In Laramie’s early days, fire protection provided by townspeople included barrels of water sitting around corners of buildings and on the roofs. In wintertime, the barrels probably had to go inside or were filled with sand. Blankets and carpets covered the roofs of nearby buildings in the event of a fire.
In 1871, three years after the town was founded, the first major Laramie fire was recorded. A volunteer hook and ladder company had been organized by then. Axes, hooks, ladders, and buckets were the modern equipment of the time.
In 1875, City Hall with a Fire Department was built at Second St. between what is now Ivinson and University Streets. Col. John Wanless was appointed chief and given authority to organize a company which he called “Wanless Hose Company #1”. Essentially it was an all-volunteer unit with equipment kept in the city hall/fire department building. The same year the Union Pacific Railroad extended water pipes from city springs east of town to the rolling mills (about where Safeway is today), allowing the first fire hydrants.
Several other volunteer fire departments, including one established by the railroad, were formed in the next few years; the Wanless Company disbanded when Hook and Ladder Company #1 replaced them. Fire ordinances were enacted and pay was set for the chief and an assistant.
The Laramie Fire Department bought their first vehicle in 1882, a horse-drawn pumper called “Engine Number One.” In 1891, a new firehouse was built at 3rd and Custer Street (see photo).
In 1896, a fire station was built on Grand and Pine Street. There were grade-level crossings of the railroad tracks in those days. If a train stopped at the depot, it could block the crossings, leaving fire trucks unable to reach the west side. That firehouse was deactivated when the first viaduct at Grand Avenue was built in 1929.
Fire Station #1 attached to City Hall, at 209 S. 4th Street, was built in 1938. Fire Station #2 at Reynolds and 23rd Street opened in1980. Quick response to the west side of Laramie resumed with the opening of Fire Station #3 on Snowy Range Road in 2010.
Ambulance and rescue service began in 1966, when the first emergency rescue vehicle was purchased by the city. Up to that point, Ivinson Memorial Hospital provided the ambulance service, but only within Laramie city limits. In 1970 an agreement was reached with IMH to respond all over Albany County.
On April 9, 2014, this writer had an experience with the Laramie Fire Department’s emergency rescue. I had a heart attack and collapsed at the Laramie Plains Museum, on the second floor of the Alice Hardie Stevens Center. I was out of it when the 911 call was made, but luckily the Fire Department was only 2.5 blocks away.
I’m told it was a trick for the first responders to revive me with a defibrillator (several attempts were needed) and to get me down the stairs to the waiting rescue vehicle. Laramie Fire and Police Departments are first-class and really know what they are doing.
In the Emergency Room at IMH, they did everything needed to stabilize me. I wish I could remember that helicopter ride to Cheyenne. Both IMH and the Laramie County Regional Hospital in Cheyenne have great doctors, nurses and staff. Within three months I had been discharged from therapy at the Laramie Care Center and was cleared by my doctors to return to my volunteer job as historian at the Laramie Plains Museum.
Laramie is fortunate to have such well-trained professionals providing emergency services. You never know when you’ll need them.
By Jerry Hansen
Caption: Posing in front of the old fire station at the NW corner of 3rd and Custer Streets are the men and equipment of the Laramie Fire Department, c. 1929. On the right is the Chief’s vehicle. From left to right, at the top are Ray Barth, Blake Fanning, Al Barker, Roger DeLand, Ivan Stafford, Harry Braisted and George Carlson. Bottom row left to right are Assistant Chief James G. Miller, Alfred Nelson, Frank Terry, (?) Nolan, Shang Costin, (?) Neil, City Councilman John Sandgren, (?) Lee, Harry Nottage, R. DeLand, Cy Brown, Paul Fanning, Frank Trienin, (?) Mast, Bill Thomas and Chief Justin H. Patrick. Photo courtesy Laramie Plains Museum, Harry Braisted Collection