Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Monday, July 27, 2015


In 1876, the 
City of Denver installed a Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph system. It consisted of eight miles of wire, two circuits and 18 alarm boxes. Initially, the boxes were connected to a huge bell mounted atop a 150-foot tower. By counting the strokes of the box number, firefighters were able to locate the alarm. By 1890, the Gamewell system had been expanded to 55 miles of wire and 95 boxes. Signals were transmitted by wire to firehouses. The telegraph system was expanded in the 20th Century and remained in service until 1971.



In the 20th Century, the City of Denver was divided into five alarm zones:

1 - Central
2 - Southern
3 - Capital Hill
4 - Eastern
5 - Northern

Each fire alarm telegraph zone was divided into five sectors.

Each alarm box was assigned a four-digit identification number.

For example:

The fire alarm box at the corner of Colfax and Pennsylvania was assigned No. 1374.

"1" - The first digit identified the zone (Central).

"3" - The second digit identified the sector within the zone (Sector 3).

"7" and "4" - The third and four digits were unique to the transmitter of each box (Box 74).

In the 19th Century, when the city was less populated, each fire alarm box was assigned a two-digit identification number.

For example:

The box at 17th and Lawrence under the earlier system was numbered Box 27 and under the later system Box 1221.

SOURCE: Denver Firefighters Museum


Opening the door of an alarm box and pulling the hook would trip a clockwork motor. The motor turned a notched wheel unique to each box. The wheel broke an electrical circuit. The notches on the wheel were arranged to send a signal identifying the alarm station to fire headquarters, which manually relayed the signal to firehouse receivers via a repeater. The repeater tapped out the box number over a system of station bells several times. For example, the wheel for Box 27 would have been two notches, a space, and seven notches. Firehouse bells would tap out the signal 2-7 for Box 27 in repetition, typically four times. A paper tape would also record the signal to verify the box number. Firefighters would refer to a "running card" to determine in what order they were "due at the box," i.e. first, second, third, etc.

Official List of Colorado Cities with Gamewell Systems in 1940s
Canon City
Colorado Springs
Cripple Creek
Fort Collins
Idaho Springs
Source: Youngstown Fire



From Pueblo Fire Museum

"On Christmas Eve of 1949, the first aid squad of the Pueblo Fire Department was involved in a fatal accident at the intersection of West 9th St. and Grand Avenue. Killed was 57-year-old William A. DeLong, a 30-year veteran of the Pueblo Fire Department.

"The accident occurred as the first aid squad was answering a call at 1426 N. Grand. Travelling north on Grand, the first aid squad slammed into an automobile, which had proceeded through the intersection on a green light.

"The high impact of the collision hurled the first aid vehicle over the top of the automobile, throwing DeLong out of the vehicle. Fire Medic Sal Pannunzio, the other occupant of the first aid vehicle, sustained only minor injuries.

The 42 year-old driver of the automobile had minor injuries. His wife sustained a fractured leg, cracked ribs and a bruised neck. The man said that when the light turned green, he proceeded through the intersection and neither saw nor heard the oncoming first aid unit.

"William A. DeLong was survived by his wife, Thea, and their two children. Pueblo firemen G. Lowe, C.C. Wood, R.J. Stewart, A.A. Pisciotta, M. Colby, and S. Pannunzio served as pallbearers. DeLong was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Pueblo."



From Pueblo Fire Museum

"On Monday, May 9, 1945, fireman Joseph F. Robida was killed in an auto accident. Riding on the back of Engine Company No. 4 with fellow fireman Joseph Ferraro, the fire truck was struck at the intersection of Mesa and Lake by a Rainbo bread delivery truck.

"Responding to a fire alarm at 512 Acero, the crew from the Bessemer station was traveling west on Mesa. The bread truck, driving north on Lake, made an effort to stop, but struck the rear of the fire truck, throwing firefighters Robida and Ferraro from the vehicle.

"Robida struck his head on the edge of the curbing, killing him instantly. The pumper traveled 172 feet after the impact.

"Fireman Ferraro was thrown to the pavement, where he received four broken ribs, a fracture of the spine, a punctured lung, cuts, abrasions and other injuries. Ferraro had to retire from the Department on a full disability, after being on the Department for 8 years.

