Currently, the Maumelle Fire Department is among the youngest fire departments in the state-- created by an act of the Maumelle City Council on December 20, 2004. However, the department traces its history to before the city's incorporation nearly20 years ago.
A New Town Is Born
In the late 1960s, businessman Jess P. Odom purchased 5,000 acres where the heart of Maumelle now sits. Odom's vision was to build an ideal community that included people of varying backgrounds, interests and income levels. To do this, he formed Maumelle Land Development, Inc. and gained assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). His community was one of thirteen "New Towns" that were created across the nation in the early 1970s. Maumelle saw its first residents move into the Maumelle Club Manor subdivision in 1974.
Department of Public Safety
In Maumelle's early days, the community was protected by a primitive version of the Department of Public Safety. According to former City Clerk Beverly Masters, the early DPS was mostly a security service. Masters says the employees did not carry guns and did not have arrest authority. Firefighting services at the time were provided by a volunteer fire department. The HUD New Town financing that Odom used to develop the city was also used to construct the original Public Safety Building and purchase equipment for the department-- including a single fire engine. Residents paid a community service fee to fund police and fire protection.
In the early 1980s, a home on Piney Cove exploded causing a fire that spread to a neighboring home. Volunteer firefighters from Maumelle and Oak Grove extinguished the fires. Following that incident, however, residents saw an increase in their community service fee to $12 per month. The fee increase allowed for the hiring of additional officers and for the cross-training of those officers as firefighters. These changes at the Department of Public Safety provided the community with full time fire protection 24 hours a day. Maumelle Land Development and the Maumelle Residents Association also purchased a second fire engine for the community.
In 1983, Norman Moseley was hired by Maumelle Land Development as the Department of Public Safety's new chief. Moseley led an effort to improve the quality of service provided by the DPS. He requested that the Pulaski County Sheriff give police powers to Maumelle's officers. Moseley then trained those officers to meet state standards in law enforcement and firefighting at the time.
As residents of Maumelle prepared to incorporate the city, they discovered that state law did not allow for a Department of Public Safety in a city of the first class. Legislation was introduced in the general assembly that created a provision for cities incorporated after December 31, 1984 to establish a Department of Public Safety. Under the new law, the DPS was to "perform the functions of, and have all the rights, responsibilities and duties of, a police department, a fire department, and any other department deemed by the governing body of the city to be necessary for the public safety of its citizens." Maumelle -- and it's Department of Public Safety -- incorporated on June 21, 1985.
Separation Of The DPS
For nearly as long as there was a DPS in the incorporated City of Maumelle, there was some sort of talk about separating it into police and fire departments. A lack of money and manpower were usually given as reasons to prevent conversation on the matter from becoming action.
The actual process of separation began when Public Safety Director Larry Bell resigned from the post in 2000. City Manager David Huseman and the city's Board of Directors launched a national search to replace the director with separate fire and police chiefs. The search yielded Capt. Sam Williams of the Little Rock Police Department as police chief and Chief George Glenn of the Greater Brighton (CO) Fire Protection District as fire chief.
The initial separation plan was ambitious -- setting 2002 as the goal to establish police and fire departments. However, the split required significantly more personnel in the fire division than were in place. In 2000, the DPS only had four personnel in the fire division. One driver/engineer was assigned to each of the division's three shifts with a fourth driver/engineer floating between shifts to cover for vacation leave and sick time. The department also had an inadequate number of volunteer firefighters in the city during daytime hours.
In 2001, changes were taking place at City Hall -- not in the fire division. The citizens of Maumelle voted to abandon the manager/board form of government in favor of a elected mayor and city council. On July 30, 2001, the new government officially took over with an eight-member council and Mayor Burch Johnson at the helm.
The first new members to the fire division were added one-by-one in June2002 and March 2003 with the hiring of Engineers Michael Cossey and Perry Hopman, respectively. The additional two personnel allowed the fire division to plan for two-person shifts later in 2003.
