Kearney Fire Department History

History of Kearney Fire & Rescue

Saving Property and Lives for Over 100 Years

What started as an all-volunteer group of concerned citizens has grown into a dedicated organization of paid professional personnel and trained and certified volunteer crew members.

Each team member has the same goal: doing what they do so “that others may live.”


Get to Know the Kearney Fire Department History

The Beginning

  • The earliest record of a fire department in Kearney is from a newspaper article from the Kansas City Star, dated in 1910.
  • A Sanborn map identifies an unorganized volunteer fire department with 4–6 personnel and one hand engine, dated 1915.

The Fire of '48

  • After a large fire on what is now known as Prospect St. in 1948, nearly 150 citizens presented a petition at the City Council meeting on December 6th, 1948, asking that some type of firefighting equipment be purchased.
  • In January 1949, the city decided to put a bond issue on the May ballot for $5,000 to construct a building and purchase the first ever fire engine for the city of Kearney. After a 90% “yes” vote, the city purchased a 1935 Ford Fire Engine, “Old Red,” which would be housed in the newly constructed fire station. That building would later serve as not only the fire station, but also city hall and the police department, and now it is the “Old Firehouse Community Center”. The building of the fire station was also the beginning of organized fire protection in the community.

Serving Kearney and Beyond

  • With the formation of a formal fire department, Kearney Fire was able to serve those outside the city limits on an annual dues paid membership. Along with serving citizens outside the city, they also provided what we now call Mutual Aid to other departments surrounding Kearney, such as Holt. The city of Kearney grew its protection to the city by adding a second fire truck in the 1960s, a 1957 Ford, which is now owned by the Firefighters Association of Kearney.
  • When Kearney added a second fire truck, a fire insurance classification rating of 8 was granted to the city by the Missouri Inspection Bureau.
  • In 1967, the Kearney Fire Department purchased a new Chevy fire engine, which can be seen in most parades in the city today. It is also currently owned by the Firefighters Association of Kearney.

Growth in the 70's

  • With the growing size of the town of Kearney and the need for more equipment, in the 1970s, the Kearney Fire Department was able to purchase military surplus apparatus to include a tanker, a brush firefighting jeep, and a military ambulance to be used as a rescue vehicle.
  • In 1974, Kearney added their first EMTs to the department through one of the state’s first EMT-Basic classes. With this new certification, the department added some medical equipment to respond more equipped for different types of emergencies.

Building in the 80's

  • In 1981, a $270,000 bond issue was passed to acquire land, construct a new four-bay, 6,000-square-foot fire station, and purchase a new 1,000 gallon per minute Ford Engine. This station, which is part of the current station, was constructed for $170,000, with several individuals from the community donating labor or materials to construct a very functional building for under $30 per square foot. In December, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating improved from a Class 8 to Class 7 for the city.
  • In 1985, the department began a major fundraising effort by establishing bingo games from Labor Day through Memorial Day for five years. These efforts raised over $80,000, with some of the major items purchased being our first rescue tool (jaws of life), the first year’s payment of a four-year lease for the following equipment, the purchase of a new stainless steel tanker, and the purchase of a new 1988 truck with a rescue body.

Establishing the Fire Protection District

  • Seeing the need to increase funding to provide the increase in services, an issue was presented to the voters in August of 1990 to establish a fire protection district to include ambulance service, not only for the city but the surrounding area as well. The fire district vote was successful, encompassing 85 square miles, and began operations in January of 1991, with the ambulance service beginning February 1, 1991. That also included the hiring of the first full-time Firefighter/EMT personnel. We began the ambulance service with two new ambulances in February of 1991. The current equipment and facility were transferred from the city to the fire district in exchange for the district paying the annual fee of the remaining $270,000 bond payment through 2001. One of the new ambulances was struck while on the scene of a call on I-35 and was completely destroyed, resulting in the replacement with a 1992 ambulance. Two small ambulance bays and a small addition to the dormitory area were added to the station in 1994. In September of 1995, the first three career Firefighter Paramedics were hired, allowing us to improve our ambulance service from basic life support to advanced life support capabilities. In 1996, we replaced our 1980s Brush truck with a new unit and refurbished the rescue truck into a second brush truck vehicle. The ISO rating improved to a class 7 in the rural area.
  • A new 75′ aerial ladder truck (Quint) was delivered from Pierce in January of 1998, which was the result of part of our 1996 strategic plan. In December of 1998, we added three more career Firefighter EMTs, allowing for a shift officer on each shift. 2001 was one of the most active years, with equipment upgrades and additional personnel. The career Fire Chief position was established beginning March 1, 2001, with Larry Pratt being appointed Chief, who served as Chief since 1975 as a city department and was appointed as a part-time position when the district began in 1991.

New Transport in the New Millenium

  • In August of 2001, a new engine was placed in service, replacing the 1981 Engine. Two new 2001 Freightliner state-of-the-art ambulances were placed in service in October, replacing the 1990 and 1992 van models. In December of 2001, three more career personnel began, giving us four full-time personnel per shift.
  • In July of 2002, the contract was awarded for the station addition and refurbishment of the existing building, which would not only provide for the current needs, but also took into account future career personnel and other services. The 10,000 square foot addition was moved into in May of 2003, providing a larger and state-of-the-art training room, large kitchen and day room, wellness & fitness room, dormitory for twelve personnel, men and women’s bath and shower facilities, four offices, conference room, duty office, EMS supply and equipment room, laundry and equipment cleaning room, second floor equipment and record storage, mechanical room, and full basement under new addition for future needs. August 1st of 2003, Clay County Sheriff’s Office began our primary dispatching, allowing us to remove the fire phone system that had been in operation since the 1960s. The ISO rating improved to a class 5 for the city in April 2003.
  • A $0.25 levy increase was successfully approved in August of 2004. specifically for adding career personnel, and six more career personnel were hired in December of 2004, which put us at six people per shift. In November of 2004, the ISO rating improved to a class 5 for the rural area. We were not able to add additional personnel until January 2010, when three were added, giving us seven personnel per shift and allowing us to staff both ambulances and an engine.

From '10 to Now

  • In April 2010, voters approved a $3.5 million bond issue. In 3 years, the department replaced both brush trucks, replaced two tankers with one, replaced an Engine, replaced the Quint, and replaced both ambulances. Along with the new apparatus, the basement was finished into a large training room and fitness center.
  • In 2015, it was identified that the district needed a risk reduction program, thus creating the Fire Marshal position. The first full-time Fire Marshal was hired in March of 2015. This position was created to enforce the city of Kearney adopted International Fire Code.
  • Three more full-time personnel were hired and added in January of 2016, making 8 personnel per shift.
  • In April 2022, an additional operational levy of $0.15 cents was approved to primarily address employee recruitment and retention.
  • In 2023, in conjunction with the district’s strategic plan, the need for succession planning was identified. In response to that need, the district created three Assistant Chief positions to assist with administrative duties as well as run day-to-day operations. Three new Captains were also promoted to handle company-level supervision.

Meet the Team

These are the people in the big yellow trucks who place community  first, dedicating their life’s work to safety, quality, and care in the Kearney Fire and Rescue Protection District.



Being a firefighter, EMT, or rescue specialist is not so much a career as it is a calling. Come join a progressive, innovative combination emergency services department—and spend your days saving lives. Download our application today.


Get Ready to Make a Difference

From safety training to CPR, first aid to fire permits, child seat inspection to community outreach programs, contact us today and find out how your Kearney Fire and Rescue Protection District can help you live more safely.

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