Fire Department

The Sixties ...

In one of the most spectacular fires to date in the valley, the El Rancho Vegas Hotel and Casino burned down on June 17, 1960. This fire showed the valley its power and totally destroyed the hotel. Nonetheless, this disaster would soon, in fact, become one of the lesser known hotel fires the department would come to face. For more details on this and other large fires in the Las Vegas valley, visit the Significant Emergencies section.

1961 brought with it a new fire station for the airport. A new Station 13 was located in the base of the airport control tower and boasted a fleet consisting of two crash trucks, a 1,000 gallon water tanker, and a jeep with specialized equipment for crash-fire-rescue operations.

Two stations were added in 1962. The Vegas Heights Station located at 1201 Miller Avenue was later annexed by the City of Las Vegas. Station 17 was created by taking an existing building at 5702 Missouri Street (East Las Vegas Township) and remodeling it. The north section of the station was used to house one pumper and serve as living quarters for the crew of 17. The south portion of the building was turned into a Clark County Sheriffs Station. Prior to 1962, the Whitney Volunteer Fire Department existed for the protection of this township.

Captain Warren with a Tanker in 1967

In an effort to keep the growing number of personnel properly managed, the County created the rank of Battalion Chief. In June of 1962, Norman Forsythe, Clell Henley, and Kyle Pace were the first members of the department to pin on gold BC badges.

On Sunday evening, January 7, 1962, tanker 102 was involved in a disastrous traffic accident at Maryland Parkway and Tropicana Avenue. While responding to a report of a structural fire the tanker was hit in the rear wheels by another vehicle. Tanker 102 was following Engine 101 and a Nevada Highway Patrol unit. Another NHP unit was following the tanker. As the caravan proceeded through the intersection the other car struck the tanker in the rear wheels knocking them completely off the truck. The tanker began a sideways slide until it rolled a couple of times, rupturing the fuel tank and igniting the fuel. The ball of flame from the totaled tanker could be seen as far away as the control tower at McCarran Airport. Lieutenant Glen Ernest had been riding the tailboard of the unit and was thrown clear, suffering a concussion and some other major injuries. Engineer Roy Walch was not fortunate enough to be thrown clear, however. Roy was trapped in the burning wreckage and had to be pulled clear by Kyle Pace and Carl McAllister who had been on Engine 101 in front of the tanker. Engineer Walch, who remained unconscious for six days, suffered a concussion, broken ribs, and other numerous injuries. The other car failed to yield to the tanker as it went through the intersection. The driver and all three passengers were also injured in the wreck.

In January 1964, the department's training division launched its first "Rookie School." It was nothing even remotely close to today's academies. Guided by drillmaster, Bob Taylor, the 12 person school took all of five days to complete. Today, rookie schools run an average of 18 weeks and cover things never even thought of in 1964. As the Training Division grew, the drillmaster position was upgraded to that of Battalion Chief, and eventually a Captain's position was added.

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