William Killen
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Welcome All !

April 23, 2024 8:24

William KillenWelcome to my website. I hope you enjoy the fire service history on this web page, which has been part of my fire service career for more than sixty-three years, as well as other fire service related information, photographs and links to other websites.

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest book, “History of the Apollo and Skylab Astronaut Rescue Teams”, consisting of 185+ pages including 80+ pages in color.  This detailed history of the Kennedy Space Center fire department rescue teams during the Apollo and Skylab eras includes over 200 photographs and sketches, many never published before.

The following excerpt will give you an idea of the dangerous aspects of serving on the astronaut rescue team.

“The structural configuration of the launch pads and Launch Towers of Complex 39 created a number of rescue problems.  Confinement to restrictive areas at heights of over 300 feet from the ground, compounded an already aggravated situation. The Saturn V rocket loaded with Liquid Oxygen, RP-1 fuel, Nitrogen Tetroxide, Monomethyl hydrazine and Liquid Hydrogen along with other fuels and oxidizers was literally a 363 foot stick of dynamite weighing over 6 million pounds.  The blast danger zone extended 7,000 feet from the launch pad and huddled in armored personnel carriers 1800 feet from the Saturn V were fourteen members of the Astronaut Rescue Team, well within the Blast Danger zone.

Needless to say, a “RED ALERT” which would have been an imminent or uncontrollable fire or explosion within an unacceptable time frame for rescue response rendered the Astronaut Rescue Team expendable.  This book chronicles the contributions of the forty-eight members of the Kennedy Space Center Fire Department and the seven Department of Defense medics who put it all on the line in support of the Apollo and Skylab programs.

Chief William D. "Bill" Killen, CFO, FIFireE

I am honored to continue to serve as President of the National Fire Heritage Center (Heritage Hall of America's Fire Services and Fire Protection Disciplines, Inc.).


My book, "Firefighting with Henry's Model T", a pictorial history of the role Henry Ford's Model T played in community fire protection sold out quickly and a few copies remain from the second printing. The second edition is nearly completed and should be available soon. A link is available to order a copy of the first edition or reserve a copy of the second edition.

Please click here to email me if you have any information or pictures of Model T Ford fire apparatus you would like to see included in the Second Edition.

In the past I had the distinct pleasure to photograph and drive one of the original "Crash Trucks" purchased by the US Army Signal Corps for airfield firefighting. Unfortunately I was unable to convince the owner that he should sell his 1918 Model T Ford American LaFrance Double Tank Chemical to me. The history and photographs of this unique vehicle is incorporated in the Second Edition and will be featured in a new book "Crash Trucks" to be published in 2013.

1918 Mt Clemons Fire Car

Chief Bill Killen and the 1918 Model T Ford American LaFrance Double Tank Chemical

Apollo Astronaut Rescue Team (History in the making)

Astronaut Rescue Team


Following the tragic Apollo One fire that killed Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee on January 27, 1967, NASA replaced the Crew  Ingress – Egress Procedures published in 1966 with a revised Protocol for rescuing astronauts from the Apollo Command Module,  The Astronaut Rescue Team was established October 7th, 1968 within the Kennedy Space Center Fire Department and began an intensive 12 week training program in preparation for the Apollo 8 launch to the moon..   

Apollo Cmd Module Door





Astronaut Rescueman Bill Killen examines the Apollo Command Module Door Locking System.



Kennedy Space Center Astronaut Rescue Team

The original Apollo Astronaut Rescue Team was composed of volunteers selected from the ranks of the Kennedy Space Center Fire Department (KSCFD). Selected for Astronaut Rescueman on the original team were: L.S. "Clyde" Ball*, G. D. "Tadpole" Driskell, W.H. "Bill" Hogan, W. D. "Bill" Killen, J. O. "Joe" Morgan*, R.V. "Bob" Rinaldi, D. K. "Deke" Swift*, M. C. "Mel" Thorne, R. E. "Gene" Weldon. R. D. "Roy" Terry* was Team Commander and Arthur L. "Al" Wozniak was Team Leader and Aubrey R. Weldon was Fire Chief.

