He married Mary Tracy in 1896. ___________________________________ The Salina Journal 30 Sep 1912
Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck was badly injured, sustaining a compound fracture of the left leg, when the small fire automobile hit the Union Pacific track at the Iron Avenue bridge at 4 o'clock this afternoon and was dashed to pieces on the bank of the Smoky River. Chief Brodbeck was hurled through the air, alighting at the water's edge. Raymond Miller, who was driving the car, was thrown out, but was unhurt. A fire call was being answered at the time and as the automobile dashed up to the bridge at a furious speed, a rig driven by Raymond Wilvers, a high school student, drew directly in front of the machine. In attempting to avoid hitting the buggy, a wheel was torn off and Miller lost control of his machine. It then dashed against the track and over onto the bank. The big fire truck was ahead and had already reached the fire on Ohio Street between Gypsum and Iron. ___________________________________
The Salina Journal 1 Oct 1912
Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck, who was dangerously injured yesterday evening when his fire automobile went over the bank at the Iron Avenue bridge, was resting fairly easy today. His injuries are much more serious than at first supposed and he will probably be off duty for several months. His side is badly bruised, but no serious internal injuries have yet been discovered. The injury to his leg was in the nature of a double compound fracture and the bone protruded from the flesh. The tibia bone is broken in two places and the two-inch space between is badly shattered and splintered and the danger comes from the fact that this might not heal in such a way that the leg can be saved. It is not known just how Chief Broadbeck injured his leg, but it is the opinion of several however, including the driver and the surgeons Drs. E.J. Lutz and L.O. Norstrom, that Chief Brodbeck's leg probably hit against the iron post supporting the guard running south from the bridge. Mr. Brodbeck was ringing the bell as the car made the run and as is the natural position in doing so one leg is generally out on the running board. The car hit the fence and swerved and it is probable that his leg struck against the post with great violence. "I thought that all of the fire wagons had passed," said Raymond Wilvers, the high school boy, who drove in front of the car and caused the accident. "I saw the big truck go over east and my attention was all centered on the fire and the truck ahead and I did not hear the other machine until it was right on me." ___________________________________
The Salina Journal 2 Oct 1912
Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck who was badly injured Monday evening when his fire automobile overturned, was resting easily today and no serious complications had developed in the case. Mr. Brodbeck is still at his home on East Ash, where he was taken immediately after the accident.
The Salina Journal 5 Oct 1912
The condition of Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck, who was badly injured in an accident last Monday, is very serious, and grave fears for his recovery are expressed by his physicians. His leg was amputated just below the knee today in the hope of saving his life, but he is very weak as a result of the accident of last Monday and from the ordeal today and it is doubtful if he can withstand the shock. He was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where the operation was performed.
The Salina Journal 7 Oct 1912
The Salina Fire Station is draped in mourning. Crepe hangs upon either side of the entrance and while the big fire automobile truck still responds to fire alarms and the firemen answer the call to duty, the truck is draped in mourning, a silent testimony to the service of the former leader, Fire Chief Brodbeck, (who) will respond to no more alarms to save the life and property of the citizens of Salina. Fire Chief Brodbeck died at 5 o'clock Saturday evening, from the results of the accident of last Monday when the car in which he was rushing to a fire was driven to destruction in fruitless effort to avoid striking a buggy, which had driven in the road. Today, the body is at the home on East Ash, but tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock it will be removed to the council chambers in the city hall, where it will lie in state until 2:30 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. At 2:30 the funeral services will be conducted in the council chambers by the Right Rev. Bishop Sheldon M. Griswold of the Episcopal Church. The interment in Gypsum Hill Cemetery will follow. Fred Brodbeck was born in Rome, Ill., May 4, 1873, but spent the larger part of his younger days in Peoria, where his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. Brodbeck and other relatives still reside. Twenty-one years ago, at the age of 18, he first entered on the work as a fireman and continued so until his death. Twelve years of his service was spent at Peoria and two years in Chicago as a regular fireman, and for two years he was chief of the department in Marseilles, Ill. In April 1909, he came to Salina, where he has since had charge of the fire department and had succeeded in building it up to such a point that it was a model for the entire state. Chief Brodbeck was married in Peoria 17 years ago and besides his wife he leaves three small daughters, Mercedes, Mildred and Mary. ___________________________________
The Salina Journal 8 Oct 1912
All day today, from 10 o'clock this morning until the funeral this afternoon, a constant stream of people, men, women and children, filed in and out of the council chamber at city hall to view Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck, of Salina, as his body lay in state. Hundreds and probably thousands of people visited the place during the day, showing the high esteem in which Chief Brodbeck has always been held, and an hour before the funeral service began, the building had been nearly filled. "We have come here as friends," said Bishop Sheldon M. Griswold, "because we have all lost a friend. His life and devotion to duty are most plainly seen in his own words, following the fatal accident. It is a fireman's duty to save the lives and property of others, even at the sacrifice of his own. He was a man who sought not his own wealth and advancement, but yours. He sought not to save his own life, but yours. He was rushing to save the property of others and turned aside to save another life, and in doing so, gave his own." ___________________________________
Remembering the Salina Fire Department's first leader, CHIEF BRODBECK Fatal crash 100 years ago took life of beloved fire chief
By GORDON D. FIEDLER JR. Salina Journal
The Salina Fire Department's telephone rang just before 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, the caller reporting a fire on Ohio Street between Iron and Gypsum.