In May 2003, Chief Glenn prepared multiple proposals at the request of Mayor Johnson to proceed with the separation of the DPS. These included three options that would ultimately lead to the goal of forming an independent fire department, construction of two new stations to replace existing facilities and employing a total of 24 career firefighters to staff two engine companies around the clock.
The Sales Tax
Mayor Johnson first discussed the possibility of a 1% sales tax with the city council in October 2003. He also met with members of the community to generate interest in the topic as Maumelle had never had a city sales tax. Members of the fire division began to collect data that would support spending a portion of any possible tax on creating a fire department.
In November 2003, Engineers Drew Nichols and Michael Cossey presented the firefighters's data to the city council. Their presentation included a survey of nine other cities of similar size and/or population as Maumelle. It revealed, among other things, that Maumelle had the fewest number of career firefighters; had the fewest career firefighters per 1,000 population; and was the only city of its size with a single fire station.
On November 17, the city council unanimously passed Ordinance #494 and Resolution#2003-38. The ordinance called for a special election of the people for a1% sales tax. The resolution provided a list of priorities for allocating revenue if the tax was created. At the top of the list was the separation of the Department of Public Safety.
While planning for a tax that would allow the fire division to make a large increase in staffing, another lone member -- Engineer Paul Grove -- was hired in January 2004.
Election day came February 10, 2004. As voters went to the polls at the Odom Community Center, volunteer and off-duty firefighters held signs in support of the tax outside. About 3:30 p.m., those firefighters noticed smoke near the Edgehill Cove Condominiums -- just down the street from the polling place. As the smoke grew in volume, it became apparent that the condos were on fire. Firefighters dropped their signs and ran to the scene.
The fire required the efforts of on-duty public safety officers, the lone firefighter on-duty, a handful of off-duty firefighters, volunteers from Maumelle and Oak Grove as well as mutual aid from the North Little Rock Fire Department. Seeing an abundance of firefighters at work across the street and not knowing they were from three different departments, some voters questioned the need for the tax and for the additional personnel. In fact, more people voted against the tax on Election Day than voted for it. Fortunately for the department and for the city, votes cast during early voting allowed he tax to pass 1,082-889.
After sales tax monies started to be collected, the city council amended the fire division's budget in April 2004 to allow for the hiring of five new firefighters, for the promotion of three members to captain, to transfer the position of fire marshal and to hire a full-time administrative assistant.
On July 1, the Office of the Fire Marshal was transferred to the fire division. The fire marshal had been a position reserved exclusively for police lieutenants. Additionally, it was not a permanent assignment. Three lieutenants served in the post between late 2002 and early 2004. The fire division elected to keep the position vacant until promotional testing could be established in 2005. Also, Tara Glover was given the position of full-time administrative assistant for the fire division. Previously, she had worked part-time for the fire division and part-time for the DPS's administration division.
Firefighters Scott Eaton, Shane Holmes, David Park, Adam Swalls and Josh Woods were hired on July 12, 2004. The five were assigned to rookie school at the Arkansas Fire Academy in East Camden. After reporting to East Camden, Firefighter Park resigned his position. Austin Woody was selected to replace him. The five hires brought the division's total to 12, which allowed for the eventual minimum staffing of three firefighters on an engine company. Being able to staff an engine company was the benchmark set to finally split the DPS.
Engineers Eugene Stacy, Drew Nichols and Tim Bullard became the division's first-ever company officers when they were promoted to captain on July 24.Previously, members of the fire division had no opportunity for advancement. Only police and public safety officers were able to test for promotion within the Department of Public Safety.
All five probationary firefighters graduated from the fire academy on October 15 and were each assigned to one of the division's three shifts on October 30. A Shift was Captain Stacy, Engineer Hopman, Firefighter Woods and Firefighter Woody. B Shift was Captain Nichols, Engineer Charles Watson, Engineer Grove and Firefighter Swalls. C Shift was Captain Bullard, Engineer Cossey, Firefighte rEaton and Firefighter Holmes.
