Prior to the organization of the Herculaneum Volunteer Fire Department, a large industrial company, St. Joe Lead Company provided fire protection for the town of Herculaneum. Fire protection consisted of five hose carts placed at strategic points in town that were manned by the employees of the company. Whenever a fire was reported the company sounded a whistle and employees would use company trucks to pick up the hose carts and respond to the fire.
On Christmas Day 1947, fire destroyed the Herculaneum High School and it became evident that fire protection in Herculaneum had to be improved. Despite the efforts of the volunteers and neighboring fire departments, the school was destroyed.
Over the next four years, a group of twelve concerned citizens began the process of organizing a volunteer fire department in August of 1951, the Herculaneum Volunteer Fire Department was organized and chartered in the State of Missouri. Using the remaining funds from a defunct Veterans of Foreign Wars post and monies collected by a door to door canvas of the town, the men were able to purchase the first fire engine for the town of Herculaneum. The pumper was a 1931 General Monarch pumper which had previously been used by the Kirkwood Fire Department in St. Louis County.
Lacking a building to house the apparatus, the St. Joe Lead Company allowed the department to use an old wooden corn crib on their property for the first “fire house”. Eventually, the men were allowed to convert an old church basement into what was truly the first engine house. This building continued to serve as the main fire station until 1971.
Since its inception, the Herculaneum Fire Department was funded through the sale of fire tags, donations, fund raisers and whatever the members of the department could individually contribute. It was not until 1957 that the department was able to purchase their first new fire engine. In that year, the department took delivery on a 1957 Ford 500 gpm pumper manufactured by the Central Fire Truck Company of St. Louis for the cost of $10,000. In 1959, the department added a converted panel truck as their first emergency “rescue” truck. A second pumper was added to the department’s fleet in 1966, with the purchase of a 1966 GMC 500 gpm pumper from Towers Fire Apparatus in Illinois.
In 1959, members of the department purchased two SCOTT air packs(SCBA’s). Throughout the years members of the department continued to purchase 9 more SCBA’s to ensure that all firefighters were equipped with breathable air during fire suppression efforts.
From the beginning, dispatching of fire calls was handled by the St. Joe Lead Company employees who would sound a whistle when a fire call or emergency was phoned in. Later, fire phones were placed in some firefighters’ homes, but the lead company continued to sound the alarm. This practice continued until the department upgraded to a dispatching agency for the first time in 1984. Eventually, dispatching of the department’s calls were handled by the Jefferson County 911 system.
In 1970, the members of the department began construction of a new fire station next to the converted church basement. Working on Saturdays, Sundays and evenings, the volunteers constructed the entire building. The building was officially dedicated in March 1971 and remained as the headquarters for the department until August 13, 2009. For their efforts, the fire department was named the “Fire Department of the Year” by the Missouri Firefighters Association in the year of 1971.
In 1973, the town of Herculaneum was re-incorporated through the efforts of many of the volunteers on the fire department. As a result of the re-incorporation, the method of funding for the department underwent a drastic change. The first Board of Trustees and the fire department hammered out an agreement by which the city and fire department would enter into a contract for fire services. In the initial contract, the city agreed to pay the fire department a sum of six thousand five hundred dollars.
In 1974, the fire department once again upgraded the department equipment with the purchase of a 1974 Chevrolet Step Van from Boemler Chevrolet at a cost of $3,500. The new vehicle was purchased to replace the existing “rescue” truck and to serve the department as an equipment truck. Firefighters constructed shelving to hold the firefighters’ turnout clothing and various types of fire fighting equipment not carried on the pumpers.
Another addition to the department fleet of vehicles was made possible through the Missouri Department of Conservation. Through a program that made federal excess property available to various fire agencies, the fire department obtained a 1953 Willys 4X4 Jeep that was to be converted into a vehicle for brush fire fighting.
For the third time in the existence of the fire department, all turnout equipment was replaced in 1974. New yellow turnout coats, lightweight plastic helmets and firefighting boots were purchased for all members of the department.
Throughout the years, the Herculaneum Fire Department had answered several hundred calls each with their own special circumstances and situations. However on February 28, 1977, the firefighters were involved in a situation that had never occurred in the first twenty-six years of the department’s existence. Responding to a residential house fire on Thurwell Street, the firefighters arrived to find flames coming from the front of the house. Unbeknown to the firefighters on the scene, a fourteen-year-old boy was trapped in the back bedroom of the house. By the time firefighters located the body, he had already succumbed to the heat and smoke that filled the structure. The death of the boy was the first incident in the department’s history in which an individual died as a result of a structure fire.
