History of the Fire Service

The history of organized firefighting began in ancient Rome while under the rule of Augustus.  Prior to that, there is evidence of fire-fighting machinery in use in Ancient Egypt, including a water pump invented by Ctesibius of Alexandria in the third century BC. 

The first Roman fire brigade in which there is substantial history was created by Marcus Licinius Crassus.  One of his most lucrative endeavors took advantage of the fact that Rome had no fire department. Crassus filled this void by creating his own “brigade”—500 men strong—which rushed to burning buildings at the first cry of alarm. Upon arriving at the scene, however, the fire fighters did nothing while their employer bargained over the price of their services with the distressed property owner. If Crassus could not negotiate a satisfactory price, his men simply let the structure burn to the ground, after which he offered to purchase it for a fraction of its value. Augustus took the basic idea from Crassus and then built on it to form the Corps of Vigiles in AD 6 to combat fires using bucket brigades and pumps, as well as poles, hooks and even ballistae to tear down buildings in advance of the flames. The Corps of Vigiles patrolled the streets of Rome to watch for fires and served as a police force. The later brigades consisted of hundreds of men, all ready for action. When there was a fire, the men would line up to the nearest water source and pass buckets hand in hand to the fire.

Evidence of the American fire service dates to 1631 when Boston’s governor John Winthrop outlawed wooden chimneys and thatched roofs.  In 1648, the New Netherland (modern day New York City) governor Pieter Stuyvesant appointed four men to act as fire wardens. These men were empowered to inspect all chimneys and to fine any violators of the rules. The city burghers later appointed eight prominent citizens to the “Rattle Watch”.  These men volunteered to patrol the streets at night carrying large wooden rattles.  If a fire was seen, the men spun the rattles then directed the responding citizens to form bucket brigades. On January 27, 1678, the first fire engine company went into service in Boston with its captain (foreman) Thomas Atkins.  In 1736, the first volunteer fire company is credited to Benjamin Franklin who established the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia.

The United States did not have government-run fire departments until around the time of the American Civil War. Prior to the American Civil War, most fire companies started as a “club” or co-op, to protect each other’s homes in the event of a fire.  During the Civil War, entire fire companies or departments would join up and many became the elite Zoave Battalions. The Civil War is often credited with helping to establish the fire department rank system that exists today. While fighting in the war, the leaders of the fire brigade received rank and continued to be known by that title long after returning home.

On April 1, 1853, Cincinnati (OH) Fire Department became the first professional fire department by being made up of 100% full-time, paid employees.


History of the Loveland Fire and Rescue Department

Loveland’s fire department has served the community since 1883.  The department was organized by Frank Bartholf and was known as the Bartholf Hose Company.  Oscar Hiker was elected as the first foreman of the newly formed company.  Evidence indicates that members of the company considered themselves “the elite of Loveland” and needed to have substantial personal wealth or be prominent local merchants.

On July 8, 1887, the Board of Trustees approved a motion to form the Loveland Hook and Ladder Company.  This company catered to the “common” man and provided identical services to the Bartholf Hose Company.  These companies functioned almost totally separately even though they shared the same firehouse that was built in November 1890.

An intense rivalry formed between the two companies, which led the town Board of Trustees to enact Ordinance Number 41 on March 6, 1894.  Even though both companies remained in operation, this was essentially the first step in creating the Loveland Fire Department.  The ordinance provided specific direction to the fire companies such as:

Section 1:  “…established a Fire Department for the Town of Loveland, which shall consist of a Chief Engineer and such other officers as may be herefore be appointed, and members of such fire companies as may from time to time organized under the authority and by the direction of the Board of Trustees; and every such fire company shall appoint a foreman of the company, and may adopt such rules and by-laws for their own government as shall not be repugnant to the Ordinances of the Town or the laws of the State.”

Section 3:  “Neither the Chief Engineer, nor other officer, nor any member of any fire company, shall be allowed, or paid, any compensation for services by reason of their being members of the Fire Department.”

Section 5:  Addressed the penalties for persons who neglect or refuse to obey orders, which was a five dollar fine for each and every offense.

Section 17:  “Any company returning from a fire and finding in its possession any hose, ladder, hook, axe or other tool or implement or apparatus belonging to another company, shall immediately return the same to the company to which it belongs.”

On February 21, 1911, a petition from the Fire Department was presented to the Town Council to consolidate the Bartholf Hose Company and Loveland Hook and Ladder No. 1.  The Council adopted a resolution

“Now Therefore Be it Resolved the said two fire companies are hereby consolidated and authorized to organize under the name of the Loveland Fire Department.”

