In May of 1908, Saenger Hall, which was located on the southwest corner of Manchester and Henry Roads, caught fire. Neighbor awakened neighbor, and a “bucket brigade” was organized and worked through the night. Saenger Hall and the building on the west side were completely demolished. It was at this time some of the men in the community decided some orga nized form of fire protection was needed.
Manchester Volunteer Fire Department (1908-1961)
The Volunteer Fire Department was formed in Manchester in 1908 and consisted of 16 men. A hand-operated fire pump, 200 ft. of discharge-hose, and 50 feet of suction hose were the first pieces of equipment purchased in June 1908. The passing of buckets of water up and down a line of men was used to supplement the hand pump. Their sources of water supply came from wells or cisterns, which nearly every house along Manchester Road had at that time.
In 1911 the Manchester Flour Mill, along with the elevator and stables on the same property, again caught fire. After this fire, the volunteer fire depart ment purchased a gasoline engine pump. Money was raised by sponsoring a July 4th picnic and by the sale of fire ‘tags’ for $1 per year. These tags were to be displayed on the exterior of homes to show that the fire tax had been paid. In theory, a home without a tag would be allowed to burn, but the Manchester Volunteer Fire Department never refused to fight a fire.
Brothers Joseph and George Sei bert assembled the first “fire engine” for the department. They mounted the gasoline engine pump on a one-ton 1920 Model-T Ford truck. This truck was used until the late 1920’s, when it was traded in for a facto ry-built Model-A Ford truck. Joseph W. Seibert, who joined the department in 1919, was appointed to head the department in 1939 and served as Fire Chief for 24 years. After his resignation as Chief in 1963, he con tinued on as Fire Marshal.
The first “make-shift” firehouse was the barn located behind Paul Langenbeck’s home. This barn was used to house the firefighting equipment until the late 1920’s, when the first permanent concrete-block building was constructed at Manchester and Woodsmill Roads. An alarm bell was used to notify the people of the town that a fire was in progress and to “come running”. A new firehouse was built at Manchester and Henry Roads in 1950, to which additions were made in 1965 and 1977. This building was in use until July 2004.
Manchester Fire Protection District (1961-1996)
The Manchester Fire Protection District was created October 10, 1961 by a vote (169-52) of the people. The first Directors were Joe Baker, Garth Stoecker, and Marvin Spears. Although the name had changed and insurance rates were lowered to Class 9 from Class 10, the department was still made up entirely of volun teers until January 15, 1963 , when the first 3 full-time paid men (Joe Baker, Larry House, and Art Meier) were hired to supplement the existing 27 Volunteers.
Joseph H. Baker, a volunteer since 1944, was appointed as the first paid Fire Chief in 1963 and headed the department until his untimely death in July 1982. Assistant Chief Larry D. House then became Chief of the District and served until his retirement in March, 1999. At that time, Assistant Chief Kenneth D. Baker (son of former Chief Joseph Baker, and great-grandson of one of the original 16 volunteers, John Seibert, Sr.) was named Chief of the District.
Station 2, located at 13790 Manchester Road , was built in 1973 to serve the eastern portion of the District. Additional personnel were hired to staff this station, thus ending the need for volunteers . The District was one of the first in the area to provide ambulance service (1967), the first to have all employees become EMT’s (1974), and the first in the State of Missouri to receive a Class 3 ISO rating (1991). From its humble beginning, the Manchester Fire Protection District has grown into one of the finest in St. Louis County. A separate Administrative Office was built in 1986 just behind what was Station 1 at that time on the northwest corner of Henry Avenue and Manchester Rd. In 1988, the first ladder truck, an 80′ aerial, was purchased to join the complement of pumpers and the employees voted 25-15 to unionize and be represented by the International Association of Firefighters – Local 2665.
The City of Town & Country
In 1983, the City of Town & Country disbanded its Department of Public Safety and contracted with our District for fire and EMS services for all of the City of Town & Country, placing a Station 3 into service. In 1990, the City of Town & Country built a new fire station on Clayton Rd. at Mason Rd., relocating from their former fire station just east of I-270 on Clayton Rd. This new Station 3 was later renovated by Town & Country in 2012. As an acknowledgement of this ongoing contractual relationship, all West County EMS & Fire equipment also proudly bears the City of Town & Country’s municipal logo.
West County EMS & Fire Protection District (1996-Present)
In February 1996, the District officially changed its name to the “West County EMS & Fire Protection District” thus better reflecting the communities served. The District covers approximately 21 square miles and serves a resident population of approximately 51,000. The District currently has 64 employees, 54 line personnel and 10 Administrative Staff.
In 2001, the voters approved a 12-million dollar bond issue for the purpose of constructing new facilities and up-dating equipment. In 2002 and 2003 we purchased new apparatus and up-dated our firefighting and life-saving equipment. Our new Station 1 and Administration Office was completed and opened in July of 2004. The facility dedication/ open house was held in conjunction with a ceremony honoring Fire Chief Ken Baker, a fourth-generation firefighter, who retired at the end of 2003 after 40 years of volunteer and paid service. The original 1908 Hand-pumper and 1909 Alarm Bell have been refurbished and are on display at this location.
Another bond issue was passed by an overwhelming majority of our residents in 2008. With the approval of an additional $19-million in bonds the District has completed the construction of the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), Safety House, Maintenance Facility and training grounds on the property at Station 2. Equipment upgrades have also been completed; two 75′ Pierce quints and four new Braun/Spartan ambulances have already been purchased with the proceeds of the 2009 bond issue. Those units have been placed into service as 3517, 3527, 3537 and a reserve unit 3597. A state-of-the-art heavy rescue pumper was also designed and purchased. It was delivered in 2014 and initially placed in service as 3534. In an effort to focus all West County technical rescue assets out of single engine house, 3534 was reassigned and is now in full service as 3514. The Pierce quints operate as units 3525 and 3535 out of stations 2 and 3 respectively.
In addition to EMS and fire services, West County personnel also staff several USAR (Urban Search And Rescue) assets for the metropolitan area. Unit 3528 is a 2003 Ford F-350 with a slide-in brush fire unit that pulls a trailer carrying unit 3529, a Kubota multi-terrain patient transport unit. This vehicle affords responders with the ability to go extended distances off-road to locate and transport patients back to a waiting ambulance. Unit 3599 and USAR35 are a Swift Water Rescue unit carrying 2 swift water boats, rescue suits and equipment necessary for water-based rescues. Unit 3519 is a portable air cascade trailer used to refill breather air bottles on-site of major incident