In 1838 Colonel George S. Park founded the village of English Landing along the curve of the Missouri River, north and west of Kansas City. By 1900 Parkville was a growing city with lighted streets, bustling businesses and a progressive Board of Alderman lead by Mayor H.B. McAfee (co-founder of Park College in 1875). The council voted unanimously to endorse Ordinance 67 on November 5, 1901, which dealt with the placement and rental of the city’s first fire hydrants at the corner of Mill and Main Street and Main and First Street. These hydrants could provide the water flow necessary for fire protections and generate the formation of the city’s first fire department.

Lewis R. Barker became the first appointed (and unpaid) fire chief of the new Parkville City Volunteer Department, the position under the specific terms listed in Ordinance 67. Two years later the department was already looking for a new leader. On October 10, 1903 the City Council recorded the following resolution introduced by Aldermen Brown and Green:

‘Resolved that the volunteer fire company immediately organized and that the appointment of Mr. King, present manger of the Park College Water Works, and appointed by Mayor McAfee for the position of Fire Chief, be approved and duly authorized to secure a sufficient number of volunteers to organize said company. That a committee be appointed to report at the next meting of the council some plan to secure the necessary supply of ladders and other equipment for use by said company and to rent or build a suitable building for the storage of the hose cart, ladders and other tools of the company.’

A written committee report of the department and progress were submitted to the council on May 9, 1904, discussed off the record and filed. By April 24, 1905 an expenditure of $83.27 had Parkville’s first fire department building nearing completion. It is unfortunate that the location was not available from any past records.

There was no reference to problems in the years following 1905. J.C. Dennis became Fire Chief in April 1912 to be succeeded in March 1919 by George Croskey, the town’s blacksmith. He would remain chief until January 1945. During his tenure, the chief was compensated $5.00 per day, but for the regular volunteers there was no such stipend for their services.

The City Council records indicated there was a 1936 Ford pumper purchased in 1937 for the sum of $707.50 from the U.S. Fire Engine Co. The truck was nicknamed “Weavin Wilma” because the front end’s tendency to wander while being driven. Its use outside of the city for fighting fires caused lots of heated discussion between the firefighters and the city. The 1905 fire station was no longer adequate or available because at this time a $5.00 payment to Hauetter’s Garage, located on the NE corner of Main and Second St. began, and would continue until 1948. A phone call to the local operator requesting the fire department prompted her to push a button on the panel that would set off the siren on top of the garage, calling the volunteers to respond.

In 1944 George Croskey was receiving $40/50 every six months (including payment of the Chief’s phone bill). In 1945 Eldon Guinn took the job as interim Fire Chief. There was no compensation for the chief in 1945, and no explanation was given. George Midwinter, who was employed at the college, replaced him in February 1946.

At the August 14, 1946 council meeting, a motion was made to place a bond issue of $10,000 to purchase new firefighting equipment on the ballot. Mayor F.O. Russell also requested that Jack Miller, the current city marshal develop a plan to re-organize the fire department. Ironically eight days later a huge conflagration occurred at the Ameel Farm located at 9 Highway and Mattox Road, confirming the need for a second piece of equipment. ‘Under state insurance rules a town cannot answer rural fire alarms unless the municipality has at least two fire trucks.’ The Parkville City Fire Department was not allowed to respond and the North Kansas City Fire Department controlled the fire.

On October 1, 1946, a proposed bond issue to help the firefighters would fail by a narrow margin. The next day a roaring fire destroyed the apartments in the 700 block of Main Street, highlighting the desperate need for better equipment as well as a more adequate water supply. The city merchants were in support of the fire department’s purchasing new and more modern equipment.

