Northeast News
March 29, 2017
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Kansas City Fire Department was not only the talk of the town, but also the talk of the free world. Having competed in the International Fire Congress competition in England in 1893, the KCFD won the gold medal for their innovative fire fighting abilities under the command of Fire Chief George Hale.
The team, along with fire horses “Dan” and “Joe,” also won first place awards in the hitching, reaching the scene and throwing water competitions, all in an elapsed time of 8.5 seconds.
In 1900, the Kansas City Fire Team traveled to Paris with horses “Buck” and “Mack” to compete in the National Fire Congress competition. A London newspaper offered a $1,000 reward to any team that could beat the Kansas City team. None came close, despite a number of London area teams mounting the task.
George Hale was elected as Kansas City’s Fire Chief in 1882. He was a dedicated and inventive firefighter. Among his inventions were the Hale water tower, Hale swinging harness, the sliding pole and the Hale tin roof cutter.
Fire horses Dan and Joe were snow-white Arabian horses, known through the city as top-notch fire horses. “Joe” was killed in the line of duty in 1894 in a horrible fire engine-cable car collision. His partner, Dan, however, was retired to Swope Park in 1907 and died of old age in 1913. It is said that long after his duty days were past him, Dan would still come running at the sound of a bell.
Published by Paul Eskenasy, 107 W. Ninth St., the card shows a three-horse hitch and a fire wagon along Petticoat Lane downtown. It is postmarked July 30, 1911, and was sent to Mrs. V. A. Wilkins of 229 Mansion St. of Pittsburgh, Penn. The message reads, “Dear Eva, We are on our way home. Arrived in K.C. this evening and expect to leave here about 9:30 pm. Van.”