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2017-11-16

A brief history ... the Bandera Fire Department

By Raymond V Carter Research Historian ©2017

I dedicate the following article to all firefighters who have given their lives in the line of duty and to all firefighters who are now serving or who have served. I proudly say, “thank you.”
The Bandera Fire Department will celebrate its 90th anniversary in March of 2018. According to articles published nine decades ago in the Bandera New Era, the town of Bandera was abuzz with new ideas and plans when the Bandera Chamber of Commerce was first organized in February of 1928.
Frank H. Mansfield was one of the nine newly-elected board members. He served as chairman of the committee on manufacturing and mercantile interest and as a member of the committee on city development.
On March 10, 1928 (a Saturday), the Bandera Chamber of Commerce met at 2:30 p.m. and watched the Kerrville Fire Volunteer Fire Department put on a demonstration on the Bandera public square. The Kerrville Fire Department had brought over their used chemical fire engine and was offering it for sale to the Bandera Chamber of Commerce.
To demonstrate what the fire truck could do, the firefighters built a large pile of trash consisting of boxes, wood shavings and waste material and thoroughly saturated the pile with 75 gallons of oil. Then, they set it on fire. A fire alarm was sounded and the fire truck was driven over to the fire and one man quickly extinguished the fire.
The fire engine was a 1925 Ford truck with two 35-gallon chemical tanks mounted on it, along with 75 feet of hose, one small chemical extinguisher, axes and other necessary equipment. New, the fire truck would have cost $1,800, but because it was used, the Kerrville Fire Department offered it to the Bandera Chamber of Commerce for the bargain price of $500. The Chamber of Commerce immediately bought the fire truck and implemented plans to organize and train a volunteer fire-fighting crew and to purchase buckets and more axes. Frank Mansfield served as the first captain of the fire department.
The fire department kept its truck at the Mansfield & Blakeney’s Chevrolet Garage, located at the corner of Hwy 16 and Main Street, where the Cowboy Store is located today. Later on, they built a small shed northeast of the garage to house the fire truck. The shed faced Main Street. An alley ran perpendicular to Main Street between the shed and the Chevrolet Garage.
It’s possible that the first call for the fire truck was made the morning of March 20, 1928, to put out a fire at the Tallman Company store in Medina. It took the fire truck 25 minutes to make the 15-mile run. The fire had already been extinguished by the time the fire truck arrived and very little damage had been done to the store.
In May of 1928, the Bandera Volunteer Fire Department purchased a siren for the truck, which was used as the town fire alarm. Also, purchased were 12 two-and-a-half-gallon and 12 one-quart Foamite fire extinguishers to sell to the public. Capt. Mansfield provided information and instruction on the use of these extinguishers for anyone who purchased one.
In early May, the fire department starting hosting a Firemen’s Ball every Saturday night at Mansfield Park to raise money to pay for fire extinguishers and other equipment.
Bandera purchased another fire truck in the 1930s to replace the first truck. They used this second truck for more than 20 years, until they replaced it in the latter part of 1954. The Bandera Fire Department, the Bandera Water Board, the Lions Club and others paid for this second truck.
According to H. Alfred Anderwald, Bandera moved the fire truck shed in the mid-1950s closer to the current-day fire station. They placed it along the narrow road between what is now the Bandera County Library and city hall. This was accomplished just before a new fire station was built. Construction of the fire station began Jan. 24,1955, and was completed by mid-February.
The present day city hall and the Mansfield Fire Station Municipal Building complex was built and dedicated in 1979.
Mansfield served as the first fire captain (or fire chief, as the position is known today) from March of 1928 to 1957, when the baton was passed to Coy Ross, who had been serving as assistant fire chief.
Frank Mansfield was born in Bandera on March 28, 1903, and died at his home on Oct. 7. 1989. The city dedicated a plaque in his honor and placed it on the fire station building on Dec. 11, 1989. The plaque declares: “Frank H. Mansfield Bandera Volunteer Fire Department.”