History of the De Pere Fire Department

10/18/1871   Town trustees in session ordered the private De Pere Fire Co. to organize into a City Department. On March 6 it was completed.

August 1886   The community quickly rebuilt from the 1882 Fires, and for a few years remained relatively unfettered by disaster until fire struck again. In August of 1886 sparks, possibly from a nearby industry set fire to the roof of the barn adjoining the William Armstrong residence on George Street.

A hose cart was brought on the scene but confusion followed over whether the hose should be run down to the river or over to the city's well head. Furthermore, the wrong fire hose was used for pumping and firemen were unable to get full water pressure. The "De Pere News" explained " Thus the time which many think would have enabled the department to confine the fire to the building in which it started, or at least the block in which it originated, was frittered away. The flames rapidly spread to the Armstrong residence, and east to the barn house and shoe shop of P.Jans."

Citizens gathered to fight the fire in an organized determined manner, pushing down fences and demolishing small connecting sheds to prevent further spread of the flames. Then someone yelled that the Presbyterian Church, around the corner on Michigan St. was on fire. As residents tried in vain to remove the church furnishings, houses on both sides of the church started to burn. Fire companies were unable to contain the blaze as it hopscotched from house to house north along Michigan street across to Superior street, then Huron down to Fulton street and back again.

A dozen private residences were lost as well as numerous connecting horse barn. For awhile, city streets were lined with onlookers from Green Bay who had to view the ruins.

Only the northeast end of Broadway's business district was not lost to fire until April of 1888.

April 1888      Friday the 13th. Fire broke out in Connors saloon (Where the Bargain Outlet was located as of 1990) and spread down the length of the block. As high winds began to blow, nearby buildings were patrolled for flames. Two or three blocks away, two buildings that were over looked, caught on fire and were a total loss. The east side's fire company arrived promptly and would have contained the fire had the fire pump not failed. Then their hoses burst. The east side of De Pere had installed piping and fire hydrants by this time, West side firemen arrived on the scene and discovered that west side hoses didn't fit east side hydrants. In the end fifteen businesses were burned out.    

June 1888      A passing locomotive tossed a spark into the Winegard & Persons hay shed (near were Wells park is as of 1990) causing a $7000 fire. Once again firemen were delayed when their hoses burst. Some of the hoses had been run too close to the burning building and before firefighters could move it, nine hundred feet of hose and the city hose cart were lost. By the time the blaze was under control the fire had consumed three buildings and damaged two others. Loses included an inventory of buggies and farm implements owned by R.J. McGeehan and stored in the hayshed. McGeehan had lost his warehouse on north Broadway in the fire two months before, and his store on south Broadway in the fire of 1882.

April 1889      The Mieswinkle Woodenware factory, at the site of the U.S. paper, burned. The fire started when a passing spark caught in a pile of wood shavings. South winds carried the blaze into the factory's inventory of lumber. The fire companies from both De Pere and West De Pere arrived promptly and were containing the blaze until the cast side's fire steamer clogged with river mud. The Green Bay Fire company was called. When they arrived, the entire inventory of lumber, and 500 cords of wood from the Hockers Brickyard were in flames.

Almost two hours later, Green Bay and West De Pere fire brigades had begun to gain on the blaze when the winds changed to the north and increased reaching almost the "violence of a hurricane%u2026"The De Pere news reported, that swept back in it's track, firemen were forced to flee for their lives, abandoning fire steamers and hoses.  Again the wind changed directions, this time to the east. The remaining grounds of the woodenware factory, including the main office, the cooper shop, and five warehouses fell to the advancing fire.

Fire steamers, their crews and extra hose were shipped by railhead from Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Appleton. The winds finally co-operated and blew the flames back over burned territory. Firemen worked through the night and into the next day to extinguish the blaze by then a number of private residences had burned as well. Not including the factory, twelve buildings were lost. The total value of destroyed property amounted to $200,000 by 1889 standards. (This was equal to about $5 million dollars in 1990).

