History of the Worland
Volunteer Fire Department
There are some discrepancies in the actual date of when the department was formed, and when the first Fire Chief was appointed. Fire Chief succession since 1931: A.E. Chenoworth 1931 to 1936, J.M. "Shorty" Walters 1937 to 1939, H.H. Fritzler 1940 to 1946, E.H. "Swede" Oscarson 1947 to 1956, Max Johnson 1957 to 1958, Earl Lemmon 1959 to 1970, Robert Smith 1971 to 1972, Donald Babbitt 1972 to 1976, Robert Taylor 1977 to 2001, Don Huber 2001 to 2007, Interim Chief Chris Kocher 2007-2008, Dennis Estes 2008, Interim Chief Chad Carlton 2008, and Wes Long 2008-2010 and Current Fire Chief Chris Kocher.
Prior to May of 1977, the Worland Volunteer Fire Department was separated into a city and a rural department. Although the members of the department were the same, equipment used to fight fires was provided by the City and the Rural Fire District. City equipment could not be used outside city limits, and rural equipment was not to be used in city limits. The rural area was defined as the green area of the valley. During this time the equipment was housed at 714 Robertson Ave; and a wall that separated the city equipment from the rural equipment divided the station. Because of the job of keeping hose, nozzles, etc. separated, each entity would take turns with the purchase of those type of items. The equipment consisted of a 1962 Ford Station Wagon, and a 1967 Ford Station Wagon that was jointly owned by the city and the rural district. The rural district equipment consisted of a 1954 International Tanker "Tender" that held 1000 gallons of water, and a 1962 International Howe 500 gallon-per-minute Pumper. The city equipment consisted of a 1959 GMC Howe 750 gallon-per-minute Pumper and a 1967 International Howe 750 gallon-per-minute Pumper.
In 1976 because of a concern that there was property outside of the district's boundaries that was unprotected, and that the school buses were traveling outside the boundaries, the fire department started a petition to become a fire district. This district would include the City of Worland, and have the same boundaries as the Washakie County School District #1. This was placed on the ballot in November of 1976, and passed. In May of 1977, the Worland Fire Protection District #1 became a reality. In August of 1977, the first election for District Board Members was held and three members were elected to serve. In the next election, the number of members was increased to five.
A project that started in 1974 became a reality in 1977 when a grant was received to build a new fire station. The location of the new station was a long and often bitter battle, that ended in December of 1978 when the department started moving into its new station at 200 South 5th Street. This project was spearheaded by Council Member Lowell Peterson and Fire Chief Bob Taylor. Lowell later became a Fire Board member and served in that capacity for many years.
In 1977, an effort was started to improve the district and city's insurance ratings. Prior to that time, the city's rating was a class 8 and the district a class 9. With the purchase of some new equipment and a commitment by the volunteer firefighters to training and certification, the rating was dropped to a class 5.
In 1984, land on 15-mile road was obtained and the fire department members started building a training center. Endless hours were committed by the volunteers and although still not completed, a training center with a drill tower, burn building, pump test pit, hose testing area, and a flammable liquid pit was constructed.
Because of their efforts and the commitment of the Fire District's Board to up-grade equipment, in 1988, the District received a class 3 rating. At that time this was the first class 3 given to a volunteer fire department in the surrounding five state region.
In 1980, the district hired its first full-time employee. Robert Taylor, who also served as the Volunteer Fire Chief, was selected as Fire Marshall for the District. In 1985, a second paid-position was added, that of maintenance technician, and Tom Crichton was hired.
In 1995, the district submitted a grant request to the State of Wyoming for funds to build a sub-station. This grant was approved and a sub-station was built on 15-mile road just east of the training center.
In 1998, the department started a cadet program in which school students between the ages of 15 and 18 can take part in the department's program. To date there have been several students that have participated in the program, and some of those, upon graduation from high school, have joined the department as full fledged volunteer firefighters.
In 2001, the districts' fleet consisted of two Command Units, a Squad, a Rescue Truck, four Structural Engines, a 75-Foot Aerial, and four Wildland Engines. The membership of the department remained close to that of the original department, around 30 members. In addition to the training every Tuesday night, approximately 160 to 180 calls were answered per year.
Currently our fleet consists of a Rescue Truck, Squad, 2500 Gallon Tender, 75-Foot Aerial, Four Structural Engines, 3 Wildland Quick-Attacks, 3-6x Wildland Units, a Department Semi, Smoke Bus, 3 Command Units, and we now house the Regional Emergency Response Team 6 Hazardous Material Truck & Trailer as well as Decontamination Unit for the State of Wyoming. Current approximate call volume is 180 to 200 calls annually.