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JPR Feature
Medford Fire Department   
Tuesday March 1, 2005
By Dawna Curler

Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson

Back in 1890, Medford, Oregon, formed its first official fire department: "Protection Hose Company Number One." Each man's uniform cost $3.75 and included a traditional red, flannel shirt.

Now at the time, the Medford Fire Department was still using horse teams to pull its firefighting rigs. The first two horses to join the force were named "Skinny" and "Rastus" (rass-tuss); then came "Tom" and "Jerry." But in 1912, the first motorized fire engines arrived on the scene, and let's just say it was an adjustment for everyone involved.

A fun but undocumented story circulated around the firehouse for years and went something like this:

The department's horses were retired when it acquired a gasoline-powered "Pope-Hartford" pumper. A West Medford farmer bought one of the handsome steeds that had been trained to respond without hesitation to the fire bell. One day, the horse and farmer were plowing a field when the bell started clanging.

Well, there was no stopping that horse as he headed on a dead run for the firehouse. Witnesses said he and the farmer plowed a furrow all the way to the railroad tracks that ran in front of the fire station.

Today the horses may be gone, but at least their tales still live on..
Today's episode of As It Was was written and edited by Dawna Curler the program engineer is Raymond Scully.  I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.  To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org

"Red Flannel and Flame," by Dawna Curler, Table Rock Sentinel, May/June 1989, pp.2-10.

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