If you really want to see how a city or town has grown and developed over the years, take a look at the history of its fire department.

As with police departments, fire departments were one of the first public services formed in fledgling communities.

Back in the day, many fire departments were manned by volunteers hauling buckets of water or pushing hose carts to the site of a fire or emergency before hiring on full-time firefighters and transitioning to engine-powered fire trucks and state-of-the-art gear.

A mock dispatch room takes visitors back in time to when the top technology was a manual typewriter and streets locations were looked up in a paper file. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

The city of Loveland is one of these cities that has witnessed a variety of transitions and changes in its fire department over the years.

Visitors to the Loveland Fire Exhibit can take a trip back in time to see just how far the Loveland Fire Departments have come through a collection of photos, artifacts, models and more.

The Loveland Fire Exhibit is located in the Beet Education Center at 201 E. 5th St. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

The exhibit showcases information and history on some of the area’s largest disasters, including the Big Thompson Flood of 1976, the 2013 flood in the canyon and the Big Thompson elevator that exploded in 1973.

“The Big Thompson elevator explosion took place two weeks after I started with the fire department as a volunteer,” Exhibit President and retired Loveland firefighter Fran Lyons said. “I never worked a day in my life when I joined the fire department. I enjoyed it so much, it wasn’t work.”

Prior to its opening at the Beet Education Center, 201 E. 5th St., items from the exhibit sat packed in boxes for the past six years.

“We opened up in September and we are part of the museum,” Lyons said. “We’ve collected artifacts through the years and put it on display now.”

Exhibit volunteer and former Loveland firefighter Fran Lyons flips through photos taken over the years at the city’s fire stations and emergencies. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

The Bartholf Hose Company No. 1 and the Loveland Hook and Ladder No. 1 are believed to be Loveland’s first fire stations, Lyons explained. The station was founded in 1890 and functioned up to 1909.

“Frank Bartholf was a businessman and philanthropist and I think he kind of started the company to protect his own stuff,” Lyons said, chuckling. “In 1911, the hose company and the hook and ladder company combined to form the Loveland Fire Department.”

A custom sculpture by Shari Vines honors the lives of past Loveland firefighters at the Loveland Fire Exhibit. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

The station was located along the 400 block of B Street, which would be on the west side of Cleveland Avenue between 4th and 5th streets today. The cost to build the station at that time was $989 — mere pennies compared to the cost to build fire stations today.

In 1909, the city replaced the original hose house with a new station, costing $9,215 to build. The city also placed an order for its first motorized fire truck to replace the old hand-drawn horse cart.

At the time, the new station housed not only the fire department, but also the police department and city administration.

The Loveland Fire Exhibit features a variety of artifacts, photos, models and more from the history of the city’s fire departments. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

As Loveland grew, so did its fire rescue.

“In 1967 the Loveland Fire Sirens, made up of wives of firefighters, formed to support their husbands by raising money for equipment that the rural district and city couldn’t provide for them,” Lyons said.

In 1974, the city added its second station and its third station in 1980. To date, the Loveland Fire Rescue has ten fire stations across Larimer County.

“Rural and the city fire departments have combined to form the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority,” Lyons said. “So this is just a small token of the stuff that we have.”

In addition to the artifacts, photos and models, the organization owns several vintage and antique vehicles, including a 1925 American LaFrance pumper, 1939 Ford one-ton panel van and a 1928 Ford Model A roadster.

The Loveland Fire Exhibit has a variety of artifacts on display, including these ribbons from the Bartholf Hose races in 1895. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

Lyons and other members of the Loveland Fire Exhibit are working to launch a digital exhibit that will feature photos, videos and historical information.

The Loveland Fire Exhibit was formed in 2008 by a group of retired Loveland firefighters and associates. The nonprofit’s mission is to “support the Loveland Museum and Gallery in persevering the history of the Loveland fire services and honoring its members for the present and future generations.”

Members of the Loveland Fire Exhibit Board of Directors includes:

Fran Lyons — President

Lynn Stauffer — Vice president

Chris Klaas — Secretary

Diane Lyons — Treasurer

Along with the board of directors, the group consists of around 32 active members, which includes retired firefighters, active firefighters and spouses.

A model depicts the Loveland Fire Rescue’s training facilities. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

The organization welcomes community members of all backgrounds and people of all ages are welcome to attend their meetings. Requests for membership can be sent to lovelandfireexhibitinc.net .

If you go

• What: Loveland Fire Exhibit, 201 E. 5th St.

• When: From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every second Saturday from September through April and every second and fourth Saturday May through August. Appointments can be made for group visits at the front desk at the Loveland Museum, 503 N. Lincoln Ave.

• Cost: Admission into the exhibit is free and donations are much appreciated

• For more information, go to https://bit.ly/3HvcL1r .

This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune