Fire Department History

Golden Fire Department Early Days

1891 Inspection DayThe Boston Company established Golden City in 1859 at  the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon in the territory of Colorado. The original Golden City town site of 1,280 acres was organized on both banks of Clear Creek. Its location made it a natural supply point for the miners heading into the mountains, looking to stake their claims in the gold and silver camps of Gilpin and Clear Creek counties.

Mountain communities of the time were built of wood and other combustible materials. With fire used as a source of heat, for power and for cooking, devastating structural fires were a common occurrence. Water for fighting fires was scarce. There were no municipal water supply systems as we know them today. Water generally could only be brought to the fire via a bucket brigade in the early days, and only if a creek, pond, or cistern was available as a water supply.

1919 1st Motorized TruckWhile Golden experienced several big fires, some of which caused considerable destruction, no formal fire brigade was established until 1872. On January 16, 1872 the Town Council enacted “An Ordinance Concerning the Fire Department.” This Ordinance provided for the appointment of one or more fire wardens charged with making inspections to reduce fire hazards. On October 2nd 1872, interested citizens formed Golden Hook and Ladder Company. This was a fire company in name only, as the group had no equipment. Despite its name, this hook and ladder company,” embraced the theory that the first duty of a fire department was to save property directly rather than by the destruction of other property.” To this end, the Golden Hook and Ladder Company began to do all in its power to obtain a hand fire engine.

Apparently, not every member of the organization agreed that trying to raise money for a pumper was the best use of the group’s resources. In 1873 the membership split. Those 1933 Central Stationwho left the Golden Hook and Ladder Company formed a rival group: the Rescue Hook and Ladder Company.  By October 1873 the Rescue Hook and Ladder Company purchased a used hook and ladder truck for $150 out of their own pockets.

In answer to this challenge, the Golden Hook and Ladder changed its name to the Excelsior Fire Company. The group continued its search for a hand fire engine, hose, and hose carriage. By 1874, the Excelsiors purchased a used engine known as the “Fire King” from the City of Omaha, Nebraska.

Despite the initial rivalry, Golden’s two fire companies both responded to fire in the city at this time. Because of their different equipment and focuses, the companies complemented each other in their firefighting activities much as engine companies and truck companies do on present day departments.

Three Fire Companies Merge

Loveland Hose CompanyBy 1877, the two fire companies reorganized.  The Excelsior Fire Company became the Excelsior Hose Company. The Rescue Hook and Ladder Company became Everett Hook and Ladder Company. Another group, the Loveland Hose Company, organized in 1879. “This hose company was an independent organization, but it was stated that, ‘at the same time, it would actively cooperate with the other companies at all fires.’ “At the end of 1879, all three companies joined together to establish what we now know as the Golden Fire Department.

Through the good times and bad, the one thing that remained consistent was the community perception of the professionalism displayed by the members of the department. That concept remains an essential focus of today’s fire department members.

Moving Into the Modern Era

1974 TruckJust as the first fire related ordinance created by the Town Council in 1872 was to hire a fire warden, the first city employee of the modern era fire department, hired in 1979, was a fire inspector who was responsible for basically the same tasks as the original fire warden. Over the years, the daily responsibility of the fire chief increased and was more than a volunteer fire chief could effectively perform. The department created a position titled Fire Department Manager. In February 1990, Tom Young was promoted from Fire Inspector to Fire Department Manager.  In July of 1990, Tom was critically injured in the line of duty. The position was temporarily filled until 1996, when the first career fire chief was hired.

Today, a majority of our firefighting staff consists of 85 professional volunteer firefighters. Of the 85 volunteers 22 live within the city limits of Golden and approximately 60 shift volunteers live in the Denver Metro area. Shift volunteers are required to volunteer 36 hours per month on shift 12 or 24 hours per shift. After completing a five-month fire academy, all Golden volunteer firefighters are Colorado State certified to the level of Firefighter 1 and Hazardous Materials Operations. The volunteer firefighters are supplemented with seven career (paid) firefighters on staff. The career firefighters’ staff one engine at Station 21, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with a lieutenant and firefighter requiring a volunteer for the third engineer/firefighter.

The Golden Fire Department career administrative staff includes Fire Chief, Kasey Beal; Administrative Coordinator, Debbie Testroet; Division Chief/Fire Marshal, Scott Case; Deputy Fire Marshal, Jennifer Henderson; Training Captain, Jeanette Kehoe; Academy Coordinator, Lori Brill; Fire Inspector/Fire Investigator Jonathan Priestly; Fire Inspector/Fire Investigator, Gary Wilmes; and Administrative Technician, Anna Trzeciak.

Photo by Rick Lubke, 5280

Led by Division Captain Jeanette Kehoe, the mission of the Golden Fire Department Training Division is to prepare firefighters from-probation through retirement-to serve as safe, effective, and efficient team members who save lives and property. Fire & Life Safety Division Chief Case believes that a proactive educational approach to the fire code is the most effective way of preventing fires. Along with the annual fire safety inspections, the Fire & Life Safety Division is responsible for plan reviews of all commercial buildings and fire pre-plans. The fire pre-plans are designed to assist firefighters during an emergency with critical information about each structure. All divisions within the Golden Fire Department work together to create a safe environment for those who live, work and visit the City of Golden.

Although the fire service is full of tradition, the 21st century of Golden Fire Department faces change and challenges. Now, the fire department response to more than 2200 incidents yearly compared to 798 in 1999. These 2200 incidents included structure fires, wildland urban interface fires, vehicle fires, hazardous materials, service, medical and a vast array of technical rescue calls. The Golden Fire Departments’ technical rescue team specializes in steep slope and low angle evacuations, ice rescue, auto extrication, industrial rescue and water rescue. In fact, the Golden Fire water rescue team is one of the state’s most elite water rescue groups. GFD hosts an annual advanced water rescue training instructed by professionals from Dive Rescue International. With the volume of incidents nearly doubling in the past 20 years, the Golden Fire Department maintains a quick response time averaging five minutes or less for the first unit to arrive on scene. To help alleviate burnout, our roster has increased from 45 volunteers to 85, providing quality emergency services at a low cost to the taxpayers. For nearly 150 years, dedicated volunteers have given countless hours to the community of Golden, and we continue to look forward to the future.

COG Mesa

 Golden has 402 acres of open space
and maintains 253 acres of parks right within the city itself.

Additional Resources

City of Golden, Colorado
COG Mesa
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