The Brave Fire Laddies

"The red devil fire has destroyed every other town in the state. Due to the bravery and training of our teams, our town never burned."
Senator E. O. Wolcott, 1882

At their meeting on February 20, 1868, the board of selectmen of Georgetown, recognizing the need for a fire department, appointed three selectmen, H. K. Rearson, W. W. Ware, and a Mr. John Scott as a committee with full powers to act.

Since at the time Georgetown had no water works or water systems, the duties of the Fire Department centered around prevention and removal of probable causes. This in itself was a mighty job. Georgetown being constructed of mostly wood, bucket brigades and fire lanes for them were organized. And from such a small beginning came Georgetown's Fire Department, known across the United States for their wonderful efficiency at a fire, their organization, and the number of prizes and trophies they won in fire rally competition with other towns.

In December 1869, the citizens of Georgetown sub-scribed $1,100.00 for the purchase of a hand fire engine and 300 feet of hose. This apparatus was delivered in March, 1870. However, in February, 1870, the citizens of Georgetown, acting independently of the town authorities organized and trained a fire company, known as George-town Fire Company. This company is still in existence and is known as Georgetown Fire and Hose Company Number 1 or "Old Missouri."

In 1871 a hook and ladder truck was purchased and the citizens again formed and trained a company which was known as the Star Hook and Ladder. With these two companies the board of selectmen were requested to create offices of City Engineer with assistant. The duties of these engineers are defined by ordinance.

On the 4th of July, 1874, races and contests were run between the two fire companies. This is the first record of Fire contests and races held in Colorado Territory. On July 23rd, 1874, Hope Hose Company No. 1 was formed with Thomas Gaunella as foreman. Hope Hose, contrary to most beliefs was dismantled. It did not burn down, to make room for the present Engine Company No. 5.

On August 30th, 1874, the fire ordinances were passed and amended to the charter of the city of Georgetown, and on November 24th, 1874, Alpine Hose Company No. 2 was formed. Alpine Hose still holds a record for the fastest time ever made over a 700-foot course with hose jumper carrying 250 feet of hose in a straight-away race.

Now Georgetown possessed 4 top rate fire companies, paid for and supported by citizens and assisted by the town treasury. These companies were very exclusive, and even today citizens desiring to become volunteers must meet with trained men and are eventually approved.

Monumental to note, at this point during the period 1867 to 1874, the small fire combat resources successfully extinguished all blazes or prevented material damage to other structures. Big fires recorded during the period were the old Burton House (site of the new grade school), on January 7, 1871; the Washington Mill on July 20, 1871; the Bolor Reduction Works on August 15, 1871, and the Stewart Reduction Works on January 14, 1872. This works (Stewart) was saved and remained in operation after the fire. In 1875 President Grant visited Georgetown and was amazed at the proficiency of the fire companies in races and contests as well as their time records.

During the centennial year 1876, Georgetown celebrated with a grand schedule of races, fire tournaments and fireworks. The J. H. Jambell and company cast a brass cannon in their works at Georgetown, and on the evening of July 4, 1876 the cannon was fired 38 times. Once for each state in the union at the time. The cannon was the first gun made in Colorado and was presented to George-town. 1876 saw Colorado taken into the union as the Centennial State.

The year 1877 was one of the most significant in the history of Georgetown. Typical of competitions in which the four fire companies participated was one that took place at Idaho Springs. With the completion of the Colorado Central Railroad to Idaho Springs from Denver, the Woodie Fisher Hose Company of Denver made its first excursion, challenging all comers. On June 12th twelve companies from all over the new state took part. Distance of the run and hose lay was set at 700 feet. Teams of 11 men pulled the Woodie Fisher cart, weighing 1400 pounds. The run was won by Star Hook and Ladder in 32 seconds with the Rescues of Central City being second. Time: 31-3/4 seconds. On July 4th with the same conditions at Idaho Springs, Georgetown Fire Companies held a tournament. First prize was a silver fire trumpet ($125.00 value). This was won by Star Hook and Ladder in 32 seconds flat. The average times on the run for all fire companies was 32 seconds 7/10 and 16/100.

On August 14, 1877, the railroad arrived in George-town. Governor Routte and Secretary of State Clark were guests. There were some three thousand people that came up on the excursion trains throughout the day. For the occasion the Georgetown Iron Works cast a brass cannon as first prize to the fire competition. The big race over a 700-foot course pulling a hose jumper with 250 feet of hose was won in 29-3/4 seconds by Alpine Hose No. 2. J. E. Bates team of Denver was second with a time of 30 seconds flat, and Star Hook and Ladder third in 30-3/4 seconds.

From this race came a challenge race between Bates Company of Denver and Alpine Hose, to be run on Taos street in Georgetown in October 1877. This was a hub to hub race, distance 700 feet, with hose jumper and 250 feet of hose. Eleven men on each team. The Alpine Hose won this race by a foot in 26-3/4 seconds. Jim Canavan of the Bates team fell as they were crossing the score (finish line) and was run over by the cart. He was not seriously injured.

In 1878 Star Hook and Ladder went to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where they won 2nd place, and in Pueblo, they won Colorado first prize and championship belt for the state associations' convention.

During 1879-1880 Georgetown started building houses for the four companies, three of which are in existence today. 38

In 1880 Col. W. A. Hamill presented a bell to Alpine Hose No. 2. During this year, Col. Hamill donated $2,055.40 to the fire departments. In 1886 there were 183 active firemen in Georgetown, with new engines and 3,500 feet of hose.

Georgetown has on several occasions been threatened by fires. In 1871 the Barton house was destroyed, and in 1887 the Fish Block in the center of the business district was burned, however this was restored. The McClellan Opera House, situated in the center of town was destroyed. Even in June 1967, the Fish Block was gutted by fire; however, 18 minutes after the alarm was sounded, the fire was downed with no damage to adjoining buildings. Every time an alarm has sounded since the 100-year-ago beginnings, the fire companies responded so promptly and combatted the fire so efficiently that Georgetown is the only original frame and wood constructed town in Colorado which has not been swept out by fire-a splendid record for the departments and for the town. Properly organized, trained and efficient, today as well as yesterday, Engine No. 5 and the present department is continually active in training, inviting chiefs and firemen to assist in the training from Denver and surrounding cities. Proper education, inspection and fire consciousness in Georgetown are a continuation of the 100-year tradition set by the bucket brigades of '76. George Simonds

Source: Colorado State Firemens Association 1918-Convention Brochure.

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