The first formal fire department of Cape Girardeau was a Hook and Ladder Fire Company established on July 25, 1866 under Mayor G. H. Cramer. Evidence in Cape Girardeau’s newspaper The Argus showed a fire department did not exist before 1866.
On Nov. 20, 1866, the City of Cape Girardeau Council passed ordinance 148 organizing the 25-member, volunteer fire company under the name “Good Intent Fire Company.”
Members of the Good Intent Fire Company were not paid for their time. If they were injured due to a fire, rendering them unable to work, they were compensated $5.
The Wagner Special Hose Wagon, Chemical Engine and Hook and Ladder were purchased from St. Louis for $1,100, arriving by boat on Dec. 12, 1908. The wagon, engine and hook and ladder included a chemical reservoir, ladders, hooks, rope and 300 feet of hose.
A team of gray horses for the fire department was purchased in St. Louis for $400 by Aldermen Alex Vasterling and Joe Wilson, hence the horses’ names of Joe and Alex. They were trained by Leland Albert and first hitched to the wagon on May 25, 1909, responding to their first call on June 7, 1909.
Today, the Cape Girardeau Fire Department has grown from one fire station to four stations spread across the City, sharing 77 staff members and firefighters.
Fire stations are now complete with multiple rescue vehicles ranging from a rescue boat to several fire engines and trucks.
To this day, the Cape Girardeau Fire Department is dedicated to providing fire, rescue, medical and educational services to the citizens of Cape Girardeau.
For more information and history on the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, visit cityofcape.org/firehistory.
Post by Amity Downing, Multimedia Journalist
Summer 2012 Public Information Office Intern