By: Bill Haggard


As with most departments, the De Soto Rural Fire Protection Association was created out of necessity.  There was no fire protection available for the residents outside of the De Soto City limits so several of the De Soto City Fire Fighters left to form the De Soto Rural Fire Protection Association in 1950. Charter members were Edwin Lucas (President), George Long (Chief), Robert Eck Sr. (Recording Secretary), E.G. “Jerry” Coxwell (Financial Secretary), J.H. Gibson (Treasurer), Paul Brunkhorst, Ed Mahn, Chester Christopher, Leonard Christopher, Vivian J. Christopher, Bill Coxwell, Norman Day, Lyle Goff, Joe Giles, Bob Hobson, John Hobson and Howard Lucas.  Property was purchased at 201 East Miller Street, which continues to serve as Station 1.  The original station was built by Charles Chapman Sr. and his crew in 1952.  They were paid only with wine that was donated to the Association from the local seminary, Mount St. Clement.  It consisted of 2 bays and a kitchen in the rear of the building.  A second floor was added in 1969.  The station was remodeled in 1979 and had three more bays added.  The additional property for the additional bays was purchased for back taxes by the Association. 

The first truck, 1949 Ford was purchased from Central Fire Apparatus with funds from donations and fundraisers.  Many times fuel was purchased by the volunteers.  All funding to run the Association came from the sale of fire tags and donations from the community. 

George Long was the first Fire Chief.  The chief was elected by the membership on a yearly basis until 1997 when the first paid Fire Chief was hired.

An annual barbeque fundraiser was made possible by donations of meat and corn from farmers and wine from the Vineland monastery.  It was a big community event and drew a big crowd.

A traumatic vehicle accident emphasized the need for rescue tools and the first “Jaws of Life” was purchased in 1979 with donations from the community.  It was expected to take a year or more to raise the $6500 needed however a generous outpouring from the community allowed the purchase in 3 months.    

In 1987, the residents approved a measure to become a district and allowed a property tax, thus doing away with the need to purchase a fire tag.  The first paid fire fighter Eldon “Bud” Smith was hired in 1989 and worked an 8 hour shift, Monday through Friday for $13,000 a year.  A year later Fire Fighter Eric Young was hired.  Bud retired from the District in 2010. 

In 1990, a fire truck responding from Station 1 to a fire alarm sounding hit a pillar with an open compartment door and caused the building to collapse.  The building was being held up by two other fire trucks.  Missouri Pacific Railroad sent crews with crane equipment to hold the roof up to allow the fire fighters to get the trucks out of the bay.  New bays were built with reinforced pillars.  Station 2 was also built in 1990.  Station 3 was built in 1996, Station 4 was completed in 2008, Station 5 is an existing Buchheit building and is leased from a resident for One dollar ($1.00) per year and Station 6 was put in service in 2009.  This helped the District achieve an ISO Class Five and reduced insurance premiums for the vast majority of the District.  

The District has grown to 13 Full time Fire Fighters, which includes the Chief, Assistant Chief, and Deputy Chief working 48 hour shifts manning Stations 1, 2 and 3 running approximately 1000 calls a year.  Stations 4, 5 and 6 are covered by volunteers and live-ins. There is also one Administrative Assistant, 30 Volunteers and 11 part-time firefighters.