Salida's Fire Boys


Salida’s Hose Company No. 1 was established in 1880. They were headquartered at the Hose House at 114 E. 1st Street and in January 1881, meetings were held and officers elected. Soon after, by-laws were drawn up.

During these early years, money was tight so the Hose Company threw grand balls to raise money for their department. The first of these events, held in February 1882, was described by the Mountain Mail as ‘one of the finest entertainments ever attended by the people of this town … If any person left the ballroom without having danced as often as he desired, it was his own fault. To show that there was a good crowd in attendance and that there was plenty of room, it is only necessary to remark that there were nine Virginia reels on the floor at once.’  This first ball brought into the Fire Department’s treasury close to $75.

Besides a direful financial situation, Salida’s fire boys had to deal with low water pressure when fighting fire. In 1883, several of them had been at a Knights of Pythias meeting when a fire started; with no time to change clothes, they fought the blaze in their Pythias uniforms. The Hose Company set to work on the fire but came across difficulties when it was discovered that the distance to the nearest fireplug was 800 feet. The friction caused by that distance eradicated most of the water pressure. Temperatures were below freezing and there was a blustery breeze blowing, adding to the wind chill. The Mountain Mail reported: ‘Some of the fire boys had their noses, ears, and fingers seriously injured by the intense cold … J.M. Buster stuck to the nozzle ’til he was covered with ice from head to foot, and he had to be taken by his friends to be resuscitated.’

In their first decade, the Hose Company survived on donations and subscriptions. In 1892, the company was close to disbandment, but the mayor and city council made efforts to reestablish the department. Below is the 1892 subscription list that saved the department. The names on it are a who’s who of Salida, including William Roller, Haight & Churcher, William Harbottle, and Alexander Hunt. During this time, the company moved into their quarters on 2nd Street.

In 1900, the Salida Fire Department moved into their present location at 124 E Street. The department has since outgrown their space and in 2023, Salida City Council approved the department’s move to a new location to 611 Oak Street. The groundbreaking took place on November 3, 2023.

The image above was taken February 1884 and is from the Frank Thomson Collection, part of the Salida Centennial Collection.

On back of original: 1. Sam McClung  2. ? Dansbury  3. Samuel King  4. Charley Smith (?)  5. William Haight  6. H. Forth  7. Frank Churcher (Foreman)  8. Call Smith  9. Fred Bateman  10. Samuel Morgan  11. Harry Whitehead  12. Chas. Hawkins  13. Richard Griffith  14. Theo Dobbie  15. Morgan Smith  16. M.L. Hicks  17. J.P. Smith  18. George McLean

The remarkable document found below is the 1892 Subscription List which was dedicated to the reorganization of Salida’s Hose Company No. 1, which nearly disbanded in May of 1892. This list contains signatures of most of the notable townsfolk of Salida, including A.C. Hunt, William Harbottle, and Peter Mulvany and everyone who signed this list committed to paying a set amount to keep the fire department operational. This document is part of the Salida Fire Department’s collection.

Salida Fire Dept 1892 subscription-list-p2
Salida Fire Dept 1892subscription-list-1892-p1

1892 Salida Fire Department ledger

Meeting minutes from the Salida Fire Department dated 1892 to approximately 1907. Includes a list of fire calls made by the department with damage, fire type, and locations listed.

Download a PDF of the full ledger

Salida Fire Department Chiefs:

Adolph Unger – 1892

Frank B. Churcher 1893 – 1904

Max Lessing 1904 – 1918

Ralph Lang  1918 -1923

Warren Britton 1923-1948

W.J. Ramey 1948 – 1949

Woodson D. Bennett 1949 – 1953

Thomas M. Bergman 1953 – 1961

Milton Myers 1961 – 1970

Jack Henderson 1970 – 1973

Charles Culp  1973 – 1979

Jim Gray

Pete DeChant

Rod Goosman  2003 – 2004

Don Taylor   2011 – 2012

Doug Bess  2012 – 2023


Salida Hose Company No. 1’s Hook and Ladder Truck. Salida Centennial Collection.


Salida Fire Department members out front at 124 E Street, their current home. Salida Centennial Collection.

Fire Dept Truck in Parade

Salida Fire Department members out for a parade in their Kissel Fire Truck. Bob Rush Collection.

Wickers Ice Cream Truck

This image (taken around 1910) of William Wickers shows his remodeled popcorn wagon that used to be Salida Fire Department’s Hook and Ladder Truck. Wickers used to farm in Chaffee County but later in life sold popcorn and ice cream on the corner of F and 1st from his food truck.
From the Bob Rush Collection.

Wickers Ice Cream Cone Seller

Another image of Buttons and William and Mary Wickers with the wagon. They are pictured in front of 124 E with some fire department members.
From the Bob Rush Collection.

Salida Fire Dept in Parade

The Salida Fire Department in one of Salida’s many parades, ca. 1920s. From the Salida Museum Negatives Collection.

Kissel Engine ca. 1949

The Kissel engine overheating during a parade, ca. 1950s. From the Salida Museum Negatives Collection.

Download a PDF of the entire 1955-64 Redbook

SFD Redbook 1955-64

Fire Department historians Clarence Route, Jack Henderson, Bob Wilcox, and Robert Kidwell saved various ephemera, but mainly news clippings, into a red scrapbook. These date from 1955 to 1964.

8mm film recorded by one of the Salida Fire Department firefighters:

Structure fire at the Hay House on Poncha Boulevard in the late 1970s

SFD, Champions at the Hose Race in 1978 in Sterling, Colorado

1974 FIBArk parade on E. 1st Street

SFD at a Hose Race in 1976 in Gunnison, Colorado

SFD at a Hose Race in 1976 in Gunnison, Colorado

SFD at a Hose Race in 1980

Dousing a Salida fire truck at the Salida Centennial Parade, 1980

Salida Fire Department Colorado State Convention Trophies.SalidaFireColl

Salida Fire Department members displaying their trophy haul from a state convention.

Back row: Bill Smith, Jim Gray, Wes Waggoner.

Front row: Kevin Nelson, Tim Nelson.

SFD 124 E St. R. Whitacre

The Salida Fire Department and South Arkansas Fire Protection District at 124 E Street. Taken November 2001 by Roger Whitacre.

SAFPD Nov 2001 R. Whitacre