History of Jacksonville Fire Department
Jacksonville Fire Department was established in 1906. O.B. Fox held the Chief position at the request of Mayor M.L. Earle. At that time, Jacksonville had no public water, but Mayor Earle felt that some form of fire protection was necessary, since he had been a volunteer fireman in Lufkin previously. Mr. Fox retired as Chief in 1910, and Gene Davis was named Fire Chief. He served until 1912 The following Chiefs were: Joe Phillips (1912-1914) W.B. Fry (1914-1930) L.B. Haberle (1930-1933) Carlton Odom (1934-1941) Arch Robertson (1941-1943) Charlie Williams (1943-1972) Howard Martin (1972-1984) Clem Cecil (1984-1987) Rodney Kelley (1987-2008) Paul White (2008-2014) Brent Smith (May 2014-November 2014) Keith Fortner (2014-August 2023) Paul Findley (October 2023-Present).
A member of the fire department, Joe Pressley, built the first piece of equipment in Jacksonville that was motor driven. Chief Fox assisted Pressley by doing all the metal fabrication on the truck. Later, Charlie Marshall and Mr. Whitaker built the next motor driven vehicle; once again Chief Fox did the metal fabrication.
For many years, Jacksonville had only two fire trucks that were housed at Kiesow’s Garage, and were later moved to the City Hall building. In 1964, when the municipality and the Texas Bank and Trust traded locations, the first fire station was built in City Park at 301 South Main Street with a garage designed to hold four fire trucks. In 1965, Station #2 was built on North Bolton Street, with a truck and crew available on both sides of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. On April 28th, 1980, Station #3 was opened on the Loop with expected growth on the East side of town. Station #2 was later closed in March of 1984, after completion of the overpass and the city was no longer receiving credit for it on the key rate. It was then that Station #3 on the Loop was renamed to Station #2.
The Public Safety Complex at 911 S Bolton began construction in late 2020 and was substantially complete in early 2022. Following the department's move to the complex, the Central Fire Station in City Park (Hazel Tilton Park) was demolished in June of 2023.
Today, the Public Safety Complex is equipped with a pumper, two ambulances, a ladder truck, a brush truck, an all-terrain response vehicle, and administration response vehicles. Station 2 is equipped with two pumpers and two ambulances.
LINE OF DUTY DEATHS
- While a pull cart was in service, Frank Collins fell and was run over by the cart. He died from his injuries.
- Captain Kevin McKinney passed away on November 17th, 2014 after a long battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Captain McKinney was a career firefighter of Jacksonville for 31 years. The State of Texas received several studies of career firefighters over 21 years of service showing they were more prone to contracting Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma by a substantial percentage. After Captain McKinney’s passing, the State of Texas declared his status as a Line of Duty Death.
ACQUISITION OF THE AMBULANCE SERVICE
- In 1983, the Newburn Ambulance Service transferred all the company’s fleet to the City of Jacksonville Fire Department. Several members of the fire department parted ways with the city when this occurred, and those that remained sought out Emergency Medical training and education. For the time period, this was considered a very progressive and effective way to fully operate a municipal fire service, and shortly after, several surrounding East Texas cities adopted the same operation.