1944, fire destroyed Pearland Elementary School. There was
no organized fire department at that time, so fire fighting
was done by neighbors using buckets. Residents were
determined not to let this happen again, and so, in 1946
Pearland’s Volunteer Fire Department was formed. By February
1947, there were 20 members.
The first Fire
Chief was Clyde Oblinger, who lived at and operated Monarch
Welding and Supply. He donated the use of his shop, on North
Main Street just across from Pearland State Bank, as the
first fire station. The first fire truck was built by the
members themselves. They acquired a truck chassis, built and
added a water tank, then added the pump and hose.
In August 1947,
a Ford model fire-pumper truck was obtained from the
Brazoria County Association. Chief Oblinger would pull the
fire truck out of his shop in the morning, then go ahead
with his daily routine of providing welding services, and at
closing would park the truck back inside for the night.
many long hours of hard work by the firemen and by the
contributions of local businesses and citizens, the
department was kept running during these first years.
Sometimes it became necessary to do a complete over-haul job
on the equipment overnight. It was, of course, hoped there
would be no fire so the truck and equipment would be
operational by the next morning.
protective fire helmets were acquired for the department in
the early 1950’s when two of our past Chief’s, G.H. “Ham”
Haskins and Huey Raney, Sr., walked into old Fords Café with
one in hand. After sitting down and ordering a cup of
coffee, they started discussing just how they were going to
raise enough money to purchase twenty of these fire helmets.
A group of four men sitting at another table close by was
approached by Ham Haskins, who placed the helmet in the
middle of their table and asked, “Do you want to buy that
hat and donate it to the fire department?” The question was
asked, “How much does it cost?” “Eighteen dollars.” Was
Ham’s answer. Well, the first man said, “Yes, I’ll buy one.”
And in turn, the three remaining men also bought one each
and donated them to the department. Upon leaving Ford’s
Café, Haskins and Raney discussed the incident. Both men
decided to take opposite sides of Main Street and approach
all the businesses. When they reached the end of Main
Street, enough money had been raised to purchase fire
helmets for every fireman.
Also in the
early 1950’s, land was obtained from the Commissioners Court
of Brazoria County to build a fire station. The land was in
the forty foot esplanade in the center of South Grand
Boulevard at the intersection of F.M. 518. The building
consisted of a small office area, an adjoining single bay
opening to the front, and two side by side bays opening to
the rear. The building faced the north and sat on the south
side of 518 or Broadway as it is known today. A water
district had been formed also and shared the space in this
A new Chief was
elected, H.D. “Buck” Johnston, to head the department in
its’ new building. An emergency car, a 1953 Chevy Panel Car,
(called the “Flower Wagon” by the firemen because of its
resemblance to one) was acquired and used to make all first
aid calls. First aid classes were taught by an outside
instructor to help train the men in the proper manner of
treating a victim. The instructor was Ransom Bill, of the
Mercy Corp. in Houston. Ransom Bill instructed Pearland’s
firemen in the correct procedure of using the respirator on
heart patients or anyone having difficulty in breathing or
who had stopped breathing.
The first alarm
system for alerting the firemen in Pearland was a phone
number which was answered by a telephone operator in the
Pearland telephone office. Upon receiving the call, the
operator would push a button which would start the siren to
blow atop the fire station. When the siren blew, all the men
would respond to the station to man the truck and equipment
and respond to the scene of the fire.
Volunteer Fire Department was issued a charter by the
Secretary of State to incorporate on January 8, 1954. The
six members listed on this charter were H. D. Johnston, D.
L. Smith, Jr., D. W. Scott, D. A. Perrin, T. P. Alexander,
and M. E. Ellis.
had tough times because they were under-manned,
under-equipped, and under-trained in fire fighting
techniques. However, in 1956, through the contributions of
businesses and citizens, firemen were sent to the University
of Texas A & M at College Station to attend the Fire School
held every July. There, they participated and learned new
techniques in fire suppression and then returned to Pearland
to teach their fellow firemen who were not able to attend
By 1957, the
department was in desperate need of a new truck; however,
money was a problem. The new cab and chassis would cost
$2,500.00 and the department only had $65.00 as a down
payment. Arrangements were made with Alvin State Bank to
borrow enough money to purchase the new truck with payments
to be set up on a yearly basis. The firemen took part of the
money received from their annual barbecue to pay on the new
truck, and within two years the department owned the 1957
Chevrolet which was equipped with a 1,000 gallon capacity
tank and a 250 gpm pump.
