Fire Department

The Sixties - Continued...

Herman "Kit" Carson

On December 12, 1964, Fire Chief William H. Trelease passed away leaving behind a very large pair of shoes to fill. Assistant Chief Herman Carson was named the new Fire Chief, and Fire Marshall Clell Henley was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief. During his tenure at the Clark County Fire Department, Chief Carson had served as firefighter, engineer, captain, fire marshal, assistant chief, and finally, fire chief. He served in the last position from December 1964 until January 1971. For 18 years, Chief Herman "Kit" Carson led the department, fostering its growth and development. He passed away in Kimberling City, Missouri in 1993.

With the rapid growth of the valley and the department itself, the need for new stations, and especially a central station, increased tremendously. As a result, two new station were built and an improved dispatch system was added.

Station 14, located at 3875 East Desert Inn Road (Paradise Township), was designated as the central station. In addition to the standard two bays, the station housed the administrative office, Fire Prevention, the Hydrant division, and the Mechanical Division.

Station 14 Crew

Station 15 opened in 1965. This station, located at 3480 Valley View Boulevard, housed one rescue unit as well as the offices of the Fire Prevention Bureau. Station 15 was the first to be located on the west side of the railroad tracks that connected Las Vegas to southern California and Utah. This was a significant improvement since emergency responses to the west side of the valley had been sometimes delayed while units waited for trains to pass.

Built right next to a small county park inhabited by a large number of wild rabbits, Station 15 soon became home to an "unofficial" department unit - "The Rabbit Corps." In the mornings before shift change, it wasn't uncommon to see a rabbit wandering into the “barn” to give a friendly reminder that breakfast needed to be served.

The new dispatch system was formed in April 1965. Four firefighters were assigned as full time radio dispatchers at Station 11. Working days, swing shift, and graveyard, Monte Skaggs, Ray Limley, and William E. Williams kept the trucks busy with emergency calls. The first dispatch supervisor was Lieutenant Leland Sandquist.

As southern Nevada continued to attract new residents and visitors, the department continued to grow. With it grew the need for a new central station, a facility that would carry the department through the years to come. From this need sprang Station 18, a facility that combined two existing stations. The original Station 18, built in 1967, was located at 707 E. Desert Inn Road in Winchester Township. It was dedicated to the memory of William Trelease, the first Chief of the Clark County Fire Department. Sadly, the original Station 18 was closed in December of 1990. The facility was turned over to the Las Vegas Convention Authority, remodeled, and is still in use today. The new Station 18, the busiest station in the state, is located at 575 E. Flamingo Road and is a combined facility running old Station 18 and old Station 11 units.

January 1, 1968 was a significant day for one third of the suppression forces, as that was the birthday of C platoon, affectionately known as “Weird C”. The department instituted the three-platoon system and corresponding 56-hour work week.

As the valley grew so did the number of responses. It became clear that the department needed a separate division to handle the increasing number of phone calls and dispatches. In January 1968, the department hired four civilian dispatchers to take over the alarm duties. William E. Williams became the first civilian dispatch supervisor, overseeing his team of Daisy Hawks, Arleana Harris, Dorothy Barton, and Gloria de Valcourt. The dispatch function in the fire service has gained an increased role. With pre-arrival instructions, dispatchers can often be credited with saving lives.

March 1, 1968 was one of the blackest days in the history of the Clark County Fire Department. The day began as any other - just another shift. At about 3:00 P.M., Colin Hanley noticed a cloud of smoke growing to the north. Colin went into the station and asked Captain Roy Walch, the training officer, to check it out. The dark cloud continued to grow just north of Station 14. The crew was still looking at the smoke as the call came in: 1611 Mojave Road, the Sandstone Company Dice Factory. The Captain of Engine 14 had a crew consisting of Engineer Dal Angel, and Firefighters Glen Ernest and Colin Hanley. It was the first unit to arrive. The building was well involved when Engine 14 began laying lines. Hanley took a line and began operating at the rear of the building. A short time later, Colin shut down his line and went back to the engine. He told Engineer Angel that he thought he needed some oxygen. Angel went for the resuscitator and Hanley headed for the tailboard to sit down. He didn’t make it. Colin collapsed into the arms of Marson "Nig" Harris. Efforts to resuscitate Colin went unrewarded. Colin died. His death was attributed to inhalation of phosgene gas (the same phosgene gas used in chemical warfare) that was given off from the burning celluloid cubes used in the manufacturing of dice.

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