On November 30, 1959, the Ford County Commission passed a resolution establishing a fire district within Ford County covering 144 square miles around Dodge City. Resolution Number 17 also contracted the Dodge City Fire Department to provide fire protection to this district beginning on July 1st, 1960.
On August 9, 1963, the Ford County Civil Defense organization was formed by Ford County Resolution Number 20 and Mr. Roland May was assigned as the director. Mr. May resigned his post and Mr. John Nail was appointed to fill the vacancy effective July 1, 1965. However, this appointment was moved up to June 13, 1965 out of necessity as torrential rains in eastern Colorado sent a wall of water down the Arkansas River towards Dodge City and flooding the south part of town.
The department's first station was located at Water and Woodland from 1967 to 1969. From there, it moved to 113 North 2nd Avenue, until it was evicted by the landlord, Mr. Leonard, so that he could open up a tire store. The new home for the department was at Water and Forrest. From 1971 to 2002, the station was at 91 North First Street. The department rented apparatus space and one bathroom from the landlord and shared the building with a few other businesses. A bunk room was located above the apparatus bay and a fire pole installed. Eventually, the county bought the building and became the sole occupant.
By May of 1966, the Civil Defense Department had volunteer stations in Ford, Kingsdown, Bucklin, and Spearville in addition to the one in Dodge City. There were approximately 10 fire trucks between the stations, most of which were army surplus vehicles converted into fire trucks. The conversions were performed by the volunteer members and many parts donated.
On April 27, 1970, the County Commissioners passed a resolution forming another fire district covering the remainder of the county, excluding the towns of Bucklin and Spearville.
On May 14, 1971, firefighter Tommy Cox was killed while responding to a rural grass fire. The Jeep fire truck he was driving swerved to avoid traffic, lost control, and slammed into a utility pole at 14th Avenue and Wyatt Earp Boulevard. Mike Nail, the passenger in the truck was slightly injured in the accident.
On August 30, 1971, the County Commissioners passed resolution Number 24 that combined the two fire districts and cancelled the contract with Dodge City Fire Department.
On January 1, 1974, the County Commission terminated an Ambulance Service Agreement with the Dodge City Fire Department and began providing ambulance services for all of Ford County. There had been an ambulance service in Dodge City for the previous 90 years. Ham Bell operated the first ambulance, a horse drawn carriage, before purchasing a Chamblers ambulance in 1918. Mr. Bell transported patients during the 1883 black pox epidemic and again in a 1918 influenza epidemic. During these times, Mr. Bell never became ill. He sold his ambulance to the Hulpieu Morgan Funeral Home and they, along with the Barber Dunsford Funeral Home, responded to ambulance calls until 1965 when, according to Mr. Robert Swaim, "It was realized that we did not belong in the ambulance business, not because of a conflict of interest." A private ambulance company sprung up by the name of Gold Cross and was in service until the Dodge City Fire Department took over.
In 1978, John Nail retired as Chief of Ford County Fire and Civil Defense. Otto Walters was appointed chief and remained until 1998. By this time, Civil Defense had become known as Emergency Preparedness and this function was separated from the fire department. Mr. Walters retained his position as Emergency Preparedness Director and Mr. Dean Dow was hired as Chief of Ford County Fire and EMS, as it was then referred to.
In August of 2002, station 1 moved into its new and current location at 10996 113 Road Chief Dow resigned shortly thereafter, Mr. Walters retired as Emergency Preparedness Director, Mr. Russ Smith was appointed as Fire Chief and Emergency Preparedness merged with the fire department.
In 2004, Ford County Fire and EMS was selected by the Kansas Fire Marshals Office to be home to one of the state's Hazardous Materials Response teams.
Present Day Department
Many faces have come and gone from the ever evolving department that started out with practically nothing during a flood and has grown to:
- 2 rescue trucks
- 6 stations
- 7 ambulances
- 20 fire trucks
- 25 full time employees
- Nearly 50 part-time employees