History of the De Pere Fire Department

Here is an abbreviated timeline of De Pere Fire Department history: 


October 18th 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: Sparks, possibly from a nearby industry set fire to the roof of the barn adjoining the William Armstrong residence on George Street. 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.

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

April 13, 1888: Friday the 13th. Fire broke out in Connors saloon and spread down the length of the block. Fifteen businesses were unfortunately 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. Due to the fire, 3 buildings were lost and 2 others were damaged that held buggies and farm implements.

April 20th 1889: The fire companies from both De Pere and West De Pere (and later Green Bay) had been called to a blaze at the Mieswinkle Woodenware factory when a spark caught on a pile of wood shavings. Unfortunately, the entire inventory of lumber and 500 cords of wood had been destroyed. Eventually, the entire factory was lost in the flames as well as 12 other buildings. This amounted to $200,000 in destroyed property.

April 1889: The entire merchandising business of Winegard and Persons as well as half a dozen other buildings on James Street were destroyed.

June 4th 1889: New Hook and Ladder delivered to FD.

1890: De Pere and West De Pere consolidated into on city and the fire departments were combined into one unified force. New fire hydrants were installed, old firefighting equipment was rebuilt and more hoses were ordered.

April 6th, 1892: Frank Crabb was elected foreman of the Badger Fire Company

September 14, 1893: Joint meeting of the Badger Fire Company and Columbian Fire Company where a uniform constitution and by-laws were adopted as well as C.V. Loper was elected Assistant Chief Engineer.

October 5th 1893: Hook and Ladder Company is formed, compromised of men from Badger Fire Company and Columbian Fire Company.

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

April 4th 1895: Both Badger and Columbian fire companies elected new officers.


  • Foreman – Frank Crabb
  • Assistant Foreman – L. Minich
  • Hose Captain – Frank Smits
  • Secretary – J.A. Kuypers
  • Treasurer – James McGill


  • Fireman – Rich Knox
  • Assistant Fireman – W. Kidney
  • Hose Captain – Chas. Denis
  • Secretary –  C. Crohndorff
  • Treasurer – Math. VanSusteren

April 22nd 1897: The annual meeting is held, where the Chief Engineer, Justus Call, is re-elected. They discuss that when an alarm is given, only double teams in full harness can be admitted into the firehouse and that only fireman are allowed on the hose carts.

May 11th 1898: Lewis Minich is the new Foreman of the Badger Fire Company


May 8th 1904: Frank Crabb was elected Chief of the Columbian Fire Company

June 25th 1914: The famed Cook’s Opera House, which was built in 1882 and stood at the southeast corner of Charles St. and Broadway, was destroyed in a fire. Total loss was estimated at about $7,000.

1916: The Badger Fire Company and the Columbian Fire Company consolidated to form the De Pere Fire Department.

1922: The first Chemical Fire Engine was being used out of Rockland. It was driven by George Crabb during the day and Frank Martin during the night.

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.

April 23rd 1925: First talks of DPFD giving aid to rural areas outside the city coverage

September 24th 1925: Noted that W. E. Kidney Chief of the DPFD 

October 25th 1928: The Nicolet Paper Mill caught on fire, causing more than $5,000 in damages to the building. 

July 27th 1933: Chief W.M. Kidney decides that it is better to just use phones rather than using fire bells due to the fact that they cause too much of a stir and have to fight long lines of traffic on their way to fires.

1938: Fires decrease in the area slightly, with only 36 calls made, 13 of them to outlying townships. Out of those 13, seven were to Allouez, four to Ashwaubenon and once each to Rockland and Lawrence.

January 19th 1939: Fire Underwriters gave their report on the city’s protection, giving a list of 37 recommended improvements. In detailed accounts, the term “seriously inadequate” was used in several instances and improvements were soon underway.

December 23rd 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.

December 23rd 1943: Chief George A. Crabb gives his resignation notice as of January 1st, 1944 after 23 years of service. Aelred Jacobbs to take the position of chief.