Apollo Rescue Team Training


Astronaut Rescueman Bill Killen explaining the procedures for removal of helmet and oxygen lines from the Apollo Astronaut Space Suit.

Left to right are Ed Bidault, Charles Mullis, Killen, Rex Yates, Rod Hobbs, Randall Marlow and Charles Short.


Apollo Release Mechanism


Astronaut Rescueman Bill Killen demonstrating the emergency release mechanism on the Apollo Command Module.

Left to right are Killen, Rex Yates, Rod Hobbs, Randall Marlow, Ed Bidault and Charles Mullis.


September 1972 Kennedy Space Center Astronaut Rescue Team

Astronaut Rescue Team 1972
Front Row left to right: Bill Killen, Sherwin Olsson, Happy Savage, Ken Gaines (Army paramedic), Jim McCallum, Mel Thorne, Bill Churchill (USAF paramedic)

Second Row left to right: Doc Ferguson, Paul Wallace, Jim Tanner, (Army paramedic), Ace Sadler, Marion Jacobs, Roger Tome, Jim Dittrich and Gene Crawford.


Prior to each Apollo launch, members were selected from volunteers within the 120 member fire department to serve on the Astronaut Rescue Team. Following several months of study, Fire Chief Paul Pettelle incorporated rescue services within the KSC Fire Department combat structure on August 14, 1972. This team provided rescue services throughout the Kennedy Space Center, as well as Astronaut Rescue capability for the Apollo 17 and Skylab missions.

Chemical Training



Astronaut Rescue Team performs rescue drill during hypergolic fire with nitrogen tetroxide and monomethyl hydrazine.




Selected on the basis of qualifications and seniority for this permanent team were: Clay E "Geno" Crawford*, James George Edward "Fireman 43" Dittrich*, Edward L. "Doc" Ferguson, Sherwin L. "Pike" Olsson, Millard "Ace" Sadler, Happy A. "Hap" Savage, Paul "Pearl" Wallace, and veterans from the original team, Melvin C. "Mel" Thorne and William D. "Bill" Killen. Team Commander for the rescue Team was Marion A. "Jake" Jacobs* and Team Leader was James McCallum* and Paul S. Pettelle* Fire Chief.

* indicates deceased members of this proud team.

JFK Challenge Coin

The Astronaut Rescue Team was disbanded February 11, 1974.

Apollo 50th

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In Search of the Stoughton

I purchased the 1923 Stoughton fire engine from the John Kress Estate Auction in July 1988. It was early summer in 1987 the first time I saw the Stoughton truck among at least forty antique cars, trucks and fire engines. At that time I was in my 32nd year in the fire service and I thought I knew every manufacturer of fire trucks in the United States, but to my amazement I had never heard of a Stoughton fire truck.

Stoughton Wagon Works, Stoughton, Wisconsin was founded in the 1880's, manufactured trucks for the Army during World War I; and from 1920 until 1932 manufactured commercial trucks and fire trucks. In 1936 Stoughton Wagon Works went bankrupt and was sold to four employees who took over the assets and founded Stoughton Cab and Body. Stoughton Cab and Body produced cabs and bodies for several manufacturers, including Chevrolet and Ford. Today Stoughton trailers are manufactured in some of the same facilities used to build Stoughton Wagons, Stoughton trucks and Stoughton Cabs and Bodies.

John Kress, a successful Wisconsin businessman had amassed a fantastic collection of Americana and housed his collection in a warehouse museum in Sparta, Wisconsin. I was seeking a small antique fire engine I could store in my garage. One of the nicest pieces in the collection was a 1920 Ford American LaFrance Ford Model TT which was a perfect fit for my garage. I made an offer on the truck, however Mr. Kress passed away and his collection was auctioned in July 1988. The auction took place while my family was in Europe and a friend represented me at the auction. The bidding for the 1920 Ford-American LaFrance quickly went beyond what I was willing to pay.

