The Osawatomie Fire Department serves and protects Osawatomie’s and Miami County’s citizens during difficult times of fire and danger, and it has been serving Osawatomie and Miami County since the late 1890s.

The Osawatomie Graphic reported in its Dec. 18, 1903, Holiday Edition: “None of the public institutions of Osawatomie is organized on a better basis than the Fire Department. For many years we got along with a ‘bucket brigade,’ but when the Ford-Dunaway corner burned in 1896, everybody felt that this condition could no longer be tolerated and an agitation was started that has resulted in much good.”

J.S. Johnson was the first fire chief of the Osawatomie Fire Department, and the Osawatomie Graphic reported that: “The city bought a 55-gallon Champion chemical engine. Two years later a first-class Hook and Ladder Truck was added to the equipment, and shortly after four six-gallon chemicals.”

The Osawatomie Fire Department had new equipment, and new equipment called for a proper fire station. The Osawatomie Graphic reported: “The apparatus was badly housed in an out-of-the way place, and the firemen joined the throng that was demanding a City Hall. The pressure grew stronger until 1901 when the authorities built the edifice that now stands on the southwest corner of Main and Fifth.”

While the city hall building built in 1901 has been replaced by the current city hall building, the fire station at the city hall building was state of the art in 1901. The Osawatomie Graphic reported: “This made splendid quarters and, the water works plant having been installed at about the same time, the city bought a hose reel and soon after a hose wagon and 1000 feet of hose. This is all in the possession of the city at the time, and together with the smaller paraphernalia, such as buckets, rubber coats, helmets, makes a thoroughly up-to-date outfit.”

The Osawatomie Graphic continued to report that: “It is a fact worthy of note that the department has been officered by substantial business men and not by a set of irresponsible boys whose chief aim is to show off in Uniform at the Firemen’s ball.”

And that the fire fighters of the Osawatomie Fire Department was composed of volunteers. The Osawatomie Graphic reported: “The company is strictly volunteer, the only renumeration being that members are exempt from paying the poll tax. There are presently 32 members, each in possession of a good uniform.”

The Osawatomie Fire Department is still a volunteer fire department, staffed by firefighters who are willing at a moment’s notice to risk their lives to come to the aid of Osawatomie’s and Miami Counties citizens in times of danger.

We owe both the Osawatomie firefighters of the past and the present a debt of gratitude and respect and gratitude for their service to Osawatomie and Miami County.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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