Fire History

The following is The Halstead Fire Department Beginnings by Mark M. Malcom, Halstead FF/EMT-B.

Information Prior to 1877
We begin to understand about fire departmental history in Halstead only after the period following 1876. Prior to 1877, according to sources at the Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives, in Newton, Kansas. Halstead was incorporated in 1877 (verified at the Halstead City Clerks' Office). Information much prior to then would have been a matter of record (history) of one of the three county territories that Harvey County was carved from.

Early Fire Ordinances
From research efforts, it appears the earliest known fire related ordinance dates back to around July of 1877. Even in Halstead's earliest days, the city "fathers" were thinking of the safety and health of the citizens of Halstead. During July of 1877, the Halstead City Council had passed an ordinance relating to the stacking of hay within the city limits.

Early Equipment
The earliest mention of city purchased fire related equipment was in 1878. There was documentation that in February of 1878, the city council had decided to acquire a city ladder to be designated for fire usage. Six months later, in August, the street commissioner had been given instructions by the city council to fasten the fire ladder to the M.S. Ingalls Building (drug store) by hooks, lock, and chain.

Lack of Resources & Ability
Prior to 1891, the city was without any formal, effective, or organized, fire fighting ability. During 1877 to 1891 there was at least ten fires recorded. When those fires occurred, depending on location, wind speed, and extent of fire spread before alarm (by cry or church bell) and lacking resources, significant danger existed to life and property. A passage from the newspaper of their day conveyed their situation, as follows: "The small fires this week brings to our minds very forcibly the fact that we are entirely at the mercy of the fire fiend. Let us have some kind of organization for protection" (Halstead Independent, Friday, July 18, 1890).

Ordinance Revisions
In 1891 some important ordinance revisions occurred which were crucial to mention in the history of the fire department including Ordinance No. 13, "Ordinance Prescribing Fire Limits and Fire Protection." This ordinance was important in relation to fire limits, however; more importantly it established the ordinance for the creation of a city fire company. This ordinance took effect in April 1891.

Significant Events
The year 1891 was extraordinarily special to Halstead Fire Department as it was this year three other significant departmental historical events occurred. The fire department was organized on June 15, 1981-Guy L. Rood was named Fire Chief and L. S Patton, Dentist was named foreman. A committee of three persons: G. A. Hedge (Mayor), Chief Guy Rood, and Foreman L. S Patton were appointed to draw up the constitution and by-laws. Next, another important historical event was the purchase of the fist two fire fighting apparatus: the Howe Hand-Drawn Chemical and Water Fire and Apparatus and one hand-drawn Howe Hook and Ladder Truck-which both arrived in July of 1891. Finally, The first engine house (formerly the a.m. Farnsworth Building) was purchased by the City and moved to the city lots (this building was purchased for $75).

More Information
*For more Halstead Fire Department history, please look for the anticipated release of the FRA Cookbook.
Also, to view Halstead's oldest known existing piece of firefighting equipment, 1909 H.F.D. hose cart, visit The Halstead Train Depot and Museum.

  • The Halstead City Clerks' Office
  • The Halstead City Council Minutes on microfilm, available: The Halstead Public Library
  • The Halstead Independent on microfilm, available: The Halstead Public Library,
  • The Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives, Newton, Kansas
  • The Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives
  • *Taken from "Halstead Historical Fire Calls, Fire Laws, and Interesting Facts," written by Mark M. Malcom, (a historical recreation mostly via microfilm) in The Halstead Fire Department FRA Cookbook to be published on a date yet forthcoming)