My second choice was the Stoughton and my representative prevailed in the bidding against a bidder from Mundelein, Illinois who was representing a member of the Antioch Fire Department, Antioch, IL. The Stoughton was Antioch's first motorized fire truck and served Antioch until 1949.The Rockland Fire Protection District (Knollwood, Illinois) used the truck until the mid 1950's when it was sold to a private party. As the result of a fire that killed three children in Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1959 the Stoughton was recalled to service with the newly organized Lauderdale-LaGrange Volunteer Fire Department, where it served until 1961, when it was once again sold to a private party.

Click on the photo for a larger image

First photograph taken following completion of a frame-off restoration June, 1997. This 1923 Stoughton Community Fire Fighter was the first motorized fire apparatus of the Antioch Volunteer Fire Department, Antioch, Illinois. The rig is equipped with a Northern Fire Equipment package consisting of a Northern Rotary Gear 350 GPM pump, two sixty-two gallon water tanks, hose bed, two one-inch booster reels, wooden extension ladder, and three hard suction sleeves. The suction sleeves are the originals delivered with the truck in 1923.

The truck arrived at its new home in Bowie, MD in August and with a new battery, gasoline in the tank, and the distributor cap removed, I bumped the starter to see if I had spark. To my amazement the engine turned over, fired once and ran like a top. MAGNETO WORKED! The truck was sound, nearly complete and needed a little cleanup. The paint was chipped and peeled in places, but for the most part the truck was in good shape.

I spent the next six years chasing leads, rumors and stories about Stoughton trucks throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. I must have visited every small town in Wisconsin looking for Stoughton trucks. I visited Stoughton Museum, where I copied files and records and eventually met the late Mr. Dewey Durnbaugh, who worked for Stoughton Wagon Works. Dewey was one of the four employees of Stoughton Wagon Works that bought the assets and founded Stoughton Cab and Body. What a delight to record Mr. Durnbaugh's experiences on a cassette recorder.

As a result of my many trips "In Search of Stoughton," I found and purchased a 1923 Stoughton in rough shape, but for the most part complete and a 1925 Stoughton in pieces, and I mean pieces. After scavenging the parts from these trucks I sold the 1923 and the 1925 Stoughton trucks.

September 1995, I started restoration with a chain saw removing the wooden tailboard. Each piece was photographed prior to and after removal. Small parts were labeled or tagged and placed in boxes, my garage looked like a parts store shelf with all of the parts boxes labeled and numbered. I sent the fenders, hose bed, water tanks and other sheet metal to be chemically stripped of paint and rust and stored the parts for the winter.

By May 1996 I was down to the frame, engine, transmission and pump, when my brother-in-law, Marty Scott took the chassis to his shop. The first week of June was devoted to removal of dirt, grease, rust and paint. The only picture missing from my restoration book is of me completely rust colored from head to toe except for the portions of my face behind my eye glasses.

Several days were spent trying to remove the right rear wheel from the axle. Over the next five months many hours were spent in preparing each part for painting. I don't think there is a piece of sheet metal on the truck that I didn't wet sand at least twice. Work pretty much stopped for the winter months and in May 1997 we went back to work. Assembly was completed except for lettering and trim in time to drive the truck in the July Baltimore Firehouse Exposition Parade.

Click on the photo for a larger image
Best Stoughton


Best Appearing Antique Pumper Privately Owned 1900-1945 at the 50th Anniversary Firefighters Muster sponsored by the Westmoreland Volunteer Fire Department, May 30, 1998, Westmoreland, Virginia.







Rear view of 1923 Stoughton with period rubber firefighting bunker coats at the 50th Anniversary Firefighters Muster sponsored by the Westmoreland Volunteer Fire Department, May 30, 1998, Westmoreland, Virginia.


