Fire/EMS History


      This horse drawn 1904 Howe 80 gal. pumper was used 110 years ago by Erlanger Fire/EMS


ERLANGER VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT ~ From a rather humble beginning in a stable with a horse drawn hand operated fire engine and a handful of concerned citizens, the Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department evolved into a multi-station department, equipped with a wide variety of first class fire apparatus and manned by a combination of volunteer and paid personnel.

Shortly after Erlanger was incorporated in 1897, the city’s board of trustees decided to purchase a fire engine to protect the citizens and their property. This was accomplished in 1904 when the Howe Engine Company supplied a first class engine for $700. The apparatus could be hand pulled or horse drawn and consisted of a 60 gallon oak storage tank with a hand operated pump mounted on four wagon wheels. Up to 14 men could position themselves around the hand operated pump. Andy Scheben, Sr., was appointed fire chief and the apparatus was housed in his stables which were part of the Scheben Hotel/Restaurant located at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and the old Lexington Pike.

About 1910, the fire engine was moved to Taliaferro’s Livery/Mortuary where Gabbo’s is now located. Misfortune struck about 1918 when someone forgot to put salt in the tank water and the pump was destroyed by a heavy freeze. A replacement consisted of a 60 gallon soda-acid two wheeled tank which was equipped with 25 feet of rubber hose and a handle. This unit was usually pulled to the fire scene by holding the handle while riding on the back of a wagon. When Dempsey’s Garage was built in 1921, this apparatus was moved across the street into the new garage. To supplement this portable tank, a new “Reo” fire truck was purchased from Covington by the VFW about 1925. It was also housed in Dempsey’s Garage.

In 1928, the Erlanger Board of Trustees passed an ordinance creating the position of fire chief and authorizing the organization of the Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department. Andy Scheben, Jr., became the fire chief and inspector. A 500 gallon per minute pumper equipped with a large hose bed and a 200 gallon water tank, the top of the line for that day, was purchased in 1929. This vehicle was powered by a 12 cylinder Studebaker engine. The new equipment was used at the huge Boone-Kenton Lumber yard Fire in 1931 and pumped for 18 straight hours in an effort to control the fire.

On October 29, 1931, amidst much fanfare including a parade and guest speakers, the fire trucks were moved to their new home on Erlanger Road in the rear of the Scheben Hardware Store next door to the city hall. Following World War II, a 500 GPM 1952 Ford replaced the Reo. In 1959, the old Studebaker was replaced with a 500 GPM GMC. After 31 years at the Erlanger Road location, the fire department moved its equipment to the new city building at the corner Commonwealth Avenue and Baker Street in 1962. A four wheel drive jeep was converted into a rescue truck in 1963. Since the fire department had moved away from the center of town, an additional fire station was opened in 1965 on Alice Street to serve the rapidly developing areas east of Dixie Highway. With Erlanger’s population increasing beyond 12,000 in 1970 and with a corresponding increase in commercial property, larger capacity pumpers were needed. A 1000 GPM Pirsch was purchased in 1970 and a Stuphen 85 feet Aerial Platform, the only one of its kind in northern Kentucky, was purchased in 1975. A 1975 GMC Rescue Truck replaced the jeep for rescue operations.

Meanwhile, Station Number Two obtained a 1000 GPM pumper that differed from other equipment in that the control panel was mounted on top rather than the side. This enabled the engineer to view the entire fire scene without moving. Once again the quarters at Station Number One was becoming cramped, so a new fire station was built on Graves Avenue in 1979 directly across the street from the from the old station. To serve the expanding neighborhoods of the city in the Narrows Road area, a third fire station was opened in 1991. Major improvements were made that year as two new pumpers were added to the department’s equipment and Bill Martin, the first paid fire chief in the department’s history, was hired. In 1992, the Erlanger Rescue Squad merged with the Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department to create The Erlanger Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department under the direction of Chief Martin. Under Chief Martin, the department has continued to provide the educational programs for the community. Instruction is regularly provided for CPR and for caring for patients until the EMS team arrives.

The Erlanger Fire Department has served the community well for over 100 years. Many citizens have accepted the call to participate in this necessary community service. It would be difficult to name a discipline that has not been represented on the department. The Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department has always placed a major emphasis on training of personnel. Merits of new and different types of equipment and training have always been thoroughly investigated. With proper training and the support of city officials, the department has been able to effectively protect the citizens and their property from fire.

Since the beginning of the Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department, nine individuals have stepped forward to accept the challenges of serving as chief of the department. Those who have served as chief include:

› Andy Scheben Sr. 1904-1927
› Andy Scheben Jr. 1928-1958
› Fred Ficke 1959-1969
› Clayton Vancamp 1970-1975
› Fred Scheben 1976
› Jack Scheben 1976-1988
› Peter Debruyn 1989
› Chris Beckman 1990-1991
› Bill Martin 1991-2004
› Tim Koenig 2004-2009
› Terry Allen 2009-2013

Present Chief - William Whitaker

In August 1996, the Erlanger Fire & EMS Department was honored with the selection of Jack Scheben, a volunteer in the department for 50 years and former chief, as National Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. This award was presented to Mr. Scheben in Kansas City by the National Volunteer Council. Mr. Scheben’s service on the department exemplifies work done by the many volunteers who have served on the Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department for more than 90 years. His award is a tribute to each of them.

ERLANGER RESCUE SQUAD ~ Prior to 1968, whenever an Erlanger citizen needed emergency transportation to a hospital, it was provided by one of the local funeral homes. In 1968, the funeral home owners notified the city that due to increasing costs and difficulties in obtaining insurance coverage, they would no longer be able to provide the service. For a time, The Elsmere Life Squad stepped in to meet the needs of Erlanger citizens, however, that department was not equipped to provide long term service to both cities. A committee of the Erlanger City Council was formed to find a solution to the problem. This group chaired by Mr. Jack Huff, met with the Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department and other interested citizens. They concluded that the City of Erlanger needed its own life squad.

The Erlanger Rescue Squad, an all volunteer organization, was formed during the fall of 1969 and went into full operation in January 1970. The first Colonel was Glenn Wells. The original members were trained in first aid by Paul Seibert of the Ludlow Volunteer Fire Department. The first ambulance, purchased with a combination of federal and state funds, cost less than $15,000 fully equipped. A fully equipped vehicle being considered for purchase in 1996 costs more than $100,000. Training for today’s EMT’s consist of a 170 hour course of study which leads to title of Certified Emergency Medical Technician.

ERLANGER FIRE AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES ~ In 1992, the Erlanger Rescue Squad was merged with the Erlanger Volunteer Fire Department to create the Erlanger Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. As of 2012, the Department includes approximately 85 personnel. Currently the department encompasses 25 full time, 45 part time, and the remaining personnel are paid on call and or volunteer. Many hours of continuing education are required each year in order to maintain this certification. Operating costs of the Erlanger Fire/EMS are mostly provided by city tax dollars and a generous amount of grant monies. 



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