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Tucson Fire Department history book chronicles frontier days to 21st century

Tucson Fire Department history book chronicles frontier days to 21st century

The Tucson Fire Department’s history from its frontier days up its development into a 21st century force is featured in a new book on sale by the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation.

Historians Al and Bob Ring are the authors of “Tucson Fire Department, Established 1881,” a 244-page book with photos and documents.

The book is based on the archive that Al Ring built on the foundation’s website,, where more than 300,000 searchable items are featured.

The items include news stories, recordings and videos, said Mike McKendrick, chairman of the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, a nonprofit founded by firefighters to raise funds to provide advanced training and health and wellness support for Southern Arizona firefighters.

The book costs $37.95 and is available for purchase online at and at the foundation’s estate sale/resale pop-up store at 4911 E. 29th St. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 1-2. For future pop-up dates for the sale of the book, a schedule can be found on the foundation’s Facebook page.

The book includes stories of a “hard-scrabble volunteer force” and introduces the reader “to firefighting tradition, including the use of well-trained horses that pulled Tucson’s early fire engines” on up to the “development of paramedics and other specialized services,” according to the foundation.

Among stories in the book are:

  • The capture of Public Enemy No. 1, bank robber John Dillinger and members of his gang. Authorities were led to them because a fire that broke out on Jan. 22, 1934, at the Hotel Congress downtown.
  • The Dec. 20, 1970, Pioneer Hotel fire at Stone Avenue and Pennington Street. The fire broke out on the fourth floor and raced its way to the top of the 11-story building. Twenty-nine people died.
  • An Air Force jet crashed Oct. 26, 1978, south of the University of Arizona, killing one person, injuring six and narrowly missing students on the playground at Mansfeld Junior High School. The plane’s pilot ejected over the UA campus and the crash ignited a wall of flames several stories high.
  • An arson fire ravaged Old Tucson Studios, destroying nearly 40 buildings in the 360-acre park and causing an estimated $10 million in damage on April 24, 1995. No one was seriously hurt in the fire that for many Tucson-area firefighters was their “career fire.”

“I am very proud of the book,” said McKendrick during an interview. “Besides the book’s cultural and historical significance, proceeds from sales will raise funds to care for firefighters.” The three leading causes of death for firefighters are heart disease, cancer and suicide, he said.

“More firefighters will take their own lives this year than will die battling a fire. Sadly, over 100 firefighters will commit suicide nationwide, and firefighters killed in battling fires is now down into the 80s,” McKendrick said.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at or 573-4104. On Twitter: @cduartestar

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