History 1857 to 1885

The City of Red Wing's Fire Department is rich in history. Fortunately, there are a few individuals, who have researched and spent many hours gathering and studying the department's past. These next pages are dedicated to both firefighters of the past, present and future.

The Beginning: 1857

The Red Wing Fire Department has provided fire and EMS services to the citizens of Red Wing and the surrounding area for over 150 years.

First Chief Engineer

The Protection Hook and Ladder Company Number 1, Red Wing's first fire company, was organized in 1857 with Jessie McCintire elected as the first Chief Engineer. Red Wing's City Council refused to recognize them as a legitimate company so they relied on subscriptions and donations to meet expenses. 

Equipped with a wagon, a couple of ladders and a few buckets, the company was not called on to extinguish many fires. They were once used to demolish a home whose occupants had "an unsavory reputation."

Protection Hook & Ladder Company: 1858

The Protection Hook and Ladder Company listed its 1858 equipment inventory to include: 

  • A pair of grapple irons.
  • Three axes
  • Three small hooks One wagon
  • Seven ladders

The Protection Hook and Ladder Company reorganized on December 6, 1858 as the Torrent Engine Company Number 1. They disbanded in 1865 because they were unable to obtain an engine.

Phonix Hook and Ladder Company group photo in front of truck

Companies: 1860s

Throughout the 1860s, several companies were organized including Cataract Hose Company Number 1, The Niagara Engine Company Number 2, and the Champion Extinguisher Company. These Companies were formed in name only as they were unable to obtain the equipment needed to be considered legitimate fire companies.

Teepetonka Hotel Fire: 1865

In 1865, fire claimed the Teepetonka Hotel. The Fire Department felt that with modern firefighting equipment, the hotel may have been saved. 

Department officers approached the City Council and asked that a tax be levied so the department could purchase an engine. 

"If the property owners and principal taxpayers of this city don't like the proposition, they can vote no and perhaps the City Council, to meet their case, will vote for another two dozen pails!" Later that year, the City Council agreed to purchase two hand pumped engines and two hose carts (second hand) for $1050.

Hose Cart: 1869

Another hose cart was purchased in 1869. The cart was put on public display on the third floor of the music hall. In order to exhibit the new cart on the third floor, it needed to be dismantled and carried up the stairs. 

During the exhibit, the fire alarm sounded. The cart had to be dismantled and brought down to the street. Before the cart could be reassembled and drawn to the fire, the Metropolitan Hotel on Levee Street had burned to the ground.

Hand-drawn hose cart from the 1800s

First Bell: 1871

The city's first firehouse was built downtown on West Third Street in 1860. Three additional stations were built throughout the city before the turn of the century. The first fire bell was purchased and installed in 1871 at a cost of $900.

Water Mains: 1877

In 1877, the city laid water mains downtown using the Diamond Flour Mill powerhouse to pump water into the loop. Residential neighborhoods relied on private wells and cisterns for firefighting water supply.

 By 1884, the city's waterworks was constructed including fire hydrants to replace the cisterns and wells in residential areas. Red Wing saw many costly fires in the 1870s and 1880s including the

  • Betcher Lumber Company
  • Diamond and Red Wing Flour Mills
  • The potteries
  • Sewer pipe factory

The loss of the flour mills was considered the most damaging.

Red Wing Fire Department: 1885

In accordance with a resolution adopted by the City Council on March 6, 1885, the Red Wing Fire Department reorganized.