Department History From right to left on the rear was Allen Gooch, Sam Edmondson and Alden Maddux. Seated as the driver is Doss O'Neal and Chief Ben Culbertson is seated
In 1916, the need for fire protection was realized by the citizens of Smyrna. Prior to this date, the only fire protection was a bucket brigade or the occasional barrel placed under downspouts of the homes. However, several times fires were responded to by Mr. Johnny Hager, Sr., taking the matter into his own hands. As a resul, he built the first fire apparatus used in the Town of Smyrna. Using a 1913 Studebaker belonging to the family, he secured a wooden tank to the stripped body of the car. Following is a description of the apparatus taken from Walter King Hoover's book Smyrna: The Town and the Church:
"In the event of a fire, this equipment was driven to the vicinity of the fire, and after being blocked under the wheels to keep from rolling, the right axle was lifted with a hand jack placed under the axle. This let the wheel turn freely without the vehicle being in motion. From a pulley attached to the hub of this wheel, a belt properly placed, powered a water pump, that was mounted on the edge of the truck above the wheel. A two inch hose about thirty feet long was attached to carry water to the fire...."
The first engine was used for not only fires but also to sprinkle the dusty streets that were prevalent in this era.
After a devastating fire at a local church, the City Commissioners considered purchasing a fire truck. Along with these discussions, ordinances were passed and funding for a fire department was accepted. Records show that the first purchased fire apparatus cost the city $990.00.
in the passenger seat. The first doctor in Smyrna, Dr. J.M. Shipp is to the right of the apparatus in the white shirt, facing the camera.
Photo taken at delivery of apparatus by train in 1924.
" This new engine was a shiny red T-Model Ford, equipped with three 50 gallon soda acid tanks, for in those days Smyrna had no water system."
At this time Ben Culbertson, the grandfather of current Fire Chief William Culbertson, was appointed the first official fire chief and placed in charge. The engine was housed at the Smyrna Auto Company, located at 108 North Lowry Street. Mr. Doss O'Neal, who is pictured with the 1924 Model-T, worked at this site and kept the apparatus in good condition. In 1931, the Town Commissioners again voted to replace the 1924 Model -T. A 1931 Chevrolet 1 1/2 ton truck was selected. This apparatus carried a large water tank and had a force pump mounted on the engine itself.
1931 Chevrolet Fire Engine
From right to left on the rear was Allen Gooch, Sam Edmondson and Alden Maddux. Seated as the driver is Doss O'Neal and Chief Ben Culbertson is seated
The next major change was in 1955, when the Air Base allowed the Town to use a Ford chassis to make a new apparatus. The 1931 Chevrolet was replaced by a three-quarter truck used to carry hose. In 1959, under the control of W.R. Culbertson, the city purchased a then top-of-the-line Seagraves fire apparatus. This was considered the most modern of equipment. With the introduction of the new equipment, a change in the pay scale was implemented. As the need for fire protection grew, so did the technology. Training was organized for the new equipment as well as the newest techniques that are needed to respond to fire calls, much like they are today.
The Town grew as the population of the air base grew. Following the announcement of the base closing in 1970, it was feared that the town would suffer and lose citizens. Instead the population grew by 47% between the years 1970 and 1980. The fire department faced the problems similar to the town by growing and requiring more equipment.
In 1984, the development of the Nissan plant again spurred growth and led to the construction of Fire Station # 3, located near the plant on Enon Springs Road. As the population of the town increased, so did the need for fire protection. The presence of more industry made it necessary to develop the department with full-time personnel. In 1989 the fire department hired the first full time employee, William Culbertson. In 1993 Station #1 was constructed to assist fire protection for the west side of Highway 41-70s.