Entire Dept. History History of the Maltese Cross Top Ten Attendance All Time Past Chiefs Past Fire Marshals Honorary Firefighters Mascots

Entire History

The Karnes City Volunteer Fire Department was organized on February 6, 1923.

L.H. Reuser was appointed Fire Chief and served for 24 years until his retirement on 02-13-1947

By February 13, 1923, the city had been canvassed for members and funds. The department now had 33 members and $1,500.00 in donations to purchase equipment and a fire station. The first piece of equipment purchased was a two-wheeled hose cart that could be pulled by firefighters. Next, a new Model T Ford truck was purchased by the department at a cost of $360.00. This truck was sold in 1948.

On March 6, 1923, a lot was purchased from D.O. Klingeman for $150.00 to build a fire station on. The station was built on Buchel Street, near the present site of the Sherrill Laundromat at a cost of $400.00.

On May 26, 1923, at 1:10 AM the firefighters of the newly formed department got their first test as they pulled out their hose cart and Model T truck and formed a bucket brigade to fight a fire that broke out at Niehaus Industries located South of the railroad tracks.

Their second call came on January 4, 1924 at 8:42 PM at the Dreamland Theater which was the first picture show house in Karnes City, located where the present City Hall now stands. The fire started when the projectionists (Alvin Grimmsinger and Walter Burris) had some difficulty with the film and the sparks from the carbon tipped arc lamps of the projector ignited the celluloid film of the twelve-reel movie “The Birth of a Nation”. Mr. Conrads, the owner of the theater was both pleased and grateful to the fire department for saving his theater.

In 1930, a Simms pumper on a 1928 Reo truck chassis was purchased and it remained in service until the early 1970’s. This truck is still kept in the fire station and is used for parades and to practice pumper races.

John Kolodziej was the first Fire Marshal appointed in 1932 and served for 5 years until 1937.

Ed Weigang was appointed Fire Marshal in 1937 and served for 32 years until his retirement on 02-10-1969.

In 1941, the department moved into a new fire station at 314 E. Calvert, which is now part of City Hall.

On 02-13-1947, Florian F. Kolodziej was appointed Fire Chief and served for 6 years until his retirement on 02-12-1953

The department averaged 11 alarms per year between 1944 and 1949.

In 1951, Karnes County purchased a Simms 500 GPM pumper on a 1951 Ford chassis, and presented it to the department. This truck remained in service until 1988.

On 02-12-1953, Albert Fuchs was appointed Fire Chief and served for 9 years until his retirement on 05-01-1962.

The department averaged 14.6 alarms per year between 1950 and 1959.

In 1960, Karnes City received an army surplus truck for use in fighting grass fires. This truck remained in service until 1969 when it was replaced by a 1969 Dodge grass truck.

On 05-01-1962, Ernest Hedtke was appointed Fire Chief and served 3 years until 10-14-1965.

In 1964, a used Pontiac Station Wagon was purchased for use as a Fire Chief’s vehicle and was used until 1974.

On 10-14-1965, Adolph Boelter Sr. was appointed Fire Chief and served for 20 years until his retirement on 02-10-1986.

On 02-10-1969, Billy Busselman was appointed Fire Marshal and served for 4 years until his death on 12-27-1972.

In 1969, a new Dodge truck was purchased to replace the army truck for fighting grass fires. This truck was in use until 1988.

The department averaged 25.6 alarms per year between 1960 and 1969.

In 1970, a new Simms 500 GPM pumper on a 1970 Ford chassis was purchased at a cost of $45,000.00 to replace the 1928 pumper. This truck remained in service until 1997.

1971 was a very busy year for grass fires. The year ended with the department answering a record 78 alarms, beating the old record high of 38 alarms in 1969.

On 05-14-1973, Taylor Blakeney was appointed Fire Marshal and served for 18 years until his retirement on 04-01-1991.

In 1974, a 1952 army surplus truck was purchased to help handle grass fires. This truck remained in service until early 1997.

In 1974, the Pontiac station wagon was traded in on a 1967 Ford pickup for use as a Fire Chief’s vehicle. This truck was sold in 1987.

The department averaged 43.3 alarms per year between 1970 and 1979.

In 1980, a new Simms 750 GPM pumper on a 1980 Ford chassis was purchased at a cost of $65,000.00 to replace the 1951 pumper truck.

In October, 1982 we sponsored the first annual Fire Prevention Week activities with the Karnes City Elementary School.

On September 26, 1983, the department moved into their current fire station at 310 E. Calvert. A dedication ceremony was held on November 5, 1983. A plaque that was donated by the Wesley Huckle family for his many years of service, that was mounted on the front of the station, was unveiled.

On 02-10-1986, Fletcher B. Kuhnel Jr. was appointed Fire Chief and served for 5 years until his retirement on 02-11-1991.

In 1987, the department got into the rescue business when they began to operate the “Jaws of Life” rescue tools for Karnes County using a retired 1974 ambulance on loan from the county, to carry the rescue tools to scene of incidents. This vehicle was replaced in 1990.

In 1988, a used 1983 Ford truck was purchased for $8,000.00 and was built into a grass fire fighting truck by the members of the department at a total cost of $20,000.00. The truck was place in service on 07-24-1988 and it replaced the 1969 Dodge.

