This Week in Sapulpa History: After Nearly Fifty Years of Service, Fire Chief Retires at Age of 76

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

This week in Sapulpa history, Fire Chief William Collier had announced his retirement would be scheduled for the first of May in 1959. The announcement came on April 19th after Fire Chief Collier had just celebrated his 46th year and one month as a member of the Sapulpa Fire Department.

Fire Chief Collier, 76 at the time of his retirement, had been a member of the Department since April 1, 1913.

Fire Chief Collier was born in Missouri in 1883. He and his family moved to Chandler in 1900. He moved between a few Oklahoma cities before finally settling in Sapulpa by 1909. He worked for the Frisco Railway at first as a “trucker.*” here. 

*Note: the 1910 Sapulpa City Directory labeled his occupation as “trucker, Frisco railway.”

“When he entered the Department as a fireman in 1913, he was assigned as a driver of the horses. At that time the department had seven men and E.R. Stagg was their Fire Chief. Later, he served under A.W. Smalley, then Chess Orsborne.”

Collier was named Fire Chief in 1921. “When the City Commission and Osborne disagreed and the Commission dismissed Osborne, the Fire Chief’s appointment was given to Collier.” Collier had refused to accept the job for another four months, however.

Under Collier, within his first year, the Department increased to 18 men, the same number of firefighters Collier had under his supervision at his retirement in 1959. During his last week, Chief Collier reminisced with stories of ole.

“Chief Collier remembers many of the bad fires which have occurred in Sapulpa and the surrounding area. ‘We used to have some real bad fires at the old Sapulpa refinery. I remember one in particular that kept me at the refinery for 72 hours before we got back to the station.’”

Sapulpa Refinery Fire.

Other famous fires he and his crew powered through were the Loraine Hotel fire and the OG&E fire on Main Street. “At [these] times threatened the city because of windy conditions, but the Department managed to confine the fires within the buildings and kept them from spreading.”

One main point Chief Collier pointed out was that he never lost a member in the line of duty. Even during the harsh fires, the Department kept strong and persevered. “He remembered one time two firemen were injured proceeding to a fire, another time two men were injured when a hose got loose at a fire.”

Collier retired and he said to keep his time, he wanted to be more involved with the church. “‘I can’t do too much on account of doctor’s orders, but I plan to become more active in church work,’” Collier stated heading out.

After Collier, Jack L. Wilson was appointed Chief of the Sapulpa Fire Department on April 21, 1959. Wilson was a member of the Fire Department for 18 years. He worked as a driver in 1945, and was promoted to Captain in 1947. By 1954, he received his appointment as Assistant Chief. For a short time, during Collier’s era, Wilson was Acting Chief after Collier suffered a heart attack, and spent time in the hospital in 1958.

Ten years into his retirement, Chief William “Bill” M. Collier passed away at age 86 in 1969. He was an active member at South Heights Baptist Church and the Masonic Lodge 170.

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