Taking Off

city hall fire stationThe Early Twentieth Century
The first motorized equipment, the Robinson Hose and Chemical Pumping Engine, was purchased in 1910. In 1911, Station No. Two was built at Second Avenue South and 30th Street. The Fireman’s hours were changed from twenty-four to twelve hours on September 1, 1914, and more Firemen were appointed. At that time, the paid firemen took over duties of the volunteers, and there were seven men, fulltime, paid employees.

In 1918, the Maverick Hose Company disbanded. Prohibition had begun and the "notoriously hard-drinking" company felt that their annual banquets would not be as much fun without beer. Besides, more and more men were being paid to fight fires, so there was no more need for a volunteer fire company. "A great humanitarian organization passed out of existence." It was said that, to have belonged to the Mavericks in the early days, even as an honorary member, was a distinction more coveted than a place on the Governor’s staff. Today, the Mavericks’ fire bell enjoys a place of honor on the campus of MSU-Billings, at the East end of the Peaks to Plains Park.

By 1930, The Billings Fire Department had a force of 15 paid firefighters and 10 men on call for emergencies, some of whom were students who were given beds in return for services. The equipment consisted of two pieces of pumping apparatus with hoses and pumps, one piece of hose and chemical apparatus, one 40-gallon chemical wagon, one ladder truck and one high-pressure wagon equipped with a monitor nozzle. It could, reportedly, produce 1200 gpm! The Billings Fire Department had also entered into the field of first aid.

On June 23, 1937, Local 521 of the International Association of Firefighters was chartered in Billings. Meanwhile, Montana became the first state in the union to establish an eight-hour day for Firefighters.
In June 1943, the Mayor and City Council of Billings authorized establishment of the Billings Fire Prevention Bureau, headed by a full-time Fire Marshal, Grant Gainan.

In 1944, a determined group of City and Fire officials, along with other interested citizens, began a program to improve the firefighting facilities and work toward a reduction in fire insurance rates. Nationally there were 10,000 lives and $461,487,000 in property lost in 1947. These staggering losses spurred President Truman to sponsor a nationwide conference in Washington, DC. In 1948, the City covered 3.5 sq. miles with five fire stations.

By their efforts concerning manpower, equipment, radios, and new stations, Billings was re-rated in 1950 from Class six to Class four, with resulting savings in insurance premiums.

In 1954, bids were taken for the Terry Park Station, which opened in 1955 with the addition of 13 new men. 1955 also saw the start of the new Communications Division of the Billings Fire Department, using four firefighters as dispatchers.