Today, SFD remembers and pays tribute to a heroic figure who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the Salina community. Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck, whose life was tragically cut short on October 5, 1912, will forever be etched in the annals of our city's history.
Chief Brodbeck's fateful day began on September 30, 1912, when he responded to a fire alarm, rushing to the scene with unwavering dedication. Accompanied by Raymond Miller, who was driving the fire car, they sped towards the 100 block of South Ohio St. The fire engine had already raced ahead, leaving Chief Brodbeck's car trailing behind on Iron St.
As they approached the corner of 4th and Iron, just before the Iron St. Bridge, an unsuspecting teenage boy in a horse-drawn buggy sat in their path. Oblivious to Chief Brodbeck's approaching vehicle, the boy assumed all responders had passed and pulled onto Iron St. Unfortunately, there was one more fire car still coming. Raymond Miller desperately swerved to avoid the buggy but collided with its rear corner, sending the automobile careening over the river bank. Miller, miraculously unharmed, was thrown from the car, but Chief Brodbeck suffered grave injuries, landing beneath a tree at the water's edge.
An eyewitness recalled Chief Brodbeck's remarkable composure in the face of adversity, stating, "He seemed the coolest one of the crowd, and to keep his head the best. 'Go easy boys,' he said, 'I think my leg may be broke.'"
Despite swift transport to the hospital, Chief Brodbeck's injuries proved insurmountable. Five days later, at the tender age of 39, he succumbed to his wounds, leaving a community in mourning.
Chief Brodbeck found his final resting place at Gypsum Hill Cemetery, marked by a stone bearing an engraved fire helmet, a fitting tribute to a dedicated servant of Salina. Following his passing, his wife and two daughters returned to their former home in Illinois, while Chief Brodbeck's fellow firefighters took it upon themselves to ensure his grave was tenderly cared for.