Columbia Fire Department

Columbia Fire Department
Columbia Fire Department
Columbia Fire Patch.jpg
Established 1893
Staffed Career
Staff 140
ISO rating 2
Stations 9
Engines 1
Aerials 8
Ladders 2
Rescue Squads 2
Chief Chuck Witt, JR

The Columbia Fire Department (CFD) is the agency that provides fire suppression, emergency medical care, hazardous material and other catastrophic occurrence mitigation, fire investigation, and fire inspection and code enforcement to Columbia, Missouri. The Columbia Fire Department protects an area of 60.4 square miles (160 km2) and a population of approximately 100,000 from 9 stations strategically located around the city.



Columbia's first paid fire department was formed in 1893 and consisted of Chief Albert Newman, an Assistant Fire Chief and 11 part-time or volunteer firemen. Newman received $30 a month and the Assistant Chief received $20.

Water for firefighting was provided by wells located throughout the city until the first water main was installed in 1894. About this same time, Columbia's firefighting equipment consisted of a hose and ladder wagon pulled by "Dan" and "Prince", housed in a building at Eighth and Ash. Dan and Prince, matched whites, were trained to "harness" when the fire bell rang.

Motorized equipment came to Columbia in 1913 following a series of major fires. A "Kissel" truck complete with 1,000 feet of hose, several ladders and a 40-gallon chemical extinguisher was purchased by the city and housed in a city-rented two-story brick building located on the northwest corner of Seventh and Walnut (the building located directly across Walnut: former Fire Station #1). Beds were included for three fire fighters who were given four hours a WEEK to spend with their families and take care of personal business.

That same year, Earl Kurtz was appointed Chief with a salary of $75 per month. Assistant Chief F.W. Ketchum and Fire Fighters Edward Harrel, Thomas Walden and W.N. Griffiths comprised the remainder of the paid department. Additional personnel came from area volunteers. While serving as Fire Chief from 1913 to 1918, Kurtz initiated Columbia's first fire prevention program by inspecting buildings, discovering potential fire problems and educating the public in fire prevention methods.

In order to dispatch men and equipment during the early 1900s, the city was divided into five districts. When an alarm was received, a whistle located on top of the Stephens Publishing Company Building at Hitt and Broadway was sounded with a corresponding number of blasts notifying volunteers of the location or district of the fire.

Tom Walden was appointed Fire Chief in 1918 and remained in that position until 1950. When appointed, his salary was raised from $100 to $125 per month and three other full-time fire fighters (W.C. Kennedy, W.E. Christian and J.C. Walden) received salary increases of $10–$15 raising their monthly salaries to about $40.

On February 7, 1921, the Haden Building at 9th and Broadway was destroyed by fire. During operations, it became necessary to call the city's Water and Light Department to increase water pressure in the mains because the Fire Department didn't have a pumper to do this job at a hydrant. Realizing the need for a pumper, in early 1922 the department took delivery on a "REO" pumper equipped with ladder, hose and fire extinguisher. Then, in 1924, a new "Pierce-Arrow" pumper arrived equipped with hose, ladders and chemical tanks. With the Pierce-Arrow in service as the front line pumper, the Kissel truck was converted to a "utility" truck which carried extension ladders, picks, shovels and other firefighting gear and the REO was sent back to the factory for renovation. Also, a "Flint Roadster" was bought for the Fire Chief. Three new fire fighters were hired bringing the total to seven in 1924. In 1928, a "Buda" pumper was purchased to go along with the Kissel, Reo and Pierce-Arrow and a new Buick was purchased to replace the Chief's Flint Roadster.

The 30's and 40's found both the population and geographical area of Columbia increasing. Increased building heights and the age of downtown buildings made it necessary for further expansion of CFD. March 1933 found the Fire Department operating out of a new fire and police building located on the southwest corner of Seventh and Walnut. Two years later, the Department had increased to 11 fire fighters. In 1940, the City Council authorized the purchase of a "Hercules" pumper. In 1945, the Council authorized construction of a 1,000,000 gallon elevated storage tank near Garth and Walnut because water supply was still a problem.

A "Mack" pumper was purchased in 1948. Also, two Ford fire trucks, each with 500 gpm capacity were given to the University by the U.S. Army. The Fords were housed in a substation just south of the UMC Hospital and Clinics building from 1946-1959. This substation was manned by two firemen on a 24-on/24-0ff schedule. Assignment to the substation was rotated every two weeks between the men assigned downtown. When a fire call was telephoned into the downtown station, the personnel at the substation could listen in on their own extension and respond when necessary. Radio communication for the Fire Department came into being in 1950 when a radio was installed in the Hercules pumper housed in the downtown station.

