Progress is a present, never-ending effort of Carthage Firefighters. It is vitally important to uphold the traditions of those who served before us. By studying such things of our past, it might perhaps give us a better understanding of why we perform our chosen profession in this manner.
The first known Carthage Fire Department, a volunteer fire company, was established on December 10, 1872. The fire company was composed of "the best citizens of Carthage". This statement remains true today. The organization was divided into two groups, Fire King Engine Company Number 1 and Rescue Hook and Ladder Company. Charles Harrington was elected the first Fire Chief of the Carthage Fire Department. Chief Harrington, a Civil War veteran, was actively involved in the rebuilding of the City and the Fire Department prospered under his command.
The present-day Carthage Fire Department was founded on February 11, 1895. City Ordinance provided for the creation of the fire department and established regulations for the government thereof and fixed the compensation of the firefighters. This ordinance required minimum staffing of two Fire Department members who were to remain at the Fire Department to maintain a team of horses and the fire apparatus.
Charles Shipps was elected the first Fire Chief of the paid Carthage Fire Department.
In the years that followed the transition from a volunteer Fire Company to a paid Fire Department prospered. Many changes took place during this time in terms of firefighting techniques and equipment. The much faster and more efficient motor-driven fire engines eventually replaced the sound of horses pounding a dirt road and the cry "make way for the firemen". The first fire engine was a Babcock, which carried two chemical tanks.
During the years of the Great Depression, it became too great a burden for the City to fund the Fire Department. Finally, in 1936 the City transferred control of the Fire Department to the Board of Public Works. The Fire Department remained under the authority of Carthage Water and Electric (CWEP) until 1990.
For many years, the Fire Department was housed at the corner of Second Street and Grant Street. The building was built in 1883 and housed several other various city offices during the same period.
Nearly 100 years later, the Fire Department built a new, state-of-the-art facility, at 401 W Chestnut. The Fire Department currently operates out of this location and has done so since 1980. In 2019, with the growth of the city and department, a second Fire Station was completed and in service at the location of 3000 S Main Street.
Firefighting is and has always been a dangerous profession. All across the country firefighters have given their lives protecting people and property. Carthage is no different. Since its inception, four Carthage Firefighters have sacrificed their lives protecting the citizens of this great city. It would be a huge disservice to these men and their families if we did not recognize them in the history of the Carthage Fire Department.
The four men killed in the line-of-duty are as follows:
David S. Helt - June 26, 1884.
Assistant Foreman of Hook and Ladder Company, Firefighter Helt died during a training exercise when he fell and was ran over by the horse-drawn carriage.
Robert J. Cragin - July 27, 1939
Assistant Fire Chief Cragin was killed when his clothing ignited while burning trash behind the Carthage Fire Department located at 205 N Grant Street.
Carl W. Pierce - May 04, 1943
Firefighter Pierce was one of several Carthage Firefighters who responded to a mutual aid request for a commercial structure fire in Lamar. Firefighter Pierce was killed as a result of the explosion during fire suppression activities.
Steven W. Fierro - February 18, 2004
Firefighter Fierro was one of four Carthage Firefighters who responded to a mutual aid request for a commercial structure fire in the Diamond Fire Department district. Firefighter Fierro was killed when he became disoriented and entangled while conducting interior fire operations.