History of the Department

1920-1939 | 1940's | 1950's | 1960's | 1970's | 1980's | 1990's | 2000's

The Beginning

Prior to the City of Urbandale being incorporated in 1917, the people who lived in the area around 70th and Douglas felt there was a need to work together for fire protection. There were wells for water supply and men who were willing to help when needed. A 2 wheeled cart was the 1st piece of fire equipment used by the newly incorporated Town of Urbandale, mounting a barrel on the cart, pulling it to fires. Once when using a horse to pull the cart, it upset and never reached the fire. The cart was stored in the basement behind Walker's Grocery on 70th Street.

In the late 1920's a 1911 Model-T Ford pick-up was purchased from the Beach brothers who used it to deliver groceries from their store. The firemen mounted the original fire cart barrel on the pick-up. They also added 700 feet of hose, some buckets, field boots and some chemicals thus creating Urbandale's first fire truck. The bucket brigade was often times limited in their success to put out a fire do to the amount of water available.

There were also problems as to where the new truck should be kept. It started out in the garage at Rufus Stuart's gas station at the corner of 70th Street and Douglas. In February 1930, it was moved north 1 block to George Battina's garage at 3819 70th Street. In September of the same year it relocated to Roy Tidricks garage on 70th Street. This spot was rented out for $6 per month. It was moved back to Battina's garage in July 1932. Members who worked and lived in this area were the most faithful volunteers. Volunteers like Floyd Schmidt (Smitty) a barber, Wendell Robinson (Wink) worked at the garage, Mr. McNab who had a garage across the street. Others that were willing to and answered the call included J.T. Hutchison, Alvin Byrd a plasterer by trade, and Ben Carpenter the town Marshall. This ready group was lead by Fire Chief Darrel Teach. Chief called the volunteers to duty by a bell he had installed atop an 18 foot poll near his store. The number of clangs indicated the location of the fire.


On June 6th, these volunteers were among those that responded to a fire that destroyed the Fan House, the building which housed ventilation equipment for the Rider Mine. Fortunately, 180 miners had went home a few minutes before the fire. The Des Moines Fire Department answered the call. The 1st fire truck sent broke down. The 2nd arrived safety and damage was estimated at $2,500. The owner was John Gibson, of Gibson Coal.


Robert Dixon was Mayor and he owned Dixie's Inn a tavern on Douglas. He had a telephone line extended from the tavern to his home for fire calls. A W.P.A. project had completed a 6" water line extension from Des Moines and all the necessary connections with installations for 50 homes and 26 hydrants. On September 13th, 1934 the water was turned on in Urbandale.


Mayor Robert Dixon appointed a committee to form an official city Volunteer Fire Department. The company must consist of 16 members. Also a 1926 Dodge pick-up was purchased for the Fire Department. This newer truck replaced the 1911 Model-T pick up. The new truck was purchased from Clarence Perry of Urbandale for $28 including the old fire truck as trade. The new truck was outfitted with 700 feet of fire hose, boots, and coats.


The old fire bell was replaced by a siren and moved to the center of town.


Saw the ground breaking for the City of Urbandale's 1st fire station. The cost of this monumental project would be $1,500. Volunteers of the department as well as the town did much of the work.


The City Hall-Fire Station was completed on the west side of 70th Street, north of Douglas. A new siren was mounted on a pole near the station and a 300 gallon Diamond-T Pumper truck was moved in. There were about 20 volunteers at that time. In about 1948, the Fire Department became more organized and there was a place to have meeting and learn about the new equipment.


Urbandale's Volunteer Fire Department as we know it today was formed with a nucleus of 12 men. It was realized that there was a real need for more and better equipment to cope with the responsible of an expanding community.


Through the efforts of the City Council and Fire Department Officials, the department purchased a new pump truck with a 350 gallon water tank.


The Articles of Incorporation for the Fire Department are authored and signed.


By this year the volunteer organization had grown to a 25-man unit, meeting twice a month for training. The members realized that fire fighting was not the only service they could provide, so they trained and started a First Aid Squad. A used 1954 ambulance was purchased, equipped with a resuscitator and placed in service.


An ambulance used to provide first aid the city was purchased.


The department took delivery of a new 750 gallon pumper


The department purchased a new ambulance and 2-way radios with home receivers for the firemen.


The department consisted of 27 volunteers, each equipped with the most modern equipment available. Each man was trained in the operation of all equipment for fire fighting, rescue and first aid. The apparatus consisted of 1 500-gallon pumper fire, 1 750-gallon pumper fire truck, 1 750-gallon aerial fire truck, 1 2,300-gallon tank truck, and 1 rescue unit.


Urbandale's current Fire Station #41 (Station 1 prior to 2003) was built and dedicated to meet the growing needs of the community and the Fire Department. The station had plenty of room for growth. The station's amenities included sleeping quarters, locker rooms, a kitchen, meeting room, and auxiliary dispatch.


A blaze at the Younkers Department Store injures 3 Firefighters. This blaze took the lives of 10 people.


With approximately 750 calls for service per year, Urbandale's Fire Department is the busiest all Volunteer Fire Department in the State of Iowa. The department hold it's 1st annual open house for the public during National Fire Prevention Week.


Fire destroys the Living History Farms church were Pope John Paul II had celebrated mass in front of 300,000 in 1979.


The Des Moines Fire Department, by orders through their City Council, discontinues mutual aid fire services to the suburbs.


Approximately 5 acres of land are purchased for the proposed Urbandale Fire Department Station 2. Urbandale is considered the largest city in Iowa with an all Volunteer Fire Department.


Fire Station 2 located at 3927 121st Street is dedicated upon its completion.


The Fire Department swears in it's 1st full time Fire Chief Jerry Holt.


The department purchases their 1st thermal imaging cameras. The Assistant Chief/Training Officer, and Lieutenant/Fire Inspector positions are made into full-time career positions.


The department hires it's 1st full-time career Firefighters/ Paramedics.


The Fire Station in the western suburbs of Clive, Urbandale, and West Des Moines are renumbered to correspond with the new Westcom Dispatch designations. Station 1 becomes Station 41, and Station 2 becomes Station 42.


The 1st Annual Make-A-Wish Firefighters versus Police Officers flag football game is played.


The Urbandale Fire Department hosts the 1st Annual Kid's Fire Academy.


Heavy winds fuel a fire that destroys a 1.2 million dollar home. No injuries are reported in the blaze that is deemed a total loss.