The Iowa City Fire Department - one of the oldest fire services in the state of Iowa - is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

On May 20, 1872, following a large fire in the Downtown business area, the Iowa City City Council agreed to purchase $500 worth of fire fighting equipment, including buckets and hook and ladder equipment. This equipment was used by a new volunteer company Rescue Hook and Ladder Company #1 and was the genesis of the Iowa City Fire Department.

The origins of the Iowa City Fire Department actually date back to before Iowa achieved statehood. In 1842, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Iowa authorized the creation of the Iowa City Fire Engine Company, which was largely tasked with protecting the then-state capitol.

The Iowa City Fire Department was all-volunteer until 1912, when the City hired its first three paid firefighters: Herman Amish, George Kasper and Fire Chief James Clark. That year the fire department obtained its famed white fire horses Snow Ball and High Ball, who served the city until 1925.

These days, the Iowa City Fire Department is made up of 64 personnel and four fire stations, providing fire protection, emergency medical service and public education to more than 25 square miles of service area. The department responded to 8,106 calls in 2021, including 4,208 emergency medical service calls, 1,534 fire calls, 295 hazardous condition calls, 243 technical rescue calls, and 1,826 "other" calls such as assisting the public or false alarms.

The fire department will celebrate its anniversary in the coming months, kicking off with the Public Works Open House on May 21, 2022. After touring the City's new public works facility, members of the community are encouraged to check out the fire department's new training tower and see some of the department's equipment.

Other upcoming celebrations include a display of the department's history at the Iowa City Public Library and a meet-and-greet at an upcoming Iowa City Farmers Market. The anniversary festivities will culminate at the Iowa City Noon Optimist Club's fly-in/drive-in pancake breakfast at the Iowa City Airport on Aug. 28, 2022. The event will feature a short program on the Iowa City Fire Department and past and present fire equipment.

Follow Iowa City Public Safety on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the fire department's 150th celebration as well as throwback photos from the department's history.

Date of publication

Thursday, May 12, 2022