History of Zephyrhills Fire Rescue


A Brief History of Zephyrhills Fire Rescue

(Leaders and Staff)

Zephyrhills Fire Department, 2012. (larger image)

This article was provided by Lori Hillman, Sr. Administrative Assistant for Station No. 1 in Zephyrhills.

NOTE: Any accomplishments mentioned for each Fire Chief are a positive reflection on Chief’s staff and personnel, both paid and volunteer.

CHIEF ROGER MOORES (April 13, 1970)

CHIEF BEN JONES (April 10, 1972)

CHIEF CARLTON GALSTER (October 1974 – May 1983)

Carlton Galster was the first paid certified Fire Chief for the Zephyrhills Fire Department. Carlton Galster was a paid Assistant Fire Chief with the Dade City Fire Department. He was hired by the City of Zephyrhills in 1973. Until this time, the Zephyrhills Fire Department was fully volunteer under the direction of Chief I.B. Jones (volunteer). In October of 1974, the City of Zephyrhills hired three full-time paid firefighters under the direction of Fire Chief Carlton Galster – Clayton Stokes, Robert Hartwig, and Albert Ward.

Chief Galster established shift officers; two Lieutenants and one Captain. Robert Hartwig was second in command as Captain. Also, when Chief Galster retired, Captain Hartwig became Acting Fire Chief until September 20, 1983.


October 1974 – May 1983

  • Established, with Pasco County, the Zephyrhills Fire Tax District for the Zephyrhills Fire Rescue service area.
  • In combination with the volunteer association, directed all donations received to be used to purchase medical supplies, equipment, and vehicles.
  • Through a special boot drive, raised enough through donations to purchase the first Class A Fire Pumper from the Tampa Fire Department (1958 Seagraves Mid Ship Pumper). This was a reserve pumper for the Tampa Fire Department and became the Zephyrhills Fire Department’s first line engine.
  • Maintained nine refurbished pieces of apparatus; Attack-2, Engine 6, Engine 7, and Tankers 3 and 4.
  • Increased Zephyrhills Fire Department’s paid manpower to eight.
  • Started negotiations with the City Manager of Zephyrhills to contribute $45,000 and Pasco County officials to contribute $45,000 (from the Fire Tax District Reserves) for a total of $90,000 to purchase a new Class A 1000 GPM Mid Ship Pumper to replace the old 1958 Seagraves pumper.

CHIEF WILLIAM FENTON (September 1983 September 1993)

On September 20, 1983, William Fenton, a retired District Fire Chief from the Tampa Fire Department was hired. At this time, the Zephyrhills Fire Department was a three platoon (shift) department that worked an average of 56 hours a week.

The three shift officers at the time were Captain Robert Hartwig, Lt. Albert Ward, and Lt. James Williams. Captain Hartwig was a shift officer but as Captain was second in command to the Fire Chief.

In April of 1984, Captain Hartwig was promoted to Assistant Chief by Chief Fenton and was assigned to a 40 hour work week. At that time, the rank of Lieutenant was changed to Captain, and the rank of Driver/Engineer was created. Each shift was assigned a Captain, a Driver/Engineer, and Firefighters. The volunteers were assigned to shifts and three Lieutenants were appointed by Chief Fenton to head each group of volunteers. Lt. Volunteers and paid Fire Captains worked with each other to coordinate training, stand-by, call nights, etc. The first three Lt. Volunteers were Robert Winters, Robert Dodd, and Donald Hupp.

For many years, the Zephyrhills Fire Department Volunteer Association purchased all medical related supplies, equipment, vehicles, and necessary medical equipment through donations received from the public. The Volunteer Association also purchased and equipped Light Com for a mobile command post and purchased fire related safety equipment for all Zephyrhills Fire Department personnel, paid and volunteer. Without these donated funds, the City of Zephyrhills would have been hard pressed to come up with these needed funds.



  • Reorganized both paid and volunteer rank structure.
  • Established a capital improvement sub-item in the Zephyrhills Fire Department’s budget to include a 5 Year Capital Plan.
  • Established job position classifications for all ranks with full job descriptions.
  • Caused to be adopted by ordinance resolution: The Southern Standard Building Code, the NFPA Fire Codes and Standards and local requirements for fire standards for building construction, fire walls, fire partitions, sprinklers, fire hydrant spacing, etc.
  • The Zephyrhills Fire Department coordinated the Emergency Disaster Plan for the City of Zephyrhills, Zephyrhills Fire Department, and East Pasco Red Cross Shelter Management Operations.
  • Specified and purchased new apparatus to replace old Engine 8, Engine 7, Engine 6, Tanker 3, and Tanker 4. Engine 9 was purchased with internal foam capabilities.
  • Negotiated a new Fire Service Municipal Service Taxing Unit MSTU to create a new service district to encompass the Fire Tax District.
  • Complied with the “Fair Labor Standards Act” and hired an additional firefighter to reduce the average work week from 56 hours to 53 hours.
  • Reduced the cities overall ISO classification from 7/9 to a class 4, a tremendous improvement.
  • Increased shift manning from 8 to 16.