The Fire Department's first aerial ladder was placed in service in 1953 when the city purchased an 85-foot "Seagrave" ladder truck. This truck was in service as a reserve ladder truck until replaced in 1990. (The Camdenton, MO Fire Department purchased it and it is still in service.) Fire Station #2 was erected in 1957 at the corner of West Worley Street and Pershing Road.

From 1951 to October 1973, Max Woods served as Fire Chief. During his tenure, the Fire Department expanded greatly, adding four City-owned fire stations and one University-owned fire station. The University-owned Station (Station #3) was opened in 1966. Station #4 opened in December 1970, Station #5 opened a year later in December 1971 and Fire Station #6 opened three years later in April 1973.

Chief Woods retired in October 1973 and was replaced by Earl Dean Holland the same month. Chief Holland was imported from Texas . . . the first Fire Chief not from the Columbia area. When Chief Holland resigned to become Fire Chief in Tucson, Arizona, in October 1976, Battalion Chief J.Girard "Toot" Wren was appointed Acting Fire Chief. Chief Wren's appointment became permanent in February 1977 and he served as Fire Chief until stepping down in December 1983.

A.W. "Bill" Westhoff, Jr., was appointed Fire Chief in December 1983. Chief Westhoff, was well known in the Columbia area because of his job with the University of Missouri as a Fire Service Instructor and as the Chief for many years of the Boone County Fire Protection District. Upon Chief Westhoff's resignation in May 1987, J.G. Wren was again appointed Acting Fire Chief and served in that position until the appointment of William Markgraf as Fire Chief effective July 5, 1988.

Chief Markgraf came to Columbia from his position as Fire Chief of University City, MO. Having been the director of Fire Science at Columbia College from April 1976 to August 1977, Chief Markgraf was acquainted with Columbia and known by many fire personnel.

In June 1997, Fire Station #1 was moved to a new building at 201 Orr Street, replacing the old station, which had been in operation since 1933. The larger, more modern fire apparatus no longer would fit comfortably in the apparatus room doors, traffic congestion was a problem and need for more municipal office space in the down town area spurred on the move.

In December 2001, Fire Station #8 was opened at near the intersection of Nifong and Bearfield Road. This was the first new or additional fire station built in Columbia since fire station 7 opened in 1983.

The Columbia, Mo Fire Department at a working structure fire.

In February 2009, Fire Station #7, relocated from near the intersection of Providence Road and Nifong Blvd, opened at the corner of Greenmeadows Road and Bethel Street, about 0.5 miles (800 m) west of its former location. Additionally ground was broken on Fire Station #9, which is located at Blue Ridge Road and is due to open late 2009.

In May 2009 the Boone County Fire Protection District and the Columbia Fire Department updated the territorial agreement which both agencies have operated under for the past 15 years. The previous agreement tasked the Fire District with emergency response to all areas annexed by the City of Columbia that the city was unable to provide service to and provided for annual compensation based on call volume. In 2008 the Fire District responded to over 400 calls within the City limits, totaling $672,000 in compensation. Under the revised agreement, areas that have been annexed by the City of Columbia will receive responses from both City and Fire District units, with overall command of the incident depending on who has jurisdiction. Compensation for the fire district has been set at $350,000 annually, with the amount to increase if more areas are annexed in the future. Both agencies have also entered into an increased level of cooperative training, with joint sessions occurring at both the City training academy and the Fire District training center.[2]

Fire Station #9 was completed on February 1, 2010, with an open house and traditional 'pushing in' of the new apparatus occurring a week later. Station 9 is the hazardous materials response station for the department, containing the hazmat truck and trailer.[3]


Organizationally, the Columbia Fire Department is divided into four divisions: Administration, Emergency Services, Departmental Services, and the Fire Marshal's Division.

Emergency Services Division

CFD employs 140 firefighters who are organized into three different shifts, with a Division Chief and Battalion Chief designated for each shift period. Front-line apparatus (Quint, Engine, Tower, or Snozzle) operate with three personnel: a lieutenant, an apparatus engineer, and a firefighter. A ladder has 3 personnel: captain, engineer, firefighter, while the squad companies are manned by a captain and engineer.

All first alarm fires receive the following assignment: Three Engines, a ladder, squad, medic unit, a Battalion Chief, and a Division Chief.

Fire apparatus and stations

All front-line apparatus are built on Sutphen chassis, with the exception of several specialty units.

