History Of The Cortez Volunteer Fire Department

The first Fire Department was organized in the spring of 1911. At this meeting, enthusiastically attended, were about twenty men; Jim Gawith was elected Fire Chief and Tom Omo was elected Secretary.

Since there was no water system, and no need for fire equipment except perhaps a chemical engine, which was expensive, there was no fire department prior to 1911. Water was used from irrigation ditches running along the side streets, a few reservoirs, and a few wells.  But in 1910 and 1911 the first city water system was completed, and fire hydrants were placed as they thought needed.

Then fire equipment was purchased which consisted of a two-wheel hose cart with hose rolled on a cylinder. It was manned by manpower, or it could be hooked onto a wagon or even horseback drawn vehicle. The fire hose cart and equipment and perhaps one ladder were behind where the Wilson Building now stands, and next to the alley.

There was, for many years, a siren on the back of the Montezuma Valley National Bank (present Community Bank building), which was touched off from the Telephone Office.

“Major Fires That Threatened The Town”

Cortez has had our share of fires; however, some of the fires almost destroyed entire city blocks.
Research in Cortez newspaper revealed we had:

March 8, 1898 – Thirteen Buildings burned – only one building was saved and one stable. This fire was located on the south side of Main Street beginning with the business located on the corner of South Chestnut and Main Streets and burning six business on Main Street plus six on South Chestnut. In addition two stables burned but one building (Herman building) in the area of Citizens State Bank and one stable (off of alley behind Cortez Travel) were saved.

February 22, 1908 – Guillet Roller Mill

Sept. 29, 1908 – Everything west of the Stone building burned and know as the Hotel Clifton Fire.

January 2, 1919 – Bozman Garage Fire – on the corner of South Chestnut and Main Street. This fire resulted in the loss of 32 cars plus the building.

November 28, 1929 – D.H. Sayler Building on Main Street (area of El Grande Cafe) plus damage to other buildings.

June 11, 1931 – Highway Barn (County Barn) which was located next to the First County Courthouse. This fire threatened the Montezuma County Courthouse and the Records, however most of the Road Equipment was out at work and only the building and shop tools were lost.

About 1930 – The Mosher warehouse fire – corner of First Street and North Beech. A mass meeting was called by the townspeople to form the present fire department following this fire. Only two hose carts were available to the fire fighters. The carts were utilized until November, 1934 when the city purchased a 1933 Chevrolet fire truck. The new truck was purchased after a blaze destroyed the three buildings on West Main in November 1934.

November 16, 1934 – Buildings between Hopper Stone & Cortez Sentinel on the south side of Main Street. This fire sometimes referred to as “The Bensey Fire” and three buildings were destroyed.

April 1919 – Episcopal Church Fire

About 1930 – Congregational Church Fire

December 29, 1949 – Wark Milling Company Fire.

About 1957 – Empire Electric Fire.

In the 1960’s – The Central Hotel Fire.

* The Above mentioned fires are only a few of the”bad ones”. Many home fires also threatened other structures.


Fire Danger
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Cortez, CO

Last Updated on Jan 19 2018, 8:53 pm MST

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