First out of the fire house at 112 E. Ash was the newly purchased "fire automobile truck," a first-class vehicle by 1912 standards, with hooks, ladders, hoses, chemical fire extinguishers, a large chemical tank and other modern equipment. Fully loaded, it could speed to fires at the blistering pace of 20 mph.
The second vehicle to respond was the Mitchell "fire automobile" containing Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck, 39, and driver Ray Miller. According to news reports, the Maxwell was at the Union Pacific depot at the time. When the alarm came, Miller pointed the car south on Ninth Street and then turned east on Iron Avenue.
The larger fire truck was nearly to the fire by this time, and Miller and Brodbeck were rushing to catch up.
Waiting for the large fire truck to rumble across the wooden-planked Iron Avenue bridge in his horse-drawn buggy was high-schooler Raymond Wilvers. Thinking the thoroughfare was clear, he nudged his horse into the street, not seeing, or apparently hearing, the Maxwell racing toward the bridge.
The Maxwell steered from the right, and as was custom, the chief sat on the left side with his leg on the running board so he could more easily ring the bell, a fatal move, as it turned out.
Out of the vehicle With the slow-moving buggy directly in his path, Miller cranked the wheel hard to the right, hoping to avoid a collision.
It clipped the buggy, sending the horse on a crazed dash down Iron Avenue. Wilvers brought the runaway under control by the time the rig reached Front Street so he didn't see what happened to the fire chief 's car.
The open-cockpit vehicle rammed the railroad tracks, launching Miller and Brodbeck out of the vehicle and almost into the river, but not before Brodbeck apparently struck his exposed left leg on an iron guardrail support. Miller was relatively unscathed, as was the car. Not so the chief.
In subsequent days, the Journal was able to reconstruct the accident through accounts from Miller, witnesses and even Brodbeck himself.
The only chance he had "In order to avoid the buggy," one article stated, "the driver took the only chance and tried to go up the railroad tracks to the south. The turn was too short, and the car went over the tracks and down the bank of the river. As the car hit the guard south of the bridge, Chief Brodbeck's leg was caught and crushed against the post. Bones in the leg were broken and the larger one was splintered for a distance of two inches and the bones protruded from the flesh."
The chief told a friend shortly after the wreck he instructed Miller what to do.
"A fireman's duty is to protect the life and property of other people," the chief was quoted as saying. "When I saw that a collision was inevitable, I told the driver to turn to the right. Had it not been for the stone and gravel in the street, we would have missed the railing that we struck."
Among the first to reach the wreckage was John Catlin, who gave his account of the wreck.
"It hit the stone approach and iron guard running out south from the bridge and as it did so, the rear part of the car seemed to turn about and then it lifted and went over the bank, but still right side up. It is my opinion that the heavy hose in the rear part of the car held it down and kept it from turning over, as I expected it to."
Rushed to chief's aid Catlin was on the other side of the bridge and rushed to the chief 's aid.
"The engine was still running and the chief was lying right in front of it down under the limbs of a tree right close to the water's edge. He was crying for us to turn off the engine for he did not know that the emergency brake had been put on and that it would not run over him."
Catlin said four or five other men arrived about that time and they pulled Brodbeck from under the limbs.
"He seemed to be the coolest one in the crowd and to keep his head the best," Catlin said of the chief.
"‘Go easy, boys,' " Catlin quoted the injured chief as saying. ‘My leg is broken.' "
He's resting comfortably The chief was carried to his home on East Ash Street, where physicians treated the double compound fracture. He later was reported to be "resting comfortably."
The hope at the time was that the chief could return to duty at some point, perhaps months, given the serious nature of his injuries, and resume command of a department he helped shape into a modern firefighting force.
He was the city's first paid fire chief. Before he came aboard, the city was protected by an all-volunteer department.
The rest of the story All this was news to Ken Brodbeck, of Wichita, who about a dozen years ago began piecing together family history. Ken is the greatgrandson of Charles Brodbeck, one of Fred's brothers.
When he was in junior high, he was visiting his grandmother's house and read a booklet compiled by one of his Illinois relatives, where Fred Brodbeck grew up.
"It listed all the names and dates of people in the family," he said. "In 1998, I decided to update that book. I started working my way through the different people."
He read an entry for Fred Brodbeck that said only that he died in Salina.
"I investigated and found it was a little more than ‘He died in Salina.' There was a whole story about it."
Given total control Fred Brodbeck was already a seasoned firefighter when he took charge in 1909 of a four-man department that comprised equipment left from the volunteer days: a team of horses, a hose wagon and two chemical engines.
