AVFD History

History of the Angleton Volunteer Fire Department

Due to lost records in a fire and to the informal nature of  early fire fighting efforts in Angleton, no formal historical documentation of the Angleton Volunteer Fire Department is available that reflects the beginning and early life of the department.  For this reason, some of the facts below are pieced together through interviews with retired members and extensive research from dedicated members, such as Arnold Langston and Rick Perry.

In the early 1900’s, the men that provided fire fighting services to the City of Angleton were true volunteers.

The father of the late Neal Giesecke Senior, who was known to all as “Grandpa”, was one of the cornerstones of the early fire department.  During this time, himself and his children (Neal, Bell, and Johnny) along with Tom Smith and others who happened to be around fought the fires as they happened.  They had a pump on wheels and pulled it to the fires.  Once at the fire, they would pump water from wells, water-troughs, and ponds.  Later this fire fighting apparatus was replaced with a Ford truck driven by Bill Van Dorn.

On March 21, 1928, the fire department was officially organized with Neal Giesecke Sr. as the chief.  Other members who helped form this band of heroes were W. H. Lee, J. B. Jackson, J. G. Jackson, B.D. Sweeney, H. H. Sharpe, Woody Welch, Bell Giesecke, W. G. Stewart, Bob Bailes, F. B. Cannon, Fred Burridge, L. C. Wait, Henry  Sims, Dave Smith, and Dave Hill.  The Trustees of the newly form fire department were Thomas
Morrison, Harry Sharpe, and E. R. Cannan.

With the City of Angleton growing, the department replaced the old Ford truck with a chemical truck with a pump.  This would be the only fire apparatus that the members had until they moved into their first official fire house.  Until then, the members continued to meet and store their prized fire truck in a sheet-iron building, but as years pasted, the department soon took residence in their first fire station.  After moving, the Angleton
Volunteer Fire Department bought their second apparatus.  This was a white Ford fire truck.  Since then with the support of the City of Angleton, its citizens, Brazoria County, and most important the devotion of all the current and past fire fighters and their families, the department has flourished into highly respected department with approximately 40 members and 10 fire apparatus.  The Department currently has two fire stations; one in the center of town and one on the south side of town.  Sometime at the beginning of 2002, the Department will be the proud owners of a 3rd station on the north side of town.

Even though the level of required training and types of emergencies has changed since the early 1900’s, one thing stays constant.  The brave members who sacrifice their time and energy that make up the Angleton Volunteer Fire Department will continue to protect and serve Angleton and the surrounding area to their fullest extent.  This devotion and honor is what brings pride to the City of Angleton and the family of the Angleton
Volunteer Fire Department.

History of Fire Fighting

The earliest known fire fighters protected the City of Rome, Italy. After a disastrous fire that destroyed large portions of Rome in 6 A.D., the Emperor Augustus instituted the CROPS of VIGILES who were to protect Rome for the next 500 years. The 7,000 member force was organized into districts and had a system of ranks for officers. The VIGILES were uniformed and equipped with buckets and axes. In addition to their fire suppression
activities, they performed police duties including the enforcement of fire prevention activities.

The first known fire engine was invented in approximately the fourth century B.C. by a Greek named Ctesibuis. This simple device remained the basic mechanical method that operated hand pumps until modern times.

The first fire protection organization in America was formed by the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant in 1647. The members of the force patrolled the streets of what is now New York carrying noisemakers that they used to awaken the populace when they discovered a fire. They were called: The Rattle Watch.

The most popular of the early fire engines, the “Newsham” was developed in 1721 by Richard Newsham. This machine was very effective and could be used by any size department or fire fighting force.

The FIRST, Fire Department, Fire Station with engine and paid fire fighters was placed in service by the City of Boston in 1679. In 1715, they had six engines manned and in service.

The volunteer fire service as we know it today came into being through the forming of mutual protection societies established in 1718 by interested and concerned Boston property owners. Each member of these societies would respond to an alarm of fire with their equipment: Bucket and bag bearing societies emblem, bed key and screw driver. Duties during fire was to: Proceed to member’s premises, prevent loss of life, dismantle bed with key and remove valuables, assist regular fire fighters, post fire, and guard premises and assist in salvage operations.

1736 – First Volunteer Fire Company – The Union Volunteer Fire Company was organized in Philadelphia by Ben Franklin.

1867 – New York City replace their volunteer department with a full-time professional fire fighting force of 585 men in 1871. Philadelphia bid farewell to the last of their volunteer fire companies when the paid department was placed in service.

The new and improved fire apparatus available to the professional and volunteer fire departments alike now included horse drawn: Steam fire engines, hose reels and wagons, combination chemical and hose wagons, city service ladder trucks and in 1873, mechanically raised aerial ladders and water towers.

The Dalmatian was brought into fire service to keep the horses company in their stalls while in the fire station. After a run the horses were always still excited and the Dalmatian would help calm them down, so the fire fighters could rest.

First Motorized fire apparatus, Wayne, Pennsylvania in 1906.

By 1920, most departments were using motorized fire equipment. The last known run of a motorized steam pumper was by the New York Fire Department in 1941.

The trumpets used today to identify chief officers dates back to when senior members of their departments would shout orders to their fire fighters, through the use of trumpets. The Three Crossed Trumpets, Assistant Chief; Four Crossed Trumpets, Deputy Chief; Five Crossed Trumpets, Fire Chief.

The Maltese Cross or Patee-Nowy used even today as a dress badge or shoulder patch used to identify members of a Fire Department, is copied from the insignia worn by knights during the Crusades.

History of Maltese Cross

The eight-point Maltese Cross is the symbol for fire service across the world that represents their willingness to take high risk and make great sacrifices in order to protect others from the ravages of fire.  Basically, it is a badge of honor and courage for fire fighters everywhere.

The Maltese Cross originated with a group of eleventh century knights, who were serving in a Jerusalem hospital.  They were known as the Order of Knights Hospitaller and soon became known as the Knights of St. John.  These brave souls cared for the sick and injured with great pride along with a loving touch.

Later, they assisted the Knights of the Crusades in their effort to win back the Holy Land from the Saracens. As the Knights attacked the city walls, the Saracens first threw glass bombs containing highly flammable liquids, followed by flaming torches.  Many knights were severely burned and some suffered agonizing deaths. Risking the chance of a horrible death and potential pain, some of the remaining Knights struggled desperately to help their burning comrades by beating out the flames and dragging them to safety.  In acknowledgment of their heroic efforts in rescuing their fellow knights and fighting fires, the cross they wore was decorated and inscribed.

In 1530, the Island of Malta was given to the courageous knights.  The symbol on their flag, the eight-point cross, became known as the “Maltese Cross.”  The cross, which had originally helped the knights distinguish between friend and foe, became the ultimate symbol of courage and heroism.  The cross, which is considered sacred, represents the principles of charity, loyalty, chivalry, gallantry, generosity to friend and foe along with the protection of the weak and helpless.

Today, firefighters wear the Maltese Cross to symbolize their willingness to risk their lives to save others from the ravages of fire.