History 1885 to 1906

Charters: 1885

On June 1, 1885, the City Council awarded charters to four hose companies and one ladder company to work under the direction of Chief Engineer C.J. Kempf and Assistant Chief J.H. Webster.

Each company was allowed to elect a Captain and two Lieutenants to act as company officers. One additional company was incorporated into the department but did not receive a charter. 

The Champion Extinguisher Company number 1 had quarters on the campus of the Red Wing Seminary on College Hill. The company was commanded by Captain Chally, an employee of the Seminary, and provided fire protection for the campus.

Relief Association Charter

A Relief Association was chartered to provide a small pension to those members who served honorably for 20 years or more. Each company selected delegates to represent them on the Relief Association Board. Each of the four hose companies were equipped with a two wheeled hand drawn hose cart,

  •  Cataract Number 1
  •  Athletic Number 2
  •  German Number 3
  •  LaGrange Number 4


The carts were loaded with 

  •  Axes
  • Lanterns
  • Nozzles
  • Rope
  • 700 feet of hose

 When fully loaded, these carts weighed up to 1800 pounds. Each hose company was assigned 12 men.

Ladder Truck: 1875

Phoenix Hook and Ladder Company #1 operated a ladder truck purchased in 1875. This 5600 pound truck carried 210 feet of ground ladders as well as pike poles, axes, rope and salvage materials. The rig was drawn to fires by a two-horse team. Thirteen firefighters were assigned to Ladder Company Number 1.

Silsby Steam Fire Engine

In addition to the hose carts and ladder truck, the department also had at their disposal a Silsby steam fire engine purchased for $900 in 1871. Because of exceptional hydrant pressure within the city limits, the steamer was seldom used, and was held in reserve in the first ward engine house.

Turn of the Century: 1900s

By the turn of the century, the department placed the hose carts in reserve and upgraded to horse-drawn combination hose wagons.

 Each wagon was loaded with 1000 feet of hose and two ladders and was pulled by a team of draft horses. With the arrival of horsepower, the companies no longer needed 12 men to get their equipment to fires and were reduced to ten members each.

Last Horse Purchased: 1919

In addition to the wagons, the department also purchased two sleighs for use in the winter. Horses used by the department were purchased or leased from area farmers. Belgians and Percherons were chosen because they were able to pull heavy loads at a fast pace. The last horse purchased by the department was named Mike and was assigned to Central Station in March of 1919.

Motor Driven Equipment: 1925

The city purchased its first piece of motorized apparatus in 1913. By 1925, the department had completed the switch over to motor driven equipment and the last horse was sent to pasture.

It was considered a high honor and a special privilege to be a member of the Red Wing Fire Department in the 19th century. The department was not only prominent socially, but politically as well.

RWFD Candidacy

A candidate for membership into one of the companies had to meet the approval of all the members of the company. Excellent health, good moral character and residence within the city limits were minimum requirements.

Volunteer Fire Fighters

Until 1906, all of Red Wing’s firefighters (except the Chief) were volunteers. They were required to answer alarms day and night. They were required to attend all meetings and training sessions. If they were leaving the city for any reason, they first had to have permission from the company Captain.

19th Century RWFD Equipment 

The 19th Century Red Wing firefighters' personal equipment offered little protection from the hazards of firefighting. A rubber rain coat, rubber boots and a tin or leather helmet was what each was issued. Each firefighter was also required to purchase a dress uniform to be worn at public functions.