The City of De Soto established an organized volunteer fire department back in 1880 with local businessmen responding to fires. The first apparatus was a hand-pulled cart that carried ladders, buckets, ropes and other hand tools. This cart was built by a local blacksmith in 1893 and is still used today, for shows only. The De Soto Fire Department also handled emergencies outside the city limits up until the 1950s. At this time, some of the firemen split off and formed what is now the De Soto Rural Fire Protection District.
The De Soto Fire Department has seen many changes in the last 116 years. One big change is with the apparatuses and equipment that is used today. As technology and safety standards have evolved, the City of De Soto has strived to keep the firefighters and volunteers outfitted and protected with the most up-to-date equipment and apparatuses possible. The apparatuses were not the only thing that evolved, so did the colors. One of our most asked questions is, “Why are your fire trucks yellow?” The City first started out with red fire trucks, which are still used in parades. Todd Mahn, owner of Mahn Funeral Homes, purchased a 1935 Ford fire truck from the City of De Soto and restored it to the beautiful truck it is today. The Fire Department changed the truck color to white and then to yellow. The reason for the change to yellow was because of a study that was done that determined that red was too dark and could not be easily seen. The lime green and yellow colors were the most visible, so the change to yellow was made.
The Fire Department location has been another big change. The De Soto Fire Department, as well as the De Soto Police Department and De Soto City Hall were located at 413 South Second Street until 1986. The City then built the Fire Department a new firehouse at its present location, 114 North Second Street, which is located behind and across the street from City Hall. In 2009 the City opened “Station Two”, located at 1314 Public Works Drive. The Fire Department’s Station Two opened in May and is used to reduce the response time to calls at the north end of the City. Station Two also helps the City maintain its Class Four ISO rating, which lowers insurance rates to the citizens of De Soto. This building will also be used as an emergency shelter if a disaster occurs or for other emergencies.
One of the biggest changes the Fire Department has seen is personnel changes. There have been many men and women serving at the Fire Department since 1880. Without the volunteer firefighters, the Department would not be where it is today. The Fire Department has mainly consisted up of volunteers. We have had a few part-time personnel and personnel from other departments in duel roles. In 2006, the City decided to take the next step and start staffing the Fire Department with full-time personnel. In November 2008, the City hired its fifth full-time firefighter. The Fire Chief handles the day-to-day operations of the Fire Department as well as the Assistant Fire Chief. The three Captains work 24 hour shifts and run the Department in the absence of the Fire Chief and Assistant Fire Chief. With this structure, the Fire Department is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with additional staffing Monday through Friday, during business hours. This is the time when volunteer firefighters are least available. While having this full-time staff is a huge benefit, the Fire Department still relies heavily on its volunteers. The full-time staff not only guarantees that there will be someone available to respond to emergencies but the response time will also be improved. This also allows the Department to keep up with safety inspections of business, public relation events, safety programs at the schools and other community services.
In closing, we would like to remind everyone that the Staff at the De Soto Fire Department will schedule safety talks for your group or organization. With help from Wal-Mart, we still sponsor the smoke detector program, which provides and installs smoke detectors to anyone in need, free of charge. Since the start of this program, the number of residential fires is almost half of what we used to see in the City. To request a smoke detector or to schedule an event, contact the Fire Department at (636)586-3888.
Everyone is welcome to visit the fire house to view the apparatuses and equipment we use. So come by and see us.
Fire Chief Craig Block
De Soto Fire Department