History 1906 to Current

Increased Fire Risk: 1906

By 1906, the city had grown at such a pace that it needed to change how fire protection was delivered. With new manufacturing plants and increased housing, Red Wing’s fire risk was increasing.

The City Council voted to approve the formation of a company of paid firemen to be on duty day and night. Hart Cook was named Chief of the Department and August Olson was named Assistant Chief.

Paid Fire Fighters

Six men were selected from the ranks of the volunteer companies to be Red Wing’s first paid firefighters, each earning $50 a month. The Council also agreed to pay for three part time “Sleepers” at $5 per month. These men were paid to cover night calls out of the 4th Ward engine house. In addition, Henry Maetzold was retained as engineer to operate the steam pumper for $8 a month.

Disbanded Companies

With the formation of a paid company, the department no longer needed a large complement of volunteers. Athletic Hose Company Number 2 and German Hose Company Number 3 were disbanded and their members were released or folded into the remaining companies.

Ward House Closing: 1906 through 1926

In 1906, all the ward houses were closed except the LaGrange Company Number 4 house on West 3rd Street. Hose Company Number 1 and the Ladder Company Number 1 joined the paid crew in a new fire station attached to City Hall. This station was known as Central. The LaGrange house closed in 1926 bringing all men and equipment to Central where they would remain for 77 years.

Platoon System: 1923

In 1923, more paid men were hired to adequately staff a two platoon system with one platoon working days and the other working nights. In addition to his regular salary, each firefighter also received ten days of vacation annually. By 1940, with the addition of new personnel, the schedule changed to 24 hours on and 24 hours off with an increase in pay to $125 per month.

Seven New Fire Fighters: 1972

In 1972, the City Of Red Wing annexed Burnside Township along with the Prairie Island Community. Seven new men were added to the paid roster. The increases in manpower enabled the department to schedule three 24 hour shifts with eight men assigned to a shift. 

Prior to Annexation

Prior to annexation, Burnside Township ran a small volunteer fire department with a station on North Service Drive. At the request of the residents of Burnside, the Red Wing Fire Department manned the township station with two firefighters and an engine.

Burnside Station remained staffed 24 hours a day until 1977, when the decision was made to close the station and return the men and equipment to Central.

Outgrowing Quarters: 1975 through 1983

By the late 1970s, the Fire Department outgrew its quarters at Central. A station that was designed for horse drawn apparatus was not adequate for the heavy trucks the department now used. 

When a new ladder truck was backed into Central in 1975, the beams holding up the apparatus floor began to crack. A referendum was put to the citizens of Red Wing for a new fire station. 

The referendum passed and a new station on 5th and Plum Streets was built and occupied in 1983.

Tax Based Change: 1990s

The 1990s found the city with a shrinking industrial tax base, forcing the City Council to make cuts in city services. Five positions in the Fire Department were eliminated, resulting in rescheduling some personnel to a 40 hour workweek, and reducing shift strength to six firefighters per shift. 

Paid on Call Companies

Hose Companies  Number 1 and Number 4 as well as Ladder Company Number 1 were designated as paid on call companies rather than volunteer companies. Each company has ten members and is dispatched to assist the paid department with fire emergencies.


Today, the department operates

  • One ladder truck
  • One brush fire rig
  • Four ambulances
  • Four engines
  • Support vehicles out of one station

Calls: 1906 through 2010

In his annual report to the City Council in November of 1906, Chief Hart Cook reported the department had been called out 30 times. In 2010, the department responded to 3,575 calls for service.