NFN & FCC full masthead 2005

November 2005

Wellington Centennial List News Archive Home Page About Us Advertising Info Community Page

Wellington Volunteer Fire Department marks 100 years

By JoAn Bjarko
North Forty News

The parades, the fireworks and good times celebrating Wellington's centennial have passed, but one more birthday still needs to be recognized: Nov. 8, 1905, the founding of the Wellington Fire Department.

For revenue in those early years, the department charged each volunteer $1 for dues and fined him 25 cents for missing a meeting. In November 1906, the department reported $26.25 in the treasury.

It was not until 1950 that the firemen started talking about a rural fire district that would become the tax-supporting arm for firefighting and emergency services in the town and surrounding area. Back then, some objected to a tax levy of one mill.

In 2005, the district has a mill levy of 9.188 that will generate expected revenue of $543,830. The department, however, still needs to rely on grants and fund-raisers to maintain and upgrade equipment and train its volunteer firefighters.

"At some point we will probably have to look at a paid department," said Jim Flowers, president of the Wellington Fire Protection District Board. The recent expansion of the Wellington station has room for living quarters when full-time personnel become necessary.

That decision "will depend on how fast the town keeps growing and the increase in calls," Flowers said.

The department may also need to build another satellite station, he said. Currently, it has just one additional station in Waverly, which was built in 1985 and expanded in 1993.

The challenges before the department can be documented in the town's population growth. In February 1906, the population was listed at 350. Estimated population in 2005, is 4,500, and that doesn't include those living throughout the fire protection district. The district encompasses 288 square miles - from the Wyoming border south to County Road 58. The department averages 400 to 450 calls a year.

The Wellington station now has 42 volunteers, and the personnel board has started a waiting list. The Waverly station still has openings for additional volunteers. Applications are available at the main station. Every full-time member is required to meet these requirements: respond to 30 percent of fire calls, get 36 hours of fire training, get an additional 21 hours of emergency medical training to be an EMT, and have truck certifications. The department also has a cadet program for ages 13 to 18. Cadets train with the firefighters and are allowed to respond to grass fires.

The first Wellington firefighters were equipped with buckets, ladders, hooks and axes. In 1907, they purchased a hose cart for $441.31 and $6.14 for freight.

Today, the main station at Third and McKinley in Wellington houses the administration office and classrooms. Apparatus stationed there includes a heavy rescue unit, one mainline engine, one reserve engine, two brush trucks, a 3,000-gallon tanker and two 1,000-gallon tankers. Waverly station houses one engine, one brush truck, one tanker and a medical unit.

Several years ago, the department compiled historical notes from 90 years of records. The historian, Jim Urban, commented that minutes were recorded on anything handy - cardboard, backs of calendars and scraps of paper.

Historic highlights

In the blizzard of 1913, the firemen kept four horses hooked to a four-wheel hook and ladder vehicle in case it was needed for emergency.

In 1926, the department purchased a new siren that could be heard over the strong winds.

Some of the expenses from receipt book from 1938 listed the following: $15.11 for dues to the Colorado Fire Fighters Association, $5.83 for the fire chief to go to Longmont for a convention, $1 for flowers, $25 for payment on a new fire truck, $1.40 for a coffee pot.

In 1944, firefighters donated their own money to several needy agencies, dug their own holes for water pipes, needed a new fire truck and still came up with $1.81 too much in the treasury.

Because of the shortage of men during World War II, older children were used to fight fires in an emergency. The fire department, however, had to send a letter to the Wellington High School stating that "school children are to be informed they are not to attend fires while school is in session unless they are called."

In 1953, the district collected $1,852 from taxes.

It was customary during the department's first 50 years for property owners to send a donation when the department answered a call. The department also sent bills to the property owner's insurance company.

Records show the firemen sent flowers for almost all occasions.

The firemen frequently sponsored dances, dinners and variety shows to raise money. In 1958, one noted that attendance was down for the oyster feed and it may be cancelled next year. It wasn't, however, and the dinner made $39.29 in 1959.

During many years in the middle of the century, fire calls were made to the Y-Knot cafe (presently the T-Bar Inn). The person who answered would run to the fire station and sound the siren, then write the problem and address on a board for the firefighters to handle the problem. Charlie Thompson, who owned the Y-Knot, was fire chief for many years.

In July 1965, an FBI man came to town to teach riot control.

Russ Hatfield served as chief for most of the years from 1957 to 1975.

Nineteen calls were recorded in 1970. In 1980, the department recorded 152 calls.

In 1975, the firemen voted to allow women on the department as dispatchers. The women wanted fire boots, but the department couldn't find any in their size.

The department purchased a computer in 1990.

Today, the Wellington Fire Auxiliary hosts the fund-raising dinners. The next event is a chili feed on Dec. 3 at Wellington Community Church. Stop by and celebrate 100 years of community service.

Do you have a news tip? Do you have questions about a news story? Please contact our staff by phone (970-221-0213) or e-mail.

Wellington Centennial List News Archive Home Page About Us Advertising Info Community Page

© North Forty News & Fossil Creek Current 2005
Send your comments and questions to North Forty News & Fossil Creek Current
Web Site designed  by S. Virginia De Herdt, Freelance Writer
Send your comments and questions about this web site to Web Master
Page updated 10/29/2005