From the time the first homesteader settled in the area until 1934, every citizen in the area turned out to fight fires. Some of the major fires during that time were:
- The Harris house fire at 80th and Bradburn in 1929;
- the General Store fire at 83rd and Federal; and
- five fires were reported between 1929 and 1940 at Belleview College (now known as Pillar Of Fire).
In 1933, a barn fire at 75th and Bradburn which was pushed by 30-40 mile per hour winds blew sparks as far as Lowell and endangered the whole town. Earl (Pappy) Richards was at this barn fire and observed how the fire was being fought and realized there must be a better way to fight fires.
In 1934, Earl Richards was appointed the first Westminster Fire Chief and established the original Westminster Volunteer Fire Department.
In 1940, the Fire Department was organized with a set of by-laws and consisted of 25 recognized members over age 25.
By 1973, there was a need for better fire protection in the City and voters approved a sales tax increase to enable the City to hire the first paid firefighter. The Fire Department was then made up of a combination of volunteer and paid fighters.
In 1996, the last class of volunteer firefighters was sent through a fire academy and thus ended the era of the volunteer firefighters in Westminster.
The Fire Department currently employs over 80 on-line firefighters and handles arson investigation, fire prevention, public education, ambulance operations, special team operations, and has a full-time administrative staff.
Fire equipment up until 1924 consisted of a 2-wheel hose cart that was pulled by hand to fires. During that year M.A. (Doc) Shipman built another 2-wheel hose cart that could be pulled by a car.
In 1936, volunteers constructed a 4 wheeled "fire wagon" (seen above) that was also designed to be pulled by a car to fires.
In 1943, firefighters purchased a 1940 Dodge pick-up truck and converted it into a fire truck.
In 1947, the Department sold the pick-up and purchased a war surplus fire truck. This was the first "fire truck" ever purchased by the Fire Department. (This truck is pictured above on the far right)
The Department currently has 6 fire stations and operates 5 engine companies, 1 ladder company, 2 ambulances, 1 battalion chief, 2 attack units, 1 squad, a multi agency hazardous material unit, and a multi agency dive rescue team.
Law enforcement wasn't much of a problem when the City was incorporated in 1911. Problems with youth were taken care of within the family, there were few cars and the county provided what little crime-solving was needed. Only one major crime is recorded from before the City's incorporation.
Around the turn of the century, a farmer was returning to his home in Broomfield after a day of selling produce in Denver. Two men held him up near where 80th Avenue and Federal Boulevard are today. Being disappointed with the amount of money that he had, they shot him 12 times and left him for dead in an irrigation ditch. Somehow he was able to get back to his wagon. Once he was aboard, the horses headed for home, arriving early the next day. Medical aid was summoned and the farmer recovered. The bandits were never captured, but were believed to be the same who had reportedly committed other crimes in the Denver area at about the same time.
When the City incorporated, however, it became necessary to have a law enforcement officer to enforce the town ordinances. The job of town marshal was combined with duties and title of water and street superintendent. At first, this was the City's only paid position. The employee was required to operate the water pump, collect water bills, repair the streets, and police the town. When necessary, town board members were deputized and patrolled the town in their own vehicles, checking in at the town hall every hour for their next patrol assignment.
By 1953, with the town growing so rapidly, it was apparent that the job could no longer be handled by one man, even with deputized assistance. But the city budget could not be stretched to cover a full-time police force. Several residents came to the city's aid as volunteers and formed the Westminster Police Association. The members wore pink and blue uniforms and had special telephones in their homes to call them to duty. They answered calls in their own cars.
In August, 1954, the town council voted funds for a paid policeman. Soon a night marshal, a sergeant and two patrolmen were added to the roster. By 1959, the department also had three dispatchers and a secretary, and moved into its own building at the new Municipal Complex.
The Police Department continued to grow with the City. By 1976, the department had 66 employees. By 1978, they had outgrown their building. A new state-of-the-art Police/Court Center, located at 88th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, was built in 1979. By 1986 there were 152 employees in the department.
Parks, Recreation and Libraries
The Metropolitan Recreation District 50, serving residents of southwest Adams County - including Westminster, became the first special recreation district in the state of Colorado in 1955. Prior to that time, residents of Westminster involved themselves with common western recreations of that era. They enjoyed teen dances, rodeos, Little League baseball, potluck dinners and talent contests.
One of the first actions of the new district was to conduct an election for a $150,000 bond issue, which was approved. The proceeds were used to construct a swimming pool, lay out a baseball field and build tennis courts at the Berkley Gardens Elementary School and the Westminster High School. Additional bond issues in 1958 an 1962 made possible other parks, a nursery, swimming pools and other facilities.
Another notable achievement for the Recreation District was when it received the first Open Space Land Grant in the nation. The $15,103 grant made possible the first public golf course outside of the city of Denver. The golf course, now known as Hyland Hills, is listed in the top 100 public courses in the country. The district also built the first indoor-outdoor swimming pool in the Rocky Mountain region and offered the first recreation programs for the handicapped in Colorado.