Even though the
firemen were all volunteer, they did receive some special
fringe benefits. As noted in the official minutes of January
6, 1958, a Mrs. Richards, owner of the European Import Co.,
sent candy to the firemen in appreciation for their saving
her home in December 1957. Also, the minutes of April 6,
1959 indicate that a Mr. Drake sent each active member of
the department a case of figs.
incorporated in December 1959 bringing new businesses and
families to the area. As the city grew, fire hazards
increased and the fire department was faced with added
responsibilities. By June 1960, the Humble, Gulf and
Sinclair Gas Stations agreed to donate 10 gallons of gas
each per month to help keep the fire trucks fueled and ready
to go. Then in September 1960, Pearland was growing rapidly
and it was necessary to place a map of the City in the fire
station to aid in responding to new locations. Also, it was
during that month that it was decided to take the emergency
truck, containing the portable oxygen tank and mask, to all
home football games to be used to revive injured players. On
October 21, 1960, Cub Scout Pack 463 sent Dens 1, 2, 4, and
5 to tour the fire station. According to the minutes, a
grand time was had by all and the scouts ended their tour by
singing to the firemen.
1961, the firemen met and agreed to purchase a spittoon for
Chief Johnston for Christmas.
summer of 1962, Brookside formed its owned fire department.
Firemen who served with the Pearland Fire Department but
lived in the Brookside region resigned from Pearland and
then joined the Brookside Fire Department.
Huey Raney, Sr.
was elected Chief on August 20, 1962. That year, Chief
Raney, with the help of the Brazoria County Fireman’s
Association and County Judge Arnold, acquired a new 500
gallon pumper truck for $15,000.00. This new unit was
received on December 19, 1962 and was a big help to the
existing 1957 model tank truck as it replaced the old 1946
American La France which the department had when it was
formed. In January 1963, Pearland State Bank donated a jeep
truck to the department.
also saw a Chief’s car (a 1958 Chevy Sedan) added to the
department in May 1964 as well as a surplus weapons carrier
truck. After many hours of work, this weapons carrier truck
was cut down and converted into a 4 wheel drive, 250 gallon
tank carrying vehicle which was to be used as a grass fire
In April 1965,
it was decided to change the election date of officers to
January of each year. Elections on January 3, 1966 brought
another new Chief to the department, G. H. “Ham” Haskins.
Under Chief Haskins direction, first aid training and fire
fighting help was increased even though they were still
using a panel type car which carried the respirator, oxygen,
and other items needed for first aid use.
at this time had increased its alerting system to nine
phones. One being at the station with the others being in
each of the officer's homes. Each phone had a button also
installed on it so that the first man to answer could push
the button and, in turn, the siren would start to blow its
familiar three blows to alert the rest of the firemen.
continued to respond to fires in this manner until the late
sixties at which time Plectron Receiver Monitors were
purchased and installed in each fireman’s home.
Haskins last years as Chief, the need for another new fire
truck became evident. One night a fire broke out in the
McGinnis Subdivision on the east end of town. Upon arriving
at this fire, another alarm sounded for a fire back in town.
Chief Haskins had to send half of his equipment and men with
the Assistant Chief back into Pearland to fight that fire
while he remained with the other half of the equipment and
men to extinguish the first fire.
was approached the following day and the department
requested $30,000 to be added to an upcoming bond election.
Council turned that figure down, but offered $25,000
instead. The bond election passed and a new truck was
ordered for just over $20,000. This new truck had a 500
gallon tank capacity with a 500 gpm pump and is still in
operation today as Engine 10. This addition brought the
total fire trucks in the Pearland Volunteer Fire Department
to two 500 gpm pumpers, one 1,000 gallon capacity tank truck
with a 250 gpm pump and one 250 gallon capacity truck with a
250 gpm pump used for fighting grass fires. Also, a new
Chief’s car, a 1968 Plymouth Station Wagon, was purchased
through donations from citizens.
In 1968, the
City Service Center was built at Orange St. and Old Alvin
Road. Two “L” shaped commercial steel buildings housed the
business offices of all city government, a maintenance
facility, and Fire Station 1. After construction was
completed, the existing facility on Grand and 518 was razed.