By September restoration was 98% complete and when the truck was returned to Antioch is was about 99% completed. I don't think it will ever be 100% restored. The first weekend in June 2007 the Stoughton was returned to the Village of Antioch, Illinois where it was delivered new in 1923. Thanks to the Antioch fire department, I had the pleasure of driving it one last time in the Antioch 4th of July Parade.

The boxes of information, contacts, references and photographs of various Stoughton trucks along with Stoughton Wagon Works advertisements collected over thirty years has being compiled with interviews and letters from former Stoughton Wagon Works employees and Stoughton owners.  This collection will soon be published in a book entitled "In Search of Stoughton".

Stoughton Book

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  • President/CEO, National Fire Heritage Center - October 2018
  • Vice-President, National Fire Heritage Center, since October 2008 - 2018
  • President, International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) 2005-2006, IAFC Member since 1975
  • Fire Chief, Holston Army Ammunition Plant, Kingsport, Tennessee - January 2005 - March 2006
  • Director, Navy Fire and Emergency Services - August 1985 - September 2004
  • Served as Chairman Department of Defense Fire & Emergency Services Working Group (three terms)
  • Administrator, Department of Defense Fire Department Accreditation Program 2000 - 2004
  • Former Commissioner, Commission on Fire Accreditation International
  • Chief, Metropolitan Washington Airports, Washington, DC February 1980 - August 1985
  • Past President and Trustee International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation
  • Founder and Charter Chairman, Federal Military Section IAFC
  • Member Astronaut Rescue Team Kennedy Space Center Fire Department October 1968 - August 1974
  • Member of the Institution of Fire Engineers
  • Fire service career spans 63 years in career and volunteer organizations with service in municipal, industrial, military, hospital and airport fire departments in Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, DC.

Education and Professional Certifications

  • Graduate, Elected Officials Academy, University of Tennessee, Institute for Public Service 2009-10
  • BS, Fire Administration, University College, University of Maryland
  • AS Degree in Fire Science Technology, Valencia College, Orlando, Florida 1977
  • National Professional Qualifications Fire Officer IV, Instructor III
  • Certified Fire Officer IV, Instructor III, Inspector II, Investigator II, and Airport Firefighter, Department of Defense
  • Chief Fire Officer Designation, Center for Public Safety Excellence, since 2002


  • 39 years experience as a Fire Administrator, Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief in Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington DC fire departments
  • Alderman, City of Church Hill, TN 2008-12
  • Conference Coordinator, Emmitsburg III Conference, Emmitsburg, MD
  • Conference Chairman Flordia Governors Fire Prevention Conferences 1975-1976
  • Chaired City of Bowie Public Safety Committee Study on Fire Protection
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Awards and Recognitions




Chief Bill Killen and Congressman Curt Weldon (R) PA, Chairman of the Congressional Fire Caucus discuss continued renewal and support of the Fire Act (Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program)



  • Ambassador of the Year Award, Center for Public Safety Excellence, 2011
  • Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service, 2006
  • United States Navy Fire & Emergency Services Hall of Fame 2004
  • Department of the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award 2004
  • Commission on Fire Accreditation International Ray Picard Award 2001
  • Commander, USS Cole Special Recognition Award 2001
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs President's Award for Service, 2000
  • United Black Fund of Greater Washington DC Community Service Award 1985
  • IAFC's Ben Franklin Fire Department Award 1984
  • Federal Aviation Administration Special Achievement Award 1982
  • Venezuelan Government Civil Aviation Fire Services Medal 1980
  • Winter Park, FL Jaycees Good Government Award 1977
  • Winter Park, FL Jaycees Cooper-Taylor Memorial Safety Award 1976
  • Military Firefighter Heritage Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award 2017






Chief Bill Killen with the late Senator John McCain(R). Rest in Peace.

