two years. On December 5, Captain Michael DePauw suffered a fatal heart attack while battling a 2-alarm house fire in North Dallas. He was part of the initial attack crew and became unconscious shortly after a 2nd alarm was requested.
In 2003, more changes took place. One piece of new firefighting equipment was added to the engines; the piercing nozzle. The box card system that the Department had used for many years also changed. It simplified the way box numbers were assigned; the first two numbers of the four-digit box number reflected the first-due station. The next two numbers reflected the direction the box lied in relation to the station; 01-19 was to the northeast; 20-39 was to the southeast; 40-59 was to the southwest, and 60-79 signaled a box northwest of the station. If the station had a high-rise building in its first up district, its last two numbers were a 90 series number.
On February 12th, 2003, the Department was again mourning as Wayne Clark, a 46 year old recruit collapsed and died while running a routine drill at the Academy. Although efforts to revive him began immediately upon his collapse, Clark never regained consciousness and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Expansion to the relatively new Internal Document System (IDS) was realized when in March, all Department Memorandums, Directives, and Emergency Operations Distributions began being posted on the IDS. Then, one month later, the Manual of Procedures in its entirety was placed on the IDS eliminating the bulky hard copies that took up a lot of room in the station libraries. By October, all hirebacks, run reports, and the daily 140 were done exclusively on the IDS. Perhaps the biggest change that occurred in 2003 was the issuing of a new style of uniform. Gone were the blue button-up shirts and Dickies work pants; we now sport dark navy polo pullovers shirts with utility cargo pants to complete the ensemble.
In February 2004, all fuel used by department apparatus began being logged on the IDS. In June, the Department purchased and placed into service a new air wagon with an onboard cascade system to fill SCBA bottles at the fire-scene; it was designated as 829. The air supply truck (820) was also complemented with a second air-supply truck designated as 821. Now having two supply trucks allowed the drivers to split their workload in two as one truck would deliver air to the North and one would deliver air to the South. The bulky "red-bags" used to carry high-rise hose were taken off of fire-apparatus in July. They were replaced with four hose packs that were much lighter and less cumbersome to use. On December 1, the old DFIRS system gave way to the nationally recognized NFIRS system. This new system was more thorough yet it simplified the data entry with a series of pull-down menus putting the endless lists of codes at the member's finger-tip.
In 2005, the Department began its transition to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) after federal mandates required all fire departments to move towards a unified system of communication and structure for emergency management. In August of 2005, a new color was added to the helmets seen on the fireground. All Battalion Chiefs, Deputy Chiefs, and the Safety Chief (832) started to carry a green helmet, which is worn by the designated safety officer at every fire scene.
Chief Steve Abraira resigned on September 9th, 2005 after five years of service to the citizens of Dallas. Assistant Chief Louie Bright was named as interim chief while the city conducted a national search for Chief Abraira's replacement.
In February of 2006, the rescues began logging patient information electronically on laptop computers in the form of Electronic Patient Care Reports (EPCRs). This eliminated a great deal of paperwork generated by the 158,000 plus medical runs the rescues were now making a year.
After a seven month, national search, the City Council hired Eddie Burns as the new Fire Chief. Chief Burns marked the second time a chief was chosen outside the Department and the first African-American to be appointed as Fire Chief. He had been a Deputy Chief for the Fort Worth Fire Department prior to his hiring in Dallas on April 19, 2006.
Our first full-fledged fire boat went into service on May 26th as Marine 1 replaced Boat 58 at Lake Ray Hubbard. October saw a cap placed on the age of an individual hired to serve on the Department. The candidate could not be older than 35 on the day he or she took their civil service exam.
With the help of Federal grants and after several months of training and preparing, the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department placed its Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team in service on April 1, 2007. The team includes Stations 15 and 19 with the members of Station 3's Hazmat team being cross-trained in USAR tactics as well. In May, the familiar tones and voices that had long before been heard as the speakers opened up at stations stopped dispatching runs. The members assigned to the Alarm Office were no longer the voice on the loud-speaker as the new Locution system's automated voice became the one telling us where we were needed. The only time we now hear the dispatcher's voice is when there is a special announcement or the Locution system is out-of-service. At the year's end, members no longer had to sign a hard-copy of all Memorandums and Directives. They simply sign off on the documents electronically after they read it on the IDS. This process not only eliminated large amounts of paperwork, but it allowed supervisors a better way of keeping up with which members of their crew had read what memo.
