Phone Outage at Benton Branch

Listen to Fire Warnings, Learn From History

Even though we just got a little rain, drought conditions continue to worsen in Louisiana, with a burn ban still in effect. Fires are burning around the state and region. The Governor has pleaded, “Please follow the statewide burn ban to try and prevent any new problems for our firefighters.” On the last day of August, 2023, the southern half of the parish is in “Severe Drought.” You can look at the history of Bossier City to see just how widely destructive droughts plus fire can be. But you can also see in this history reasons for pride and positivity if you, as Mr. Fred Rogers instructed, “look for the helpers,” as the city began to crew, equip and ultimately professionalize Bossier City’s fire response.

On the night of June 23, 1925, a fire began in a feed barn belonging to Bossier City Mayor Tom Hickman. The flames moved through homes on Colquitt Street and then the blaze reached the business section of Bossier City, located on Cane Street (now Barksdale Boulevard). A separate fire also struck downtown that night. The fires made quick work of the wooden structures. The wind carried embers several blocks, bringing people to the roofs of their homes with water buckets, mops, and sacks to stifle any flames.

Bossier City’s water supply was very low due to a recent drought. Bossier did not have its own fire department, so the Shreveport Fire Department sent a pumper truck full of water across the river. The truck did not stop at the Traffic Street tollbooth on the bridge across the Red River to pay its nickel, so the toll attendants shot at it, puncturing the water tank. The bridge soon became so crowded that the toll operators had to give up as people streamed across from Shreveport to watch the blaze. A bucket brigade led by the Shreveport firefighters was the only way to slowly, with little effectiveness, contain the flames. The fires caused over $100,000 worth of damage, and destroyed half of downtown Bossier City.

After the fires of June 23rd, city leaders worked to bring a modern water system and a new fire alarm system to the people of Bossier. A volunteer fire brigade was organized in 1926 and Bossier City’s first fire truck was purchased that same year. It was a Model-T and did not have a pump, but a 40-gallon soda-acid tank extinguisher. The first fire station was built on Cane Street in 1928, as a fire truck bay within the Bossier City Municipal Building/City Hall, which is now the home of the Bossier Arts Council. (The fire truck bay houses the Emerging Artists Gallery). A volunteer fire department operated out of that building under the direction of Chief Nathan Huff. Bossier’s first paid firefighters started in 1932, the same year the department got its first pumper truck equipped.

New alarm boxes used the telegraph system and alerted the fire department to the location of a fire. When someone triggered the box, a spring-loaded wheel spun and tapped out a signal onto the fire alarm telegraph wire, indicating the box number, giving firefighters the location of the emergency.


In 1950, F. Maxwell Smith was appointed the first paid Fire Chief. By 1951, the first fire substation was built on Waller Street, and in 1952, a new stand-alone Central Station was built next to the Municipal Building until a new Central Station opened in 1984 within the present-day Bossier City municipal complex. The city now has nine fire stations and 191 employees, with services that include EMS, hazardous materials operations, water rescue, bomb squad, fire prevention, SWAT, public education programs, fire investigations and inspections.

The History Center would like to expand our collection of the history of Bossier City and Parish first responder services. If you have photographs, papers, uniforms, or other items relating to firefighters or police officers in Bossier Parish, please consider donating them to the Historical Center or simply making them available to scan. Contact us at 318-746-7717 or email or visit us at 2206 Beckett St., Bossier City. We are open: M-Th 9-8, Fri 9-6, and Sat 9-5. For other intriguing facts, photos, and videos, be sure to follow us @BPLHistoryCenter on Facebook, @bplhistorycenter on TikTok, and check out our blog Visit the Bossier Parish Libraries’ YouTube channel to see a “virtual tour” of the Bossier Arts Council/old Bossier City Municipal Building



  • Bossier City Fire Department Precinct members outside the Bossier City Fire Station at 630 Cane Avenue. The fire truck appears to be a 1941 American LaFrance. Bossier City purchased its second fire truck in 1942 and a third in 1945. This may be a photo of the firefighters with one of the new trucks.
  • Photograph left to right: Arthur Ray Teague, Unidentified Man, Volunteer Chief Nathan G. Huff, Unidentified Man, and Captain Ennis Tipton of Bossier City Fire Department.  Circa 1940's. If you think you recognized the unidentified men in this picture, please let the History Center know!

Article by: Pam Carlisle