St. Charles Fire Department has a rich history beginning in 1836 when the City began taxing its citizens for the purpose of purchasing a fire engine and firefighting buckets. To respond to the need for more organized fire protection, the Union Fire Company was officially formed in 1861.
The first fire station was located at Jefferson and Main Streets and housed a single fire engine. In 1864, a Hook and Ladder Company was formed. The ladder company moved to a new location in 1877 at 1123 North Second Street, and the department became known as the Fourth Ward Fire Company. Their original building still stands today.
Joseph W. Ruenzi was appointed as the first fire chief in 1880. Along with the fire chief, two assistant chiefs were appointed. Both of these individuals, Hubert Hacting and Herman Schaber, later held the position of fire chief. The three appointed individuals are believed to have been the first paid firemen in the City of St. Charles.
In 1892, the city installed its first municipal alarm system. The system used 10 remote stations connected to the city water plant. When a call would come in, the steam whistle would be sounded to alert the firemen that they had a call.
Equipment & Stations
The city purchased its first horse drawn fire equipment in 1908. Two combination fire department wagons were purchased for $946 and a horse team was purchased for $400. American LaFrance motorized pumpers brought an end to the horse drawn equipment in 1921. The two volunteer stations were closed and a more centralized station was opened at Sixth Street and Clark in 1926. The station is no longer in use, but still stands today. Firefighters waited another 30 years for a second fire station to be opened at 1000 Boone’s Lick Road. Station 2 still stands but is no longer an active fire station. They would only have to wait 10 years longer for a third station to be built on Elm Street. Station 3 has been renovated and is still in operation today. That same year, 1966, the firefighters joined the International Association of Firefighters and established Local 757. The department at that time consisted of 14 paid men.
In 1971, the City hired Chief Edward B. Underwood to head the department. He would remain Fire Chief until his retirement 29 years later. During Chief Underwood's tenure, the department realized a marked improvement in the services provided. Underwood enlisted department personnel to attend the state's first paramedic program in 1973. His foresight in this area led the department to become the first paramedic service in the state. In 1975, the department purchased its first hydraulic automobile rescue equipment, "Jaws of Life." By 1977, the department had completed Station 4 and had hired several new personnel to staff the station.
In 1978, the department became one of the first to break the gender barrier by hiring its first female firefighter. That same year the "Firefighter Freddie" fire prevention program was developed for use in local elementary school classrooms. In 1979, the St. Charles Fire Department started the first Hazardous Materials Response Team in St. Charles County. By 1983, the need had risen to build a new Station 1, add a second ambulance, and set up temporary quarters south of Interstate 70 for Station 5. The current Station 5 was constructed in 1991. Besides the engine company crew, the second ambulance was placed in service at the station.
In March 1999, the department began integrating advanced life support equipment on to each of its five fire apparatus. And in 2003, the department promoted the first Battalion Chiefs in its history as well as hiring the first staff officer in charge of the department's emergency medical services and a staff officer in charge of training.
Today the department is lead by Chief George Sheets. St. Charles City fire continues to be an innovator in the community and strives to provide the best service to its citizens.