Sparks Fire Department Historical Museum
SPARKS FIRE DEPARTMENT HISTORICAL PHOTOS
In 2005, the Sparks Fire Department celebrated its Centennial.
Henry W. Fiege, First Fire Chief William R. Shaber, Second Fire Chief
When the Sparks Fire Department was first formed in 1905, Frank Malay, the Chief of Police, initially served as the Fire Chief until the volunteers elected their own Fire Chief. Henry W. Fiege became the Volunteer Fire Chief with his election in 1905 and remained in this position until 1917. In 1917, William R. Shaber was appointed the first paid Fire Chief of the Department. Chief Shaber died on October 14, 1939, from a heart attack while preparing to respond to an emergency service call.
Frank Hobson was the department's third Fire Chief. Chief Hobson joined the department in 1920 and served as Fire Chief from 1939 until his death in the line of duty in 1948. In 1948, Chief Hobson responded to a call for assistance from the Reno Fire Department to fight the infamous Lake Street Fire. After arriving, Chief Hobson was working at the scene when an explosion caused a brick wall to collapse, killing the Chief and injuring other firefighters.
The department's fourth Fire Chief was Lowell Monday. Chief Monday joined the department in 1938 and served as Fire Chief from 1948 to 1951. Chief Monday originally served as both a firefighter and an ambulance driver for the department. Appointed to Assistant Fire Chief by Chief Hobson, Chief Monday was with Chief Hobson at the Lake Street Fire. Chief Monday was badly injured and required hospitalization following the explosion at the Lake Street Fire that killed Chief Hobson.
The department's fifth Fire Chief was Francis W. Farr. Chief Farr joined the department in 1947 and served as Fire Chief from 1951 to 1976. His 25 year tenure as the Fire Chief is the longest in the department's history. A well-respected professional in the fire service, Chief Farr also served the community in other ways. From 1966 to 1970, for example, Chief Farr was a State Senator for the Sparks State Senate District. During his time in the State Senate, Chief Farr helped pass 26 public safety bills. In 1980, furthermore, he served on the Governor's Commission to investigate codes and ordinances following the tragic MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas.
The department's sixth Fire Chief was Don Young. Chief Young began his career as a volunteer Firefighter/Engineer in 1957. He became a paid Engineer in 1959, a Fire Captain in 1964, Battalion Chief in 1967, and Fire Chief in 1976. Don Young served in several professional organizations, such as the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Western Fire Chiefs, and the Nevada State Fire Training Advisory Board. During his tenure as Fire Chief, the department adopted a computer-aided dispatch system, initiation of the fire incident reporting system, development of certification programs, and participation in the development of a Regional Hazardous Materials Team. Chief Young also helped plan the design of the Headquarters’ Fire Station on Victorian Avenue and Fire Station #3.
The department’s seventh Fire Chief was Ron Irwin. Ron Irwin joined the department in 1962 as a Firefighter. He was promoted to Pump Operator in 1964, Fire Captain in 1968, Battalion Chief in 1972, and Fire Chief in 1990. Chief Irwin oversaw the Fire Department’s effort to keep pace with growth of Sparks. As a result, Chief Irwin oversaw the construction of Fire Station #4 and the initial planning for Fire Station #5. Chief Irwin also increased staffing, put into service additional pumpers and ladder trucks, and increased emergency rescue resources to deal with hazardous materials, EMS, river rescue, and confined space rescues. Chief Irwin served on the Board of Trustees for the Nevada Fire Chiefs Association and was a member of both the Western Fire Chiefs Association and the Nevada State Firemen’s Association.
The department’s eight Fire Chief was Ralph "Lee" Leighton. Chief Leighton was hired in 1969 as a Firefighter and was promoted to Pump Operator in 1971, Captain in 1977, Battalion Chief in 1991, Deputy Chief in 1994, and Fire Chief in 2000. While Fire Chief, Chief Leighton oversaw the final planning and initial construction of Fire Station 5, and was active in the design and construction of the Truckee Meadows Regional Public Safety Training Center. Chief Leighton also oversaw the construction of the Sparks Fire Department’s Firefighter Memorial and the implementation of the 48/96 schedule for suppression employees.
The department's ninth Fire Chief was Tom Clewell. Chief Clewell joined the department in 1971 and was promoted to Pump Operator 1975, Captain in 1978, Battalion Chief in 1990, and Deputy Chief in 2000. In 2004, Chief Clewell was promoted to Fire Chief. In the First year of his administration, the department has re-organized management staff to handle increased workloads. He has also overseen the construction of Fire Station 5. During his tenure, the department was awarded about $1 million in grants.
The department's tenth Fire Chief is Andy Flock. Chief Flock joined the department in 1983 as a volunteer/auxillary firefighter. In 1984 he became a paid firefighter and was promoted to Pump Operator 1987, Captain in 1993, Battalion Chief in 2001, and Division Chief in 2004. In 2008, Chief Flock was promoted to Fire Chief.
From left to right: Robert Young (Captain in Charge of Prevention 1956-1963), Floyd Johnson (Captain in Charge of Prevention 1963-1971), William Tapia ( Fire Marshal 1975-1977)
Past Fire Marshals: Pat Drescher (1977-1980) and Steve Chapman (1980-1997)
This picture is the first motorized fire apparatus purchased by the Sparks Fire Department in 1917. It is an American LaFrance 300 gpm pumper/chemical truck with 75 horsepower. The building in the background was used as a fire station until the City purchased its first Fire Station located at 12th and C Streets. Firefighters pictured: Lou Season, Fire Chief W.R. Shaber, Ray Craze, Harry Foote, Harry Baker, Bill Cassinelli, Frank Anderson, and Elwood Beemer.
Pictures from the 1940s through the 1960s
The Sparks Fire Department's 1943 City Champion Softball Team
Top (L. to R.): C. Jones, G. Smith, W. Morby, M. Luchessi, M. Piggott, G. Greenwood
Bottom (L. to R.): B. Balnap, C. Moss, R. Cultin, J. Irwin, A. Smith, Sr., M. Rouse
Captain Smith 1952
Early Protective Clothing
1957 Sparks Fire Department Personnel Picture
From its inception until the early 1970s, the Sparks Fire Department provided ambulance transport services. The following pictures show some of the ambulances used, as well as incidents involving ambulance service. Of particular note is a picture of the Sparks Fire Department's ambulance business card.
Sparks Fire Department Ambulance ServiceSparks Fire Department's Ambulance Business Card
Additional Ambulance Pictures
Walking Through Fire
Early Fire Prevention Vehicle
1964 Nevada Centennial Dress-Up
Sparks Fire Department Christmas Party
Early Pictures of the Fire Crews
Presented below are the earliest known pictures of the Sparks Fire Department personnel. While the department does not have dates for these pictures, most of these pictures appear to be from 1905 or shortly thereafter. The group and single person pictures of department personnel dressed for the Fireman's Ball appear to be from the 1910s or early 1920s.
Other Early Pictures of the Sparks Fire Department
In the early days of the department, the most significant fire was the Robinson House fire. Pictured below is a photograph of the burned out building taken shortly after the fire. The impact of this fire was felt throughout the community. As a result, the Sparks Fire Department used a color drawing of this fire as the cover on the invitations for the first Fireman's Ball held on April 6, 1906. The other three pictures are the first Fire Chief badge, the department's first fire station (acquired in 1917) and a restored, original horse cart.