THE VERY EARLY DAYS
The St. Joseph, Missouri fire service began in the 1850’s. Various political groups buy and establish fire companies with little standardization of equipment. These various firefighting groups both competed and cooperated at scenes. St. Joseph councilman General William R. Penick began a campaign to establish a professional fire department in St. Joseph in 1860. In 1865 this plan was completed with the election of General Penick as mayor of the City of St. Joseph.
In 1860 the citizens of St. Joseph approved a $25,000 bond for the establishment of a professional fire department. The uncertainties of the Civil War delayed the implementation of the plan. In 1864 the city council now guided by Mayor Penick approved $5,000 for the purchase of a steam powered fire pump. In May of 1865, the mayor presented the steam fire pumper named ”Black Snake” to the community.
The steam pumper was an awesome piece of equipment that could develop pumping pressures up to 165 pounds per square inch. Unlike the “Water Witch”, the unit already in service in the city, which required human powered and lots of it to develop pump pressure. Needless to say, there was a significant competition that developed between the two fire companies. At fire scenes, occasionally fire streams would be redirected from the fire toward member of the opposing fire companies. Continue Reading →