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Denver Fire Department celebrates a rich, diverse history

7:37 PM, Feb 12, 2012   |    comments
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"We all looked up to them, as a firefighter," Capt. Allan Robnett said.

A hero's color shouldn't matter. But back in 1892, color did matter - even for a hero.

"Firehouses would put a segregated all one-color firehouse in a segregated neighborhood," Jerry Michals, a retired Denver firefighter, said.

That was the beginning of Denver's first African American fire crew and their home, Fire Station 3.

It's the oldest fire station in Denver in Five Points, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods.

"The community around it was a very rich, vibrant Five Points community," Robnett said.

But Fire Station 3 wasn't truly an all-black station.

"They had a white captain and three black firefighters," Michals said.

Then tragedy struck in 1895 - a fire at the St. James Hotel.

"The entire crew was lost," Michals said. "They said if we're going to start all over, we're going to have an all-Black fire department."

That would mean a Black chief, and a new sense of security.

"Nowhere else in the city could you go and see black firefighters," Robnett said. "It gave a sense of belonging."

Fire Station 3 is the focus of a new exhibit at the Denver Firefighter's Museum.

In the attached video, 9NEWS Storytellers TaRhonda Thomas and Byron Reed introduce us to the heroes, who also have a place in history.

The exhibit dedicated to African American firefighters will continue through April 23.

 

 

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