In 1911, the Loveland Fire Department was authorized to have a staff of forty (40) volunteer firefighters.  In 1912, Loveland Fire Department officially became a combination (paid and volunteer staff) department with the hiring of the first paid driver.  In the 1950, the Department was authorized to have a maximum of 50 volunteer firefighters.  The Department increased the paid staff was hired during the 1950s and the 1960s.  In the 1970s the volunteer ranks increased to a maximum of 60 personnel, and there were a total of 15 paid personnel.  In the 1980s, the volunteer ranks increased to 70 personnel, and there was a total paid staff of 21.  In the 1990s, the total staff increased to 103 with a total volunteer force of 57 and a paid staff of 46.  In the 2000s, the Department transitioned more towards a paid staff.  Volunteer personnel were required to sign up for shifts and/or serve as a member of one of the companies.  By 2006, the field officer ranks held by volunteers were discontinued. 


History of the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District

The Loveland Fire Department had a unique responsibility in that it provided fire protection to both the City of Loveland and the rural areas surrounding the City.  Before the formation of the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District, the Fire Department questioned the validity of responding outside of City limits.   The City pumper could not be taken out of the City limits, which limited fire protection to the rural residents.  In 1935, a Diamond T Pumper was purchased to provide fire pumper to rural residents.

On June 20, 1950, the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District was formed.  The money raised through a mill levy was used to purchase a fire apparatus, to establish a contract with the City of Loveland to pay the wages of one of the four Fire Department employees, and to pay a $50.00 per month fire engine rental.  The Rural District relied on the Loveland Volunteer Fire Department for their firefighters and supported them by making an annual contribution for their training and equipment.

The Rural District surrounds the City of Loveland, and covers approximately 194 square miles.  Since its inception until the formation of the Authority, the Rural District relied upon a contractual relationship with the City of Loveland through the Loveland Fire and Rescue Department, and the volunteers with the Big Thompson Canyon Volunteer Fire Department  to provide fire and emergency services within the Rural District.  The Authority now provides all fire and emergency service to the Rural District.

In 2005, Fire Station #8 was constructed by the Rural District to provide an operational base for the BTCVFD.  The Rural District also maintains one additional unmanned fire station in the Cedar Park area of the Big Thompson Canyon.


History of the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority

On January 1, 2012, the City of Loveland and the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) which established the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority.  The Loveland Fire Rescue Authority is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of five (5) individuals – two (2) Loveland City Council members, the Loveland City Manager, and two Rural District Board members.

The Fire Authority is responsible for all fire and emergency services within the boundaries of the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District and the City of Loveland.  Effective January 1, 2016, the City transferred the Loveland & Fire Rescue Department personnel to the Fire Authority.  Effective January 1, 2017, the City and the Rural District leased its fire stations, and transferred its apparatus and equipment to the Fire Authority. 

Funding for the Fire Authority comes from both the City of Loveland and the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District.  The City is responsible for 82% of the expenses and the Rural District responsible for 18% of the expenses.  

Emergency operations of the Fire Authority within the Rural District remains similar to the operations prior to the formation of the Fire Authority.  The Fire Authority has a total strength of 110 (86 paid, 14 BTCFD volunteers, 9 reserves).


Loveland Fire Rescue Authority Timeline

1881 – City of Loveland incorporated as a municipality

1882 – First fire prevention ordinance in Loveland was enacted

1883 – Frank Bartholf organized, supported and financed the first “team” known as Bartholf Hose Company.

1887 – W.B. Sutherland and O.C. Tinkham petition the town Board of Trustees to organize a hook and ladder company.  The motion was approved to form the Loveland Hook and Ladder Company.

1890 – Hose House (fire station) constructed and housed both companies

1894 – Ordinance No. 41 enacted by the Town Board of Trustees.  This ordinance formed a Fire Department for the Town and established standard operating procedures for the two fire companies.

1909 – City of Loveland enters into a contract with Seagrave Company for the purchase of first motorized fire truck for the Fire Department.  The City Council also started the process to construct a new city hall consisting of the Fire Department, Police Department and City offices.  Local business owner Carlton C. Bushnell filed a lawsuit against the City stating these purchases would exceed the yearly revenue of the City.  The final decision of the court allowed the purchase of the fire truck and the construction of the new building.  The building was located at 220 East 5th Street.

1909 – Bartholf Hose Company took delivery of a Seagrave chemical wagon.  The City of Loveland became the third city in Colorado to become an owner of an automobile type fire apparatus (behind Denver and Lamar).

1911 – A petition from the Fire Department was presented to the City Council to consolidate Bartholf Hose Company and Loveland Hook and Ladder Company No. 1.  The Council adopted a resolution to consolidate the two companies and organize the Loveland Fire Department.

1911 – The 41 member of the two companies were combined under the direction of Chief J.D. Leas.

1912 – The first paid employee of the Loveland Fire Department was hired to serve as a fire truck driver.

1913 – The City Council approved the hiring of a permanent assistant fire truck driver.

1919 – The City of Loveland purchases a Federal cab and chassis with the 1909 Seagrave fire body mounted on it.

