Parkersburg’s first Fire Chief was appointed on May 13, 1889 by an ordinance of City Council. John Barrows was his name. Also, appointed was Philip Dollmeyer as fire warden and John Preston as hose reel driver.
In the early years of the city’s history, volunteer departments and bucket brigades protected the city’s businesses and residences from fire. Hand-operated fire fighting equipment was owned by the city, and in the same year the Chief was appointed, council also authorized the purchase of a 45 foot Hayes extension ladder truck at a cost of $2,400. Also, in that year, a committee was appointed to ascertain the cost of introducing and maintaining a box fire alarm system in the city.
The hose house, where the volunteer firemen assembled before the construction of the City Building, was located in the old Market house on the same site as the future City Building (5th & Market). Construction of the City Building was started in 1895, but the building was not ready for occupancy until 1898.
A paid fire department was not created until the passage of an ordinance on March 23, 1897. It was later amended under the new charter May 14, 1903. The first ordinance provided for a chief, a chief marshal, an engineer, hostler, hose reel driver and three paid firemen, but the 1903 ordinance created a department with six paid firemen, each were to receive $600 a year. The chief’s salary was $720 a year, and this same wage was paid to the first holster and driver, while the second holster and driver each received $660 a year.
Also in 1903, three new fire stations were created. Prior to that, only the station in the City Building was in existence. One station was built at Lynn and Wood Streets and a building was rented at 17th Street near St. Marys Avenue for $25 a month.
Through the subsequent years, the paid fire department battled fires with a steam pumper and horse drawn hose wagons, although in 1913 the department got its first piece of motorized equipment. This was the famous “Red Devil”, a four-cylinder Cadillac which was converted into a hose wagon and the Chief’s car. The “Red Devil” was a familiar sight on the streets for many years.
The next year the department received am old Hudson touring car, upon which a fire truck bed was installed. A high wheel Oldsmobile was converted into a truck in 1918 and these three pieces of motorized equipment were added to the old steam pumper until 1919. Then the City bought its first regular motorized pumper. It was also the year that the horses in the downtown station went into extinction, although the outlying stations still kept the horse drawn trucks for several more years.