FESTUS FIRE DEPARTMENT
By: Bill Haggard
The City of Festus was incorporated in 1887 and for nearly ten years, the city depended on the popular bucket brigade for fire protection. The bucket brigade involved citizens using any available bucket, passing the water along the line to the men nearest the fire and a return line to return the buckets to a hand pump or cistern.
Following a fire that destroyed one of the finest buildings in the city, the Board of Aldermen discussed the fire and the inadequacy of the bucket brigade form of fire protection. On August 25, 1897, the Festus Fire Department was established. Chairman J. O. Johnston and other fire committee members purchased ladders, hoses, buckets and other necessary equipment for firefighting. The equipment was stored at various residences and businesses throughout the city. The fire alarms were answered by volunteers.
The first fire truck in the City of Festus was a Dodge one-ton truck with a water chemical tank with soda acid. A lever was used to dump the soda acid into the baking soda treating the water to build pressure. In 1917, W. E. Osterwald was named the first Fire Chief for the City of Festus and paid an annual salary of $25.00.
In 1924, water lines and fire hydrants were installed in the city and thus provided better water flow for firefighting efforts.
In 1930, the city purchased an open cab General Monarch fire truck with a 500 GPM pump and a 250 gallon booster tank. The fire truck was equipped with ladders, nozzles, axes, fire extinguishers and fire hose.
In the 1940s, it became apparent that a rural fire department was also needed. Each household was assessed $2.00 and each business was assessed $50.00 enabling the city to purchase another pumper. In 1946, the Festus Rural Fire Department was formed, and approximately 500 fire tags were sold to individuals living outside the city limits.
In 1941, Herb Besand was named Fire Chief and he served the fire department for 33 years in that capacity. Other individuals who have served as Fire Chief include Vincent Canepa, Norvel Brickey, Carol Byrd, Oscar Fallert, Steve Smith, Amos Govero, William DeClue, Don Boyer, Don DeClue and Charles Cayce. Chuck Boyer is the current Fire Chief.
On November 2, 1975, the Festus Fire Department dedicated the current fire station at 212 North Mill Street and a new 1975 Ford pumper. Prior to locating at this location, the fire department operated out of the National Guard Armory directly across the street.
Today, the Festus Fire Department operates with an all volunteer force of men and women who train one night each week. The fire department provides fire prevention programs to all Festus schools and daycare centers each year. Firefighters attend fire training classes throughout the State of Missouri.