On January 6, 1948 a group of concerned citizens attended a meeting at the Community Church, located at Second and 9 Highway. Articles of formation were signed by the following participants: G. Midwinter, J. Miller, High Price, Tom Orr, Albert Dohrn, Harold Hibler, Fred Rasmussen, Leland Francis, G. Listrom, Hank Pollack, J. Cushing, J.XC. Tibbetts, Jr, Harold Black, Jim Griswold, Jim Vawter, Clyde Thomas, W. Montague, Dr. T. Casebolt, Larry Stephens, Gene Allen, Denny Campbell and Jack Spreitzer. This group included two representatives of the Missouri Fire Inspection Board. On January 23, 1948 the Rotary Club voted a formal sponsorship of the volunteer department.

The volunteers were optimistic and started training on a regular basis. On February 8, 1948 the first and third Tuesdays became regular drill nights. Busch Waldon, from the University of Missouri Fire School was persuaded to assist with training once a month. A Governing Board was elected and meetings with the city Board of Alderman allowed the Governing Board to search for land to build a new city hall/fire station, draw up a bid for a new fire truck and design a fire code for the city.

Readers of the weekly Gazette dated April 1, 1948 were treated to a front-page editorial exhorting them to vote for the fire bond issue. A small one-inch editorial greeted those readers at least twice in every column of the paper. “Lower your fire insurance rates and receive better fire protection by scratching out the word ‘no’ at the bone election next Tuesday April 6.”

The new Parkville Volunteer Fire Department became operational following the bond issue election on April 6, 1948, which passed by a majority. There was an automatic 23 ‘no’ votes cast in every election, regardless of the issue that was being voted on.

The first fire for the newly reorganized department was in a transient’s car on 9 Highway. On Monday May 17, 1948 at 3 a.m. the volunteers were roused from sleep and responded quickly enough to allow the transient to disappear, in a still drivable vehicle. The Gazette ran an anonymous quote referring that the early morning run:” The wives, we are convinced, would make the better firefighter of the family. Before the siren had finished at 3 a.m. she was up and urging us to the fray. She had to supply information, clothing and convince us that it wasn’t a dream, all at the same time. In fact, we don’t remember anything very clearly ‘till we were out of the house, a block away and asking…where was the fire?”

A new 1948 International fire truck was delivered following the completion of the new city hall/fire station on land donated by Park College at the junction of First St. and Highway 9. The building was constructed with bond money, and initially the labor of the volunteer firefighters. It would take professional contractors to complete the structure.

The same week the new truck arrived; it was put into service during a driving rain when a house was struck by lightning. The truck’s arrival energized the volunteers, and training expanded with its presence. The group knew they needed more and better equipment, and organized a fundraiser to obtain the desired items. They rented movies and used a projector and screen to show patrons various films during the summer. They used First and Main as their location, and also came up with a variety of dances, which were held at the Old Melody Hall, which was on 9 Highway. The first fundraiser was held on March 19, 1949 and cleared $160.

Equipment purchased over the first three year period included a resuscitator, extra hose, Indian water tanks, nozzles, turn out gear, forcible entry tools and several miscellaneous tools.

Two distinct groups began to form in the City of Parkville. The firefighters liked to think of themselves as progressive and up to date; others felt that the fire department was attempting to run the city instead of the other way around. In November 1948, George Midwinter resigned his position as chief, and was replaced by Hank Pollack who was chief until 1950, then from 1951 through 1954. Harry Black would serve as chief for a year in 1950.

A sticking point for the city was its refusal to allow the city truck to respond to calls outside the city limits. This decision ended up as a rift between firefighters and the Board of Alderman. In 1950 Jack Miller presented a plan to protect over 1,000 homes and businesses outside the city limits. The council was advised that the majority of these people were willing to contribute to the upkeep of equipment and purchase necessary equipment.

The volunteers were given permission by the Alderman to use the small truck (‘Weaving’ Wilma) in the county. This decision was made under duress because the board was under citizen pressure to keep the trucks within the city limits. This dilemma prompted the firefighters who felt the fire service should protect everyone who needed their service, to form another political entity known as the Fire Protection Association of the Parkville Vicinity. The first meeting was held at the Parkville High School, May 5, 1950.