2008 proved to be a very busy year for the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department as many changes took place and the Department continued to expand. In February, several changes to the way staffing is handled were implemented. The day-to-day hireback duties were handed off to the Deputy Chiefs which made hiring back a divisional matter. This helped alleviate the difficulty in the periodic balancing of the overtime hours between districts. February was also the month that our transfer policies were completely overhauled. The old notion of "first letter in gets the hole" went away and several members are now allowed to "bid" on the same hole. The member who gets the transfer request is based on several factors including seniority and the overall needs of the Department.
The Department initiated its Wellness Fitness Program on March 3, 2008 after years of planning and resolving legal issues. The program has proven to be a success after health exams revealed that several members had health conditions that they were unaware of, and possibly prevented them from losing their lives in the line of duty. There were many changes and additions to the Department's arsenal of resources beginning with the re-designation of Red 49; it is now called Red 4. 45 thermal imagers were purchased in June and distributed among most of the fire engines across the city. We also began using the FIREBASE computer program to enter and update data related to inspections. In August, all of our SCBAs were replaced with brand new Scott air-masks.
As 2009 began, some of the Departments focus was on how to relieve the pressure that was being felt by paramedics; the Departments total number of medical-related runs had surpassed 170,000. There was already a system in place to add more than the standard 5 paramedics per shift at the stations that housed some of the busiest rescues. This meant less runs per paramedic. However, there was still a need to lower the run load experienced by each rescue, and in order to do this, some of the burden needed to be pushed off on the engines as well as the trucks. An attempt at this came in April of 2009 with the inception of Advanced Life Support (ALS) Engines and Rapid Response Units (RRU). This program did little to decrease the number of runs each rescue made, so it was terminated by the end of the year. Members stopped receiving paycheck stubs in December as the City of Dallas moved further into the electronic age and away from using hard-copies of technical documents.
In 2010, the Department was made up of 56 fire stations spread out over the City of Dallas' 385 square miles while protecting more than 1.3 million citizens. Its fleet consists of 55 engines, 21 trucks, 34 frontline rescues, 11 peak demand rescues, 2 USAR vehicles, 1 HazMat unit, 4 ARFF trucks, 12 boats (1 w/ firefighting capabilities) and 9 boosters all divided amongst 10 Battalion Districts. Statistics indicated that in 2009, the Department made more than 275,00 runs. We also engaged in the early stages of a new "Meet and Confer" program which gave our employee associations a place at the bargaining table with city officials to discuss better benefits and work environments for our members. Our USAR program also received another federal grant which allowed the team to plan for advancement from a Type III system to a Type I system.
Planning added another truck to our arsenal at Station 10; this would give us 22 trucks and another much needed truck-company in Far North Dallas. The Department's 57th fire station (Station 50) was added on the far west side of Dallas in 2012.
The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department is now over 140 years old with 125 of those as a professional entity. The original idea is still the same today as it was in 1872; we are here to serve and protect the Citizens of Dallas. We have definitely come a long way from the old bucket-brigade days when the city was new. Technology has grown beyond what we could have ever imagined, our run numbers continue to climb as our job duties constantly change to cover a gamut of new needs from our citizens, and the city continues to grow as does the Department. With all of this, we still do day in and day out what we have always done, and when the bell hits, the citizens can rest assured that the ever vigilant men and women of the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department will be there.
Finally, City of Dallas Management bestowed the title of "Fire Chief" upon Louie Bright III, in April 2012. This selection came on the heels of Chief Bright's 2nd stint as Interim Fire Chief. Chief Bright's leadership and professionalism during each of his tours as Interim Fire Chief included collaborative planning and advancement of the fire department during times of continued population growth for the City of Dallas as well as advancements in technology that impacted upon the fire department's operations. Chief Bright was promoted from within the Department after serving proudly in many capacities after his initial employment (September 23, 1981). His assignments included, firefighter/paramedic, Lieutenant and Captain as well as chief officer. As chief officer, he was assigned to The Training Division, Executive Deputy Chief, Assistant Chief of EMS, and Assistant Chief of Training and Support Services Bureau before finally being named as the Department's fire chief in 2012.