The Burning City – Jerome, Arizona

JeromeJerome, Arizona might not be the first place you think of when talking about firefighting history. However, this small, mountainside town endured four devastating fires within a 5 year span in the late 1800s that nearly destroyed it.

The Four Fires

Jerome was incorporated in 1899, due to a need for a fire department. Before this – when Jerome was just a small mining town – fires ravaged the city. In 1894 two blocks in the commercial district burned to the ground. Three years later in 1897 the entire business district burned down, as well as many nearby homes. In 1898 the business district again went up in flames. Finally, in 1899 multiple saloons and restaurants were burned down. These four fires were destructive enough to be placed in the category of “disaster.” After so much destruction it was clear that Jerome needed a fire department.

The Jerome Volunteer Fire Department

Upon incorporation, Jerome took a number of steps to minimize potential for future disasters. These include the following:

  • The building of water tanks downtown
  • The burying of fire lines
  • The construction of a fire station and volunteer fire department
  • Adoption of one of the first building codes designed minimize risk of fire

In the years that followed, the city went through various booms and busts, its size largely tied to the price of copper. Today the city is considerably smaller, but the fire department is still a respected staple of the town, honoring its colorful tradition of fire fighting.

Photo credit: Jerome VFD

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