"Fire engineer Frank White was driving the fire truck, with Captain Charles DiPalma riding next to him. Each also sustained cuts and bruises, with Engineer White suffering internal injuries also. The driver of the bread truck received injuries to his legs.

The 41-year-old Robida, husband and father of four, was a 10-year veteran." 



From Pueblo Fire Museum

"Two years after taking office as the first paid chief of the Pueblo Fire Department, Chief Robert J. Krague was killed when he was thrown from his horse-drawn buggy. He was 37 years old.

"It was July 31, 1891, mid-afternoon. Chief Krague was making a practice run in the vicinity of Carlisle Spring (near what is now Dutch Clark Stadium).

"Driving westbound on Abriendo Avenue at a high rate of speed, his horse, Tom, apparently was spooked and was running out of control. Near the Abriendo bridge his buggy overturned, and Chief Krague was thrown to the ground.

"According to a 15 year-old witness, Chief Krague struck his head on a rock and rolled several times. When the witness got to him, the chief was unconscious and bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth.

"He was taken by a police wagon to the Sisters of Charity Hospital (St. Mary's), where he never regained consciousness. He died in the early evening with his grieving wife by his side.

"Chief Krague lie in state in the city council chambers until his funeral. The Richmond Hook and Ladder truck was used as the casket bearer, pulled by Tom, Krague's uninjured horse. Krague was buried at Riverview Cemetery.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Photo: Greeley Fire. Dept.

Two lonely firemen drag hose at blaze at Balcom Industries Inc. insecticide plant in Greeley, Colorado, in days before HAZMAT response. Date unknown.


: Private Collection

Blizzard scene of Denver Fire Department truck company and street car. Legend has it that when the Great Blizzard of 1913 stopped Denver firemen from reaching a blaze, the occupants extinguished the flames using snow.

1933 FLOOD

View of flooding from 11th Street Bridge

On Aug. 3, 1933, the Castlewood Dam crumbled, sending a 
deluge roaring into Denver. 

The Associated Press reported:

Pounding down on Franktown, tiny village on a hillside four miles below the dam, the surging tide swept on six miles to Parker, at times on a mile-wide front, and picked up tons of debris as it swirled into suburban Denver and sent Cherry Creek on a rampage through the heart of the city."

Denver police and firemen - their sirens "going full blast" - sped through streets warning people to evacuate.

Seven people died in Denver, according to the National Weather Service.

C&B TIRE - 1956

Photo: Museum of Western Colorado via Beacon
On Oct. 2, 1956, a fire and explosion destroyed C&B Tire and Recap at Third Street and Rood Avenue in Grand Junction.


Photo: Daily Camera photo

On Feb. 9, 1932, high winds fanned a fire at the Boulder County Courthouse.

Firefighters from Boulder, Longmont and Denver could do little "but watch the watch the building burn," according to the archives of the Daily Camera .

The clock tower collapsed. The roof caved.

The county's records, nonetheless, survived.


Photos: Wyoming Tales and Trails (top), Jackson News & Guide (left)

On Aug. 5, 1980, an electrical fault in a transformer atop the Wort Hotel in Jackson, Wyoming, ignited a bird nest and the flames spread.

The fire burned into the night and the roof collapsed.
Just days later, a sign went up saying: "We will be back."

The hotel reopened in June 1981.


Photo: School website

On March 22, 1950, an electrical short triggered a fire at the Colorado School for Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs.

Students rescued a painting of General William Jackson Palmer, the school's benefactor.

Firefighters contended with low hydrant pressure. The evacuation was orderly.


Photo: Denver Public Library

On May 20, 1935, fire broke out at the Casanova, night club of the famous Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver.

"Flimsy draperies and hanging decorations in the Casanova went up like tinder, pouring smoke and gas fumes through the hotel," the United Press reported. "Some of the guests rushed to the windows and threatened to jump. Firemen produced nets, but prevented any from jumping by calling to them to remain in their rooms."

Several guests were carried down ladders by firemen.

The Casanova, itself, was demolished along with musical instruments belonging to the "Husk O'Hare Orchestra."

Fire Chief John Healy said the fire was caused by "an explosion of gas fumes."


