Newport Fire/EMS History

Newport Fire Early Motor Cars

 1800's - Beginnings

Washington Fire and Hose Company

1795 The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky passed, on December 14th, an act to establish the town of Newport

1800 A typical fire company had eight men, five horses, three hose reels, a ladder truck, 165 fireplugs and 27 signal boxes.

1836 March 9, 1836 the first attempt to establish a fire department by The Town Fathers.

1845 Four Fire Wardens were appointed along with the town leaders to organize and direct citizens who may be present during a fire to help extinguish the fire and protect property.

Cateract Hose Carriage1851 With approval by the City Commissioners, a fire engine called "Cateract" and a hose carriage called "Pioneer" was purchased from the Independence Fire Company #2 of Cincinnati  for $500.  Temporary fire quarters were built in the rear of the Court House until a lot could be secured for a firehouse.

 1852 In March, a hose carriage built by J & B Bruse and Company was delivered. Hose was purchased and Samuel Cummins built a fire engine, which was named the “Torrent.”  By this time the County Clerk's office was moved to Alexandria so the decision was made to convert the old Clerk's office to house the new fire department.

1854 On March 15, the fire department was established through incorporation. It was named the Washington Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1.

1861 On March 27th 1861 Samuel Barber became the first firefighter killed in the line of duty in Northern Kentucky by being struck in the back of the head by a piece of the roof from the Art Palace fire.

1866 After several attempts to build a firehouse, a building contract was issued to P. H. Wilson. Construction, was completed by October 25, 1866 and dedicated November 4, 1866. The building was named “Washington Hall” located at 10 East Fourth Street.

1868 City of Newport Purchased a steam fire engine from Amos Keag Manufacturing which was named Newport No. 1. The equipment cost was $2,189.55 and was housed at 10 East Fourth Street.

1868 June 9, 1868, the City of Newport passed an ordinance that created the first steam fire engine company, establishing the beginning of a paid fire department. Soon after the ordinance passed the volunteer group disbanded. All of their effects were given to the City of Newport and all monies in the treasury were divided among all members in good standing on December 18, 1869.

1885  Fire Company No. 2 (also known as Phoenix Fire Company No. 2) opened on the East side of Monmouth, between Williamson (11th Street) and Tibbatts (10th Street), roughly where Combined Lock Service sits today. The house was built to serve the south end of town, as well as the burgeoning East side.

1872 The City of Newport established a fire-alarm system with boxes at certain intersections. Residents were instructed on proper use of these boxes.

1891 Purchased a ladder wagon with a 60 foot extension ladder and additional assorted ladders named "A.S. Berry"

Newport Fire company 1 at Washington Hall

1892 The Clifton German Methodist Mission laid the cornerstone for their new chapel on October 30 in the area of "Lindsey Hill" which later became Clifton.  The chapel was completed and dedicated on May 22, 1893.

1893 The Fire Department installed a telegraph system to better utilize their resources in order to never leave the City of Newport without fire protection.

1894 The Fire Department operated three stations:

Washington Fire Company 1 Late 1800's
Washington Fire Company No. 1 (10 East Fourth Street)

Phoenix Fire Company 2 Late 1800's
 Phoenix Fire Company No. 2 (On Monmouth between 10th and 11th)

Hose Company 3 Late 1800's
 Hose Company No. 3 (On West 7th between Isabella and Patterson)

1896 Fire Department budget amounted to $11,264. (approximately $183,600 in modern currency)

Horse Drawn Fire Wagon

1898 The greatest fire in municipal history occurred on July 20, 1898. It started at the Unnewehr sawmill and lumberyead, located on Lowell street in West Newport. The fire, starting from an unknown cause, eventually destroyed the sawmill and sixteen nearby homes. Intervention by the Covington and Cincinnati Fire Departments kept the fire from spreading any farther. Estimated property losses totaled $100,000 (over $1.6m in modern currency.)

Early 1900's

1904 February 19th: Firefighter Lee Howe was thrown from a fire wagon after it was struck by a street car at Fourth and Washington streets.  The fire wagon was responding to a report of a fire at Fourth and Berry streets which turned out to be soot burning in the chimney.  Lee 24, later died from the injuries he sustained from the accident.  This was Newport's second line of duty death.  That Same Year Newport Purchased a replacement Ladder Wagon built by the Seagrave Company.