1925 – The City of Loveland purchased an American LaFrance pumper truck with a mid-mount pump under the seat capable of pumping 750 gallons of water per minute.

1935 – Diamond T Pumper was purchased to provide fire protection to residents in the rural areas around the City of Loveland.

1937 – The Loveland Fire Department purchases a 1929 Fargo panel van to serve as a rescue truck.  The Department also purchased an E & J resuscitator and sent personnel to a first aid/rescue school in Denver.

1939 – The Loveland Fire Department purchased a Ford one-ton panel van to serve as an ambulance.

1946 – The Fire Chief appointed the first three volunteer firefighters to the rank of Lieutenant.

1950 – The Loveland Fire Department makes the decision that the “ambulance is only to be used in emergency cases and the other calls are to be referred to the other ambulance services in town.”

1950 – Loveland Rural Fire Protection District formed.

1953 – Firefighter Hal Meyers died while on duty.  This is the only known death of a firefighter to occur on duty.

1960 – Formation of the Loveland Fire Department Dive Team

1963 – The Loveland Fire Department discontinues ambulance service.

1963 – Loveland Volunteer Fire Department incorporates, and forms Loveland Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.

1964 – An Engineer is hired bringing the total paid line staff to five (5).

1965 – Training Area is established on property east of the Fairgrounds.

1966 – Construction of a new fire station, located at 410 East 5th Street, is completed.  This station replaces the original station that was built in 1909.

1968 – Big Thompson Canyon Volunteer Fire Department formed.

1971 – An Engineer is hired bringing the total paid line staff to six (6).

1971 – Formation of the Loveland Fire Department Hazardous Materials team

1973 – Fire Captain Al Stevens is hired as Loveland’s first Fire Marshal.  The Fire Prevention Bureau is formed.

1974 – Fire Station #2, located at 2750 North Taft, is opened.  The Rural Fire Protection District owned fire engine is also housed at Station #2.

1975 – The Loveland Fire Department took delivery of a Sutphen 85-foot aerial platform.

1979 – Six engineers were hired in anticipation of the opening of Fire Station #3.  This brought the total paid staff to 21.

1979 – Loveland Fire Department authorized the paid position of Deputy Chief.  Fire Captain Gene Barrett was promoted to the position of Deputy Chief.

1980 – Fire Station #3, located at 900 South Wilson, is opened.

1987 – Formation of the Loveland Fire Department Rope Team

1990 – A paid training officer position was added to the staff.

1990 – The membership of Loveland Fire Department votes in favor of hiring a paid fire chief.

1991 – Chief Richard Minor was hired as the first paid chief for the Loveland Fire Department.

1991 – The first two female firefighters joined the volunteer ranks of the Loveland Fire Department.

1994 – Fire/Rescue Advisory Commission is formed.  The Department became known as the Loveland Fire and Rescue Department.  The Department ceases response with a City engine and Rural engine.

1995 – Fire Station #4, located at 4900 Earhart Road, was opened.  Six (6) new engineers were hired to staff the station.

1995 – Formation of the Loveland Fire and Rescue Department Honor Guard

1998 – Fire Station #5, located at 251 Knobcone Avenue, was opened.

2001 – Loveland Fire and Rescue Department hires five (5) personnel to serve as daytime firefighters.  This provided three-person staffing on all companies Monday – Friday (0730 – 1530).

2004 – Fire Station #6, located at 4325 McWhinney Boulevard, was opened.

2005 – Big Thompson Canyon Volunteer Fire Department Station #8 is constructed.

2006 – Formation of the Special Operations Team (Dive, Hazardous Materials, Rope, Technical Rescue)

2008 – Formation of a Rescue Company assigned to Station #2.  This led to dedicated support and engine services (5 Engine Companies and 2 Truck/Rescue Companies).

2012 – Formation of the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority which consolidated the City of Loveland and the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District. The Fire Authority is governed by a board of directors of five individuals (two Loveland City Council members, the Loveland City Manager, and two Rural District Board members).

2013 – Six (6) firefighters hired.  This allowed all companies with the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority to operate with a minimum staffing of three (3) personnel on each.

2014 – Construction is started on the new Fire Station #2.  It will be located at the intersection of West 29th Street and North Wilson Avenue.

2015 – Fire Station #2, located at 3070 West 29th Street, was opened.

2016 – City of Loveland and Loveland Rural Fire District apparatus transferred to the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority.

2017 – All City of Loveland Fire Department employees became Loveland Fire Rescue Authority employees.

2017 – Loveland Fire Rescue Authority received Accreditation by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. 

Loveland Fire Rescue Authority’s rich history will continue as today’s firefighters establish new traditions for their generation.  The area protected by the Authority continues to grow and the call volume continues to increase.  Since its inception, the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority has become a model organization, not just on the local level, but on a regional and State level.