City Fire Department History, 1835-1941

Columbus Indiana


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Fire Department in 1896. They were just as proud of the Fire Department 45 years ago as we are now, for old No. 1 fire house was almost as new then as Central Fire Station is, and the fire wagons were newer than any of our fire trucks. The only old piece of equipment shown above is the hose cart on the left, with Oliver Strawn as driver. On the new one-horse, hose wagons are Ed Stofer and, to the right, George Lacy. William Hendricks is driver of the two-horse ladder wagon, with Ralph Owens beside him. The two men standing are Walter Doup and William P. May, members of the Volunteer Company. Note muddy, unpaved Fifth Street


     All this time the city was growing to the northeast, so that in 1908 the council saw the necessity of providing additional fire protection in that section, and authorized erection of No. 2 Fire House at Thirteenth Street and Hutchins Avenue. Into this moved in January, 1909, three additional firemen, two horses and a two horse hose wagon. The council then reduced the number of volunteer firemen from 29 to 18.

     No. 1 Fire Company was motorized in 1918 by substituting two American-LaFrance fire trucks for the horses, remodeled the fire station and added two paid firemen. It also discontinued the volunteer Company.

     No. 2 Company was motorized two years later, when another fire truck was purchased.

     The city council added two men to the Department in 1924, and another in 1934, bringing it up to its present strength of chief and thirteen firemen.

     In 1931 the city bought a car for the chief, which has since been traded for a newer model; and in 1939 bought a new pumper powered by a Cummins Diesel motor. This makes five pieces of motorized equipment owned by the Department.

     Old NO. 1 fire house was condemned as unsafe in 1940, and step were taken immediately to build a new one. The fire company moved out of the old one last fall into temporary quarters, and the building was razed last February. A lot was purchased at Eleventh and Washington streets, and construction of Central Fire Station was started in March. It was completed last summer, and No. 1 Company moved in in August.


Thumbnail Biographies


     James D. Kailor (picture on page 5). Jim Kailor, who is now serving his fifth four-year term as chief of the Columbus Fire Department, was born in May, 1882, in Hagerstown, Maryland, but moved west with his parents as a small boy, settling first in Columbus, Ohio. He located in Columbus, Indiana in 1901, and took employment in the old Reeves Stacker works. He joined the Volunteer Fire Company on April 7, 1909, was elected president of it in 1911. He held that office until he was appointed the city's first full-time, salaried fire chief in 1918 by Mayor Frank S. Jones. He served until 1922, then was out of the department for four years. He came back as chief in 1926, service four years under Mayor C. B. Cooper and four under Mayor H. Karl Volland. In the latter's fifth year, under the skip-election law, he was reduced to a private, but came back as chief under Mayor John L. Hosea, 1935-38, and was reappointed when Fred C. Owens became mayor in 1939. The first big fire Chief Kailor helped to fight was that which destroyed the Bosse livery barn on September 25, 1909, soon after he joined the Vounteers. He has missed very new blazes here since. Chief Kailor is a firm believer in fire prevention. He personally makes inspections of property throughout the city the year round, and has all the firemen out to make inspections during Fire Prevention Week. He does not hesitate to recommend legislation designed to prevent fires or improve the Fire Department, and appeared before one city council after another for ten years advocating an electrical code until one was enacted a few years ago. He has been advocating a building code, and a drill school for the firemen, to the rear of the new Central Fire Station. He has made a study of the city water system, and knows how the mains lie all over town, their size, connections, etc.

     Most of the modern equipment for fire fighting has been purchased since he first became chief, including a number of pieces built by the firemen themselves at low cost. He was appointed in 1940 to the National Defense Committee of the Indiana Chief's Association. He married Miss Clara Nentrup, and they have one daughter.


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