Dakota Datebook

Fargo Volunteer Firefighters

Thursday, December 7, 2017

 

Fargo’s history of fires is largely dominated by the Fire of 1893, which ravaged the wooden buildings that filled city’s downtown. But the city’s fire legacy goes back much further.

In 1875, at Fargo’s first government meeting, the city’s mayor and aldermen appointed two fire wardens to patrol the city. Bucket brigades fought fires in those early years. A fire ordinance in 1877 set the stage for a volunteer fire department, the Pioneer Fire Company, led by a chief engineer and equipped with the city’s first hook-and-ladder fire rig. But the company wasn’t officially organized or chartered until 1880 when it became the Continental Hose Company Number One. Hose Company Number Two followed two years later.

On this date in 1883, the Yerxa Hose Company Number Three was established, named after Fargo Mayor Woodford Yerxa. Local businessmen comprised the company, which was called “the most dedicated and effective of Fargo’s volunteer fire companies.”

Volunteer firefighters served Fargo until 1903 when the city opted for a paid, professional department. The first professional fire chief was appointed from Continental Hose Company Number One. By 1904, the department had 10 professionals who earned sixty dollars a month, on duty twenty-four seven, with on- and off-duty shifts to come in later years. The firefighters used horse-drawn rigs until 1919.

By 1904, the city no longer had volunteer firefighters, though many North Dakota towns still do, and sorely need more.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources

https://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/?q=content/woodford-yerxa

https://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/?q=content/fire-department

https://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/?q=content/fire-1893

http://www.grandforksherald.com/news/4343385-keeping-fight-rural-fire-departments-have-recruiting-challenge

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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