HISTORY OF THE CITY OF ETOWAH FIRE DEPARTMENT:
Excerpt from Pistol Shots Rang Out, By Durant Tullock
When Etowah came into existence in 1906, all the store buildings in town were made of wood structures. Heat in those days was provided by fire stoves usually burning coal. This greatly increased the chance of fires. Etowah had no organized fire department in the earliest of days so when there was a fire, pistol shots were fired into the air to let everyone know they were needed. Bucket brigades went into action to the nearest water source which at this time was not many. Very often, dwellings burned to the ground and there was always the danger that the fire could spread to neighboring buildings.
In 1912, after the Etowah Water & Light Co. laid the water lines and installed plugs at convenient intervals, little fire houses containing hose reels were scattered about the town so that firemen could bring needed water to extinguish the fire.
In 1913, the first fire department was organized with J.A. Leath, a local funeral director as chief. Members of the first fire department were; Howard Blake, O.W. Wells, Bill McKay, L.C. Elmore, S.D. Hughes, Albert Bayless, Lee Grant, Olin Rogers, Frank Roylston, D.L. Brickey, C.C. McElroy, F.F. Abbott, Preston Fickle, Robert Powell, Henry Williams, and W.C. McKinney.
In the early 1920s, the town of Etowah bought a bright new American-LaFrance fire engine and the town built a new fire station next to Carnegie Library where it stands today.
In 1939, a fire broke out in the JC Penney’s building located next to where Johnson’s Department Store is today. Penney’s was a three story building but the fire department did not have ladders tall enough to reach the top floor. Fireman stood and watched until the top floor burnt down before they could put out the fire.
If you look at the building today, you can see where it is really 2 ½ stories high.
Many firemen have worked on the Etowah force over the years. Fire chiefs in the earliest days included names such as Miller, Rogers, McMillan, Newman, Hoffman, Farris, Crumley, Rule, Ownbey, as well as many more. Bill Murphy served one of the longest terms as fire chief from 1932-1948.