The first attempt to form a fire department in the City of Joplin occurred in 1872 with an ordinance requiring all businesses on Broadway to keep a full barrel of water and buckets at the ready and commanded that all able bodied men participate in fighting the fire. By the fall of 1882, after several disastrous fires had ravaged the city, a meeting was held and it was decided to organize a Fire Department. The department would be lead by a single chief with the assistance of an assistant chief. The first Chief of the Joplin Fire Department was Clark Craycroft.
The department contained four companies, one for each of the city wards, and each firefighter received $1.50 for each fire they responded to and the company that showed first water received a bonus of $10.00. The volunteer organization remained in place for 11 years and was replaced in 1893 by a full time paid department which was lead by A. Haughton. The department purchased a motorized apparatus in 1907. The 1906 Buick was built by Al C. Webb a local auto mechanic who owned a shop across the street from the central fire station. The department made the claim of first motorized apparatus in the country for some time. After witnessing the effect of the motorized apparatus the city embarked on replacing all the horse drawn apparatus with motorized. With the exception of the ladder truck the fleet was converted to motorized by 1909. The last team of horses was sold in 1914 after the purchase of a motorized tractor for the ladder. The tractor was purchased from the Knox motor company and it was a three wheeled tractor.
The department has grown from the two original stations to the current allotment of six with one more authorized due to the passage of a public safety tax. The current staff of 104 includes the twenty-fourth Fire Chief Gerald Ezell. The public safety tax covers 33 personnel costs and the construction of the Public Safety Training Center, Station 6, and Station 7, which will be opening soon.
As the city and the department have grown so have the responsibilities. The department has embraced the inclusion of ALS first response and actively seeks paramedics. Hazardous Material response took on new meaning post 9/11 and the department is host to a state sanctioned homeland security response team. The department has met the challenges of the past and looks forward to a bright future.