May 6, 1864: Birth of Duluth Fire Department Chief Joseph Randall

On this day in 1864, Duluth Fire Chief Joseph Randall was born in Ontario, Canada. He arrived in Duluth in 1883, first working in a livery stable and then driving a horse-drawn streetcar. In 1886, when the all-volunteer Duluth Fire Department added some paid positions, he took a job as pipeman—the firefighter controlling the hose nozzle—for Hose Company No. 1, located on Second Street between Lake and First Avenue East. In 1889, when all firemen became paid employees of the city, he became captain of Engine Co. 3. The Grand Opera House fire would become the first major blaze he would fight as captain. He became assistant chief three years later, and chief in 1909. Randall was instrumental in motorizing the fire department, and under his tenure horses gave way to the automobile. His death in 1927 was reported in the Duluth News Tribune under a front-page banner headline, and his funeral procession was thought to be one of the largest in the city’s history. You can read about it here.

Duluth Fire Department Chief Joseph Randall. (Image: Duluth Public Library)