By the end of the 1970’s decade, the department members found themselves in need of updating the department’s apparatus. In late 1979, a committee was formed for the purpose of preparing specifications for a new pumper and by the spring of 1980, a new fire truck was ordered. The new fire truck was built on a 1980 Ford Louisville chassis with the apparatus body being built by Towers Fire Apparatus. The total cost of the apparatus was $49,000 and featured a 750 GPM Hale single stage front mount pump, a 750 gallon booster tank, a forty five foot extension ladder, two booster reels, 1000 feet of 3″ hose and other basic fire fighting equipment.
After serving for 25 consecutive years as Fire Chief, Tom Robart announced his retirement from the leadership position effective December 31, 1981. The department appointed Assistant Chief Bill Haggard to the position on an interim basis until the next department election. In June of 1982, Chief Haggard was elected to his first three-year term as fire chief. Bill Haggard still holds the position of Chief for the Herculaneum Fire Department.
During the summer months of 1988, the fire department ordered a new pumper from Battalion Three, Incorporated of St. Louis. The pumper was built on a Ford C-8000 chassis and American Eagle Fire Apparatus of Gainesville, Florida, manufactured the apparatus body. The pumper featured a 1000 GPM hale single stage top mount pumper, a 1000 gallon polypropylene booster tank, a five man tilt cab, two cross-lays, 1800 feet of 3″ hose, two sections of 5″ hard suction and other basic fire fighting equipment. The total cost of the apparatus was approximately $120,000. The fire department took delivery of the apparatus on January 28, 1989.
During 1989, the fire department continued to upgrade and improve firefighting and rescue capabilities. With the addition of the new pumper, the department also purchased its first hydraulic rescue system, and air bags. With the department no longer needing the 1966 GMC apparatus as a pumper, the truck was converted into an air supply truck. After removing all of the fire hose from the truck, a six-bottle air cascade system was built in the hose bed area of the truck giving the department its first air cascade apparatus. The truck would continue to function as an air supply truck for the the next five years.
In late 1991, a significant change occurred in the method by which emergency calls were reported to the fire department. on December 18th, emergency 911 services began for the cities of Herculaneum and Pevely. Emergency calls were now directed to the Pevely Police Dispatcher and transferred to the fire department’s dispatch center that remained in Crystal City. Complications arose in the system when residents of Herculaneum who lived in the area serviced by the 937/931-phone exchange did not receive the 911 services. Residents in those areas had to wait until the 911-dispatch center was established in the city of Festus. In December of 1993, the fire department again changed how emergency calls were dispatched. Ending the dispatching agreement with the city of Crystal City, the fire department entered into a contract with the Jefferson County 911 Dispatch center for dispatching services beginning on January 1, 1994.
With the fire department now being dispatched by a centralized dispatch system, the fire department began the practice of responding to all emergency medical calls with the Joachim-Plattin Ambulance district. Almost since its inception, the fire department had responded to emergency medical incidents such as heart attacks, drowning and accidental injuries, but now the fire department responded to all emergency medical calls in the city.
In 1994, the department placed into service a 1952 Dodge Power Wagon as a brush fire vehicle. The vehicle was purchased from the Antonia Fire Protection District for $1 and would remain in service for the next five years.
In the spring of 1995, the fire department received a donation of forty thousand dollars from the Doe Run Lead Company to purchase and renovate a 1965 Mack Tele-Squrt from the Rock Community Fire Protection District. The donation was also used to purchase equipment for the truck and to make necessary changes in the fire station. The aerial apparatus was placed into service on December 6, 1995. With the addition of this apparatus, the department officially removed the 1957 Ford pumper from service.
In 1996, improvements were once again made in the area of firefighters’ bunker gear as the department purchased all new gear for each firefighter.
In 1997, the department once again found a need to upgrade its rescue apparatus. With the assistance of Battalion Three Company, a used 1989 GMC rescue truck was located and purchased from the city of University City. The truck featured an on board air cascade and high rise air supply system, a 12 KW generator and specialized rescue compartments. The department also purchased several types of new rescue equipment to be placed on this apparatus. The apparatus was placed into service on February 21, 1997.
The addition of the new rescue truck left the department with two air supply systems, so it was only a matter of time before the 1966 GMC truck would undergo another renovation. In 1998, the department removed the two booster reels and booster tank from the truck and enlarged the hose bed area. By enlarging the hose bed area, the apparatus was now capable of carrying equipment and materials needed for trench collapse and confined space rescues.
Also in late 1998 after several incidents involving water rescues and searches, the department purchased an eighteen-foot aluminum jon boat to be used for such emergencies. Prior to the purchase of the boat, the department would have to receive mutual aid assistance from other Jefferson County departments. With the purchase of the boat, the department now had the capability of “being in the water” more quickly and enhancing the chance of the rescue or search being successful.
