Tonopah Fire Station

Tonopah, Nevada | C.1907

Photo Credit: Matt Hyde

What happens when your burro gets loose in the middle of the night and takes shelter near a rock outcropping? For prospector Jim Butler, it led to him discovering a large amount of silver-rich ore…and Nevada’s second richest silver strike in history. At least that’s how the legend goes. Whatever happened between Mr. Butler and his wayward burro is still a mystery, but the events led to the creation of the Tonopah Fire Station.

By the early 20th century, the American West was hardly as wild as its early days when pioneers crossed its plains in search of new settlement. Yet, following the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution, it remained a place of unbridled opportunity for anyone looking for a new start. For those settling in Tonopah, Nevada, that new start was rooted in the search for silver-rich ore.

With the silver strike came silver seekers. Tonopah began attracting both wealthy investors and working class miners. Legendary lawman Wyatt Earp even came to Tonopah and opened the Northern Saloon and by 1904, Tonopah was a bonafide boomtown. Yet, for all its successes, Tonopah struggled, too; that same year, a massive fire broke out and the fire department failed to contain it.

This prompted the town’s newly appointed fire chief to construct the Tonopah Fire Station at the intersection of Brougher and Burro Streets. Disaster continued to pummel the town, with three more major fires even after the station was built. In 1920, the Fire Station itself even suffered a fire and sustained major damage.

Since then, the station has been restored to its original condition and continues to serve Tonopah now for over a century. Standing among aged structures and new construction, the Fire Station remains a reminder of Tonopah’s early days and measures its citizens took to protect its prosperity.

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