Chief William E. Roberts Dies
William E. Roberts, last surviving chief of the old Denver, Colo., volunteer fire department and first chief of the city’s regular fire fighting force died on January 1. He was 86 years old.
As Chief of the volunteer department and as first Chief of the paid department, from 1894 until 1903, Chief Roberts directed fire fighting in a number of disastrous blazes still remembered by pioneer residents of the city.
Chief Roberts was born in Wales, January 12, 1858, and was a stonecutter’s apprentice in his native town when he was nine. He came to the United States when he was 15 and settled in Denver.
The Chief was credited with making one of the most famous rides of the era. Riding in a buggy, he covered the five and one-half miles to a fire at a military academy in twenty-eight minutes and arrived in time to direct firemen in a successful attempt to control the flames.
On another occasion, he was fighting a blaze at the old Colorado Central Depot, when 200 kegs of blasting powder exploded and destroyed the building.
Chief Roberts was known throughout the region for his payt in fire fighting contests that were one of the most colorful sports of the day. His hook and ladder company made several world’s records that never were equaled.