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History of the Cy-Fair Fire Department 

Blazing a trail to meet the needs of the community for 60 years!

Article by Ariana Hurtado

Photography by Shannon Raske - Luna Lux

Originally published in Cypress Lifestyle

A 1950s Cypress housewife is going about her day when the phone rings. Like many women in the area, her husband is a farmer, or perhaps a local businessman, but he is also a volunteer firefighter. Right now, he is urgently needed to help put out a fire.  It’s up to her to find her husband and relay the message. Needless to say, response times weren't what they are today, but this was actually a significant improvement to previous response times when the Cypress area had to rely on the Jersey Village, or Houston fire departments.  

Discussions to create a local fire department, (which would later become the Fairbanks fire department) started in the late 1940s after a home was destroyed due to a long response time. “It came to a head when they had a house fire out here and it took twenty minutes for the first fire truck to show up,” Cy-Fair firefighter Dennis Fox said. “It probably had to come from Houston, and the house burned down.

The first truck purchased by the Fairbanks Fire Department was only $125, “Even back in the 1960s the guys were good with their hands and built their own trucks. They would buy a used truck, put a tank on it, put a pump on it, paint it red, and put out fires with it.” said Dennis.

The Fairbanks Fire Department was chartered in 1952 and by 1961 the Cypress Fairbanks Fire Department and the Fairbanks Fire Department merged, creating the Cy-Fair Fire Department (CFFD). The Cy-Fair Fire Department was officially chartered in 1962. At this point, they were still fully operating on donations. A donation system was implemented where suggested donation amounts were based on property value. For example, an owner of a $100,000 home was encouraged to donate about $5.

Telephones were the main sources of communication for the department, and because the firefighters still depended on their wives to deliver messages to them, the fire department had phones located around town at residences and businesses to allow the firefighters quick access to trucks and equipment allowing for faster response times.

Firefighters began using two-way handheld radios in the 1960s and running base stations out of homes. One very special woman of note during this era is Mrs. Lucille Oliver who committed her time, and dedication to CFFD, and the community, by running a base station out of her home. Mrs. Oliver took calls all day, every day for an astounding ten years! At this point, CFFD had up to sixty-five members and five stations. By the early 1970s, the department received about 400 calls per year (still largely for grass fires) and had eleven trucks.

In 1977 CFFD purchased the first ambulance, and in 1981 two-thirds of the calls CFFD received were EMS calls. By 1981 they ran four ambulances twenty-four hours a day. In the mid-1980s a funding agency was formed; the Rural Fire Prevention District (RFPD). Still maintaining a crucial role in the firefighting community, a full-size van was donated to the wives’ auxiliary by Texas Process Equipment. In 1990 Cy-Fair Fire Department went from an RFPD for funding to an ESD; Emergency Service District and Cy-Fair Fire Department remains an ESD to this day–ESD 9.

Fast forward to 2015 and the CFFD made history with its all-female crew at Station 7 on Cypresswood Drive. At the time, four of them were experienced firefighters within the department, and the fifth was about to graduate from cadet class. Current Cy-Fair Fire Department Chief Amy Ramon was a member of this all-female crew, but she says it’s not gender that makes an effective firefighter. “It has to do with the individual and the training you put in to do the job,” Ramon said. “Everyone has to prove themselves. Everyone in the crew depends on each other. If you don't or can't perform at the level necessary to do the job, you put everyone on that crew in jeopardy.”

The ‘Founding Fathers’ (as Glenn, Dennis and Rick have come to refer to the men who started Cy-Fair Fire Department) unfortunately didn’t live to see what would become of what they started. “It blows my mind to see what they started and how much it’s grown!” said Dennis. But their legacy continues as CFFD celebrates 60 years this year.

In 2019 Cy-Fair Fire Department made the change from a fully volunteer fire department by adding paid firefighters. Currently, CFFD covers 160 square miles, and as of 2020 has 283 volunteers and 344 employees with 13 stations, 13 engines, 2 ladders, 2 rescue units, and 15 medics all running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, serving over 650,000 residents in its territory. To give a glimpse into what that kind of growth looks like, the annual call volume in the 1960s was 100 calls per year compared to last year's call volume for 2021 was 37,469 calls!

“When I joined in 1990 as a volunteer, I had no idea that this would become a career for me.” Chief Ramon said, “I was looking for something fun and exciting to do. This department became my family. The passion I have for this career is because of the people in this department. It's not just work to me.”

As for the next generation of firefighters, Ramon advises them not to become complacent and to listen to those that came before them. “Never stop training. Never stop learning,” she concluded. “Take pride in yourself, your crew, your station, your shift, and this department.”

Glenn Gates, Dennis Fox, and Rick Corliss, all long-time Cy-Fair firefighters, have filled the roles of historians for CFFD. They’ve diligently collected vintage firefighting equipment, photographs, and newspaper clippings dating back to the late 1940s. It’s showcased at Station 11, but they are always looking for more information, photos, and memorabilia about the fire department that has served its community with heart, selflessness, and dedication. The department specifically is seeking pictures of four former Chiefs as follows: Howard W. Staples, John Morgan, Stanley Hubbard, and Jack Fry. If anyone has old photos or stories relating to CFFD, please contact Rick Corliss at 281-550-6663 or so they can be added to the record of the rich history of Cy-Fair Fire Department.

  • Chief Charlie Radcliff accepts donation mid 1970's
  • Current Chief Amy Ramon
  • Wayne Ford offers fire truck rides to a BBQ fundraiser

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