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Department History

Department History

Prior to 1897, the township of Clayton did not have an organized fire department.  When Schweighofer's Bakery was almost destroyed by fire in March of 1897, threatening two other buildings in the town square, a committee was formed to research what would be needed to equip and operate a volunteer fire company.  On July 1, 1897, the committee reported its findings and the Clayton Fire Department was originated.  As a result, Clayton purchased a Rex double cylinder chemical engine and a ladder truck with a full complement of ladders from Western Fire Engine & Supply Company.  Sheriff Kerth was chosen Chief of the department.  Chief Kerth issued coin silver badges to be worn by the 37 active officers and members of the Clayton Volunteer Fire Department.

In March 1917, the Board of Aldermen established the Clayton Fire Department as a professional paid fire department.  John O'Sullivan was named Chief of the department in 1918, and on October 18, 1924, the department moved into its new, modern fire resistive firehouse at 7755 Forsyth.  This would be the home of the Clayton Fire Department for the next 80 years.

The Clayton Fire Department is a pioneer in the field of Emergency Medical Services.  In 1932 the Fire Department saw the need for some type of emergency medical service and purchased their first ambulance, a converted police wagon purchased from the City of St. Louis, making Clayton one of the first Fire Service ambulances in the country.

The Clayton Fire Department is especially noted for a strong fire prevention program that has helped to maintain a very low fire loss record for many years.  In 1955, Chief Brexler created the position of Fire Marshall to establish a strong fire prevention program, a tradition that continues today.  Clayton has been fortunate not to have a fire death in the last 25 years.  The department is currently conducting over 700 fire safety inspections per year.

In 2002 the Board of Aldermen approved a plan to raze a portion of the City Hall and build a new Fire Station adjacent to the existing Firehouse.  On July 27, 2004 the Fire Department moved into its new home.  The engine house is a modern two-story engine house with five apparatus bays with two being drive through bays.  The Clayton Fire Department of today is a modern organization staffed by 35 professional, highly trained employees.  From this single station, the department currently operates a 100-foot quint (a truck having an aerial ladder, ground ladders, hose, and a fire pump), a 1500 GPM Pumper, two ambulances, a command vehicle, and two staff cars.  During the calendar year 2003 the department responded to 1108 fire calls and 1478 EMS calls.  In addition to emergency response, the department offers no cost, public education programs to residents and businesses Clayton.  Programs offered include Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), First Aid, Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), fire safety, natural disaster, and emergency preparedness.  The fire department also works closely with the Clayton School District to offer injury prevention programs in the schools.  The department serves a two and half square mile area with a residential population of 15,700 residents and a daytime population of approximately 155,000.  Clayton is home to three Universities, six hotels, a high school, middle school, three elementary, seven private elementary and pre-schools, and numerous churches.  Clayton is also the county seat for St. Louis County.  There are five government buildings in Clayton in addition to a 12-story, 1,200-bed justice center complex.

Clayton is also noted for its many high-rise buildings.  The first modern high-rise was built in 1968.  Currently there are 38 high-rises in Clayton with 1 under construction.  24 of the 38 are fully sprinkled with 3 buildings retrofitting sprinkler systems at present.  Clayton has been a leader in developing high-rise fire safety and building codes.

Some of our notable departmental achievements:

  • Full paid fire department 1917
  • Medical first responders in the 1920s
  • Ambulance service in 1932
  • Full time Fire Marshal 1955
  • EMTs in the early 1960s
  • Paramedics in 1975
  • Life Safety Achievement Award for the years 1999 through 2004
  • All fire apparatus was equipped at the ALS level in 1989
  • All staff cars were equipped with AEDs in 2000
  • Clayton also received an upgrade in our ISO rating to a Class 3 in October of 2000