With Brodbeck's 19 years of experience, including 12 years in Peoria, Ill., two in Chicago and two as chief in Marseilles, Ill., the city council felt comfortable granting the chief wide responsibility in all fire matters. He had the power to arrest anyone obstructing the fighting of a fire, he could order the police officers to serve as fire guards, he was allowed to staff the opera house and other performance venues with up to two men, and he could commandeer at will any horse or team in the event of a fire. Most of all, he was able to sell the city on upgrading the fire department. The first new piece of equipment was a horsedrawn chemical and hose wagon, all steel, that among other on-board apparatus sported a five-gallon hand pump that Brodbeck said was the latest innovation in firefighting.
First horseless vehicle Eventually, horsepower was put to pasture in favor of gasoline power. The first horseless purchase was the Maxwell. It was Brodbeck's idea to refit the automobile with firefighting gear as well as making it serve as the chief 's official car. According to a fire department history compiled by former firefighter Steve Moody, the car, built almost entirely in Salina with donations from merchants, was the first of its kind in the United States. Second only to its firefighting ability was its speed: 60 mph.
Next came the fully equipped fire wagon that was en route to the fire on Ohio Street that fateful September day.
The city bought the big machine from the Anderson Company of Kansas City and took delivery in June. It replaced the horse-drawn wagon that the city sold to Broken Bow, Neb.
Any doubts about the need for such a modern contraption were doused when on Sept. 21, the rig arrived at a reported fire at Kansas Wesleyan University. The call was a false alarm, but it demonstrated that the fire truck, making its longest run possible within the city limits at the time, arrived at the college in 3 1⁄2 minutes. Under actual horse power, the same run would have taken 30 minutes.
Hope for survival dims The news 100 years ago carried little of the fire on Ohio to which the "automobile fire wagon" had responded. Daily articles focused on the chief 's injuries and his prognosis.
By Oct. 5, a Saturday, hope for his survival had dimmed.
Journal readers learned in the afternoon edition that the chief had been taken from his home and admitted to St. Barnabas Hospital, which stood on southern portion of the St. John's Military School grounds between Santa Fe and Ninth.
"The condition of Fire Chief Fred Brodbeck, who was badly injured in an accident last Monday, is very serious," the paper reported, "and grave fears for his recovery are expressed by his physicians. His leg was amputated just below the knee today in the hope of saving his life, but he is very weak as a result of the accident of last Monday and from the ordeal today, it is doubtful he can withstand the shock."
He died the next day, Sunday, at 5 p.m.
A city in mourning The report of Monday, Oct. 7: "The Salina Fire Station is draped in mourning. Crepe hangs upon either side of the entrance and while the big fire automobile truck still responds to fire alarms and the firemen answer the call to duty, the truck is draped in mourning, a silent testimony to the service of the former leader, Fire Chief Brodbeck (who) will respond to no more alarms to save the life and property of the citizens of Salina."
A public viewing at city hall was scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 8, followed by a service at 2:30 p.m. Burial was in Gypsum Hill Cemetery.
"It was very interesting to see that," Ken Brodbeck said of the news accounts and the fire department history. "It makes me proud, more than anything else," he said.
A hard-luck family The Fred Brodbeck family seemed star crossed. The chief married Mary Tracy in 1896 and they had three children: Mercedes, born in 1901; Mary, in 1906; and Mildred, in 1909.
One of the children — Ken Brodbeck doesn't know which one — was adopted by Fred's twin brother, Ed, after the chief 's death. Mary Brodbeck and the other two children stayed in Salina until 1916. Mary went to Illinois to tend to a sick relative and died there of a heart attack at age 40. The three girls also died young: Mary at 57, Mildred at 46 and Mercedes at 34.
Mary's body was not brought back to Salina but was interred in Illinois. The chief rests alone, under a stone etched with a fire helmet and the words, "Died in the service."
His funeral was a solemn affair. Salina banks closed and merchants shuttered their stores.
Thousands view body Thousands reportedly viewed his body, the line at one time stretching out the doors of city hall and down the street.
The funeral procession traveled south on Santa Fe to Walnut, east on Walnut to Front, north on Front to Iron and thence east to the cemetery.
The Journal's account: "The hush that fell over the city was very marked. As the procession moved down the street, every face seemed to be hushed. Scarcely a word was spoken by those in the streets and in silence they stood while the remains of the body of the chief all had loved and respected was borne to its last resting place. To the strains of ‘Nearer My God To Thee,' as played by the band, and the click of horsehooves upon the pavement were the only sounds that broke the stillness during the entire march."
Among the vehicles taking part was the Maxwell, which had been repaired and returned to service. It was driven by firefighter Orville Torr, with the chief 's seat vacant.
Delivering the funeral sermon, Bishop Sheldon Griswold seemed to speak for the grieving community.
"His life and devotion to duty are most plainly seen in his own words following the fatal accident. It is a fireman's duty to save the lives and property of others, even at the sacrifice of his own. He was a man who sought not his own wealth and advancement but yours. He sought not to save his own life, but yours. He was rushing to save property of others and turned aside to save another life, and in doing so, gave his own."