Construction on two sub-stations was started in 1968 and
finished in 1969. Station 2 is on McLean Road on the west
side of town, and Station 3 is located on East 518, near
Woodcreek. Because of these three new fire stations, the
fire department men and equipment were divided and
proportioned throughout the city which resulted in a better
response time to a fire scene.
who worked for the City of Pearland as Director of Public
Works, became the new Chief on January 6, 1969. Chief Harris
stepped up training and schooling by sending more firemen to
the fire school located at the University of A & M. Also,
many new pieces of equipment were purchased to aid the
firemen in fighting fires. In December 1969, it was decided
that the officers would serve two year terms.
It is fortunate
that the department has never lost a fireman while fighting
a fire; however, the year 1970 brought tragedy to the
Pearland Volunteer Fire Department. Four firemen were killed
in a traffic accident coming home from a Brazoria County
Firefighter Association meeting. Fred Blunt, James Matlock,
W. Elmer Payne, and Howard Stanford were all killed. Fire
Department Chief Escue Harris was treated for his injuries
and released. The results of an investigation revealed that
the driver of the other vehicle had crossed the center line
causing the head-on collision.
brought changes to the department. That decade saw modern
fire fighting equipment, technology, and rigid training
requirements added to a growing fire suppression
organization. Funding was given a hefty “shot in the arm” by
means of a city maintenance budget being provided when the
community became a “Home Rule” city. Under the Charter, the
City was to own all fire equipment and apparatus, and was to
provide the fire department with a yearly operating budget.
The Charter holds the City responsible for maintenance,
insurance, and liability for the department’s equipment.
These funds were incorporated into the yearly budget along
with any equipment or necessary items the department needed
to better perform its duty of suppressing fires.
The quality of
the fire department increased greatly with this new City
furnished budget. The department solicited donations each
year to help in purchasing items and equipment that the
budget committee could not include in the City budget.
Through these donations from the citizens of Pearland and
businesses, many old pieces of equipment were replaced.
another Chief took office, Earl D. Raney. Chief Raney, while
serving two terms, updated fire fighting practices. Training
at A & M University and training locally continued and is
still continuing today. Near the end of Chief Raney’s second
term, the need for an Assistant Fire Marshall for the City
became evident. Chief Raney, who also worked for the City in
the Water & Sewer Department as a Foreman in charge of
maintenance and new installation, resigned his position as
Chief and took on the position of Assistant Fire Marshall to
aid the existing Fire Marshall, M.E. “Buddy” Ellis.
of Chief Raney early in 1975, brought the Assistant Chief,
Thomas L. Crawford, to the position of temporary Chief. A
new hose washer and hose dryer were purchased under Chief
Crawford’s tenure. This new equipment aided the firemen by
cutting down the time it took to return a fire apparatus
back to service with a full load of hose for the next run.
election was held May 5, 1975 at which Tom Crawford was
elected Chief and Doyle Granad elected Assistant Chief.
really prospered with the acquisition of a new fire
apparatus. It was an International Cab and Chassis on which
a 1,000 gallon capacity tank and a 250 gpm pump was
installed. The cab and chassis were purchased through the
City budget. The fabricated tank was paid for from donations
received from citizens of the community.
On January 3,
1977, Doyle E. Granad was elected Chief. The department was
able to retire the old 1957 Chevrolet Tank Truck and replace
it with a new 1976 International Cab and Chassis holding a
1,000 gallon tank and a bed designed with ample storage
compartments. The 1957 model truck was equipped as a wrecker
type unit to be used in the City fleet as well as for use by
the fire department. The new truck was funded solely by
donations from the citizens of Pearland. It was designed and
built by members of the department and Koenig Iron Works,
who actually built the body from a combination of ideas and
designs that would be most beneficial to the department.
A new Chief’s
vehicle, a 1976 Chevrolet Suburban, was also purchased with
donated funds. This new vehicle replaced a 1973 Plymouth
Fury (a former police car) that was mechanically costing
more to keep operational than was practical for the
department. This new vehicle was used to travel to training
sessions outside of Pearland such as the annual Fire School
at A & M University, and all Brazoria and Harris County
Fireman’s Association meetings.
