Pratt's fire history recalled at city fire department's centennial anniversary celebration on Saturday.
For 100 years, the Pratt City Fire Department has guarded the City of Pratt as it worked to save property and lives to make the city a safer place to live.
To honor their 100 year anniversary, the department celebrated on Saturday, Dec. 14 with a ceremony at the Pratt Fire Department on the 200 block of South Jackson.
Dozens of area residents, Pratt firefighters and their families gathered at the station to celebrate this milestone for the department. Pratt Mayor Doug Meyer and Pratt City Manager Bruce Pinkall expressed their thanks to the current firefighters and to all the firefighters from years before.
Fire Chief David Kramer read the original charter that established the fire department and thanked all the firefighters that make the department one of the best in Kansas.
The Pratt Masonic Kilwinning Lodge No. 265 made a $1,200 donation to the fire department with funds from their ongoing raffle of a 1968 Camero that was used in Guy Fiere’s popular TV series “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Fire Capt. Dan Decker read a history of the department and how it developed through the years. The history included some of the biggest fires in the city's history including a fire on Dec. 12, 1888 that destroyed six downtown buildings and prompted the city council to establish a formal fire company on Feb. 7, 1889. Other major fires included the First Methodist Church on April 10, 1895 and was a total loss, the Ryan Hotel fire on Feb. 3, 1897 that prompted the purchase of more fire fighting equipment paid for through a series of fund raising entertainments. A fire on Feb. 11, 1904 destroyed Peak Drug Store. In the 1900s a new fire station was built at Second and Main for a cost of $30,189 and still stands today.
In 1916, the year known as the year of the fire, Jetts Mercantile, Crossfield Livery, Jetts Mercantile burned again at its new location along with Dodson Implement and Morrell 5 and 10 cent stores. Then in October the three story Thompson and Repp building at 219 South Main was a complete loss. Arson was expected in these fires but no arrests were made. The suspected arsonist was offered a job with the department because of his interest in fire. These fires led to the purchase of a Rio Fire Truck for $1,750 and became the first official fire truck for the City of Pratt.
Other major fires included the Pratt County Courthouse on June 6, 1923 with $100,000 in damages, the Jan. 19, 1939 fire that destroyed Utz Flower and Shoe Shop, Shrack Clothing and Jeweler Store where the jewel safe fell into the basement. The new Barron Theater next to Utz Flower was saved.
Thomas Gilbin and J.M. Turner were the first leaders of the fire department and were followed by many others including the current Chief David Kramer with 35 years of service and Deputy Chief George Stevens with 40 years of service.
Other big fires included the Pratt Mill fire in 1958, the Country Club Apartment fire in 1966 that destroyed 15 units and a house fire on Feb. 1, 1971 when a snow plow had to pull the trucks to a fire and firefighters had to respond by foot because of 20 inches of snow. In 1974 the Tire Building burned and the original Tribune building was also the victim of fire, Decker said.
The Pratt Fire Department is a volunteer group that trains every Wednesday on a wide variety of firefighter matters they may face during the year.
As part of the days activities, the original city fire bell was unveiled at its new site in front of the fire station. The bell is actually 130 years old was cast at the Buckeye Bell Foundry in 1889. It was moved from its original location at Third and Ninnescah to a steel tower at Second and Main in 1910. The bell was replaced by a siren around 1920 and sold to Baptist Church.
When the church disbanded, the department worked with the building owner, Sherry Morford, and acquired the bell. The bell was retrieved with help from Sherry Morford, Trand Crane service and A&R Roofing then cleaned and installed in a new display frame with help from Striker Portable Welding Service and Stevens Construction. The bell was prepared by BEPC powder coating.
At the unveiling, the bell was once again sounded in honor of all the firefighters that have served over the last 100 years. Visitors were treated to grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and the firetrucks were open for inspection.