On Sept. 20, 1943, three members of the Denver Fire Department died in a fire in Tunnel No. 10 of the Moffat Tunnel Rail Line, near Rollinsville, Colorado. 

Following is from Sept. 21, 1943, edition of Denver Post:


Meet Death in Bore on Moffat Road, Probably from Suffocation; Body of Only One is Recovered

Three Denver city firemen died Monday night fighting a fire in the timbered walls of a 1600 foot Denver and Salt Lake railroad tunnel, twenty-seven miles northwest of Denver.

The dead, according to Fire Chief Healy, are Douglas Vernon Parrish, 49, of 340 Clarkson street, machinist in the fire department shops; James Williams, 37, of 1209 East Colfax avenue, Chief Healy's driver, and John Kennedy, 34, of 665 Lafayette street. All were married and two were fathers.

Parrish's body was recovered just inside the east portal of the tunnel, but fire department officials said it is unlikely any trace ever will be found of the other two men. 


At noon Tuesday the tunnel was still a roaring furnace, filled with poisonous flumes. A pumper truck the Denver men had accompanied to the scene was pouring a stream of water in the east end, and a locomotive was doing the same at the west end.

Men still could not approach the entrances.

Fire Capt. William R. Parry in command of the Denver men and pumper, was saved only by accident, because his gas mask was working improperly and he left the tunnel to get another. The pumper, one of Denver's newest, was loaded on a flatcar and taken to the scene with its crew in response to a call for help about 6:30 p.m. There is no road highway near the tunnel. When the report of the disaster was received, Chief Healy sent rescue squad No. 4, under Capt. Wilfred Lindsay, to the scene. The squad truck left the city at 1:25 a.m. These firemen worked over Parrish about two hours without success.

Fred W. Warner, superintendent of equipment for the fire department, who was sent to the tunnel Tuesday morning, returned at noon to report to Chief Healy.

"Parry went with Williams and Kennedy about 600 to 700 feet into the tunnel to fight the fire," Warner said. "They had their gas masks on; Parry's wasn't working right, so he came out." That's all that saved his life! Apparently a short time after he left his companions, carbon monoxide gas formed, possibly from creosote on the burning ties and timbers.

A stiff wind had been blowing from the east into the tunnel mouth. It suddenly veered, creating the hazard most feared by firemen—a back draft.

The gas and back draft combined to make a death trap for Kennedy and Williams. Their masks were ineffective against monoxide, but even if they became conscious of the gas and tried to flee, they possibly were trapped by falling timber.

Parrish working at the pumper, became alarmed when the men had not returned in ten minutes, Warner stated. Seizing a gas mask, he entered the tunnel.


A. L. Johnson, general superintendent of the D. & S.L., said G. E. Hamilton, the roadmaster, then took a mask and went in search of Parrish. He stumbled over Parrish's body about 100 feet inside. Hamilton was losing consciousness trying to drag out Parrish, when he was rescued by other railroad men.



Photos: Daily Camera files 

Boulder firefighters Scott L. Smith and William J. Duran  died on Jan. 26, 1982 during a training fire in an abandoned shed near 15th Street and Hawthorn Avenue.

The structure was "lined with combustible fiberboard," according to Fire Engineering magazine.

ollowing the deaths, the National Fire Protection Association established strict standards for live fire training.

Three other firefighters were injured.

In 1982, "there was an assumption with training that because it was training, it was inherently safer," Boulder Fire Chief Larry Donner told the Daily Camera.

"It was just one of those things where people didn't look at it with the same intensity as an emergency situation."



Photos: Fort Collins Public Library, Poudre Valley Fire Authority

On June 29, 1965, Clifford Carpenter, Fort Collins fire chief, was killed by falling bricks and mortar at the State Dry Goods store fire.

Carpenter, 49, was directing hose lines at the building College and Oak streets when an exterior wall gave way, according to the Fort Collins History Connection and Poudre Valley Fire Authority.

Firefighter Jim Witchel was injured.

The cause was determined to be an electrical timer that controlled the lights in the dry goods store show window.

Newspapers published photographs of the chief, in his white helmet, in the seconds leading to his death.

The alarm was transmitted about 10:30 p.m.