Line of duty death Lee Howe

NFD Ladder Wagon Wreck









Horse Drawn Hose Wagon  

1908 June 16, 1908, a coal lamp exploded at 512 East Front Street. Firefighter John Murphy was walking on the roof advancing toward the fire when he stepped into a hole, landing on his back and shoulder. Murphy was bruised all over and one of his ears was torn off. Murphy recovered from his injuries.

NFD 1910 US Motor Truck

1910 It was around this time that Newport Fire Department purchased their first motorized apparatus from the US Motor Truck Company.





 1912 The City of Clifton was incorporated just south of the City of Newport in what was considered a rural area.

1913 In May 1913, the Newport Fire Wagon was racing down Fourth Street when it attempted to make a quick turn onto Columbia Street. One of the horses threw a shoe and fell, knocking the wagon over and tumbling Firefighters Ben Graham and John Mason onto the roadway. Both firefighters recovered from injuries.

Motorized Hose Wagon1915 A motorized hose wagon was purchased from Schacht Motor Car Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.




1918 On February 28, 1918 the labor organization Newport Firefighters Local 45 was established and became one of the original charter members of the International Association of Firefighters. 

1918 All horses phased out of the Fire Department. “Old Captain Jim,” the last of Newport’s horses, made his last run in August 1918. Captain Jim had answered over 1,500 alarms over his nineteen years of service.

1919 An Ahrens Fox Model K piston pumper was purchased and placed in service.  The Clifton German Methodist Chapel was purchased by 10 citizens of The Clifton Welfare Association for use as a community center.  The German Mission's numbers were greatly reduced during the onset of the First World War.

1919 February 21st: Captain Benjamin Graham of Newport Hose Company #4 died of pneumonia as the result of a cold which he received while fighting a fire on February 18th.  Graham 47, was considered a popular fireman and a fearless Ohio diver.  This was considered Newport's third line of duty death.

Ben Graham LODD 1919  

1922 The first ladder wagon was purchased from Ahrens Fox Company. The apparatus was a tiller style ladder truck build by Ahrens Fox and the ladder portion built by the Seagrave Company.  Newport Purchased this apparatus after Cincinnati Fire Department brought over their ladder for a demonstration.

1922 Ahrens Fox Seagrave Ladder

1924 Fire Company No.2 on Monmouth Street became very unsafe and in dilapidated condition. The building would shake every time a horse would lie down, and when the bell tapped for a fire all the firemen ran out on the street for fear the building would fall down on them.  In 1903, an attempt to replace the station by building one further east at the beyond Saratoga railroad street, failed.  The station was ultimately shut down as a cost-cutting move. The firefighters and engine assigned to the house were relocated to 4th Street.

1928 An Ahrens Fox Model N piston pumper was purchased and placed in service.

1928 Newport Firefighters Local 45 withdrew from the IAFF because of dissension and discouragement.  

1930 City of Newport population grew to 29,744.  In January, the City of Clifton officially voted in members to the Clifton Volunteer Fire Department.

1931 January 27, 1931, Firefighter William Wagner fell through a vent hole. He fell only a few feet getting caught in rafters, where he hung until other firefighters could lift him back to the roof.

1932 During the City election, Clifton citizens voted a fire truck bond issue and the council purchased a 500 gallon Mack pumper.  The accessories for the truck were purchased with volunteer funds.

1933 In the fall of 1932, the City of Clifton took over the Community Hall (former chapel) and renovated the building to house the newly formed fire department and administrative offices.  The building was dedicated on September 9th, 1933.

Clifton Administration Building

NFD Local1934 March 22nd Newport Firefighters were successful in re-organizing as Newport Firefighters Association NO. 386.



 1935 The Washington Fire Company house was torn down to make way for the new firehouse headquarters. Newport Fire Headquarters remained at 10 East Fourth Street until 1997.  During the time of construction, the Newport Fire department temporarily ran out of the Wiedemann brewery.

South Newport Engine Co at former Clifton City Bldg

1936 The town of Clifton was annexed into the City of Newport. As part of the annex agreement, Newport housed a fire company in the old Clifton Administration building, serving the citizens of Clifton. This firehouse is referred to as South Newport and is still in use today.  The Clifton Volunteer Fire Department was de-activated and its members immediately formed the Clifton Third Alarm Associates and were voted full membership in the NKFA.  This organization was headquartered at the S. E. corner of Main and Ash Streets.

