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
"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
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.
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
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
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.