Fire, back in the olden days, was a disaster that people in Ingleside had to deal with individually and with the aid of neighbors. “When someone spotted a fire,” Ingleside’s first mayor, Pete Erskine, remembered, “they would call the telephone operator and she would call members of the volunteer Fire Organization. Of course, we didn’t have any equipment – it was more or less a bucket brigade, with garden hoses at best”.
When Humble Oil and Refining Company located in Ingleside in 1927, they had a limited amount of fire equipment to control fires on the refinery grounds, but no equipment to help out in the city to any great extent. When Humble closed their refinery in 1945, the town was back to square one without any type of fire equipment. Interested citizens joined together and started looking for government surplus fire equipment.
Two trucks were located in San Antonio. The fire department held fundraisers to raise $3,260 to buy a 1942 GMC. Andy Dreese along with Archie Blanscet and Pete Erskine worked until the 1942 truck was obtained. It was brought to Ingleside where it was housed in a garage that belonged to mechanic Andy Dreese while it was being outfitted by volunteer labor and donations from the community. With the truck in service, the organization picked up members and support from the community.
The group purchased a lot and put enough funds together to have a slab poured for their building. The 30 x 50 foot building was finished in about a year, giving the firemen a place to house and service their truck, as well as a meeting place for the men
Ingleside was incorporated in 1951 and Pete Erskine was elected the first Mayor. A room was partitioned off in one corner of the fire station to serve as a meeting place for the new city government.
On December 16, 1953, the Fire Department sold all of their real estate and physical property to the city for $2,100 and became a department of the city rather than an independent organization. The city funds were immediately used to buy needed equipment. The Fire Department continued to occupy that building until May of 1962, when the city provided a $35,000 bond to upgrade the Fire Department. The old ice plant that was on Avenue B was purchased for $10,000 and renovated for the new Fire Department building. A new fire truck was purchased for $21,910 it is known as Engine 4. A used 4×4 surplus vehicle was purchased for fighting brush fires.
In 1955, a Ford emergency car completed the total fire department equipment.
In May, 1969, another truck was purchased for $24,099 and it was known as Engine 7.
In August of 1970, Hurricane Celia devastated Ingleside, leaving massive destruction. Approximately 95% of business buildings and 45% of the residences were damaged. The police station had been relocated next to the fire station on Ave B and it blew down during the storm. For seventeen months after Celia, the fire station was “home” to both Police and Firefighters alike. During the 1970’s, the 1942 GMC was sold and the 1955 emergency car was sold in 1986. Additional vehicles have been purchased and sold throughout the years as the need arose, in addition to the pumpers mentioned earlier.
In 1978, the fire department accepted its first woman firefighter. A local business owner named Barbara Thompson. The Fire Chief at that time was Jim Wright and he said they “decided to try to have some women firemen to answer daytime fire calls. We need more people.” With the advent of women into the department the volunteers began calling themselves firefighters rather than firemen. In 1979, Chief Wright was quoted as saying, “It doesn’t make a difference whether it is a man or woman – if a home is burning, you need people to handle the job.”
Prior to January, 1981, the gear that was issued to a firefighter consisted of a coat, knee boots and a helmet. That month the city purchased the first bunker pants and gloves to be used by the firefighters.
In 1984, the fire department took delivery of its first mini-pumper, it was known as Engine 2. It carries the hydraulic rescue equipment and tools. The city also provided funds for the remodeling of the fire station. Central heat and air and floor tiles were installed in the meeting room, also offices were created and the restroom relocated.
In 1990 Ingleside became home to Naval Station Ingleside.
In 1991, the fire department had its first firefighter who was in the Navy. The Navy base has since closed. Even after all these years, firefighters that can respond to daytime calls are still not as plentiful as during the evening hours. Fortunately, a large number are allowed to leave their jobs to respond to the fires. The fire department also received a $1500 donation from OxyChem Ingleside which was used to purchase a computer for the fire department.
On January 28, 1992, the City of Ingleside authorized the purchase of a new pumper from Emergency One, known as Engine 9. Chief West, along with his Assistant Chiefs, Claude Perkins and Bob Richardson worked hard on the specifications to see that the truck was needed for the City of Ingleside. The excited volunteer firefighters and their families waited at the station for the truck to be delivered since it was the first time in 23 years that the city had been able to purchase a brand new full size pumper. Engine 9 was delivered to Ingleside Fire Station on April 6, 1992. Due to the growing concern for safety of the firefighters, the new truck had an enclosed cab that would carry five personnel. At that time, the department established its own internal policy that firefighters would no longer be able to ride tailboard on the apparatus. With the advent of that policy, a long standing tradition was discontinued. No longer would Ingleside firefighters be seen riding on the back of a fire truck.
The first Fire Chief was Andy Dreese. He was followed by Joe Rude, Tommy Young, Jum Mullinax, Archie Blanscet, Jessie Duncan, J. H. Northam, R. L. Cooper Jr., Jim Wright, Doyle West, Claude Perkins, Bob Richardson, Chad Champion, R.J. Thomas, and Steven Loving who is serving as the current Fire Chief.
The first Fire Marshall was Ned Allen. He was followed by Jessie Duncan, R. L. Irwin, Clyde Simmons, Mike Kelly, Glenn Taylor, Claude Perkins, Kathy McGraw, Walter Winkle, Bob Richardson, Stephen Rex, Stephen Burnett, Steven Loving, Michael Lovie, and James Creek who is serving as the current Fire Marshal.