1937 Newport staffing has 36 total firefighters with 3 chief officers, 3 captains, 27 privates, 1 fire alarm electrician, and 2 telephone operators.  This formed a two-platoon system that operated since June of 1923

Newport Fire Headquarters 1947

1944 Newport Fire Department took delivery of a Seagrave 75 foot Aerial Quint open cab. This piece of apparatus was stationed at 10 East Fourth Street.

Newport Fire 1948 Ahrens Fox

1948 Newport Fire Department purchased 2 pieces of apparatus: Ahrens Fox pumper for Fire Headquarters at 10 East 4th Street Army surplus Mack pumper for South Newport at 171 Main Street. (The Mack pumper had to be modified to fit in the station.)

1950 Newport Fire Department began providing ambulance service to the City of Newport.

Peter Pirsch Pumper Stationed at 10 East 4th St

1958 Retired the last piston pumper from service. The department purchased a new Peter Pirsch pumper to be stationed at 10 East Fourth Street.


1959 Mobile radios installed in the ambulance and the pumper at South Newport Station.

1962 Kentucky Professional Firefighters supported a 56-hour workweek law. This required an (on 24 off 48) work shift schedule. The City discontinued Kelly days (24/24 shift with a shift off every seventh day).  Department personnel increased to seventeen members.

1963 Henry Weitholter, Fire Chief, established the first radio base station in Campbell County.

1964 Shift Lieutenants were appointed. All appointments had support on the City Commission.

 1963 International Travel All1964 Purchased an International Travel-All to be used as an ambulance (custom design). Placed the GMC panel truck into surplus equipment.

Newport Fire 1965 Seagrave 75 foot Ladder

1965 Fire Department purchased a 75-foot Seagrave Quint. This piece of apparatus was stationed at 10 East Fourth Street until 1989.

1967 The City of Newport gave fire personnel a salary increase but decreased personnel.

1969 Purchased International Highboy to replace Travel-All.


1970's and 1980's

1970 Cadillac Ambulance

1970 Cadillac ambulance purchased. Two ambulances were then placed into service with ambulance two responding only as a back up for a second run. Personnel came from fire equipment to man the second ambulance. Runs per year were greater than 2,000.

Galaxie Club Fire in 600 Block of Monmouth 1970

1970 Galaxie Club, located in the 600 block of Monmouth Street was gutted by fire spreading in to the Querner Wall Paper Store next door.

1971 Purchased first SCBA, two Scott Units and four Globe Units.

1971 The City of Newport decreased staffing by eliminating one person per shift.

1973 Sixteen shift personnel and three civil dispatchers phased out the Box Alarm System.

1974 Fire personnel called a strike because of money, benefits and written agreement. The strike lasted for less than fourteen hours.

1974 Ralph Quitter was appointed Fire Chief after negotiating strike issues with the City of Newport.

Newport Fire 1974 Seagrave Pumper

1974 Purchased two Seagrave Pumpers with jump seats to be located at 10 East 4th Street. Upgraded radio system to a two-channel system and all turnout gear was upgraded to Nomex.

1975 The City of Newport decreased pay schedule after the Fair Labor Standard Act was implemented. This was to prevent pay changes.

1976 Ralph Mussman was the City Manager and no labor contract was signed this year.

1976 Fire personnel called a strike because they were being ordered to perform functions, which were outside of their job descriptions. The strike lasted approximately two days.

1976 First portable radio was purchased for the pumper.

Newport Fire 1976 Headquarter Add-on1976 The new addition was completed which added two extra bays, a small rear bay, and additional 2nd floor space for sleeping quarters.

Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire May 28 1977 Southgate KY







1977 On the night of May 28th, a fire broke out at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate Kentucky, killing 165 people. Newport Fire Department was one of many departments called in to battle the blaze. One week prior to the incident, the Newport firefighters participated in a training session at the Supper Club with Southgate and Ft. Thomas Fire Departments.

1981 A garage at 938 John Street manufacturing illegal fireworks, exploded without warning leaving severe damage up to a six-block radius.938 John Street garage fire at illegal fireworks manufacturing 938 John Street Illegal Fireworks Garage Fire in 1981





 1987 Chief Larry B. Atwell replaced Chief Martin Dooley.

Fire House Addition 1976

1989 Fire Department purchased a 121ft Grumman Aerial Cat Ladder Truck, the tallest ladder in the State of Kentucky. Also purchased this year were one Seagrave pumper and one Seagrave squirt. All of this new equipment was housed at 10 East 4th Street.


