Early 1900s Beginning
Before the incorporation of University City in September 1906, fire fighting was handled by any able-bodied man in the area, and crew and equipment from the St. Louis City Fire Department if they could be called and if they could get there. Lack of available water and lack of roads, particularly paved roads, often resulted in total loss.
First City Marshall
Following incorporation, a responsibility of the new City Marshall and his deputies was to fight fires, aided by volunteers from the community and the St. Louis Fire Department. The only reference to early fire fighting equipment mentions a hand-drawn hose reel.
First Fire Engine
In 1909, University City citizens passed a bond issue for the purchase of a fire engine. The following spring, Oscar J. Kortkamp was hired as the first Fire Chief at a salary of $100 a month, and that fall Al Barteau was hired as Captain. In September of 1910, the brand new, state-of-the-art Robinson 6-cylinder 650 gallon pumper/ladder truck was delivered. It cost $8,395. It was the first motorized fire engine in the St. Louis area. The new City Hall built in late 1910 included a garage for the new fire engine. Chief Kortkamp and Captain Barteau were aided by 150 volunteers from the community.
The Robinson fire truck was much in demand, and the Board of Alderman finally established a fee of $5 for each call outside of University City. Despite the lack of paved roads, the Robinson, with Chief Kortkamp at the wheel, was often the first piece of fire fighting equipment to arrive at a fire in the mid-county area. In 1917, the Board of Aldermen authorized the Fire Department to respond to calls in Clayton, if the Clayton Fire Department would answer calls in University City, our earliest Mutual Aid Agreement.