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     Moments in History

     Fire Chiefs
    RFD Museum Article
      by James Hales 
  88 Years of RFD History
     by Ruth Muse (1976) 

"Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it."
Winston Churchill

In 1888, a group of businessmen headed by J. A. C. Blackburn conceived the idea of organizing a company to lay water pipes and distribute water from Diamond Spring. The company erected an elevated brick water storage tower not far from the intersection of East Walnut and Spring Streets. That reservoir continued in use until 1900, when it was replaced by a 100,000-gallon capacity elevated steel tank that stood near the old brick one.  It is known that the first water system included at least some fire hydrants, for the first notation in the minutes of the fire department organized in 1888 reported that W. H. Dyer and C. H. McCubbins were appointed as hydrantmen.

The Rogers Fire Department began as Rogers Hose Co. No. 1 on November 22, 1888 when the first volunteers showed up to form the organization. John H. Rebholz was named first chief at this meeting. On December 13, 1888, Chief Rebholz, secretary Q.M. Bixler and H.H. Miller were appointed to draft the bylaws and constitution. They reported back six days later, their report was accepted and the constitution and bylaws were read by article and section and adopted. The Rogers Hose Co. No. 1 was chartered December 19, 1888. Over the next 10 years the fireman put on balls, parades, and other festivals to support the organization. They took their profession very seriously and expected perfect attendance at meetings, drills and other assignments. This mindset of perfecting the profession still is true today. January 10, 1889 Rogers Hose Company reported that the Buckeye Foundation would furnish an alarm bell, the city's first fire alarm system. Now to work out a code of fire signals: "Rapid ringing of Bell, Fire. One tap for first ward, two taps for second ward, three taps for third ward; four taps for fourth ward, one tap, rest, and one tap and repeat, for practice or meeting. There was one year, from October 1, 1902, to October 1, 1903, when the fire alarm was sounded but once. That was a summons to a flue fire, which firemen were able to extinguish without the necessity of connecting the hose. August 1889, uniforms were ordered for the fireman to wear. They began setting schedules for practice and drills, weekly. Fines were issued to those members who missed meetings and training. June 4, 1896 a committee was formed to establish a seal for the Rogers Hose Company. Throughout the 34-year history of Rogers Hose Co. No. 1 until it was formally reorganized in 1922 to become the Rogers Fire Department as an integral part of city government, it was made up entirely of volunteers. This history still lives on in the hearts and minds of the men and women of the Rogers Fire Department.

Today the Rogers Fire Department has over 100 members and 7 fire stations. The Department responds with 18 frontline emergency response apparatus, including five engine companies, two truck companies, one heavy rescue unit, four ambulances, one airport fire response unit, two brush pumpers, and one command unit. The Department has is made up of all career firefighters with an exceptional administrative staff lead by Fire Chief Tom Jenkins. The training center in Rogers is an outstanding facility to support the firefighters education and skills training. The training center contains 2 classrooms and a apparatus bay for inside drills. Outside, the drill tower, Flashover trainer, and other props are used for practicing skills evolutions. The training center is used by all communities and hosts the regional fire academy for new recruits from all over Northwest Arkansas. An annual Fire Department Anniversary Dinner is held on December 19th every year to remember the current members and those that served the community in the past. The firefighters stay involved in community events and fund raisers. The Rogers Fire Department provides the community with exceptional risk related service and is focus the effort to continually improve. This is accomplished by all members committed to a professional attitude and an extensive training regimen.

Moments in History

1909   The big fire in Rogers broke out early in the afternoon of September 3, 1909, and when the flames were finally halted and the loss was counted, seven buildings lay crumpled in ruins and an estimated damage of over $7,500 had been done. According to old-timers who remember the blaze, there was little or no chance to save the destroyed building and the seven volunteer firemen spent their efforts to protect warehouses across the street from the flames. It is remembered that temperatures were over 100 degrees during the day of the fire as the city was suffering from an early fall heat wave.
City firemen battled the blaze for about six hours, according to reports from those living here at the time. Their equipment was inadequate but they used every means at heir hand to keep the fire under control. Some of the people present even remember buckets being used to get water to the blaze.  Following the blaze it was noted that additions were made to the firefighting equipment in use in the town.