January 11th 1945: The Lee Brothers General store was destroyed in a blaze that caused an estimated $85,000 in damage. The store was founded in 1851 and was the largest retailer in the city.

April 29th 1946: Chief P. Herber hired (part-time).


September 1st 1954: Captain A. VanDalen was hired.

September 15th 1955: Assistant Chief C. Allcox retires and Ardell Van Dalen was appointed to the fulltime position.

January 5th 1956: Volunteer firemen enjoy a pay boost of $55/quarter.

February 23rd 1956: Fire Chief Aelred Jacobs reiterates the importance of calling the DPFD directly when reporting a fire rather than calling the operator. Calls to the operator automatically notify the Green Bay Fire Department.

February 23rd 1956: Reports show that more calls were made in 1955, totaling 71 calls in the city, compared to 1954 with a total of 55 calls. Total loss was doubled within the year with 1955 totaling $22,297 compared to $10,667 in 1954. The department also listed 24 calls to Allouez, totaling $22,978.

February 14th 1957: The number of firemen is increased to 22 as recommended by the State Fire Rating Bureau. The fire department is moved to the municipal city garage temporarily until a central location can be found.

January 15th 1959: Department makes an inhalator call to Hudson Manufacturing Company and administered oxygen due to an employee having heart trouble.

October 12th 1959: The Police and Fire Board ask for a new station with a proposed budget of $56,105 for the police station and $32,585 for the fire station.

December 15th 1960: The estimated cost for the proposed structure is set at $175,000 for the police and fire station.

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

April 26th 1962: Allouez and the City of De Pere officers discuss fire protection as improvements had been recommended for the City by the Wisconsin Fire Underwriters. They had recommended more equipment, housing, manpower, and training, as well as availability of water.

1962: Peter Herber made Fire Chief.

June 13th 1963: Council approves plans for the new Fire Station located on the corner of Broadway and Lewis. It will house all the city fire equipment and the De Pere Rescue squad truck.

June 4th 1964: The most disastrous fire in De Pere's recent history destroyed the Jacobs Supermarket building.

1965: Start of 72-hour work week.

June 17th 1968: Chief C.Gauger hired.

1971: Chief G.Watson hired

April 3rd 1969: The resignation of Fire Chief Charles Gauger was accepted at a special meeting of the De Pere police and fire commission. Gauger joined the fire department in June of 1968.

September 16th 1971: Groundbreaking set for new West Side Station located at 1180 Grant St.

January 23rd 1974: The De Pere Fire Department began ambulance service.

October 28th 1976: A new emergency rescue vehicle, a Dodge Pacemaster 500, was presented by the Fort Howard Paper Foundation. It was purchased with a foundation grant of $25,240.

February 24th 1977: Fire Department gets "Jaws of Life"

July 2nd 1978: De Pere's first state licensed Paramedics complete their training.

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

July 22nd 1982: De Pere residents are now being charged $25 per rescue call as the rescue squad makes an average of 700 calls per year.

July 1989: Fire Chief Donald Vissers resigned as well as his successor Bill Cuene on August 31st. The department operated without a chief until October 1st when Captain David Brooks was named acting chief.

December 3rd 1989: Ted J. Pagels started as Fire Chief and serves until 1996.


2003: Steven Servais ends his tenure as fire chief in 2003 and Robert Kiser takes over his position.  

2013: Jeffery Roemer becomes the department's new fire chief. 

2015: Dennis Rubin takes over as fire chief, and serves until 2016. 

2016: Alan Matzke, who first started with De Pere Fire Rescue in 1990, is appointed as the new fire chief.

April 24, 2019: During the overnight hours of April 24, an emergency call for 100 South Broadway on downtown De Pere’s east side came in at 12:30 a.m. De Pere Fire Rescue responded and found heavy smoke on the first floor at a downtown restaurant.  A devastating fire ensued, and De Pere Fire Rescue was aided in fighting the blaze by many neighboring agencies, with 80 plus firefighters assisting with the fire. The historic building – which was more than 100 years old – was a total loss.