Engine companies

CFD operates several different types of engine companies, some with an aerial device, some without.

  • Snozzle - equipped with a 2000 GPM pump, 500 gallon tank and 100 gallon foam cell. The Snozzle is a 65 ft Hydro Sword with dual water ways, piercing nozzle and Thermal Imager mounted on the tip.[4]
  • Tower[5] - 95-foot mid-mount aerial platform
  • Quint[6] - 2000 GPM pump with a 500 gallon tank and a mid-mount 75-foot aerial device with an elevated waterway with a 1500 GPM flow capacity.
  • Engine - 2008 Sutphen Shield
Ladder companies

The Columbia Fire Department operates two front-line ladder trucks; both have ladders that are over 100 ft in length.

Heavy rescue squads

The Sutphen rescue squad operated out of Station 3 contains a full complement of equipment designed to meet the NFPA requirements for heavy rescue squads. It is equipped to provide automobile extrication, high angle rescue, trench rescue, ice rescue, swift water rescue, cave rescue, and confined space rescue.

Specialty units
  • Foam Truck - an International conventional chassis with a 750 gallon foam tank, light tower, as well as two foam monitors. The unit can also store 20 5 gallon foam buckets.[7]
  • Boat 1
  • Air Truck - an International conventional 7400 series chassis with a 12 Bottle Cascade System, Scott Breathing Air Systems 6000 psi 15 HP 3 Phase Air Compressor, Scott Breathing Air Systems Revolvair Bottle Filling Station, 50KW Lima PTO Generator, and a Command Light CL615 9000 Watt Light Tower.[8]
  • Foam 3
  • Utility Truck
  • Bus 76
  • Special Operations Truck
Station Engine Ladder Squad Other
Station 1/Headquarters - 201 Orr
Snozzle 1 Ladder 1 Reserve Snozzle 1
Reserve Ladder 1
Boat 1
Utility truck
Foam Truck
District Chief
Battalion Chief
Station 2 - 1212 West Worley Engine 2 Ladder 2
Station 3 - 1000 Ashland Road
Quint 3 Squad 3 Foam 3
Chemical response trailer
Station 4 - 2300 Oakland Gravel Road
Quint 4 Reserve Squad 4
Station 5 - 1400 Ballenger Lane
Tower 5 Reserve Quint 4
Station 6 - 3112 Chapel Hill Road Quint 6 Reserve Engine 3
Station 7 - 400 Green Meadows Circle
Quint 7 Bus 76
Station 8 - 2301 East Nifong Boulevard
Quint 8 Air Truck
Special Operations vehicle
Station 9 - 201 Blueridge Road Quint 9 Hazmat Truck
Hazardous Device Unit

Departmental Division

Fire and Rescue Training

CFD drill tower

Located at 700 Big Bear Blvd in northern Columbia, the CFD Training Academy has a five-story drill tower, paved drill field, drafting pit, confined space prop, two-story structural live fire training building, and a classroom/administration building.

CFD burn building

In addition to basic firefighter training and continuing education, the division conducts classes for apparatus operators, company officers and manages hiring and promotional testing processes. The recruit class, a Missouri State accredited Fire I and II program which lasts twelve weeks, teaches basic firefighting, rescue, hazardous materials and medical response skills to newly hired firefighters.

The training division also maintains a very active role in supporting the needs of the department and the community, offering emergency training to local businesses and working with other governmental and private agencies to coordinate emergency response training for the community.

Fire Administration Division

The Fire Administration Division is located at 201 Orr Street.

Fire Marshal's Division

Located at 201 Orr Street, the Fire Marshal's Division is staffed by seven full-time fire personnel. Members serve multiple roles to complete the assigned duties of: conducting fire investigations, enforcing fire codes, performing fire inspections, plan reviews, public fire and life safety education, and public information.

Honor Guard[9]

Since 1991 CFD has maintained an award-winning Honor Guard, which has performed at various events, including trips to the National Fallen Firefighter's Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, sporting events at the University of Missouri, and functions with President George Bush and Missouri Governors Ashcroft and Carnahan. They continue to compete nationally and routinely perform in local parades and opening ceremonies around the state as well as funerals of fire department members.


  • Honor Guard National Championships - 1st Place - 1991
  • Honor Guard National Championships - 1st Place - 1993
  • Honor Guard National Championships - 3rd Place - 1997
  • Honor Guard National Championships - 2nd Place - 1998
  • Honor Guard National Championships - 1st Place - 1999
  • Honor Guard National Championships - 1st Place - 2000


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