Property damaged or ruined by the disastrous fire included:

  • The Ozark Hotel, which was a two-story frame building. At the time of the fire the building was owned by John Miller and occupied by Mr. And Mrs. Maurice Stroud. Estimated loss to the hotel was $2,500.
  • The H. P. Hansen residence was destroyed in the fire as well as all the household goods of the family.
  • The J. G. Steinhelber second-hand clothing store burned. The building was a small frame structure and loss was estimated over $500.
  • The John Plyer grocery building, owned by John Gardiner, was burned with an estimated loss of over $1,000.
  • The Kentucky House, a two-story frame structure owned by Mrs. L. C. Howard was destroyed and the loss was estimated in excess of $1,500.
  • The Wagonyard, owned by Mrs. Warren Kellog, was burned. The structure was occupied by the J. W. Brammer junk shop and the loss was estimated at around $500.

1915 Rogers Hose Company purchased its first motorized vehicle in 1915, American LaFrance chemical truck that cost $5000. This truck was purchased with the understanding that it could be converted to a pump truck. However, the cost of the conversion was almost as much as buying a new truck, so the council decided to trade this truck in on a 1919 American LaFrance pumper at a cost of $8500. This truck became known as Old Hulda and was retired in 1955.


1922  In 1922, the Rogers Hose Co. No. 1 was reorganized to become the Rogers Fire Department. Dr. George M. Love was the first chief after reorganization.


T.F. Jacobs was the first paid firefighter for the department. He joined in 
   1923 as a truck driver and became chief 30 years later. His initial salary was $70 per
   month and he was on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


1929 Rogers Fire Department Station #1 was initially located on First Street just north of Walnut. In 1929, it was moved to 212 West Elm. This location served as the City Hall, Police Station and Jail, and the Fire Department Headquarters.



Two substations were constructed in 1973. Station 2 was built on South 17th Street and station 3 was built on West Hudson Road.


1974 In 1974, the Department accepted three ambulances, a 1969 Ford van, a 1973 GMC van and a 1974 Dodge. These ambulances had been purchased by the city for the private ambulance contractor. However, the contractor went out of business and the department acquired the ambulance service. In 1984, the department began providing paramedic ambulance service. The first three paramedics were Tom Dee, Tommy Norwood and Darrell Thomas. Today we have approximately 70 paramedics and 4 ALS equipped ambulances with 3 as reserve ambulances.

1978 Fire Department officials said the fire began about 6:45 p.m., when a tar pot used in roofing the Sears building ignited. The fire spread into the Sears and House of Fabrics buildings soon after ignition. Columns of smoke rose several hundred feet into the air and flames could be spotted several miles away. The owners and managers of the downtown businesses stood quietly. The children gasped when the Snorkel from Springdale, like a giant claw, swung across the flames, shooting a jet of water into the inferno. Not scene in many pictures was a use of a ladder truck from the City of Fayetteville who was operating in the alley west of the museum.  Without the help of our neighbors this fire could have burned down the entire city block.  As the fire blazed up about 8 p.m. city officials began to express concern over the fate of the Rogers Historical Museum on First Street. The museum, which shared a common wall with the Bible Book Store, suffered only minor water damage, but records and artifacts were removed by city officials and firemen for safe-keeping. Finally, one by one, The flames went dark and sputtered in the constant drenching from the fire hoses.


The current Fire Administration Offices and Station #1, located at 201/301 North First Street, was constructed in 1997 along with a Training Facility on West Oak Street.

2002 Fire Station 3, originally located at 400 West Hudson Road, is relocated to the Rogers Municipal Airport / Carter Field property at 1 West Etris Drive.  The construction of this station was realized through a partnership with Wal-Mart and Beaver Lake Aviation.  Before this station was built, the department protected the airport using "Quick Response 4", an ex-military vehicle on loan to the city from the Arkansas Forestry Commission.  When this station was constructed the RFD also acquired its first true ARFF vehicle, a 1988 E-One Titan, that was retired in 2007.  

2010 The Rogers Fire Department held a fourteen (14) week Rogers Probationary Fire Academy (RPFA) in cooperation with the Northwest Arkansas Training Officers Association and Arkansas Fire Academy. The RPFA consisted of eight (8) weeks of training meeting the standard requirements of the NFPA 1001 and the Arkansas Fire Academy, and another six (6) weeks of instruction with Rogers Fire Department training officials. The Training Division that oversees this Academy also has the responsibility to monitor the changing requirements of standards and criteria established at the federal, state and local level. The development of training programs occurs through the research of new and innovative training practices, and review of departmental curriculum. The Training Division is lead by the Deputy Fire Chief of Training and Special Operations, Jake Rhoades.

