90 Years of Service: The Shawnee Fire Department

Times have changed since the early days of the Shawnee Fire Department, when in 1924 a group of businessmen gathered donations from local residents to buy a truck for fire protection.  Ninety years ago, the force consisted of 20 volunteers and the truck that residents pitched in and purchased for them.  A siren on top of the station on Barton Drive in downtown Shawnee would alert the all-volunteer fire department to emergency calls.

In fact, Shawnee’s entire fire department remained an all-volunteer effort until the 1970s, when the first paid member was hired.  The volunteer program remained an important aspect of the Shawnee Fire Department until it was discontinued in 2009 due to budget cuts.

Shawnee firefighters in 1967.

The Shawnee Fire Department was still an all-volunteer force when this photo was taken in 1967.

Today the force consists of 58 firefighters and two civilian administration employees spread out across three stations.  Shawnee firefighters work what is known as the Berkeley Schedule; 24 hours on, 24 hours off in nine day rotations.  The firefighters are usually incredibly busy.  In 2013, the department responded to approximately 5,200 calls, an average of more than 14 each day.

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Shawnee firefighters Mark Gomez and Brett Jensen in September 2014.

Firefighting is an extremely dangerous profession, and the men and women who serve put their lives on the line every day.  Tragically, the Shawnee Fire Department suffered the only fatality in its history in 2010 when John Glaser, a six-year veteran, died in a house fire.  Glaser’s equipment still hangs in his locker at Station 71, a tribute to a fallen comrade, and a reminder of the dangers and risks that firefighters face every day on the job.

– Matt Gilligan, Johnson County Museum

John Glaser's locker at Station 71.

John Glaser’s locker at Station 71.

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