CHIEF ROBERT HARTWIG (September 1993 through May 2006)

Fire Chief Robert Hartwig was selected from twenty applicants for the position of Fire Chief by the City Manager and City Council.

Fire Chief Robert Hartwig officially assumed the command of the City of Zephyrhills Fire Department and Volunteer Association in September 1993. James Johnston was promoted to Assistant Chief in 1984. On the heels of Assistant Chief Johnston’s resignation in 2002, Rex Guynn was promoted to Assistant Chief.

The Zephyrhills Fire Rescue Volunteer Association continued to purchase all medical supplies, equipment, and vehicles under the direction of President Lieutenant Robert Winters through monies raised and donated to the organization.


1993 – 2006

  • Initiation of Zephyrhills Professional Firefighters Union, Local 3884.
  • Instrumental in the purchase of land and construction of the second Zephyrhills Fire Department station currently known as Station 1, which houses Fire Department Administration.
  • Purchased the first aerial apparatus through an agreement with East Pasco Medical Center (currently known as Florida Hospital of Zephyrhills) and the City of Zephyrhills.
  • Purchased a new Class A, fully enclosed air conditioned pumper.
  • Obtained a 2003 Assistance to Firefighters Grant to replace all 800 frequency radios and improve communications. Installed police/fire radio console dispatch center with net clock to coordinate time with radios, CAD System, vehicle repeaters, and station tone out alerting system in both stations. A Wellness Program was established partnering with Florida Hospital of Zephyrhills, and Fitness Equipment was installed at both stations.
  • Obtained 40 Survivair S.C.B.A. and Cascade Compressor System with fill station through 2002 Assistance to Firefighters Grant to replace non compliant existing equipment.
  • Received six sets of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits with six internal units through 2005 Community Equipment Direct Assistance Program Grant.
  • Applied and received a Certificate of Public Convenience Need (COPCN) from Pasco County to establish an ALS Non-Transport Program manned with paramedic, pumper, and medical program.
  • Initiated a Paramedic Incentive Program
  • Assisted with the development of a central dispatch at the Zephyrhills Police Department and the fire dispatch move in 2003,
  • Established a Senior Volunteer Program and CERT training through Pasco County.
  • Increased paid manpower from 16 to 24 employees.

Chief Hartwig went on extended leave in mid May of 2006 and retired from the Zephyrhills Fire Department on October 31, 2006. Rex Guynn was Acting Fire Chief during this period until Rex Guynn retired August 11, 2006. Kerry Barnett filled in as Chief, Assistant Chief, and Fire Marshal with the assistance of Lori Hillman, Senior Administrative Assistant until the hiring of a new Fire Chief.

CHIEF KEITH WILLIAMS (October 24, 2006 – September 20, 2012)

Fire Chief Keith Williams was selected from 21 applicants for the position of Fire Chief by the City Manager and City Council. On October 24, 2006, Keith Williams, a retired Division Chief from Tampa Fire Rescue was hired. At this time, the Zephyrhills Fire Department was comprised of two stations, 2004 E-one Typhoon Engine, 2006 E-one Typhoon Engine, 1974 Sutphen Tower, 1990 Pierce Dash Engine, and 1990 Pierce Arrow Engine, 5 man minimum staffing, and a 53 hour average work week.

Shift officers were Captain Kuhn, Captain Winters, Captain Errickson, Captain Velez, Lieutenant Harris, Lieutenant Baptist, and Lieutenant Gibbs. Administrative Chief Clegg was hired January 15, 2008.



  • Created an atmosphere to encourage more participants to become paramedics. ZFR currently employs 13 paramedics with four in school.
  • Initiated annual SCBA maintenance program.
  • Installed Opticom traffic preemption devices on all first response vehicles.


  • Implemented annual physical program through Lifescan to comply with NFPA 1582 standard.
  • Increased minimum staffing from five to six.
  • Increased Paramedic ALS Program to include both engines.
  • Changed Fire Department designation to Fire Rescue to reflect the mission of the department.
  • Expanded the Fire Marshal’s office to include an Assistant Fire Marshal.
  • Purchased 12 lead EKG’s with capnography.
  • Purchased Pierce Velocity 75’, 1750 GPM Quint pumper.
  • Converted supply hose from 4″ to 5″ to optimize the pumping capacities of all engines.


  • Negotiated a 48 hour work week (3 week Kelly Day Cycle).
  • Secured an Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant to fund the installation of a Sprinkler System at Station 1, install Exhaust Removal Systems on all apparatus, purchased radiological monitors, radiation detectors, multi-gas detectors, and a Bullex Fire Extinguisher Training System.
  • Secured a Bureau of EMS Grant to purchase Autopulse CPR devices and 18 AEDS.
  • Station 2 flooded during a torrential storm, January 23, 2008. As a result, Station 2 was relocated to the WWII Barracks Museum at the Airport for 2.25 years.