The “Jaws of
Life” tool came into being and the department purchased and
took delivery of one in November 1977. Shortly after being
put into service, the “Jaws of Life” tool was put to good
use. December 27, 1977 at about 7:00 pm, an explosion
occurred at the Port of Galveston grain elevator and a
mutual aid request came from the Galveston Fire Department
for men and equipment. Pearland responded with Support 1,
Engine 32 and Rescue 51 with 6 men, Doyle Granad, John
Munsch, Paul Jamison, Larry Steed, John Holmes and George
Gabriel. The Jaws tool was used to extricate a victim pinned
between sheets of 8” concrete. Lighting was provided from
R51 and because the water mains were severed, E32 was used
to relay water in a drafting operation that originated from
the salt water at the Port of Galveston.
On January 3,
1978, L. E. Reagan was elected Chief. During late 1978, the
department’s first true “Rescue Truck” was delivered. It was
a one ton, four-wheel drive Chevrolet Cab and Chassis, built
by Emergency One, purchased through City funds and then
equipped with funds from donations. For emergency care, a
“Rescue Team” had been formed and special training was
provided to those who wanted to participate. The Pearland
Volunteer Fire Department provided all first aid assistance
to accident victims until the formation of the Pearland
Emergency Medical Services, but prior to that, ambulance
service was private and came from Houston and Alvin.
resigned, and on April 2, 1979, Larry J. Steed was
elected Chief. During his tenure in the 1980’s, the
delivery of an American LaFrance pumper in 1983 capable of
a rate of 1,250 gpm. A new pumper furnished by the County in
vintage 1962 model. Three, used four-wheel drive units were
and transformed (by Fire Department Members) into brush
replacing older units. A state of the art “Heavy Rescue”
purchased and put into service in 1987. Communications
protective clothing were greatly upgraded in the early era
decade. A used ladder truck (1960 Duplex, 60’ ladder) was
and refurbished, then placed into service.
The 1990’s have
brought a totally new concept to the department. Laws and
rulings have changed regarding the safety of firefighters
and equipment. Greater focus has been aimed toward
“Hazardous Materials” and fire fighting techniques have
changed. In 1992 the department took delivery of one class
“A” pumper capable of supplying water at the rate of 1500
gpm. In January 1994, H. John Munsch was elected Chief. New
equipment was purchased and plans were drawn up for a
training field that would include a drill tower enabling
firemen to receive advance training locally. Ground breaking
on this new training facility was August 1997 with the Grand
Opening Day held on June 6, 1998.
Paul Jamison was elected Chief. At a March Business meeting,
City Manager Paul Grohman gave a slide presentation about
the changes in the in the city of Pearland. He showed the
progress and growth that the city was making and how the
long and short term plans of the city would involve the Fire
Department, such as new roads, sub-divisions, street names,
residential and commercial addresses and the land purchase
for a fire station/public safety building to be constructed
on the west side of Pearland near Highway 518 and Cullen.
Ground breaking for Station 4 was in June 2001 and the
station went into service August 2002. The Fire Department
put into service, two 75’ multi purpose ladder trucks called
Quints in February 2002. These trucks replaced the retired
1960 – 60’ ladder truck and in August 2002, a new class “A”
pumper was put into service. The Fire Department in 2003
went high tech with the purchase of thermal imager cameras
and the ability to control intersection signal lights from a
Fire Apparatus running emergency lights and siren.
In October 2003 an Explorer Post was formed and chartered by
the Boy Scouts of America. Charter members are, Executive
Officer Fire Chief Paul Jamison, Post Advisor Assistant Fire
Chief Darrell D. Ferguson, Advisors Fire Captains David
Schneider and Eddie Hanzik, Fire Lieutenant Cathy Williams,
Firefighters Sean Frederick, Craig Armstrong, and Michael
Jaimes, and Associate Advisor parent Robin Rodriquez. The
Explorers choose 1946 as their Post number, the year the
department was formed. There are currently nine explorers,
six female and three male.
In January 2004 the department elected its first female
officer, Station 2 Lieutenant Cathy Williams. The department
going into 2004 is operating with an all-volunteer force of
68 members, responsible for a 75 square mile area with a
population of about 79,000 people. Plans are underway for
Station #5 to be located on Glosson Road off West Broadway
near the Shadow Creek area and Station #6 to be located in
the Savannah development. These stations are anticipated to
be constructed around 2007 or 2008.
element that has not changed since the formation of the
department 58 years ago; is the continual support from the
community in its provision of yearly donations that help the
growth of the organization and allows the department to
provide the community with the finest fire and rescue