The Ville Platte Fire Department of today was founded by Phillip Milton Reed in 1920. That founding year was significant as it was only months after the tragic Dance Hall Fire of November 22, 1919. It is believed that before the Dance Hall Tragedy, Ville Platte's Fire Department consisted merely of a loosely-organized bucket-brigade of volunteers with little or no training in fire suppression knowledge of that time. As the organization grew and improved over the next several years, the town of Ville Platte purchased its first "new" and modern fire engine in 1927. (History continues below...)
Today's VPFD is composed of a few integral parts, each one highly dependent on the others, to accomplish our common goal of "Saving Life & Property" through Planning, Prevention, & Suppression/Rescue.
The Ville Platte Fire Department is a municipal public safety agency staffed by 14 full-time employees manning its 2 firehouses 24/7 with 2 engine companies and 1 service truck. The Ville Platte Volunteer Fire Dept (Inc.) works in conjunction with the VPFD to provide additional manpower and resources as required.
Staff positions include: Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief, Fire Training & Safety Officer, Fire Captains, Firefighter/Operators, & Secretary to the Fire Chief.
In the early 1920s, firefighting equipment consisted of horse-drawn wagons with ladders and buckets or a water tank, a couple of hand-pulled pressure extinguishers, and a hand-pulled pump. The system used to alert firefighters was a large bell (which was last located in front of Ville Platte High School). In early April of 1927, the town of Ville Platte ordered (sales order#25169) its first motorized fire engine from the American LaFrance Fire Apparatus Company of Elmira, NY. It was a 1927 B-516 Type 63 Fire Engine (No.1) built on a Brockway chassis (SN: B516E19893). The truck model was known as the “Cosmopolitan” model, built on a 1926 chassis and featured a Continental flat-head 6-cylinder and a 400 gpm rotary fire water pump and 500 gallon tank. It shipped out to Ville Platte, La via train on July 27, 1927 and was housed in a stall in the back of the town hall building, where the fire chief had an office. In 1928 a large siren was installed and used to summon firefighters to the station from a greater distance.
By 1935, there were 21 volunteer firefighters. In 1939, the town purchased their second fire engine, a 1939 Pirsch 15 -1056 (No.2), equipped with a 750 g.p.m. fire pump which was one of only 3 such equipped apparatus in Louisiana at that time. The pump certification test had fire chiefs and officials from many of Louisiana’s large cities in attendance of the show on the Nezpique canal bridge in Vidrine on April 12th, 1939. Between 1937-39, the National Youth Administration’s young apprentice carpenters built an addition to the town hall to house the second fire engine and also a steeple to install the siren on the roof.
In 1950 the Central Fire Station was constructed (completed in ‘51) to house the 1939 Pirsch and the newly-acquired 1950 Mack L85 fire engine (No.3) with a 750 g.p.m. pump and 500 gallon tank which replaced our original 1927 American LaFrance fire engine. In 1953, an addition was made to the fire station in order to house more equipment and trucks. In 1956, the Volunteer Department purchased a Ford pickup truck used to carry a portable pump and 1000 feet of fire hose. It was also used to check fire boxes, hydrants, and extinguishers. In 1957, the Evangeline Parish Police Jury purchased a new fire engine (No.4) for use in Ward One, Fire District 2 which consisted of the area outside of the town limits of Ville Platte in the eastern side of Evangeline Parish. This fire protection area consisted of the areas surrounding Ville Platte, east of Mamou’s fire district and included Faubourg, Tate Cove, Belaire Cove, Point Blue, Te-Mamou, and Chataignier.
In 1968, engine No.2 (the ‘39 Pirsch) was replaced by a Mack R-Model fire engine (No.5) with a 1,250 g.p.m. pump and 500 gallon tank, a portable generator, lights, and self-contained breathing apparatuses. About that same time, a mini-pumper (No.6) was purchased by the police jury for fire district #2 use on brush, grass, trash, and vehicle fires. In 1969, the Police Jury purchased a practical twin fire engine of Ville Platte’s 1968 Mack R-Model (No.7).
By 1974, the department had 6 “career” firefighters working three 24-hr shifts, 2 men per shift and it’s first career Fire Chief, Reinel Smith. In 1980, a second fire station was built on the north side of town on Lincoln Rd. and 3 more firefighters were hired. The police jury purchased another mini-pumper for the fire district, a 1980 Pierce/GMC 1-ton 4x4 with a 400 g.p.m. pto pump, 250 gallon tank, and storage compartments for S.C.B.A.s, Hurst hydraulic Jaws-Of-Life spreader and cutting tools and pump for extrication rescues, and portable generator.
In 1982, the city purchased its first fire apparatus equipped with a hydraulic telescoping ladder and elevated master stream nozzle. It was a Pierce/Mack 1250 g.p.m. pump telesquirt with a 50’ ladder and a 500 gallon tank (No.10). The same year, the original 1968 mini-pumper was placed in Chataignier (No.9) and a new Pierce/Chevrolet 1-ton 4x4 mini-pumper was placed in service in Ville Platte to replace it.
(to be continued...)