(July 22, 1851-Apr. 24, 1930). Coots was born at Hagerstown in Wayne County, Indiana, and grew up in Cambridge City. There he learned the iron molder’s trade and came to Indianapolis to practice it in 1869.

Charles E. Coots was one of the 86 firefighters who worked to put out the Bowen-Merrill Company fire, Mar. 17, 1890
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

In 1878, he was hired as a substitute lineman with the Indianapolis Fire Department at Engine House No. 6. He quickly worked his way up to station captain in the late 1880s and assistant fire chief in 1896. As a fireman, Coots battled many of the worst Fires in the city’s history including South Meridian Street (1888), Bowen-Merrill (1890), and Surgical Institute (1892).

Coots took over as Indianapolis fire chief in 1901 and distinguished himself as an excellent administrator and public official. During his 12-year tenure, he expanded the city’s force from less than 200 to 330 men and directed the transition from horse-to motor-powered fire engines. Indianapolis experienced only one major fire, the Meridian and Louisiana streets fire of 1905, during his career as chief.

Revised February 2021
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