The following week disaster found its way back to the east side and consumed by flame, the entire merchandising business of Winegard and Persons as well as half a dozen other buildings on James Street were destroyed.

By the following year, De Pere and West De Pere had effectively consolidated into one City. Standard fire hydrants were installed. The fire departments were combined into one unified force. Old fire fighting equipment was rebuilt. More hose was ordered. Residents assumed a determination to carry on with their city. Fate also played a part. Be it by luck or circumstance no other fire ever came through the city, that the new De Pere fire department couldn't handle.

6/4/1889       New Hook and Ladder delivered to FD.

4/6/1892       Frank Crabb was elected foreman of the Badger Fire Company

9/14/1893      Joint meeting of the Badger and the Columbian Fire Companies. Asst. Chief Engineer C.V. Loper elected, uniform constitution and by-laws were adopted by the two companies.

10/5/1893      Hook and Ladder Co.  Comprised of 6 men from each  Fire Co. is formed. 

                     Badger Fire Co.- L. Selzmeier, Aug. Filiow, Frank Smith, Sylvester Smith, L. Minich Jr., H. Heyrman.

                     Columbian Fire Co. - F.C.Hase, H.A. VanGalder, C. Jeffrey, M. VanSusteren, D. VanKilsdonk, J. VanderLinden.

1894              A new fire alarm bell was hung in the West side engine house tower.

4/4/1895       Fire Co. Officers. Elected

                    Columbian Fire Co.

                    Fireman - Rich Knox

                    Asst. Fireman - W. Kidney

                    Hose Captain - Chas. Denis

                    Secretary - C. Crohndorff

                    Treasurer - Math. VanSusteren

                    Badger Fire Co.

Foreman - Frank Crabb

Asst. Foreman - L. Minich

Hose Captain - Frank Smits

Secretary - J.A.Kuypers

Treasurer - James McGill


4/22/1897      Annual Meeting, Justus Call was re-elected- Chief Engineer, J. BanderLinden- Asst. Chief Engineer, M.J.Maes- Secretary, J.A. Kuypers- Treasurer. Several matters pertaining to FD discussed; only double teams in full harness will be admitted to the engine house when an alarm is given, and only firemen will be allowed to ride on the hosecarts.

4/10/1897     Fire Co. Officers Elected.

Columbian Fire Co.

Foreman - Richard Knox

Asst. Foreman - Wm. Kidney

Hose Captain - Chas Denis

Assist. Hose Captain - G.W.Secor

Secretary - M. J. Maes

Treasurer - E.N. Collette

Badger Fire Co.

Forman - F. Crabb

Asst. Forman - F. Smits

Hose Captain - A. Filiow

Asst. Hose Captain - L. Minich Jr.

Secretary - J. A. Kuypers

Treasurer - James McGill


5/11/1898      Lewis Minich is the new Foreman of the Badger Fire Co. to succeed Frank Crabb who was made Chief Engineer. Sylv. Smits with succeed Minich as Hose Captain. And August Filiow will fill the Asst. Hose Capt. Position.John VanderLinden has succeeded W.C.Kidney as Asst. Foreman of the Columbian Fire Co. who was elected Asst. Chief Engineer. Wm. Vansusteren is a new member of this Co. taking the place of George Secor who resigned.

9/13/1899     L.S. Wilcox was elected a member of the Badger Fire Co.

5/8/1904       Frank Crabb was elected Chief of the Columbian Fire Company

6/25/1914      The famed Cook Opera House which stood at the  southeast corner of Charles st. and Broadway was destroyed. (Built in 1882.)

1916              The Badger Fire Company and the Columbian Fire Company consolidated to Form the DePere Fire Department.

6/3/1920       Talks of Motorizing De Pere Fire Department.

1922              First note of the Chemical Motorized fire truck being used in Rockland, with George Crabb as day Driver. (Frank Martin was night Driver)

1924              The De Pere Fire department was reorganized and consisted of two companies of five men each, besides a fire chief and a fire truck driver instead of two companies of ten men each.

