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Herald News Archive

  • DEC 7, 1939 – A committee of Joliet Township officials went traveling yesterday in search of fire protection for the unincorporated residential areas that encircle Joliet. Their neighborhoods, with an estimated population of 30,000, have been left without any form of fire protection by action of the Joliet City Council. The council ordered the fire department to not answer outside residential fire calls. No further protection will be extended outside city limits unless the town board guarantees paying $725 for every call. 

    In the early years of the volunteer departments, they wielded enormous political power. One of the main supports of the local fire departments in Tammany Hall New York, was the infamous “Boss” Tweed. And it was politics that resulted in the formation of the East Joliet Fire Department.

    Towards the end of 1939, the Joliet City Council took action that would result in the formation of the East Joliet Fire Department: they forbid the City of Joliet Fire Department to answer alarms outside of the city limits. After a fire at the John Taylor home, 320 Walnut St., in which the Joliet Fire Department refused to send equipment, the leaders of the Ridgewood area requested fire protection from the Lockport Fire Department.

    Although the Lockport Fire Department had sent equipment to the Taylor fire, Chief Clark indicated that they could no longer send help unless the Ridgewood Area formed its own fire department. On December 20, 1939, the Lockport Volunteers voted to end free fire protection for the Ridgewood Area. The seriousness of the situation was clear: the only fire protection available to protect over 125 homes was a hose cart with 750’ of 1 ½” hose. The cart was provided by the Ridgewood Water Association and there were a total of five hydrants in the area.

Herald News Archive

  • DEC 17, 1939 – The Lockport Volunteer Fire Department will no longer extend free fire protection to areas outside Lockport Township, Chief William Clark announced yesterday. Decision to charge for making outside fire calls was voted unanimously at a meeting of 42 members of the department, Clark said.

Herald News Archive

  • DEC 20, 1939 – Officers of the Lockport Volunteer Fire Department last night refused to request of Ridgewood community leaders for free fire protection. The Ridgewood committee, headed by Ernest A. Anderson, said the unincorporated areas of Joliet Township have no way of raising money to pay for fire protection.

    The first six weeks of the year 1940 was a fiery one for the residents of unincorporated Joliet Township: four homes were destroyed by fire.

     On February 13, 1940, plans were drawn up by Local Leaders from Forest Park, Ridgewood, Ingalls Park, and Sugar Creek, to set up a meeting in the E.A Cary and Son, Grocery Store to form a fire department. After meeting with Chief Clark of Lockport and after receiving help from the Illinois Fireman’s Association, a meeting was held in the W.J. Bolton’s Barber Shop.

Herald News Archive

  • JAN 24, 1940 – A roof fire at the home of John Taylor, 320 Walnut St., Ridgewood, was extinguished this afternoon by neighborhood Volunteers. The fire was started by sparks from the chimney. The Joliet Fire Department refused to answer the call from outside the city limits, but Lockport’s Volunteers department truck arrived after the fire was under control.

    After this meeting, Bolton was elected Chief of the newly formed fire department, and Russell Nelson was elected Assistant Chief. A Board of Trustees was formed consisting of one member from each precinct to oversee the operation of the fire department.

     As with any new undertaking, one of the most pressing problems was money. The Ridgewood group that had requested help from the Lockport Fire Dept. told them they had no way of raising money for the fire protection. The men of Lockport suggested to go door to door to collect any contribution they could to help with expenses. After that, members such as Jack Barnes and Dominic Pomatto would go to each home in the area asking for a five dollar donation to help buy equipment.

    In addition to the soliciting contributions, the men used their ingenuity to raise money. One idea was to turn Station One into a movie house for the kids on Saturdays. The men would supplement the admission price with the sale of popcorn and soda. These were well attended as it saved the neighborhood kids from having to travel all the way downtown to see a movie. Dances were another way that money was raised. The department also sponsored a carnival and an annual pancake breakfast that also raised quite a bit of revenue.

    In June, the first engine was purchased from the Orland Park Fire Dept.: a 1928 Chevrolet Chemical Truck with a 500gpm pump. The truck cost $950.00 and was housed in a garage rented from Frank Peterson. On July 10, 1940, the new truck responded to its first fire, at 1109 Sterling Ave., Gordon Koch’s garage suffered $35.00 damage. Realizing that a fire station was needed, Land was sought to build on what would be Station One. Station One was erected on land bought from Frank Peterson. Almost every man in the community helped build the first station of the department. In only three weeks the new station was completed and its first meeting was held in November. By now, the department also purchased a 1000 gallon tanker. In the enduring tradition of the times, a Ladies Auxiliary was formed to help the men at fire by serving food and drinks. The first president of the auxiliary was Mrs. Russell Nelson.

Herald News Archive

  • JAN 29, 1940 – For the second time in less than 24 hours, fire completely destroyed a home in an unprotected area just outside the city limits yesterday. The home destroyed was at 1214 N Broadway, owned by Mrs. Anne Rogel and occupied by the families of Frank Krohn, Rudolph Kirin and Rudolph Crnkovich. Nierbors carried out all the furniture, but the house was a complete loss.
  • A movement to organize a village to provide themselves with fire protection is being started by residents of Joliet Township in the unincorporated areas east of the city limits. District leaders have been appointed for Forest Park, Ridgewood, the Spring Creek neighborhood and the East Washington Street residential area.