1994 International E-ONE Medic 9811994 An International E-ONE ambulance is purchased and placed in service

1995 On March 14th, 1995 the Newport Professional Firefighters were reissued their original Local 45 charter.

1996 A new fire headquarters is completed at 998 Monmouth Street, connected to the newly built city building and police headquarters.

1996 Spartan/Ferrara Pumper

1996 A new Ferrara pumper is purchased and placed in service at the South Newport fire house.  This apparatus replaced a 1974 Seagrave that formally served as Engine 902.

1998 On July 1st, Newport Fire/EMS began providing an Advanced Life Support service for the City of Newport. Another International E-ONE ambulance was purchased and two ALS ambulances were licensed and placed in service.

1998 Newport Fire/EMS hosted the first Paramedic Program. There were a total of 24 students in the program, nine of which were Newport Fire personnel.

1999 The old Fire Headquarters at 10 East 4th Street was demolished to clear a site for the World Peace Bell. Fire Headquarters was in service from 1935-1997.

1999 On October 2nd, Newport units responded to a structure fire at 416 East 10th Street at the Newport Aquarium warehouse. The fire was a major property loss of $1.5 million with the loss of three exotic fish.


2000 Newport Fire/EMS hosted their second Paramedic Program. There were a total of 18 students enrolled and proved to be a success.

2000 The World Peace Bell and Millennium Monument is completed and dedicated on the former site of Fire Headquarters.

2000 Purchased a 2000 Ford Expedition for Chief 950.  

2001 Newport on the Levee became a reality, boosting the City of Newport into leading economic growth. The Levee is the finest and only entertainment district in Northern Kentucky. The Newport Aquarium was the first to open its doors but many other businesses followed. The Fire Department responses increased due to the growth in the city.

2004 Newport Fire/EMS celebrates 150 years of service to the City of Newport.

2005 International AEV Ambulance2005 Purchased a new ambulance on an International chassis from the AEV Company to replace the 1998 E-ONE ambulance that was involved in a crash.  The ambulance was hit in the side by a vehicle that was fleeing from police.  The Ambulance crew suffered minor injuries.

2007 November; Newport Firefighters Local 45 made a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Newport to reduce the minimum daily staffing number from 12 to 11 due to the recession and financial constraints.  Daily operation had to be changed to the shift Captain operating out of a staff car and the medic units cross manning the ladder truck.  

2008 For the first time in Newport Fire history, the department was able to purchase 36 sets of fire gear for every member.  Funds were secured from the FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

2008 April; Newport Firefighters Local 45 updated the MOU to reduce the minimum daily staffing to 10 personnel from 11.  Engine 903 operated with 2 personnel when daily levels were at 10.  This was intended to save on overtime and to prevent layoffs during the financial crisis.  

2008 Obtained a 2004 Ford F350 pickup truck (931) from the Newport Parks and Recreation department to replace the 1994 Ford F150 pickup truck (930).  The OIC of the shift moved to this unit when staffing went down to 11 per shift.

2008 EMS improvements including switching from paper reports to a computer based reporting and billing system.  The contract was awarded to ADPI and allowed members to write patient reports with a laptop (Tuff Book).  Additional improvements include acquiring 12 lead capable heart monitors, EZ IO, and CPAP: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure system.

2008 September of this year the remnants of hurricane Ike brought wind gusts of over 75mph to Newport and Cincinnati area.  Several homes were damage with wide spread power outages.  Several members were brought back on duty to help with the high number of calls.  The state of Kentucky declared an emergency which was able to offset the cost of manpower as well as damage made to the roof of Engine 903's house. 

2009 The first phase of South Shore was Completed, a 22 story luxury condo complex on Newport's riverfront.

2009 Purchased 3 Thermal Imaging cameras and 2 Ambulance cots with funds secured through the FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

2010 EONE 100HP Ladder Truck2010 Purchased a new 100ft Ladder Truck from E-ONE equipped with a 2000gpm pump and a 500 gallon water tank.  This new truck was purchased with funds obtained from FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.  This apparatus replaced the 1989 Grumman Aerial Cat.

2010 Purchased a used ambulance from the City of Ft. Thomas to replace the aging 1994 International E-ONE amulance.  This 1999 Freightliner Medic Master became Medic 981.

2011 Changed daily operation by running the Ladder Truck as the first out fire apparatus from the downtown station.  Engine 901 was cross manned by the medic units.