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History of Experience


  • 30 years experience as a Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief in Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, DC fire departments
  • Conference Coordinator, Emmitsburg III Conference, Emmitsburg, MD
  • Conference Chairman Florida Governors Fire Prevention Conferences, 1975-1976
  • Chaired City of Bowie Public Safety Committee Study on Fire Protection


  • Fire Chief, Holston Army Ammunition Plant, Kingsport, TN
  • Director, Navy Fire & Emergency Services, Washington, DC
  • Original member of the Astronaut Rescue Team, Kennedy Space Center for the Apollo and Skylab programs
  • Chairman, Department of Defense Fire & Emergency Services Working Group (three terms)
  • Represented Department of Defense at the first, second and third Fire Service Leadership Summit meetings in St. Louis, MO and Washington, DC
  • Administrator, Department of Defense Fire Department Accreditation Program for 400 Department of Defense Fire Departments 2000 - 2004


  • Deputy Chief, Glen Echo Volunteer Fire Department, Glen Echo, MD 1991-92
  • Bowie Volunteer Fire Department, Bowie, MD 1978-86
  • Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, University of Maryland, 1977-79
  • Fire Chief, Lake Barton Fire Control District, Orlando, FL 1974-77
  • Union Park Volunteer Fire Department, Orlando, FL 1965-69
  • Potomac Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Indian Head, MD 1956-63


  • DoD Special Projects Coordinator, L. N. Curtis & Sons, Oakland, CA
  • Fire Programs Team Leader, Integrity Solutions, Frederick, MD Special Projects Coordinator, ADS Inc., Virginia, Beach, VA
  • Cordovan Company, Bowie, MD Fire and Emergency Services Consultants and Training
  • Killen's Tree Service, Orlando, FL professional tree removal
  • Killen Enterprises, Inc, La Plata, MD residential refuse collection, professional tree removal, and farm feed sales
  • Bumpy Oak Kennels, La Plata, MD and Orlando, FL, breeder, professional trainer and exhibitor of pure bred German Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, Irish Setters and Doberman Pincers

Professional Memberships

  • President, International Association of Fire Chiefs 2005-2006
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation (Past President, Board Member)
  • Former Commissioner, Commission on Fire Accreditation International
  • Founder and Charter Chairman of the Federal/Military Section of the IAFC; served three terms as Chairman.
  • Institution of Fire Engineers US Branch (Member) - Vice President 203-14
  • National Fire Heritage Center (Heritage HallofAmerica's Fire Service andFireProtection Disciplines, Inc)
  • International Fire Service Research Center and Policy Institute (Board Member)
  • America's First Responders Foundation, East Tennessee Representative
  • National Fire Protection Association Technical Committees 1975-2004
  • Maryland Fire Chiefs Association
  • Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association - Life Member
  • Virginia Fire Chiefs Association
  • Florida Fire Chiefs Association
  • Society for the Preservation & Appreciation of Antique Motorized Fire Apparatus in america
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Books by Bill Killen

  • The Sings my Soul
  • The Hallock Chemical Fire Engine
  • Recollections of Brannigan and his Navy Yarns
  • Firefighting with Henry's Model T - 2nd Edition
  • Firefighting with Henry's Model T - 1st Edition
  • Navy and Marine Corps Fire Apparatus 1836-2000 Photo Gallery

Books Co-Authored

  • Analysis of York County Virginia Fire and Rescue Services 1984 by Kenneth Henry and Bill Killen
  • Analysis of the Parker Fire Protection District, Parker Colorado 1982 by Kenneth Henry and Bill Killen
  • Kennedy Space Center Fire Department - the First Thirty Years by Lee Starrick and Bill Killen

Books Contributed

  • Firefighters by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • Pass It On by Billly Goldfeder and Friends
  • First to the Flames by Edward L Peterson
  • American LaFrance Photo Archives Volume 2 by Lawrence E. Phillips
  • Hazardous Materials - Managing the Incident by Gregory Noll and Michael Hildebrand
  • Fire Administration by Randy R. Bruegman

Articles Contributed to

  • Fire Chief Magazine
  • Fire Engineering
  • Model T Times Magazine
  • Vintage Fire Truck and Equipment
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Thank you for visiting my website and sharing my deep love and appreciation of the fire service. To email me click on this link: Bill Killen Email