Let Freedom Ring
In the final meeting of 2004, the Maumelle City Council completed a mission began four years earlier and by a different form of government when they passed Ordinance 540 by a 6-2 vote. The ordinance officially abolished the Department of Public Safety and the position of Public Safety Director. In its place, it created separate fire and police departments, each with their own chief. Voting "aye" for the ordinance were Aldermen Doug Ladner, Mark Leverett, Blake Butler, Beth Rutledge, Brian West and Chris Plante. Aldermen Diane Miller and Kristan McCullough were absent from the meeting, thus their votes were recorded as no.
Little more than an hour before the ordinance was passed, Engine Company1 (C shift) made the final fire-rescue call of the DPS era when Captain Bullard, Engineer Cossey and Firefighter Holmes responded to treat an assault victim on Crystal Hill Road. The first call of the new fire department came at 12:42p.m. Dec. 21. Engine Company 1 (A shift) -- staffed by Engineer Hopman and Firefighters Woods & Woody -- and four volunteers responded to a small brush fire near the Odom Community Center.
Although Maumelle firefighters had a new, independent fire department, they didn't have everything they needed to succeed. The city's only reserve fire engine, a 1980 FMC pumper, was permanently removed from service in 2004 due to questions about its reliability. The only front-line fire engine, a 1994E-One Hush, was on a revolving door in and out of the repair shop throughout 2005. This left Truck 1, a 1991 Simon/LTI quint, and Brush 1, a multi-purpose 4x4 truck on a Ford F-250 chassis, as Maumelle's only firefighting apparatus.
On the evening of July 11, 2005, firefighters were staffing Truck 1 because the E-One pumper was once again out of service for mechanical reasons. The department was dispatched to a fire in the garage of a residence on Maranes Circle. They found a vehicle on fire inside the attached garage when they arrived and laid supply hose from the closest hydrant to Truck 1. The hydrant, however, was broken. Firefighters used the limited amount of water on Truck 1 but quickly ran out. With no second pumper available to them, they had to wait for fire engines from North Little Rock to respond and lay supply hose from the next closest fire hydrant to the scene. Crews made quick work of the fire once mutual aid arrived, but the delay caused significant damage to the house.
The department had visions of relief from its maintenance woes in 2005 with the order of a new Smeal pumper to be delivered the next year. However, protecting the city with just one reliable piece of pumping apparatus was too risky. Chief George Glenn added a reserve pumper to the fleet in October 2005 when he began renting a 1974 Hendrickson pumper from the Grave lRidge Fire Department near Sherwood. In addition to "new" apparatus ,one additional firefighter position was added in 2005 and Jeremy New was hired to fill it in July 2005.
New Tools, New Firefighters
Six days into the new year, the Maumelle Fire Department received official notification that it had been awarded its third-ever FIRE Act grant totaling $124,525. Among other things, the money was used to purchase new hydraulic rescue tools and a thermal imaging camera.
One of the first orders of business for the department in 2006 was to fil lthe position of Fire Marshal. In the Department of Public Safety, the position had always been occupied by a police lieutenant. It remained vacant after being transferred to the fire division in July 2004 so that a promotional testing process could be developed. When only two members of the department applied to test for Fire Marshal in early 2006, the hiring process was opened to outside applicants. Arkansas Fire Academy Instructor John Payne was selected as the department's first Fire Marshal in February 2006.
Seventeen months after the new fire department was formed, it received its first new fire engine. The new Smeal pumper on a Spartan chassis went into service April 24, 2006. The rented Hendrickson pumper served as Engine 3 until it was returned to Gravel Ridge in May 2006.
In July 2006, Adam Cordell, Dustin Jaco and Michael Lister were hired and increased the department's roster to 16 career firefighters. With an additional firefighter on each of the three shifts, the department saw an increase in the number of days with four firefighters on duty. On days with all five of a shift's members present, firefighters began to split into two companies to better handle emergencies in the city.
Michael Cossey Maumelle Fire Department
Former Maumelle City Clerk Beverly Masters
Arkansas State Code, Title 14, Subtitle 3, Chapter 42, Subchapter