History of the Pocatello Fire Department

Pocatello Fire Department was established in 1886 in conjunction with the Oregon Short-line Bucket Brigade. Fifteen volunteers served under Oliver L. Cleveland in the small community of 208. Only four years later, due to the boom of railroad enterprise, the population reached 2,330. Three pieces of apparatus were used in the beginning: 2 hand carts with 300 feet of cotton, jacketed 2 1/2" hose and a hand-drawn hook and ladder wagon. In 1903 the department went to a horse-drawn hose and "soda-acid" chemical wagon.

The first motorized truck came into service in 1916, which stayed in service for 42 years. Horse-drawn apparatus soon phased out and by 1923 the department was completely motorized. 

Early Methods

Of course, through the years fires have made their mark on this railroad town. Early on fires were hard to manage with hand-carts and manual pumps. In 1888 a blaze roared through the railroad bunkhouses and into the dry prairie. It took 3 days to bring it under control. Four years later the "Eastside Fire" took its toll burning 50% of downtown Pocatello. The only thing that stopped it was a crate of dynamite, used to blow up buildings to form a fire break. Another fire originating in Ed Grant's Saloon eventually brought a quarter of the "Westside" into smoldering ash.

First Chief

Oliver L. Cleveland was the organizer of the department, and acted as its first supervisor representing the town council, but Al Miller, a barber, was appointed as the first official chief in 1890-1893.

Full-Time Paid City Employees

In June of 1901, the fire chief, assistant chief, and secretary became full-time paid city employees. Fire Chief made $100 per month, Assistant Chief made $25 per month, and Secretary made $25 per month. The other firefighters were to divide $200 per month among 42 of them. The first paid chief was Ben Joseph from 1901 to 1910.

Ambulance Service

The Fire Department took over the ambulance service for all of Bannock County in 1978 and has donned many other responsibilities as well. 1991 brought the Region VI Hazardous Materials Response Unit to Pocatello, which responds in an 8 county area of southeast Idaho but can respond anywhere in the state. In 2006 the State funded and trained individuals to respond as an urban search and rescue team in conjunction with the Idaho Falls Fire Department.