  • Secured a Bureau of EMS Grant to purchase computers for response apparatus, CAD server, and GPS locator system.
  • Station 2 renovation began at the direction of City Council to restore the station to its pre-flood condition.
  • Chief Williams completed the Executive Fire Officer Program through the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. This is a four year program.


  • Station 2 was repopulated on April 15, 2010. Renovations allowed the station more functionality and energy efficiency.
  • 2010 Chief Williams received Chief Fire Officer Designation through the Center for Public Safety Excellence/Professional Credentialing Program.

CHIEF VERNE RIGGALL (April 22, 2013 thru present)

Chief Riggall was hired as an Interim Fire Chief by James Drumm, City Manager, on October 8, 2006, and was hired as Fire Chief of Zephyrhills Fire Rescue on April 22, 2013. Chief Riggall has thirty-five years (35) of fire service experience, thirty-two (32) years as a Paramedic, with over twenty-seven (27) years of experience within a metropolitan area.

The Start of a Fire Department

This article was contributed by Clereen Morrill Brunty.

After reading through the City Hall minutes the following information was found on planning the first Fire Department:

July 19, 1915. A motion was made and seconded by S. J. Lyons and A.D. Penry to contract a representative from Prospect Manufacturing Company of Prospect, Ohio for a chemical fire engine per specifications given and the motion carried.

August 28, 1915. Council members voted to purchase the fire engine for a sum of $100 as cash down payment. A motion was made to also have a fire company give a public demo on Labor Day at the park. Herman G. Smith was thanked for agreeing to give the demo.

September 6, 1915. Motion made by S. J. Lyons to have fire chief purchase equipment needed using his best judgment and bring in bills for same. Seconded by W.J. McLaughlin. Motion carried. Bills paid: $2.00 Rent for fire engine house.

September 7, 1915 – May 9, 1917. No minutes available

May 21, 1917. Motion by C. H. Curtis and supported by John Hohenthaner to accept the resignation of P.T. Williams as chief of fire department. Motion carried.

August 20, 1917. Prospect Manufacturing Company Fire Engine note – paid $196.

Recollection of Bob Hartwig

This article was contributed by Clereen Morrill Brunty.

At a January 7, 2014 Zephyrhills Historical Association meeting, members were pleased to have retired Fire Chief, Bob Hartwig, tell us about his tenure as a member of the Zephyrhills Fire Department for over 30 years. Bob and his family moved to Zephyrhills from Iowa in the late 60’s. Bob has an older brother, Bill Hartwig and a younger sister, Jan Hartwig Rodgers who all still live in Zephyrhills.

A Zephyrhills High School graduate in 1970, Bob has always been involved in the community where he once coached soccer, baseball and was an instructor at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala. He also served as President of the East Pasco Soccer Youth League, President of the Kiwanis Club, a Board Member of the Chamber of Commerce, Member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, member of the Florida Fire Chief’s Association, member of the Pasco Hernando Fire Chief’s Association and member of the Florida Fire Marshals’ Association.

In 1973 Bob became a volunteer fireman and then became a paid fireman in 1974. In 1975, he took his EMT training at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Dade City as well as later earning his AA degree from Hillsborough Community College and earning his certificate to be a Smoke Diver. Then in 1983 Bob was promoted to Assistant Chief under the leadership of Chief Carlton Galster. Ten years later, Bob became Fire Chief and held that position until he retired in 2006.

In those years of serving Zephyrhills, Bob recalled how the paid staff grew from three to 23 with a menial budget to more than a million. Originally the first paid members built their own barracks and stations grew from one to three over the years which included Richland. Now there are two stations since Richland station didn’t warrant enough activity to have a full time station.

He shared many photos of earlier fire trucks and how Zephyrhills got its first ladder truck. When East Pasco Medical Center, now known as Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, was being built in the 1980’s, in order to have a two-story building, the town would have to purchase a ladder truck to be able to reach the second floor in event of a fire or emergency. Bob Hartwig, who was then assistant chief, was instrumental in heading this project with the hospital to raise funds enough to purchase a truck from Tampa.

Did you know the Zephyrhills Station had a mascot? Yes, a spotted Dalmatian by the name of Marcus which only lasted a short time. “Marcus liked to chase the birds but didn’t always look where he was going” said Bob. One time a woman riding a bicycle and Marcus ran into it knocking the woman down who broke her arm. The department decided it was time for Marcus to find a new home.

Another interesting story was when a skydiver from the Zephyrhills Parachute Center landed in a tree hanging from his parachute. With the firemen holding a ladder and ropes, Bob was able to help the parachutist down without injury. And you thought firemen only rescued cats out of trees!

Roger Sibley, Sr. built the fire station and annex that is located on 6th Avenue, across from City Hall. Roger was also a volunteer fireman and Assistant Fire Chief for several years and possibly Chief.

Fire Chiefs Over the Years

Information is currently unavailable for 1917 to 1970.

1915-1917 P. T. Williams
1970-1972 Roger Moores
1972-1974 Ben Jones
1974-1983 Carlton Galster
1983-1993 William Fenton
1993-2006 Robert “Bob” Hartwig
2006-2012 Keith Williams
2012- Verne Riggall

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