As the department moved into the new millennium, the members determined that there was a major need for an improvement in the department’s brush fire equipment. During the summer of 2000, a 1993 Ford F-350 truck was purchased from a private owner and converted into a fire response brush apparatus. A three hundred gallon poly tank was installed with a 350 GPM Darley pump, along with compartments to carry the various types of brush fire equipment. The brush apparatus was placed into service on September 29, 2000. With the addition of this vehicle, the department removed an old 1952 Dodge Power Wagon that had been used for brush fires from service and sold to a private owner.
On July 27, 2001 the members of the fire department invested in innovative technology that would allow firefighters to “see” through smoke. The department purchased a Bullard Thermal Imaging Camera from Battalion Three Company for the price of $13,000. Not only did this cameral allow the firefighters to “see” through smoke it was also equipped with a transmitter that allowed command personnel to view what the interior firefighting crews were doing and seeing. The camera’s main purpose was to enhance the chance of locating victims and finding hidden fires behind walls, ceilings and doors in addition to improving firefighter safety. The camera throughout the years has also been used in outdoor search and rescue.
Herculaneum Fire Department celebrated fifty years of service during 2001. On October 20, 2001, the fire department held an Anniversary Dinner to commemorate this milestone in the department’s history. The celebration, held at the AmVets Post #42 Hall in Herculaneum, began with opening remarks by Fire Chief Bill Haggard. The Jefferson County Fire Fighters Association of Missouri Color Guard presented the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by those in attendance. A highlight of the evening was the recognition of the twelve charter members who organized the fire department in 1951. Each charter member in attendance or a family member of deceased charter member was presented with a special commemorative plaque featuring a group photo of the charter members.
In honor of the 120 men who have served the fire department during the fifty years, Chief Haggard presented a plaque to the department. The plaque featured the department’s 50th Anniversary logo, the names of the current members and the names of all the past fire fighters who have served as firefighters with the department. The plaque also includes the names and years of service for each of the four former fire chiefs of the department. Two members of the department received special recognition in honor of their fifty years of service to the department. On behalf of the fire department, Chief Haggard presented both Assistant Chief Elmer Revelle and Deputy Chief Herb Marler with a commemorative clock. The two honorees were also presented with a commemorative brick to be installed at the Missouri Firefighters Memorial in Kingdom City. Both honorees were also presented with resolutions from Senator Steve Stoll, Representative Mark Abel and Mayor John Chamis. A highlight of the evening was a video presentation of the first fifty years of the fire department.
Throughout 2001, the department recognized the 50th Anniversary by establishing a web site (www.herculaneumfire.com), having a department flag produced, placing 50th Anniversary logos on all department apparatus, installing large anniversary signs at the entrances to the city and producing a 50th Anniversary uniform patch and shirts.
In 2002, the department once again found a need to upgrade its rescue apparatus. A used 1994 Pierce Arrow Pumper/Rescue was purchased from the Black Jack Fire Protection District of St. Louis County. The truck featured a 1,500 GPM Waterous two stage side mount pumper, a 750 gallon polypropylene booster tank, a 50 foam tank, a six man cab, two cross-lays, 1,000 feet of 5″ hose, 750 feet of 3″ hose, two sections of 6″ hard suction, and other basic firefighting equipment. With the help of Battalion Three Company the pumper was equipped with a new set of Phoenix Rescue tools, the hydraulic pump was to be electric. The total cost of the apparatus was $150,000. The apparatus was placed into service on September 28, 2002. With the addition of the apparatus, the 1965 Tele-Squrt (6312) and the 1980 front mount pumper (6311) were removed from service and sold to the Gravois Mills Fire Department. The apparatus is still in service in 2009.
In 2003, improvements were made in the area of SCBA’s. Members of the department purchased 11 new Scott SCBA’s for the price of $27,675 on May 19, 2003. The new SCBA’s were equipped with the latest technology advancements that featured, the heads up display, integrated PAL alarm, RIC and BBC connections.
Because of tragic events of September 11, 2001, the office of Homeland Security was created. The creation of this office brought to light the needs of fire departments around the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency created the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) in 2002. The money would be awarded to fire departments in all 50 states to enhance response capabilities and to more effectively protect the health and safety of the public with respect to fire and other hazards. The grants enabled local fire departments and emergency medical services organizations to purchase or receive training, conduct first responder health and safety programs, and buy equipment and response vehicles. The money to be distributed to local fire departments was a competitive grant process.
In 2003, the department received their first AFG grant in the amount of $18,540 to update their radio communications equipment. The grant allowed department members to replace 8 mobile radio’s that were mounted inside the apparatus for communication with Jeffco Dispatch Center, 11 hand-held radios for fire ground operations, and 20 personal pagers.
