Salem Fire Department Prior to 1955
The Salem Fire Protection District seal incorporates two dates, 1892 and 1955. The Salem Fire Department was incorporated as an agency of the City of Salem August 17th, 1882. At that time the Fire Department consisted of one man, Mr. Jones, appointed by the city as the night fire watchman. His duties were to patrol the city at night during the dry months. George B Simcox was appointed chief.
Sometime in the years of 1892 and 1900 a hand drawn hand pumper was purchased. After the city water system was installed a horse drawn fire wagon was purchased from the city of Webster Groves, Mo. and given the apparatus identification number 2. From then to present each succeeding apparatus has been identified with the next highest number. The Salem Fire Department first became motorized in 1917 with the purchase of a Model T one-ton truck. The Salem Fire Protection District has had a total of 36 pieces of apparatus, twelve are active in the fire service today with the oldest being a 1967 Seagrave Pumper, the first diesel powered apparatus.
The Chiefs of the City of Salem Fire Department were George B Simcox 1892-1900, H.E."Stoney" Vogt Sr. 1900-1935, Orville "Baldy" Hanes 1935-1947, Herschel Y Storment 1937-1943, Clarence Lester 1943-1947 and Harper Paul Sweney Jr. 1947-1955.
During the early half of the 1950's the City was having trouble providing the funding necessary to properly operate the Fire Department, it was also recognized that there was a need for fire protection in the rural areas around the city. The Salem City Fire Department had been responding to calls in the rural areas for a fee of 100.00 dollars per call. Many rural residents carried insurance to pay for the fire response.
Fire Chief Sweney conceived the concept of forming a fire protection district, which would serve two purposes. First, to provide fire protection to the surrounding unprotected areas and second, to provide an enlarged tax base which would provide the necessary funding to properly operate the fire department. While discussing the proposed Fire District with the Salem High School superintendent B.E.Gum it was suggested that it might be convient to utilize the existing boundaries of the Salem High School Districts as the boundaries for the proposed fire district. This was deemed to be a reasonable idea but there was a legal requirement that a fire district boundary may not exceed a 10-mile radius from a fire station. The proposed fire district boundaries were then established on the Northern and Western boundaries of the high school district, but the 10-mile radius limit fell short of the high schools Southern and Eastern boundaries, which encompassed the communities of Kell and Iuka. Kell and Iuka each formed their own Fire Districts at a later date.
An election was held December 3rd, 1955, to determine weather the residents of the proposed Salem Fire Protection District wished to establish the fire district. There were 1,067 ballots cast with 921 for and 146 against establishing the Fire District.