Frequently Asked Questions

Information about the history of the DFM and the Denver Fire Department

When did the DFD start?

It began as a volunteer department in 1866. The DFD became a full-time, paid fire department in 1884.

Who was the first department chief?

Philip Trounstine was the earliest known chief of a volunteer fire company in Denver, from April 1872 – April 1873. He was also a veteran of the Union Army and a prominent member of Denver’s early Jewish community.

George Duggan was the first chief of the paid department. He was volunteer chief from April 1879 – April 1881. He was a full-time chief from April 1881 – November 1881.


Who was the longest-serving chief?

John Healy. He was chief of the department from August 1912 – May 1946 (that’s 33 years; he actually died while still in office). He joined the department in 1894, making him one of the longest-serving DFD firefighters with about 52 years of work. Healy emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland when he was only 11 years old.

How many fire stations are in Denver?

38, including 5 at the Denver International Airport (as of June 2017).

Were there horses in this station?

Yes. Fire horses would have undergone about two years of training before they went on active duty. They were usually Percherons, a large, muscular draft horse similar to a Clydesdale.

If you look on the ceiling above the hose carts (near a fluorescent light fixture) you can see dents in the paneling there. These were made by harnesses hanging from the ceiling. Firefighters would position the horses beneath them and then press a switch to lower the harnesses. Buckles on the harnesses flew up, hit the ceiling, and made the dents you see today.

The horse stalls were located at the rear of the building. The rectangular hole above the red fire engine at the back was part of a hayloft.

Horses were phased out by 1924. In that year the department became fully motorized under the direction of Department Chief John Healy.

Why did they stop using horses?

Motorized fire apparatus/rigs were faster and more efficient. All DFD horses were retired by 1924, when the department became fully motorized. 

How many firefighters are in the DFD today?

About 1000, though that’s split into three 24-hour shifts (A, B, and C shift). That means there are about 333 DFD firefighters on duty on any given day. These include firefighters who work in public relations, fire prevention, administration, and so on. About 50 civilians are also employed in administrative work for the DFD.

Firefighters may also respond across district borders if necessary. This means that they can team up with other departments (Aurora FD, West Metro, North Metro, South Metro, Arvada Fire, etc.) when required.

What kinds of calls do firefighters respond to?

About 80% of DFD calls are medical. All DFD firefighters are trained Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs; Paramedics on ambulance crews have more intensive training). 

Firefighters also respond to fires, technical rescue (which includes auto crashes), dive/water rescue, and hazardous materials (HAZMAT) calls.

Why are the fire trucks white?

There are a few different stories (ex., that they’re more visible, that the firefighters got the trucks in white and didn’t want to repaint them), but we’re not 100% sure how it began. By now, it’s simply tradition.

Fire trucks at the airport are a bright yellow-green, to aid in visibility. 


What’s the difference between a fire truck and fire engine?

It comes down to the different duties of truck and engine crews.

Engines are sometimes called “pumpers”. Simply put, their main job is to put water on a fire. In Denver, they’re also usually the first crews to respond to a medical call.

Trucks are like gigantic toolboxes on wheels. They’ll be the first called to technical rescues that may need specialized equipment, such as car crashes or high-rise fires. Trucks often have equipment like ladders, saws, axes, and the “Jaws of Life” (that’s a trade name, by the way. The generic name is the “cutter and spreader”).

Trucks with large aerial ladders are often called “towers”. You may hear firefighters referring to rigs such as Tower 1 – they’re talking about the truck with an aerial ladder at Station 1.

When did Denver’s first female firefighter join the department?

Heather Larson was sworn in to the DFD in 1985. She was also the DFD’s first female officer. She retired with the rank of Captain. Guests can see one of her helmets on display in a second-floor locker.

Woodie, a Denver Fire Department dog, c. 1884

Woodie, a Denver Fire Department dog, c. 1884