4/23/1925      First talks of DPFD giving aid to Rural areas outside the city coverage

9/24/1925      Noted that W.E.Kidney Chief of the DPFD 

10/25/1928    Nicolet Paper Mill Fire $5,000 damage. GBFD Fire Chief Drum was called. GBFD sent Aerial Truck from Station No. 1 for assistance.

7/27/1933      No more fire bells. Chief Wm.Kidney decides it is quicker to use phones. Fire bells cause too much of a stir and they end up fighting long lines of automobiles on the way to the fires.

1938              Fire loss drops slightly. Total number of calls was 36, with 13 of them to outlying townships. Seven of the 13 were to Allouez, four to Ashwaubenon, one each to Rockland and Lawrence.

1/19/1939      Fire Underwriters give their report on the city protection. "Seriously Inadequate" term used in several instances in detailed account. Taken into account by the inspectors was the fact that the city has a new truck with more adequate equipment and also that wooden water pipe in the city's water system is gradually being replaced. But nonetheless, a list of 37 recommendations for improvement was made.

12/23/1943    The first Pensions in the history of the De Pere city employees were granted. City council adopted an ordinance calling for retirement pay for full time firemen. Called for payment of 30 percent of the recipients' salary after they have served not less than 20 years and reached the age of 55 years. The amount of 5% will be deducted from the employees salaries.

12/23/1943    Chief George A. Crabb gives his resignation notice as of 1/1/1944 after 23 yrs of service; he was appointed chief about 3 yrs ago. Chief Crabb succeeded Wm. VanDyk who was appointed chief after the death of Wm. E. Kidney, and is one of the cities three fulltime firemen. Gordon Wilson, and J.Carroll Allcox being the others. Aelred Jacobbs to take Chiefs  position.

1/11/1945      Largest Retail Store in the city founded 94 yrs ago, the Lee Brothers General store, was destroyed by blaze, causing an estimated $85,000 in damage.

5/3/1945        Five men appointed to serve DPFD. Clement Van Gemert, and Al Lorrig were reinstated on the dept. Effective 5/1 and Peter Herber, Bernard Van Enkevort, and Ardiel Van Dalen were named to the volunteer FD.

4/29/1946      Chief P.Herber hired (part-time).

9/1/1954       Captain A.VanDalen hired.

9/15/1955     Asst. Chief C.Allcox retires. Ardell Van Dalen was appointed to fulltime position. He was a volunteer at the time. He will fill the 11pm-7am shift. Gordon Wilson has taken over the 7am-3pm shift and Martin Vissers has the 3pm-11pm shift.

1/1/1956       Six paid holidays granted to the Police and Fire dept. employees.

1/5/1956       Volunteer Firemen's pay boost approved. Raised to $55/quarter.

2/23/1956      Fire Chief Aelred Jacobs this week reiterated the importance of calling the DPFD number Edison 6-4747 when reporting a fire rather than calling the operator. Calls to operator automatically notify Green Bay FD.

2/23/1956     Report shows higher loss, more fire calls than last year. 1955 showed 71 calls in the city, with only 55 in 1954. Total loss in the city was $22,297 on fires. Compared to 10,667 in 1954. The dept. also listed 24 fire runs to Allouez, with damages totaling $22,978. Fires include in Allouez;Reimer's Meat Products Inc. ($20,340), and West Side Bowling and Bar damage ($9,638).

2/14/1957      Number of firemen up to 22 as recommended by the State Fire Rating Bureau and the moving of the fire dept. to the municipal city garage on Front St. temporarily, until a more central location can be located.

5/15/1958     Applications sought to fill vacancy created by retirement of Gordon Wilson.

6/22/1958     R.Aerts hired.

1/15/1959      Department makes Inhalator calls. DPFD called to Hudson Manufacturing Co. 541 Main avenue, Oxygen was administered to Russell Mills route 1,Seymour, an employee who has heart trouble. (Talk about HIPPA).