2011 On August 24, 2011, the Rogers Fire Department was awarded Accredited Agency Status by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) in Atlanta, GA. The department is 1 of only 155 agencies worldwide to obtain CFAI Accredited Agency Status. The goal of the CFAI is to assist fire and emergency service agencies throughout the world in achieving excellence through self-assessment, accreditation, and continuous quality improvement in order to enhance service delivery to their communities.



1888      Rogers Hose Company #1 founded to protect the citizens of the Rogers, Arkansas.  John H. Rebholz is
               appointed fire chief.

1889     The first fire alerting system is installed for the city.  A fire bell, manufactured by the Buckeye Foundry, was
              installed on February 7, 1889.

1889     The first uniforms are purchased for the department.

1889     The RHC begins to rent a room for use at the Applegate Drug Store for $2.00 per month.  This, technically, is
              the first fire station.

1892     W.D. Baker is appointed as fire chief

1894     J.A.C. Blackburn is appointed as fire chief.

1896      A committee of members from the RHC begin researching the possibility of an electric alarm system in the
              city. The estimated cost of $100 make it an impossibility.

1897     John Rebholz is appointed as fire chief (for the second time).

1898     J.W. Frey is appointed as fire chief.

1903     Only one fire is reported in Rogers during this year. 

1909     A disastrous fire occurs in downtown Rogers destroying seven buildings.  A total of seven volunteer firefighters
              worked to contain the blaze.

1919     The RHC’s first fire truck, "Old Hulda", is purchased from American LaFrance. 

1922     The Rogers Hose Company #1 is reorganized as the City of Rogers Fire Department, an integral part of city
              government.  Until this time the entire department is made up of all volunteers.

1922      Dr. George M. Love is appointed fire chief of the city fire department.

1929      A new Central Fire Station is opened on Elm Street, replacing the city hall and fire station on 1st Street with a
               more spacious occupancy.

1923      The first paid member of the RFD, Frank Jacobs is hired. 

1968     The RFD assumes responsibility for EMS transport services. 

1974     Fire Stations 2 and 3 are opened at 1907 South 17th Street and 400 West Hudson Road, respectively.

1978    A major downtown fire occurs in the Sears-Roebuck store downtown.  Three buildings are destroyed and six
            more suffer smoke and water damage.  A Springdale Fire Department snorkel truck contributes to the
            containment of the blaze.

1983    The department converts a 1979 Mack CF pumper into its first ladder truck – a 65’ Telesquirt.

1984  The RFD transitions to advanced life support ambulance service. 

1990    Enhanced 911 is installed and the police and fire dispatch centers are combined into the "Rogers
             Communications Division".

1992    Fire Station 4 opens at 2424 West Olive Street.

1994    The department’s technical rescue team is created.

1994    Fire administration moves from the Central Fire Station at 202 West Elm Street to 202 South 2nd Street.

1997    The department opens Fire Station 5 at 2525 South Pinnacle Hills Parkway.

1997    The department opens a Training Center at 3003 West Oak Street.

1998    A new Central Fire Station is opened at 201 and 301 North First Streets.  The new station includes
             headquarter office space, a museum, and sleeping quarters for fourteen firefighters under 25,000 square feet.

2004    Fire Station 6 is opened at 5701 South Bellview Road, protecting the city's rapidly growing west side.

2007    The department opens Fire Station 7 at 3400 South First Street.

2009    The department demolishes and reconstructs Fire Station 5 due to significant mold issues. 

2010    The department's training center is reconstructed to update its function within the department.  


Fire Chiefs

1888-1892 John H. Rebholtz
1892-1894 W.P. Baker
1898-1904 J.W. Frey
1904-1919 Arch Owens
1919-1922 Ora Oaks
1922-1953 George Love
1953-1966 Frank Jacobs
1966-1974 Richard Graves
1974-1981 Robert Whitley
1981-1982 John Elliot (Interim)
1982-1999 Kenneth D. Riley
1999-2002 Rick Williams
2002-2007 Wesley Lewis
2007-2008 Alan Bradrick (Interim)
2009-Present Thomas C. Jenkins