Founded on May 20, 1876 in 100 Block of East Myrtle since March of 1916.
The Independence Fire Department has a long and storied history. It starts with the burning of the railroad depot on January 15, 1874 leading to the decision by the City Council to purchase a commercial grade fire wagon within the week. It proved to be a timely decision considering the most destructive fire in the City's history would befall Independence just one year later on February 13, 1876. This disastrous event would destroy a total of 18 business within the 100 block of East Main and 100 block of North Penn. This site is coincidentally only a half block from the location of the fire department after it was incorporated as part of the new City Hall building constructed in 1916, and where it was located until a new fire department building was dedicated in 2023. A year and two months following the disaster of February 1875, a volunteer fire department was organized and on May 20, 1876 an ordinance was ratified to establish and create the City's current fire department.
First Fire Chief & Equipment
The Independence Fire Department's first chief was Francis Foster who oversaw a department consisting of an assistant chief, a driver, two paid firefighters, and four volunteers. The City's first firefighting equipment consisted of one horse drawn combination chemical-hook, hose and ladder rig, two hose carts and 2,700 feet of hose.
Longest Tenured Employee
The longest tenured employee in fire department history was Chief Roy Pitts. Chief Pitts enjoyed 39 years of service with the fire department, 35 of them as Chief. He began his employment in January of 1910 and was promoted to Chief in 1914. He retired in 1949 as only the 2nd Fire Chief in the City's history and was responsible for overseeing the many transformations of the department over the years. Although not yet chief at the time, it was rumored that Chief Pitts was concerned that the response time of the department would suffer with the move from horse drawn equipment to the more modern motorized vehicles that started in 1912 with the purchase of a Kissel chemical truck. This was, according to Pitts, because the horses were trained to such a high level. Chief Pitts, at the time of his retirement, lamented that it was a sad day when the horses were replaced by motors in the fire house.
One of the biggest transitions in the department’s history occurred in the summer of 2012 with the combining of the City's fire and EMS services. Prior to 1980 the ambulance service in Independence was operated by private individuals. Montgomery County appointed an Ambulance Subcommittee which comprised individuals from each of the communities in Montgomery County. After studying EMS and the needs of each community, the committee set up ambulance services in Independence, Cherryvale, Coffeyville, and Caney. The ambulance services are operated by the cities, (Coffeyville is operated by the hospital), and funding comes from fees for services and City/County subsidies.
Independence Emergency Medical Service (EMS) was established in July of 1980 with five technicians, one director, and two ambulances. The ambulances were based at the hospital and EMS personnel worked in the emergency room when not busy with EMS calls. In January 1988 four technicians passed their paramedic testing and began providing Advanced Life Support services (Paramedic Care) at the scene of ambulance calls. In January of 1993, Independence EMS applied for and was granted an Advanced Life Support license and began offering Paramedic care on all EMS calls. They are now responsible for all ALS and BLS calls within the City and surrounding area in addition to the traditional FD calls within the city limits.
To date, according to official fire department records, there have been 340 employees since the department’s inception in 1876. The department has grown from a force of four paid firefighters and four volunteers to a department consisting of three shifts of 8 personnel a Fire Chief, Building Inspector, and Public Safety Director bringing the total membership of the department to 27 full time, paid personnel.