10/12/1959    Police, Fire Board Ask for new Station. The police and fire commission proposed a budget of $56,105 for a police station and $32,585 for a fire station.

12/15/1960    Estimated cost of proposed structure is set at $175,000 for the police and fire station.

1/11/1962      The council passed an ordinance setting the salaries of part-time firemen at $65/quarter.

4/26/1962     Allouez and the City of De Pere Officers discuss fire protection. A.L.Jacobbs DPFD chief explained the improvements recommended for DePere by the Wis.Fire Underwriters recommended more equipment, more manpower, housing for equip. training of men, and availability of water. At the present time the city keeps one truck on the west side and two on the east side.

1962              Peter Herber made Fire Chief.

Spring 1963   Firefighters; D.Calaway, W.Kolb,  and W.Cuene Hired.

6/13/1963      Council gives approval to new Fire Station plans.. The new station on the corner of Broadway and Lewis will house all the city fire equipment and the De Pere Rescue Squad truck. With the exception of one engine which will be housed at the west side station.   

6/4/1964        The most disastrous fire in De Pere's recent history destroyed the Jacobs Supermarket building.

1965             Was the start of the 72 hour work week.

Spring 1965   FireFighters; M.McDough, R.Marquis, G.DeGroot, and G.Peters Hired.

6/17/1968     Chief C.Gauger Hired.

7/1/1968       Firefighters;  K.Lasee, and W.Weier hired.

1969             FireFighters; C.Waldschmidt, D.VanStraten,J.VanEnkenvoort hired.

1970             FireFighters; J.Barlament, D.VanErem, and K.Thompson hired

1971             Chief G.Watson hired

1971             FireFighters; R.Kalous, D.Brooks, P.Kersten, S.Servais, and E.Gibbons hired

1972             Firefighters; J.Mason, and C.Danen hired.

4/3/1969       The resignation of Fire Chief Charles Gauger was accepted at a special meeting of the De Pere police and fire commission. Gauger, who submitted a letter of sesignation, said his resignation would be effective September 1, but gave no reasons for the move.

He joined the FD in June of 1968 as chief. No reference was made in Gauger's letter about the story in the last issue of the DePere Journal revealing that an on-duty fireman was found cutting the lawn on the property owned by Gauger. 

He was originally paid $7,764/year and with in his 18 month employment he was given two pay increases bringing him to $10,572/yr.

9/16/1971     Ground Breaking set for new West Side Station. @ 1180 Grant St.

10/15/1973   Firefighter D.Faltynski hired.

1/7/1974       Firefighter J.Baugnet hired.

1/17/1974      Three members of the De Pere fire department received promotions recently, according to Fire chief Don Vissers.

Bill Cuene was promoted from lieutenant to captain, and will also be training officer

Dave Calaway from mechanic to lieutenant

Paul Kersten was promoted to mechanic

1/23/1974      The De Pere Fire Department began ambulance service.

5/5/1975       Firefighters; E.Crummy, S.Sticht, M.Scray, and S.Hendricks hired.

10/28/1976    The Fort Howard Paper Foundation presented the keys to a new emergency rescue vehicle to the city of De Pere. The new ambulance a Dodge "Pacemaster 500" van was purchased with a foundation grant of $25,240.

2/24/1977     Fire Department gets "Jaws of Life"

4/25/1978     Firefighter S.Chappell hired.

7/2/1978      De Pere's first state licensed Paramedics complete their training.

August 1978  Start of the 911 emergency phone number in the area.

1979             Firefighters J.VanVoneren, and R.Patterson hired.

7/22/1982     The charge of $25 to De Pere residents per rescue call was adopted. The rescue squad makes an average of 700 calls per year.

1/24/1985     Department goes from 3 shifts of 9 to two shifts of 9 and one of 8.

July 1989       Fire Chief Donald Vissers resigned. And was succeeded by Bill Cuene, who served as acting fire chief until he resigned August 31. The department operated without a chief until October 1 when Capt. David Brooks was named acting chief.

12/3/1989     Ted J. Pagels started as Fire Chief.