In 2004, members of the department continued looking for additional resources to purchase innovative technology to help save lives. Even though the Joachim-Plattin Ambulance District provides advanced life support and transport in the community of Herculaneum members of the department saw the benefits of quick defibrillation when dealing with sudden cardiac arrests. On February 7, 2004 members of the department purchased the first Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in the community. The AED was purchased with the help of a grant from Wal-Mart. The AED treats sudden cardiac arrest, ventricular fibrillation (VF), which at one time was limited to hospitals and emergency medial services.
In 2006, the department received their second AFG grant in the amount of $7,220 to make improvements once again in the area of firefighters’ bunker gear. The money was used to purchase 7 sets of turnout gear that had been purchased in 1996.
In 2007, members of the department put into service a technical rescue/command trailer. After a young girl drowned while playing with friends near the Joachim Creek in Herculaneum on Wednesday, July 2, 2003, members of the department saw the need for mobile command. Members of the department started exploring ideas and looking for funding for the mobile command system. In addition to the mobile command system, members of the department established a need to retire the 40 year old GMC truck that was operating as a heavy rescue. On October 25, 2005 members of the department agreed to purchase a 2004 Pace trailer for the amount of $7,000. The trailer would have a dual purpose: the front portion of the trailer was configured as a mobile command center capable of communications with multiple agencies simultaneously, a television to monitor weather and the press during large scale events, heating and cooling, a mini-refrigerator for extended operations, and counter space and wall maps for strategic operations. The rear portion of the trailer would house all of the technical rescue equipment. Members of the department worked on adding shelving and moving equipment from the 40 year old GMC truck to the trailer for approximately two years.
After the City of Herculaneum added a walking and bike trail in the city, the department recognized a need for an all terrain vehicle capable of maneuvering in tight areas. A 2007 John Deere Gator with a Med+Bed was purchased to fulfill the needs of an all-terrain vehicle. The Gator allowed for firefighters and paramedics to drive the vehicle off road into the woods and load a patient on a backboard and secure the patient to the Gator to provide a safe and effective extrication of a patient. The cost of the John Deere Gator was approximately $16,000.
During the months of June and July members of the department and elected officials of Herculaneum entered into a new contract that would change the Herculaneum Fire Department forever. The new contract would increase the fire departments budget from $110,000 to $150,000, the additional $40,000 was to be allocated for a salary. Never before in the department’s history had anyone received compensation for firefighting duties. For the next three months, chief officers and members of the department outlined and implemented qualifications, a hiring process and a salary and benefits package for the newly created position.
On October 1, 2007, Kevin Baker, a seven year veteran of the department, was hired as the first full-time employee in the history of the Herculaneum Fire Department. He was hired as a Firefighter/EMT working Monday thru Friday 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
In 2007, the department received their third AFG grant in the amount of $17,811 to install “No Smoke” Diesel Filters on apparatus. The money was used to purchase 2 Ward No Smoke Diesel Filters and were installed on pumper 6310 and pumper/rescue 6314. The filters are a self contained, fully automatic, diesel exhaust filtering system designed to trap potentially hazardous pollutants. The filters are activated when the apparatus is started and will filter the exhaust from the vehicle for 30 seconds which is enough time for the apparatus to drive out of the engine house. The filters are also activated when the vehicle is shifted into reverse.
During the summer of 2007, the Doe Run Company announced that they would re-locate the fire department engine house as part of a State Implementation Plan (SIP) agreement between the company and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources. On December 1, 2007, members of the fire department and officials from the Doe Run Company held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new engine house on Riverview Plaza Drive.
Construction the new engine house began in January 2008 and continued throughout the summer of 2008. On August 13, 2008, fire department members held a closing ceremony at the engine house at 848 Broad Street and moved the department equipment to the new location. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the new engine house followed by a barbeque for department members and Doe Run Company officials. On September 14, 2008, a formal ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony was held during the afternoon for the general public. Resolutions were presented to the department by State Representative Ron Casey and State Senator Ryan McKenna. A dedication dinner was held during the evening hours for department members and invited guests. The department presented Gary Hughes, General Manager of the Doe Run Company- Smelting Division, with a commemorative axe used during the ribbon cutting. A video presentation of the Herculaneum Fire Department Engine House history and construction of the new engine house was shown following the dinner and program.
On April 26, 2008, the Herculaneum Fire Department was awarded the “Career/Career with Volunteers” Fire Department of the Year Award by the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri at the association’s annual convention in Kimberling City. The department was presented with the award in recognition of community service, fire prevention and fire suppression efforts. This was the second time that the Herculaneum Fire Department was awarded a Department of the Year Award by the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri.
|In 2008, the department received their fourth AFG grant in the amount of $38,000 to upgrade the departments in house Air Compressor/Cascade/Fill Station. The money was used to purchase a Bauer Unicus III Air Compressor/Cascade/Fill Station.|