By: Bill Haggard


Prior to 1951, fire protection in Herculaneum was provided by the St. Joe Lead Company and consisted of six two-wheeled hose carts situated throughout the town. This type of fire protection proved inadequate when on Christmas Day 1947, a fire completely destroyed the Herculaneum Public School building. For the next four years, different groups talked about the formation of an organized fire department for the town. However, it was not until May of 1951, that a group of 12 men from the Herculaneum Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5168 organized the Herculaneum Volunteer Fire Department.


A 1931 General Monarch pumper was purchased from the Lang & Manning Company with funds obtained from the VFW and door-to-door contributions. The fire truck had previously seen service in Kirkwood, Missouri, and would serve the town of Herculaneum until 1957. Having secured the department’s first fire truck, the members began their firefighter training under the tutelage of Festus Fire Chief Herb Besand. Lynn Johnston was elected as the first Fire Chief and Tom Robart was elected President of the fire department. On August 3, 1951, the Herculaneum Fire Department answered their first call when they responded to a garage fire on Curved Street.


The original “fire house” was an old corn crib on the St. Joe Lead Company property. In 1952, the basement of an old Assembly of God Church on Broad Street was converted to a fire house. This building would continue to serve as the fire house until 1971. Also in 1952, the fire department began the practice of selling fire tags to residents and businesses wanting fire protection. Beginning in 1953, the fire department purchased an E& J inhalator/resuscitator and began the practice of responding to various emergency medical calls.


In May 1953, Joe Thornborrow was elected Fire Chief and he would serve until May of 1954, when Lynn Johnston was re-elected as chief.  In December of 1954, Chief Johnston resigned due to the fact that he moved to the outskirts of town and could no longer here the fire siren. Tom Robart was given the duties of fire chief and served until May of 1955, when Casey Haggard was elected as fire chief. Chief Haggard did not seek re-election in 1956 due to employment commitments and Tom Robart was elected as Fire Chief in May of 1956. Chief Robart would remain in that position until his retirement in December of 1981.


On December 21, 1957, the fire department took delivery of a new 1957 Ford Central 500 GPM pumper. The department also added a 1951 Dodge panel delivery truck to transport the department’s inhalator/resuscitator equipment and other accessory equipment. In 1966, a second 500 GPM pumper built by Towers Fire Apparatus on a 1966 GMC chassis was purchased by the fire department.


In August of 1970, ground was broken for the construction of a new fire station located next to the original firehouse on Broad Street. Working evening and weekends for the next eight months, the department members built the new fire station. The new building was dedicated on March 14, 1971. For their efforts, the Herculaneum Fire Department was selected as the Volunteer Fire Department of the Year by the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri, at the 1973 FFAM Convention in Hermann, Missouri.


In 1972, the town of Herculaneum incorporated and worked out an agreement with the Herculaneum Volunteer Fire Department to provide fire protection service to the new city. This contract arrangement with the city ended the practice of selling fire tags and continues to this date.  In 1974, a Chevrolet Step Van was added to the department fleet to serve as an emergency/equipment truck. The fire department also added a 1953 Willys Jeep that was converted to a brush vehicle.


In 1980, the fire department took delivery of a 750 GPM Ford front mount pumper built by Towers Fire Apparatus. On December 31, 1981, Chief Tom Robart retired after 25 ˝ years as fire chief. Bill Haggard was appointed Fire Chief and remains in that position to this date. In 1989, the fire department purchased a 1989 Ford 1000 GPM pumper built by American Eagle Fire Apparatus Company.


In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Herculaneum Fire Department added a pumper/rescue, a rescue truck, a 50’ Tele-Squrt and a brush truck. All of these vehicles had previously seen service in other fire departments and have since been taken out of service by the Herculaneum Fire Department.


In October 2007, the Herculaneum Fire Department hired its first and only full-time firefighter. With the exception of this paid firefighter, the department remains an all-volunteer fire department with no member receiving any type of compensation.


In 2008, the Herculaneum Fire Department dedicated a new fire station located at 151 Riverview Plaza Drive. In recognition of its fire service efforts and community involvement, the Herculaneum Fire Department was named the 2008 Career/Career with Volunteers Fire Department of the Year by the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri at the FFAM Convention in Kimberling City.


In November of 2009, the fire department purchased a 2009 Ford F-550 Rosenbauer-Central States rescue/brush apparatus. In 2012, the Herculaneum Fire Department took delivery of a Rosenbauer Commander 1500 GPM rescue/pumper. In July 2018, the fire department took delivery of a Coast Guard rescue boat through a donation from the Riverview Commerce Park group.


Bill Haggard retired as Fire Chief on December 31, 2017 after 35 years. Chris Baker served as interim Fire Chief until Kevin Baker was elected Fire Chief in June 2018.


The Herculaneum Fire Department currently has 18 members with a command staff of one fire chief, one assistant chief, one captain and one lieutenant. Through the years, 141 men and women have served with the fire department.  The Herculaneum Fire Department has a long, proud history of service to the Herculaneum community.