The department averaged 44.3 alarms per year between 1980 and 1989.

In 1990, a new 1-ton rescue/equipment truck was purchased with grant money from the M.G. & Lillie A. Johnson Foundation of Victoria, to haul the “Jaws of Life” extrication tools and other rescue and fire fighting equipment as a cost of $22,000.00. The truck was placed in service on 04-14-1990 and it replaced the old 1974 ambulance previously used as a rescue vehicle and was in service as a rescue truck until replaced in February, 2004.

On 02-11-1991 Lawrence Banduch was appointed Fire Chief and served for 2 ½ months until 05-01-1991.

On 05-01-1991, Charles Malik was appointed Fire Chief.

On 07-09-1991 Sam Kotara Jr. was appointed Fire Marshal and served for 13 years until his retirement on 11-08-2004.

On January 1, 1996, a new 1996 IH 4X4 grass fire fighting truck was placed in service at a cost of $87,600.00 to replace the 1952 army surplus truck. The truck was called to its very first grass fire that same afternoon.

On June 10, 1997, a new KME 1,250 GPM pumper was purchased and placed in service at a cost of $155,000.00 to replace the 1970 pumper.

1999 brought a record 121 alarms to beat the old record of 78 alarms in 1971.

The department averaged 68.3 alarms per year between 1990 and 1999.

In March, 2000, Jimmy “BJ” Loya Jr. was voted in as our first student member under the age of eighteen.

On August 29, 2000 the department was incorporated as a non-profit 501c3 organization.

On February 8, 2004 a new 2004 International/Pierce Encore Rescue truck was placed in service at a cost of $215,700.00 to replace the 1990 1-ton rescue truck. The old 1-ton rescue truck became the departments Command Truck.

On 11-08-2004, Wayne Burson was appointed Fire Marshal and served for 1 year until 02-13-2006.

During 2005, members reconditioned the old 1923 Reo Pumper. The truck was placed back in running condition and completely rewired and converted to 12 volt.

In 2005 we added a second set of rescue tools with funding from a Texas Forest Service grant.

2005 was a very busy year for grass fires, ending the year with a record 122 alarms to beat the old record of 121 from 1999.

On 02-13-2006, DeWayne Blietz was appointed Fire Marshal and served for 7 years until his retirement on 02-11-2013.

On 08-24-2009 a new 1500 GPM Pierce custom cab pumper was delivered and placed in service at a cost of $299,000.00 to replace the 1980 pumper.

The department averaged 97 alarms per year between 2000 and 2009.

On 04-20-2011 a new 2011 Freightliner Brush Truck was placed in service at a cost of $186,500.00 to replace the old 1983 Brush truck.

On 06-13-2012 we took delivery of a new 12 foot tandem axle trailer at a cost of 6,000.00 to carry our supply of AFFF foam for fighting flammable liquid fires, some spill containment material, and other equipment. The funding for the trailer was donated by EOG Resources.

2012 was another record year with a total of 148 alarms breaking the old record from 2006 of 143. During 2012 we were called to 42 rescue calls.

The past two years the department has averaged 139 alarms per year. Quite an increase from the 1970’s when we averaged 43 calls per year.

On 02-11-2013 Sam Kotara Jr. once again elected to the position of Fire Marshal.

On 12-16-2013 a new 2014 International 3000 gallon Tanker was delivered and placed in service at a cost of $253,600.00. $235,000.00 was donated by Eagle Ford Energy Operators and the remainder was donated by local individuals.

On 06-23-2014 a new 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe command vehicle was delivered at a cost of $51,500.00 to replace the old 1990 command truck.

On 08-25-2014 a new 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4 door 4X4 Support pickup was placed in service at a cost of $36,500.00.

On 09-15-2014 we moved into the new addition to the fire station that was added at a cost of $39,600.00. Freeport McMoran donated $35,000.00 for the station addition.

On 09-22-2014 we installed new bunker gear racks in the station addition at a cost of $9700.00. HEB donated $8,000.00 toward the cost of the racks.

On 09-25-2014 we placed a new MSA thermal imager in service in Engine 7 at a cost of $10,500.00 paid for with a donation from ConocoPhillips.

On 11-24-2014 the new exercise equipment was set up at the fire station that was purchased with Wilse Brown Memorial donations.

On 06-05-2015 we placed a new Hurst Jaws of Life power unit in service at a cost of $7,000.00).

On 09-11-2015 we received new structural protective clothing at a cost of $62,000.00, paid for with funds from BHP Billiton ($50,000.00).

On 10-21-2015 we placed a new MSA thermal imager in service in Engine 6 at a cost of $10,500.00 paid for with a donation from ConocoPhillips ($10,000.00).

On 02-25-2017 we placed new pagers in service at a cost of $8,600.00.

On 02-25-17 we placed an all new digital radio system in service in Karnes County for all of the Fire and EMS services at a cost of $120,000.00 with funding coming from the Karnes County Sheriff’s Office Asset Forfeiture Fund ($50,000.00) and the Karnes County Emergency Services District ($70,000.00).