Prior to 1880 the Atchison Fire Department was composed entirely of volunteer fireman. In 1871 an ordinance was passed authorizing the expenditure of $1,000.00 to buy a hook and ladder and other equipment. The Pioneer Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 was organized with headquarters in the old Pioneer Building on the corner of Fourth and Kansas Avenue.

In 1875 Ingalls Fire Company No. 1 was organized. Ingalls shared quarters with the Aetna Engine and Hose Company at the old fire house on North Sixth Street. In 1880, under Mayor John C. Tomlinson, the first paid fire department was organized by S.H. Kelsey who became chief and later served as mayor of the city.

The first fire apparatus were pulled by hand and by livery stable horses when available. Pumping was also mostly by hand and the water was pumped from cisterns located at Third and Commercial, Fifth and Commercial and on Sixth Street near the old fire station. The first steam pumper, a Silsby, was purchased about 1875 and the first team of horses owned by the department was purchased in 1880.

The Atchison Water Works company started business in 1880 and fire hydrants were installed so that it was no longer necessary to depend on the cisterns. In 1898 a new Babcock combination chemical and hose wagon and a 65 foot aerial truck were purchased. The steam pumper purchased in 1900 was a Metropolitan Steamer and was considered the last word in modern fire fighting apparatus. In 1903 the department owned two steamers, one hose and chemical wagon, one aerial truck, one hose reel and seven head of horses.

In 1909, under Mayor G.W. Allaman, a horse and buggy was purchased for the chief and inspectors. The fire station at 13th and Commercial was built in 1912 under Mayor C.D. Walker’s administration. The first gasoline motor equipment was purchased in 1911 and put in service in 1912. This consisted of a new hose and chemical truck and a Webb hose and pumper truck.

A second hose and pump combination, was purchased, used in 1915. A used Chalmers roadster for chief’s car was also purchased that year. The aerial truck was motorized in 1917 and the last of the horses owned by the department was retired.

Another used, reconstructed hose and chemical truck was installed in 1918. This apparatus was wrecked in 1926 and a new American LaFrance combination hose and chemical was purchased early in 1927. This apparatus is currently being restored by current members of the department and is being used in the department’s public education programs. A new Studebaker roadster to replace the old Chalmers, was purchased in 1928.

The department continued to modernize over the next several years with the purchase of a 1939 GMC pumper with a 500 gallon per minute centrifugal pump. This may have been the first centrifugal pump purchased by the department. Ten years later the Atchison Fire Department added a 1949 Seagrave aerial ladder truck. This vehicle was equipped with a 75′ ladder, which was hydraulically operated. This vehicle remained in service until 1980.

In 1952 the department upgraded its equipment once again with the purchase of a 750 gallon per minute pumper. This unit carried 300 gallon of water and was the largest capacity pump that the department had. This apparatus remained in service until the early 80’s. In 1960 the department purchased its first 1000-gallon per minute pump which was mounted on a 1960 GMC chassis and carried 300 gallon of water. This unit was the first unit in the department to also contain an automatic foam or wet water induction system.

In 1969 the department purchased a 1969 International pumper, which was the first apparatus to be equipped with a 4-man cab. This cab was designed to remove the firefighters from the tailboard area and position them behind the officer and the apparatus operator. This apparatus was equipped with a 1000 gallon per minute pump and a 500-gallon water tank. This apparatus remained in service for 24 years.

In the early 1960’s the first SCBA’s or Self Contained Breathing Apparatus was introduced in the department. This equipment stated an evolution in fire service safety and enabled personnel to enter a hazardous atmosphere without being exposed to hazardous conditions. As years passed additional units were purchased so that each employee was provided the same protection. In the early 1980s an SCBA compressor was purchased to allow the department to refill it’s our cylinders. The department continues to have such capabilities and currently fills cylinders for several rural departments and local industries.

In 1980 the department replaced its aging 1949 aerial with a new modern 100′ aerial platform. This unit was equipped with a 1,250 gallon per minute pump and enabled personnel to work from a platform. Personnel for the first time could reposition the platform themselves without assistance. This unit also gave the department the ability to provide large amounts of water if needed. Also purchased this year was a 1980 Mack Pumper with a 1,250 gallon pump and 500 gallon water tank. Both these units remain in service.

In 1983 the department replaced its 1952 Mack Pumper with a 1982 Ford Custom Cab pumper with a 1,000 gallon per minute pump. This unit continues to serve the local community.

In 1984 the department entered into an agreement with Atchison County to provide Emergency Medical Service for the entire County. The Atchison Fire Department operated a three-vehicle system providing basic life support for the next 12 years. During that period, the size of the Atchison Fire Department increased from 21 to 30 employees. In 1996 The County decided to contract the Ambulance Service for the County to a private company. With the loss of the Ambulance Service the department reduced its employee base to 20 full time members.

InĀ 1985 the department purchased a Mini Pumper, which was used to respond to all calls for service excluding structure fire calls. In 1997 the Atchison Fire Department decided to continue to offer First Responder Service to the City of Atchison. This unit was in service until the fall of 2001.

In 2002 the department will take delivery of a new pumper/rescue vehicle. This vehicle will have a 1,250-gallon per minute pump and an automatic class A foam system a first for the department. This unit will be replacing the departments ageing mini pumper. This new unit will carry all of the departments rescue equipment and still function as a full size structure fire truck.

In 1993 the department purchased the first fully enclosed cab in the department’s history. This unit is equipped with 750 gallons of water and a 1,250 gallon per minute pump. This unit is currently the department’s front line structure truck.

The Atchison Fire Department is over 100 years old and today it continues to provide quality fire and first responder services to the City of Atchison. It continues to modernize and utilize the many advances in equipment and firefighting techniques. Its personnel are dedicated professionals and are constantly striving to provide an efficient and progressive department for its citizens.

Since the development of the paid fire department in Atchison there have been eleven fire chiefs. We honor them for their service and leadership.

S.H. Kelsey 1880 thru 1883
W.C. Barnes 1883 thru 1889
John Compton 1889 thru 1924
Herbert N. Sowers 1924 thru 1937
Joseph E. Dolecek 1937 thru 1947
Harley Yocum 1947 thru 1959
Jake Anslinger 1959 thru 1964
Richard E. Ellis 1964 thru 1970
Ed Maycroft 1971 thru 1979
Randy Houchen 1979 thru 1981
Michael E. McDermed 1981 to present