Archive Record

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Catalog Number MS.006
Object Name Fonds
Scope & Content Venice Fire Department Collection consists of photos, correspondence, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, minutes, a 1934 log book, books and artifacts from 1926-1931 and 1934 to present.
Title Venice Fire Department Collection
Collection Venice Fire Dept. Collection
Number of images 8
People Trier, Bill
Related units of description RG1101
Search Terms Old Betsy
Venice Fire Department
Admin/Biographical History The Venice Fire Department was organized in 1926 with a paid chief. All others involved were volunteers. In 1931, the Fire Department ceased to function because of lack of funds. Service was resumed in April 1934. During the late 1970s, full time help was hired to protect the community from fire. Theodore L. Deming, 1622 Bayonne St., Osprey was appointed Chief on September 11, 1970. He previously service as Senior Captain in Cleveland, Ohio and Rocky River, Ohio for a period of 29 years. He was hired to revitalize and organize the Fire Department to a professional level. Under his experience as an instructor and organizer, the Venice Fire Department expanded. Additional men and equipment were added. Under his auspices, 2 stations; EMT's; 2 new trucks and the Inspection Fire Marshall Division was included. Radio telephone improvements were made. Chief Deming retired on 7/1/1981. (Prepared by Glenn Stephens, November 1991)

In 1926, the Venice Fire Department was organized with approximately 32 volunteers and was housed in a building provided by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers located north of present day St. Augustine Avenue and east of Nassau Street. In 1937, the city acquired and renovated a 2-story structure one lot east of the northeast corner of East Venice Avenue Warfield Avenue, to serve as fire station and jail. This station had one fire engine, a 1926 American La France Pumper. On April 3, 1958, a new Public Safety Building was constructed at 447 E. Venice Avenue, containing the Fire Department, the Police Department, and jail. A second fire department building was completed in June, 1974 on Harbor Drive south of City Hall and is known as Station #1. Venice now had fire protection coverage for both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway. By May 1989, the 1954 Public Safety building was demolished and a new Police Department building and a new Fire Department building (Station #2 on North Grove Street) were constructed. In October 2007 a third Fire Department building was built on Laurel Road east of Jacaranda Boulevard. By 2015 the Fire Stations were re-numbered by Sarasota County to 51, 52, and 53 respectively.

Before 1928, information on fire fighting equipment is vague and unrecorded. In 1928, Venice bought its first fire engine (fondly called Old Betsy), a 1926 American LaFrance 750 GPM Pumper with rotary gear pump, crank engine, from American LaFrance in Elmira, NY. In 1946, the Army sold the city, for $1.00 each, a 1942 Ford and a 1943 Chevrolet fire engines and these were in use up to 1966. The 1942 Ford engine was later revamped into a tanker truck for city usage. The 1943 Chevrolet engine was sold to Ft. Myers, FL. In 1960, a new FWD, 750 GPM Pumper was purchased for $19,000. In 1966, a new 750 GPM Ford Seagrave was acquired.

Until April, 1934, there was no paid fire personnel. All were volunteer. In April, 1934, W. Stinson, Jr. was hired as the first full-time paid fire chief and the first full-time paid fire department employee. The first full-time paid fireman, other than the Chief, was Gordon Struble, who received $3,380 yearly. Successive Chiefs were W. L. Surls, Harry Sjoblom, Dewey Stephens, Julius (Bud), Devine, and Gordon Struble.

With the hiring of Theodore L. Deming as Fire Chief in 1970, the Venice Fire Department became a fully paid entity, with all personnel State qualified firefighters. By the end of 1974, the fire department consisted of 24 firefighters, with 11 holding State Certified EMT status. Each of these 24 fire fighters was required to attend 240 hours of training at a Fire Academy in Sarasota and Ocala and had a starting salary is $8,600 per year.
Following Chief Deming's retirement in 1981, James Culbert became Fire Chief followed by Roger Shankle, Roy Williams, Mike Beagle, Mike Johnson, John Reed, Shawn Carvey, James Warman, and Shawn Carvey (2015)

The first department secretary, Anne Leeham, began work in May 1972, succeeded by Bernice Howe (Nov. 1974) and Miriam Andrews (Jan. 1976).
(Expanded text edited by Dorothy Korwek, December 2015)
Subjects Fire
Fire engines & equipment
Fire fighters
Fire fighting
Fire stations
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