I was a 30 year veteran of a volunteer fire department. My Dad was chief as was my Grandfather. I enjoy uncovering the histories of these amazing organizations. I stumbled across some historical information on the early days of the Menomonie Fire Department and I’d like to share it with you.
In 1885 a volunteer fire department was organized, with Mr. Thomas McNevin, Chief; William Fricke Assistant Chief; Frank Carter, Secretary; and William Schutte as treasurer. A treasurer was needed because the men were paid for actual time in service.
There was abundant water pressure in the water mains through out the city due to an 80 foot water tower located on a hill in the eastern part of the city. This created the need to maintain fire engines. The department included Hose Company’s 1, 2, and 3, with No. 1 Hose Company serving the north side. There was also a need for a hook and ladder company. In December, 1906, a sturdy two story brick home was erected adjoining city hall. This became the new Fire Department headquarters.
The first fire to occur involving serious loss was that of 1880, which destroyed the S. B. French on Main street between 3rd and 4th avenues. The second great fire occurred on November 28th, 1884, when flames wiped out Grobs Hall and the Merchants Hotel, on Broadway. In this fire the damage amounted to $29,000. Those who suffered losses included Mrs. E. Grob owner of the building, F. Schmidt, saloon keeper; P. G. Hannemeyer hotel and furniture; R. Farr, furniture in hotel. John Hason tools and stock. After this blaze the fire department was reorganized.
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The next large fire was that which destroyed the Central School Training buildings on February 3, 1897. On April 24 1906, flames wiped out property worth $50,000 on Main Street. The heaviest loss on this occasion fell on J. S. Sipple whose department store was burned with damage amounting to $26.000. Other properties destroyed or damaged were the buildings owned by C. A. Clark and Max Lachner, Paul Somerfield’s stock, Pabst brewing company building, Mike Mitzger’s stock, the Palace bakery, building and stock of Victor Hanchel and a few other places who’s damage amounted to about $2,000. The flames raged on both sides of the street and devastated a considerable area.
The next big fire occurred on August 31, 1922 when the 3 buildings of the Stori Estate along with the two Teare buildings on Main Street across from the old Memorial Library, with a loss of $125,000. Very little was covered by insurance. On October 11, 1922 Edgar Johnson’s garage burned down with a total loss of $25,000.
The last big fire of the early days took place on May 25, 1924 when a part of A. H. Johnson’s Estate and the Ole Berg Estate, and the Evangelical Church erupted into flames. The total loss was between $135,000 and $150,000, there being partial insurance. This fire was found to be a case of arson as were also one or two other fires that occurred.
Even to this day, by comparison, the City of Menomonie has been relatively large fire free.