At that time three separate organizations existed: the Parkville Fire Department, the Fire Protection Association (which would evolve into the Community Fire Association) and the volunteer firefighters. The role of chief was now chosen not by the city council, but by the volunteers, who finally had a voice in their leadership.

The city provided the trucks and equipment, which were used by firefighters on a contact basis. The F.P.A. was raising funds to provide future service outside the city limits, and by October 1950 had enough money to put a deposit on a new truck. When the organization came up short of cash, Leland Francis, owner of the funeral home in Parkville signed a financial note so the truck could be purchased.

1950 and 1953 were busy years for the firefighters. Many times the equipment was used in the county. For example, three children were rescued and one died in a boating accident in Weatherby Lake in May 1950. The new resuscitator was used and praised by the community. A huge fire at the Linder Garage on Main Street in July brought the lack of water pressure to the attention of the city fathers. Another fire at the Golden Valley Hatchery, located on the east side of Main Street near the railroad tracks, brought the North Kansas City Fire Department in for mutual aid. The presence of the N.K.C units ran against the wishes of Chief Harry Black, and he resigned in protest. Dissention within the ranks was not unheard of—the lack of a unified mission for the department manifested itself in a constant change of chief and personnel. As a result, Hank Pollack was again elected chief.

A total of 144 runs were made in 1951. Including 22 house fires, and mutual aid to Riverside to assist with a fire at Beverly Lumber Company. Many of the fires in the rural area were grass fires, and required manpower and equipment to extinguish. One of the improvements to the rural area was the opening of Station 2 in Farley, which was moved to Main Street from a basement facility.

Mutual aid agreements were written between departments; for Parkville this included surrounding communities of Riverside, N.K.C. Smithville, Gashland, Winwood, Northmoor, and Kansas City. Riverside and Lake Waukomis had public safety departments at the time, and six were fire protection districts (Camden Point, Dearborn, West Platte, Central Platte, Smithville and Edgerton).

By 1974 the volunteer firefighters and Chief Roy Marlowe realized that Platte County was growing so rapidly that the old subscription system was no longer able to sustain the fire department. The firefighters also realized that the fire service could no longer work exclusively in the area of fire suppression. Fire, rescue and medical emergencies became the new mission on the department. The Community Fire Association was dissolved and the South Platte Fire and Rescue Department was born.

The first meeting of the Committee to form a fire district was held on July 24, 1974. Eric Lindeman, a recent graduate of Park College and member of the department was its driving force. The committee studied Missouri Statue No. 321, which governed fire protection districts, their formation and regulation. A petition to hold an election was filed and granted. The first attempt held on September 10th of the same year failed to pass.

While the defeat was a disappointment, it did not stop the committee from pressing forward to make a second proposal to get a district organized. The boundary lines were redrawn, removing a number of areas that had a negative vote on the first attempt.
A month before the second vote was to take place in February 1976, the chief collapsed and died while at Station 1 from a heart attack, and Charles Pike took over leadership of the department. The second vote proved to be successful, and John Schott, Walter Humphrey and Gerald Martin were elected to the first Southern Platte Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners.

A third fire station was established on Highway 45 at Lakecrest, which was rented garage space. It was later moved to a two bay prefab building just west of that location. When the district out grew that facility, a parcel of land west of that location was bought, and the new headquarters and dispatch center were moved there in 1991.

K.C. Kerns was elected chief from 1977-1981 and again from 1984-1987. Robert A. Carrizzo was elected fire chief from 1981-1983 and again in 1988. Richard Jennings was chief from 1989-1991.

The District’s Board of Commissioners in March 1987 passed universal building and fire codes and all building plans within the District must be submitted to the inspectors for their approval. There was a lot of heat and crying over this proposal, and many builders initially objected to this proposal, but once they found out what it entailed, were more accepting of the codes which really helped them in the long run.

