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Houston's firefighting service began in 1838 with the founding of Protection Fire Company No. 1. As the city of Houston grew throughout the early and mid-19th century, volunteer companies formed and grew along with it. By 1895, city leaders decided to form the Houston Fire Department as a city department, culling the volunteer forces for men, stations, apparatus, and horses. The city grew in leaps and bounds, swallowing up neighborhoods, communities, and smaller cities along the way, with the fire department nipping at their heels. This brave force battled devastating fires throughout the years, most notably the Great Fifth Ward Fire in 1912, the 1943 Gulf Hotel Fire, the Woodway Square Apartment Conflagration in 1979 and the Southwest Inn Fire in 2013. What was once a smattering of volunteer fire brigades has grown into an imposing force of over 3,000 firefighters protecting over two million people in the fourth largest city in the United States.
About the Author
Author Tristan Smith has searched the archives of the Fire Museum of Houston for the best images to highlight the heritage and dramatic history of the elite Houston Fire Department, from the volunteer horse-drawn days to the modern era. Smith has worked as an independent historian, in historic preservation, and at museums in Kansas, Missouri, and Texas for 20 years.
Table of Contents
1 The Early Years 11
2 The Motorized Magnolia City 29
3 A One-Horse Town Grows 45
4 Boom, Bust, and Recovery 61
5 Houston's Fire Chiefs 79
6 Line of Duty Deaths 95