This mural contains 2 panels on the north and south inside bay walls of Fire Station #1 and captures a slice of our Fire Department history.
The south wall panel features an outside balcony with figures showing our firefighting gear and technology through the years starting on the leftmost figure from the 1890’s. Looking back to those days, after the arrival of the railroad, Punta Gorda had become a typical frontier boom-town. Flimsy buildings were thrown up quickly in tight clusters and fire was a constant hazard. The bucket brigade was the best defense against fire and is represented here by the first figure.
Our first major fire occurred in November 1895. The City of Punta Gorda Fire Department was established through an Ordinance on March 16, 1897 as an all-volunteer department. The Ordinance also required all citizens to “aid in extinguishing a fire”. If you refused, you could be “deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and be fined not less than $10 or more than $50, or be imprisoned not more than 60 days”. It also called for drilling of reservoirs and purchasing of a fire pump and hose. The town purchased a two-wheel hand-operated hose cart. Two men would pull and another two push the cart to the water source nearest a fire.
In the 1920’s, City Council reorganized the fire department with another ordinance establishing (once again) a volunteer department but this time with some compensation for the firemen. The department consisted of a chief, assistant chief, and not less than 10 nor more than 20 volunteer firemen. Figure 2 shows such a volunteer wearing the jacket and helmet used in the 1920’s – 40’s. This gear was generic and would be on the firetruck when it arrived at the scene and used by whoever showed up to fight the fire. The hose back then was made of cotton and had to be hung to dry after each fire to keep it from rotting.
This volunteer firefighter program was in place until the early 1950’s when the Fire Department hired their first career firefighters — 3 men who rotated their time on duty with a 24 hour shift. Figure 3 depicts our early full-time firemen dressed in the slicker or raincoat of the 1950’s and 1960’s along with roll down hip boots adding additional protection when fighting a fire. This figure pays tribute to long-time firefighter Lieutenant Kerry Sanford.
Moving to Figure 4 we see an early version of the full coverage trousers and coat, and the helmet shield used in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. During this time the department acquired breathing gear that allowed them to begin fighting the fire from the inside.
Figure 5 shows a key figure in the fire department in the early 1980’s, the Fire Inspector. It was during this time that the department began serious efforts to bolster the department’s fire prevention division with more inspections and dedicated fulltime staff. Chief Naylor is pictured here and was the full-time fire inspector at the time (prior to becoming Fire Chief).
Figures 6 and 7 represent our current day dress and technology. Our “City Fire” department is committed to supporting diversity in the department. The City hired our first female firefighter in 2006, shown here with her “Dragon slayer” tool, and our first African American firefighter in 2010, who is also an Army vet. The department is honored to have several veterans on staff. Clearly the breathing apparatus and turn-out gear has changed significantly over the years.
The north side wall contains the second and largest panel.
The City’s first fire truck, a used Seagrave, was purchased in 1922 replacing the 2 wheel hand hose cart that was still being used. This brought Punta Gorda into the modern era of firefighting.
In 1926 the original City Hall was torn down to make way for what is today’s City Hall on the corner of Harvey and Marion. It was completed in 1928 and housed our first firehouse – a two-truck garage and a second-floor apartment for the fire engine driver that was eventually used by the Fire Chief.
Thus is the setting for this panel. It includes an old fire truck and pays homage to the dedicated volunteer firefighters of the time who left their jobs when the alarm went out. The “garage area” provides insight into the life of our volunteer firemen of the time. Chief Koon and his family lived in the upstairs apartment and is watching from the window.
Various details draw the viewer in for a closer look. The helmets on the lockers in the garage pay tribute to the 9/11 firefighters. The clock is stopped at 4:38, the time Hurricane Charley’s eye passed over Punta Gorda. Badge numbers of our past and current department members and volunteers have been “etched” into the bricks of the building and the names of our previous Fire Chiefs are listed on the left-hand side of the garage.
Education has always been a key objective of the Mural Society. Punta Gorda Fire Station #1 is one of the most visited stations in the area. During Fire & Injury Prevention Month, 600-800 children from local schools pass through its doors each year receiving safety education from our dedicated Fire Department staff. Another 100+ adults attend various adult education seminars throughout the year as well.
The mural was dedicated on May 25, 2017.