District programs continued to expand to eventually include arts and crafts, physical fitness programs, summer recreation programs and dancing. For a brief time, the district even sponsored a symphonic orchestra.
As the district continued to grow and offer more recreational opportunities to the residents, some confusion arose from its name, Metropolitan Recreation District 50, and the name of the school district that originally sponsored it, Adams County School District 50. The fact that both District 50's shared office space only increased the identity problems. In the mid-1960's, the recreation district changed its name to Hyland Hills Recreation District, after its award winning golf course.
In the early 1970's, the City conducted several large-scale annexations, increasing its size from about four and a half to nearly 20 square miles. Included with these annexations was Standley Lake, located at 88th Avenue and Kipling Street. The lake has become a major recreation area, providing residents with easy access to picnic, camping and boating facilities.
In 1972, the City began offering its own recreation opportunities to its residents. This was due to the large number of residents in the newly annexed parts of the City who lived outside of the Hyland Hills District. In December of 1972, a vote of the people indicated that they wanted Westminster to provide parks and recreation services. The elections led directly to the creation of a new city department - the Department of Parks and Recreation - and resulted immediately in changes and improvements to the park system. A major recreation center, the Swim and Fitness Center was also planned and underway soon after.
The issue of exclusion from the Hyland Hills Recreation District took nearly twelve years and thousands of hours to work out. It was resolved in 1983 with a joint agreement signed by Westminster and Hyland Hills calling for cooperation from both entities on a number of parks and recreation issues, including the cooperative construction of a nine-hole addition to the existing Hyland Hills golf course.
In 1990, the responsibility for maintaining the City's Library services was added to the Department of Parks and Recreation, creating a need for a name change to the Department of Parks, Recreation & Libraries.
In the 1990's recreation and fitness opportunities abound in Westminster, where the Department of parks, Recreation & Libraries holds the nationally coveted Gold Medal Award for its excellent recreation programs. The City has continued an aggressive parks and recreation plan which included 37 parks, six community centers, and 2 libraries.
Westminster established an open space program in 1986 to preserve and protect natural areas and the beautiful vistas that contribute to the unique character of the City. In November of 1996, voters approved a $26 million bond issue dedicated to the purchase of open space throughout the City. The City has preserved over 1,400 acres of park land and open space for the enjoyment of future generations. The City also has completed approximately 40 miles of multipurpose trails that can be enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists, skaters, and horseback riders alike.
Four golf courses providing more than 72 holes of playing pleasure exist within the City limits. Three of the four courses, Hyland Hills, Legacy Ridge, and The Heritage at Westmoor are public. The Ranch Country Club is private.
Westminster is also very proud to be the training home of the Colorado Rapids. The Rapids are Colorado's professional soccer team and the 1997 Western Conference Champions. Westminster's four-plex soccer field is now the training facility for this major-league soccer team. Construction has begun on a permanent training facility for the team next to the City Park Recreation Center.
The construction of the first City hall facilities also provided room for the first town library. In September, 1951, the City hired Miss Ann Warner to serve as the first city librarian.
When Miss Warner reported to work, she found that the library consisted of a shelf of books, another half dozen boxes of books, a budget of $100 per year to purchase books, and a $75 per month salary for her.
Ann proceeded to build the library from this small beginning. She haunted book sales, scouted second hand stores, and persuaded friends from the Colorado Author's League and the Denver Women's Press Club to donate books. She made the town a library that it could be proud of.
Miss Warner retired in 1960, when a new library building was built along with the new Municipal Center on 76th Avenue. The City's book collection was moved to its new quarters and continued to grow.
In 1979, the City's first branch library, Kings Mill located at 9018 Field Street, opened to the public. That same year, the Library's staff began putting the information about all 62,000 books and periodicals onto a computer data base. The enormous task, completed in 1983, allowed patrons to search for what they wanted on a computer terminal, rather than thumbing through a card catalog.
Lending books and periodicals was only part of the services offered by the library. On Saturdays and throughout the week, programming for children offered such things as story hours, magic and puppet shows and children's theater.
To keep up with demands placed on the library, approximately 10,000 new titles were added each year.
The library took a major step in improving service with the addition of a bookmobile. First used by the City in October, 1980, the bookmobile took to the streets, bringing books to outlying neighborhoods and schools.
The bookmobile later served to distinguish the Westminster Public Library as a leader in innovative programs designed to bring library service to citizens. Funded by a federal grant, the Westminster bookmobile became the first in the nation to be on-line. Connected by a radio modem and antenna to the main City computer, bookmobile patrons had the same access to the library holdings as patrons at the Main Library or Kings Mill branch.
In the mid 1980s, it was decided that the residents of Westminster would be better served by placing all leisure activities provided by the City under the direction of a single department. The library ceased to be its own department and was made a division of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Libraries.
By the late 1980s, even after several renovations, the library had outgrown its buildings. After voters failed to pass a bond issue to provide funds to build a new library building, City staff began looking for innovative ways to create more space for the library.
In the early 1990s, one idea stood out above the rest. It was decided that a joint venture with Front Range Community College would provide the best facility for the residents of Westminster. After years of planning and anticipation, College Hill Library opened in April of 1998.