Over a Century of Service
The Ankeny Fire Department has over a century of distinguished service in our community. Once made up entirely of volunteers, the department is now staffed by a mix of full-time and paid on-call firefighters. Here are some of the highlights of our storied history.
The City of Ankeny purchased three ladders and 20 pails for the purpose of responding to fires. Three years later, on August 24, 1910, the Ankeny Fire Department was formally activated for service with volunteer firefighters from the community. The first Fire Chief was Jacob Abuhl. The first fire apparatus was a hand-drawn chemical cart housed at the Odd Fellows Building on Walnut Street.
The department authorized 16 members, who were exempted from poll taxes of $2 per year for their services. The fire chief was W.C. Schurke.
The first piece of motorized fire apparatus was purchased. It was a Model T Ford. Citizens began paying for fire protection through property taxes. Fire service was extended to people living outside the city limits at $5 per call plus mileage.
Telephones were purchased for members of the Fire Department to answer calls and activate the emergency siren on the water tower.
An army surplus 1949 Chevrolet was the first real fire engine that was put in service. A rural fire board was formed. The fire chief was L.R. Fontanini.
The Ankeny Fire Department responded to 37 fire calls and 18 EMS calls for a total of 55, averaging less than five calls for service per month.
The first rescue unit was purchased with the proceeds from firemen's dances. The first tanker cost $7,000 and held 1038 gallons of water. The following year, a 750 GPM pumper was purchased fully equipped for $29,000.
A bond referendum financed a new fire station located at 713 SW 3rd Street in downtown Ankeny, which was dedicated on January 7, 1967. That same year, Marvin Frisk was hired as the first full-time paid fire chief after serving since 1954 as a volunteer.
Also in 1967, the Fire Department hired its first dispatcher and the Ladies Auxiliary was formed.
A second fire station was put in service at the corner of First Street and Delaware Avenue. An old gas station was renovated to hold a fire engine and ambulance. The second station closed in 1989. In 1979, firefighters were issued personal pagers so that they could be notified of calls more efficiently.
The Fire Department responded to 221 fire calls and 532 EMS calls for a total call volume of 753, averaging 63 calls per month. The first defibrillator was obtained by the department in 1982.
The first and only line-of-duty death of an Ankeny Firefighter occurred on June 21, 1982. Firefighter James R. Baker collapsed while fighting a fire at the Mel-Ray mobile home park on Iowa Highway 415. He was a two-year veteran of the Ankeny Fire Department, having started his service in February 1980.
Steve Ellis and Lynn Pitts lead an effort to construct a mobile smokehouse for the purpose of educating children in how to escape a fire. Navigating the smokehouse has been a rite of passage for elementary-aged children in Ankeny ever since.
Fire Station Headquarters, located at 120 NW Ash Drive, was dedicated on June 12, 1999. Two full-time firefighters / paramedics were hired to provide daytime coverage and to supplement the paid-on-call (POC) staff.
The duty crew was expanded to a total of four members from 6 am to 6 pm on weekdays to staff two units. Combination staffing (full-time and part-time personnel) was utilized to cover the 12-hour shifts. Two members staffed the ambulance and two staffed the engine. The engine could not respond until two additional POC firefighters arrived at the station.
In July of 2004, the weekday duty crew hours were expanded to 16 hours per day (6 am-10 pm) and a weekend crew was added from 6 am-6 pm. Weekend staffing was covered by POC personnel.
In July 2006, the duty crew hours are expanded to 16 hours per day, seven days per week. The City Council establishes a response time goal of 8 minutes, 80% of the time.
In July 2007, the duty crew hours are again increased to provide coverage 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Fire Station Number 2 opens with a staffed ambulance at 665 SE Oralabor Road to provide response coverage to the rapidly expanding commercial area in southeast Ankeny.
12 additional full-time personnel are hired and a fire engine is staffed at station 2.
Fire Station Number 3 opens and 15 personnel are hired to staff and ambulance and an engine. 3 Battalion Chief positions are created to manage the daily operation of the department.
Now led by Fire Chief Vance Swisher, the Ankeny Fire Department serves a population of over 62,000 Ankeny residents from three modern fire stations. The department consists of 82 members (61 full-time, seven scheduled part-time, 10 un-scheduled part-time, and four office staff). The Ankeny Fire Department responds to more than 7,300 911 calls per year.
Fire Station Number 4 is in the planning stages and will provide protection to the Northwest part of the city. It is tentatively planned to open in 2026.