The District assigned a public relations officer as well as a fire prevention officer for specific duties, and these two programs were a big help in winning over the public’s knowledge about what the District did to serve the patrons.

Training for the members of the organization was established, and each Monday night, the volunteers met to acquire new skills. Probationary firefighters had a second night of training so they could get oriented to the procedures of the fire department. Specialized training through the University of Missouri Fire School was available, leading to degrees in Fire Science as well as Emergency Medical Technician status. Several of the volunteers performed ‘double duty’ as they worked for various departments around the Kansas City area and returned on ‘off’ days to work with the Fire District.

Many changes have taken place since its inception in 1901. The city of Parkville (formerly English Landing) has changed from a supply station on the river for points north and west to a first class county with a burgeoning population. The Parkville City Volunteer Fire Department traded hose carts for modern pumpers, and welcomed its first fully paid chief, Peter Sturner who started his job in January 1993. A new heavy-duty rescue squad was put in service the same year as Chief Sturner was sworn in.

In early 1995, Chief Sturner submitted his resignation. He was replaced by a combination of two personnel, Richard Carrizzo who was named Administrative Chief, and Kenny Kerns who was appointed Operations Chief. Richard was working with the Lenexa Fire Department at the time and was officially named Fire Chief in 1995. In 1996 Southern Platte hired its first seven paid firefighters to help with the call volume. The District also had full time dispatching, which was handled out of Station 3, its administrative station. After a cost comparison with what Platte County Communications Center could do as far as providing the same service, the District decided that it would be more cost effective to have the County provide the service.

Because of the need for growth, a new headquarters station was built in 2001, which was located on N Highway near I-435, Station 4. The previous year, Station 1 was completely torn down and replaced with a two-story facility that could accommodate sleeping and eating facilities.

Fire Chiefs for the Parkville Fire City Volunteer Fire Department through the Southern Platte Fire Protection District, 1901-present

Lewis R. Barker 1901-1912
J.C. Dennis 1912-1919
George Croskey 1919-1945
Ben Lewin 1945
Eldon Guinn 1946
George Midwinter 1946-1948
Harry Black 1950
Hank Pollack 1948-49, 1950-1954
Martin Davis 1954-1967
George Commonellis 1968
John Rapp 1969-1970
Roy Marlowe (died in office) 1971-1976
Charles Pike 1976
K.C. Kerns Jr. 1977-1981, 1984-1987
Robert A. Carrizzo 1981-1983, 1988
Richard Jennings 1989-1991
Richard R. Carrizzo 1991-1992
Peter Sturner 1993-1995
Richard R. Carrizzo 1995-present

Apparatus from 1901-2007

1901 Hose Cart
1936 Ford “Weavin Wilma”
1948 International
1949 International
1950 International
1952 Ford F6
1954 International
1964 International
1965 Ford (Boardman)
1969 Ford (Boardman)
1979 Seagrave Pumper
1980 Emergency One (wrecked April 1981)
1981 Emergency One
1981 GMC Brush Unit
1984 SEMO Tanker, 2000 gallons
1986 Pierce Pumper
1987 Chevrolet 3500 Brush unit
1990 GMC Tanker
1992 Emergency-One, GMC Topkick Pumper
1993 GMC Rescue Squad
1996 Pierce Dash Pumper
1999 Sutphen 75’ Ladder truck
2000 Ford F350, 250 gpm pump with 300 gallon tank
2001 Pierce Quantum Pumpers (2)
2002 Ford F350, 250 gpm pump with 300 gallon tank
2003 Doolittle Trailer, 26’
2004 Ford F350 Mobile Air
2004 Kenworth, Seagrave T-800, 3,000 gallon Pumper/Tanker
2006 Pierce Dash, 2,500 gallon water tank and 250 gallon foam tank Pumper/Tanker
2006 Emergency-One Typhoon Pumper

- Alana Jennings, Past Firefighter and Communication Supervisor