From the Vault: Up in smoke |

From the Vault: Up in smoke

One b/w photograph of the members of the Aspen Fire Department in the 1890s. They are all wearing matching shirts and pants, and the fire tower is behind them. They are leaning on a ladder, with the fire wagon behind them. The sides of the wagon are lined with buckets for water.

“Yesterday forenoon a fire was started on the top of Aspen Mountain by a party burning some brush and rubbish,” reported the Aspen Evening Chronicle on Sept. 4, 1889. “When he had started the fire he could not control it, and it soon reached other undergrowth and trees and got into a huge pile of tram timbers, piled up to be used in the construction of the tramway. When the fire was under fair headway in these timbers, there was for a time very little hope of getting it under control until thousands of dollars of damage was done. Cloud after cloud of dense smoke continued for nearly two hours after noon to rise, half hiding from the view of the city the leaping flames which shot heavenward. Between 1 and 2 o’clock in the afternoon the Aspen fire boys summoned by a fire bell met at the city hall and decided to go to the scene of threatened disaster. When they arrived they found a large force of miners gathered in an army to fight the flames. The mine owners had called for aid from every possible source, and they were paying them $4 an hour for their work. In a half hours’ time a very perceptible difference was made in reducing the volume of the smoke. The first property endangered was that of the Percy Consolidated company, which has a fine lot of buildings and improvements. The shaft house caught fire three times and was each time extinguished without sustaining great loss. A number of other properties adjoining were also in great danger of destruction, but the very effective work of the gathering forces saved them. The fire crossed Spar gulch and ran like prairie fire under a strong wind. The forces were concentrated at the most critical moment, in cutting down trees and cutting an excavation about as wide as an ordinary street, for the purpose of heading off the flames before they reached Tourtelotte Park and the flourishing little village, which would have been totally destroyed had it not been for the well-organized effort of the firemen.” The image above shows members of the Aspen Fire Department in front of the fire tower, circa 1890.

This photo and more can be found in the Aspen Historical Society archives at