The first fire Department in Clarion was organized in 1887. Fire equipment consisted of one small pump operated by man power or a team of horses, a hose cart, and 500 feet of hose. The water supply for fighting fires consisted of two five hundred cisterns - one located at Central Avenue and Main Street and the other cistern at First Avenue North and Main Street. The first big fire in March 1893 destroyed several wooden buildings in the North Business Block. Several cisterns were added but a second big fire in 1900 leveled four buildings in the north end of the Center Business. The nearby cisterns were soon pumped dry and nothing much could be done because of the lack of water.
Some of the early fire engines or pumpers were operated by hand and the handles worked up and down like a teeter totter. The apparatus that arrived in Clarion was more up to date. It had four sweeps which could be pushed around by twelve or sixteen men or a team of horses could be hitched on one of the sweeps.
There was quite a bit of racing and rivalry and sometimes a good fight between the teamsters of that time to see who could get there first when the fire bell rang and hitch their team to the pumper. The pay for the team ranged from $2.50 to $3.50 depending on the time it took to put out the fire.
At a special session held August 12, 1887, the trustees voted to purchase 500 feet of 2 ½ inch cotton hose at $.60 per foot and a two-wheeled hand hose cart for $100 from the American Fire Hose Manufacturing Company in Davenport.
In the early 1900's, Clarion hosted the Annual Wright County Fireman's Tournament and Picnic. Events included hose cart races, tugs of war, wheelbarrow, sack, and three-legged races, ladder climbing, wrestling, and several ball games. A platform had been erected for the exhibition wrestling match put on by Frank Gotch of Humboldt and local barber Burt Gregory. Maurice Birdsall pitched in the baseball game and Clarion won.
In 1904, the council issued bonds for erecting a water tower with tank, digging a deep well, and laying ten blocks of water main. The digging of the well was delayed because the contractor had trouble getting a sufficient flow of water until he had gone down 275 feet. Water mains were added over time and fires could then be put out by direct pressure.
The first motorized engine was purchased in 1918. Bought in Minnesota, it took two days for it to arrive in Clarion because of the wet and muddy roads in Minnesota and the crowds of people in each town they went through who wanted to inspect the newest and latest in firefighting equipment. Heartland has a firefighting exhibit on the 50's street and several pieces of early equipment as pictured here.