Fire Department – El Reno


Attributing research and compilation too: Carolyn Marquardt Barker (1939 – 2018)

In the beginning the fire fighting equipment consisted of two hose carts drawn by hand.  Usually the carts were pulled by cowboys, who looped the tow ropes of the carts about their saddle horns and beat the volunteer firemen to the blaze.  In 1894 the two hose carts each had 500 feet of hose.

Before there was a fire bell or siren, everyone would run out into the streets yelling or firing their guns in the air.

In 1894 the fire station had a bell tower in the street in front of city hall.  By 1895 the fire bell tower had been moved behind the jail.  In 1901 the fire alarm was operated by an electric bell on the tower.  The bell and hose tower were located near the southwest corner of the city building in 1904.


El Reno’s first fire of any consequence occurred in the 600 block of North Choctaw in November 1892.  The fire at Mr. Moran’s house was extinguished by the neighbors.  Since there was no water-works system at that time, barrels of water were used for the hose cart.  The neighbors carried the water in buckets to fill these barrels.

1899 FIRE

            On August 23, 1899 an explosion caused by a leaking gasoline tank in the El Reno Steam Laundry burned it to the ground.

            The fire was so hot the firemen could not get close enough to put it out.  Mr. Fryberger brought large woolen blankets from his store.  These were soaked with water and then used as a shield.  This enabled the firemen to confine the fire to the four frame buildings that were in flames before they arrived on the scene.


            Belle and George were the fire team for ten years and won several prizes at fire team contests.  They were retired in 1902.  George died in 1910.

            Dan and Pat took over the job of pulling the fire wagon in 1902.  The coal block team weighed 3,050 pounds and was perfectly matched.  Dan dropped dead after making a quick run to 717 South Miles for a fire in April 1911.

            Pat served until 1916 when he was given to the street department.  Pat was under their care until late 1929, when he was turned over to the cemetery sexton.  Pat, the last of the El Reno fire horses, died in January 1930 at the cemetery.


            El Reno’s first motor driven fire wagon arrived on January 22, 1916.  “Old Betsy” was the name given by the firemen to the 1915 model American LaFrance fire engine.

            Its first run was made on January 31, 1916 to 604 South Williams.  The last major fire to which It responded was in 1955 to the Brinkley Furniture Store, where it pumped water for 12 straight hours.  “Old Betsy” is currently housed in the red barn of the Canadian County Museum.

*Update on “Old Betsy”: As a result of the new El Reno Public Safety Center completed in 2012, “Old Betsy” was taken from the red barn after the many years stationed there to its current spot at the Safety Center.  The north side of the building facing 27th Street is where “Old Betsy” is now on display.

Reference for the Update:


Results (Building)

Construction of a state of the art 22,000 square foot Public Safety Center was completed in 2012 on the south side of the City of El Reno. The $4.3 million dollar facility houses several municipal functions for the city including fire, police, and dispatch.

The Public Safety Center features a 4-bay apparatus bay capable of holding 8 units and also includes a fifth display bay near the street that showcases an antique fire engine. Adjacent to the apparatus bay is housing which is shared by three fire crew shifts.

Other integral features of the design include offices for fire and police, dispatch facilities and equipment, and an emergency operations center.

DATE : 2012

CLIENT : The City of El Reno LOCATION : El Reno

“Bockus Payne has been very accommodating in every project for which we have utilized their services. They have been timely, responsive, and most important of all, accurate. Our project was completed on time and within established budgetary limitations. I am confident that to a large extent, these successes were a direct reflection of the efforts of Bockus Payne. They have consistently demonstrated their professionalism and have created fine architectural additions to the City of El Reno.”

-Tony Rivera, City Manager, City of El Reno, OK