2013 Secured funds from the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant to cover the cost of 3 Fire Medics for a three year period in order to keep staffing up and overtime costs down.  

2014 Newport Pavilion was completed as part of a large land redevelopment located next to interstate 471.  The shopping development is home to 35 businesses including Kroger, Target, Dicks Sporting goods, Panera Bread, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle, and IHOP.

2015 Purchased a new ambulance on a Ford chassis from Horton Emergency Vehicles.  This vehicle went in to services as Medic 981 and replaced the 1999 Freightliner Medic Master.   

2015 October: Minimum staffing was returned to 11 per shift.  903 went back to staffing 3 personnel per shift.  

2015 Recieved a grant from the Christ Hospital for a Lucus Chest Compression System.  This allows continuous, quality CPR to be performed on the patient throughout the incident. 

2016 Purchased a used ambulance to replace an aging 2005 International AEV.  This 2006 Ford F450 Horton was formally used in the City of Elsmere.  This became Medic 982

2016 Purchased a new Ford Explorer SUV for Chief 950.  This unit replaced the 2000 Ford Expedition.   

2017 Contracted with Safety Pad for EMS reporting and billing.  This change moved members from using ADPI laptops (Tuff Books) to PC tablets. 

2018 Pierce Enforcer Fire Engine2017 Purchased a new Fire Engine from Pierce Manufacturing.  This new engine was purchased with funds obtained from FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.  The 1996 Ferrara previously assigned to 903 was reassigned to engine 901 in order to replace the retired 1989 Seagrave.  This pumper is equipped with a 1500gpm pump, 500 gallon water tank, a low hosebed, low crosslays and low ladder access.  This apparatus was specially designed to fit in the  South Newport Fire Station. 

2018 Purchased a new Ford Interceptor command vehicle (951).  This vehicle is assigned to the Officer in Charge of the Shift.  The 2004 Ford F350 pick up (931) was moved into utility status.  

2019 Purchased a new Ford F550 Horton Ambulance and placed in service as Medic 982.  In addition, 2 power cots and 2 power loading systems were purchased and placed in service on the medic units. 

2019 July: New Magnagrip exhaust removal system was installed in the apparatus bays downtown to reduce cancer causing diesel exhaust in the firehouse.   

2020 Purchased new Fire Engine from Pierce Manufacturing.  This Engine replaced the aging 1996 Ferrara unit that was reassigned to 901 after the arrival of the new Engine 903.  This pumper is equipped with a 1500gpm pump, 750 gallon water tank, a low hosebed, low crosslays and low ladder access.  Cab configuration changed to allow safer environment for the crew.  The 1996 was moved into reserve as Engine 902.

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Past Chiefs of Newport Fire Department

Washington Fire Company #1 (Volunteer)

Geo. D. Allen 1854-1858
John G. Collins 1858-1863
Job Thompson 1863-1864
John G. Collins 1864-1867
Job Thompson 1867-1869
J. P. Cummings 1869-1869 Disbanded in December

City of Newport Fire Department (Paid)

Thomas H. Williams 1868 - 1877
John Link 1877 - 1888
John Waters 1889 - 1895
John Link 1897 - 1902
John Waters 1902 - 1906
Louis Krebs 1906 - 1907
Fred W. Schmidt 1907 - 1910
John F. Riechers 1911 - 1913
Fred W. Schmidt 1914 - 1915
Samuel Rardin 1916 - 1918
W. C. Thomasson 1918 - 1921
Albert L. King 1921 - 1924
Edward Brandt 1924 - 1930
Edward Miles 1930 - 1957
Charles Stuttler 1957 - 1963
Henry Wietholter 1963 - 1974
Ralph Quitter 1974 - 1986
Martin Dooley 1986 - 1987
Larry Atwell 1987 - 2006
William Ravenscraft 2006 - 2008
Paul Uebel 2008 - 2013
Gary Auffart 2013 - 2016
Bill Darin 2016 - 2021
Frank Peluso Jr. 2021 - Present


Memorial to those we lost in the Line of Duty

Samual Barber March 17th 1861
(Under the Washington Fire Engine and Hose Company 1)

Lee Howe February 22nd 1904

Benjamin Graham February 21st 1919


For any information on the history of Newport Fire Department, or to provide any historic pictures, please contact Captain Jeff Stahl 292-3616

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1866 Washington Hall 10 East 4th St

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