Horse drawn wagons, or hacks, were an important part of firefighting equipment. On an ordinary day, the horses hitched to their hacks would be dozing peacefully on Iron Avenue. This would all change when the bell on city hall would ring, signaling a fire somewhere in the young town. The air would become electric. Every hackman would whip up his horses, round the corner of Santa Fe and Iron on two wheels and race the other hacks to city hall. The hacks would arrive in a cloud of dust, for Salina's streets were unpaved. The first hack would arrive, and the hose cart would be wheeled up behind it, the volunteer fire fighters would pile into the hack, grab the hose cart's rope and the hackman would race to the fire. There was a reason for speed besides quickly arriving at a fire scene. The city paid 5 dollars to the first hackman there.
The city bought its last team of horses for its fire department from W.O. Tinkler, whose great grandson served as a Lieutenant on the Salina Fire Department. The team was a pair of beautiful blacks. They were trained to run from their stalls to just in front of the fire wagon directly underneath their harnesses which would drop on their backs. The collars would be fastened around their necks and away they went.
The first known fire station was on the first floor of the two-story City Hall building located at 132 N. Santa Fe. There are no known pictures of this first fire station. There was another building located on north 5th that was used to store additional equipment and hose.
In the "old days" an annual event for Salina firefighters was the Firemen's' Tournament or Convention. Tournaments by fire departments were big events in those days. Salina hosted the Kansas State Volunteer Firemans' Association Tournament for three days in May 1888. There was a parade with marching bands and competing firemen. A typical day of events would include a 100-yard race with several men pulling a light ladder truck. The firemen removed the ladder and stood it up, then one after the other they would scale to the top of the ladder and slide to the bottom. In another timed contest, several men would drag fire hose 25 to 50 feet to a water pump, connect it and turn on the water. The fastest team to flow water would be declared the winner. The convention was filled with live music and lots of food. The convention would conclude with a huge dance.