Herald News Archive

  • FEB 13, 1940 – For the fourth time in three weeks, fire destroyed a building in the unguarded area outside the city limits of Joliet. This morning the fire-room residence of Fred Ruth, 125 Independence Ave., burned to the ground. Indignation against the City of Joliet was at a high pitch since the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting the fire department to make runs outside the city limits.
  • First step in forming a volunteer fire department will be taken in Ridgewood tonight in a meeting at Cary’s Store, 410 Walnut St. Under preliminary plans, Russell Nelson, chairman of the committee, said.

Herald News Archive

  • March 5, 1940 – A Proposal that the City of Joliet contract to answer fire alarms in the unincorporated areas of the township for a fee of $260 per call was submitted to the city council yesterday by Commissioner D.H. Lentz. The contracts would have the property owner pay the $260 fee at $5 a month. In case of fire, the property owner would pay the balance within 10 days.

  The department grew to three trucks in September 1942 when a third  truck was purchased from the Dwight Fire Department. In December of 1945, the East Joliet Fire Dept. purchased its first new fire engine. Built by Central Fire Truck Company of St. Louis Missouri, the 500gpm pumper was one of the most modern of its day. It cost $8000.00 dollars and was paid for in cash. In the course of events and through the years, it was sold and was later reacquired and refurbished as a working memorial and is now affectionately known as “Old Number 4”.

     In 1952, the department purchased a used 1946 Chevrolet chassis from the Commonwealth Edison Co. Several members remounted the pump and body from the 1928 Chevrolet to this new chassis. It was numbered as Engine 5.

     It was 1955 when the department was able to purchase another piece of equipment. This time, we purchased a 1955 Willy’s “Jeep”, a four wheel drive vehicle, for use in combating grass and brush fires. At the time the department was responsible for fire protection of Highland Park. The “Jeep” was built by General-Detroit Corp. and had a 500gpm pump and carried 150 gallons of water. The department added another 150 gallon tank to the unit and began using it for car fires and as a quick attack unit on structure fires.

    The department soon grew even larger with the addition of a 1956 GMC tank truck. The chassis was purchased separately and the Lubick Welding Co. of Lockport was contracted to build the tank and body. This new tanker which carried 1500 gallons of water replaced the 1937 Diamond T. In 1959, a 750gpm pumper with “High Pressure” was acquired. It was a 1956 I.H.C., built by the F.M.C Corp of Lansing, MI.; it carried 500 gallons of water. It was purchased as a demonstrator.

Herald News Archive

  • March 6, 1940 – About 400 residents of unincorporated areas east of the city agreed at a meeting at the A.O Marshall School last night to establish a volunteer fire department by popular subscription. James Bolton, a barber, presided. The fire department will serve the Ridgewood, Forest Park, and Spring Creek areas.

Herald News Archive

  • March 20, 1940 – The home of Angelo Cassinari, Patterson Rd and Wisconsin Ave, burned to the ground at 2 a.m. today. This was the latest in a series of fires that have destroyed homes in the area outside the city where no firefighting service is available. The fire apparently started near the roof from an overheated chimney and quickly spread over the house.

    Also in 1959, the department seen the need for more operating capital to provide better protection and coverage to the unincorporated areas of the eastern portion of Joliet Township. During the summer months, members of the Department canvassed the area and in the general election of November, the voting residents, overwhelmingly approved the formation of the East Joliet Fire Protection District.

     In November, 1959, the voters of the area authorized the formation of a Fire Protection District. This organization was to provide fire protection to the unincorporated areas of Joliet Township. At this time, most of the volunteers were from the Ridgewood area. None were from Preston Heights. However, this was soon to be remedied because the State of Illinois determined that Preston Heights was too far away from Station 1 located more than five miles from a station.

     Therefore, the department members went out in the area and solicited more volunteers. To lessen the response time, a fire truck was moved to the Preston Heights area. This truck, a Jeep with a 500gpm front mount pump and a 300 gallon water tank, had been acquired in 1955 and was originally a forestry truck. It was used mostly on grass fires but would also function as the first due engine in the Southern areas of the district. This truck was kept in Jim Printchard’s garage at the corner of Luana Rd., and Edison Rd. The revolving red light had to be lowered, for the truck to fit into the garage. The truck was moved to Fred Dethlefsen’s garage, on Louis Rd., when Jim moved to Southern Illinois.

      Meanwhile, plans were being drawn up for a new station in the Preston Heights area. It was built in 1964 at the corner of Zarley and Rt. 53. With its construction, fire protection to the Preston Heights area, Sugar Creek area, and the district around Patterson Rd. and farms farther south was greatly improved.

       The year before the new station opened, Chief Bolton passed away. Chief Klint was appointed the second Chief in the department’s history at Chief Bolton’s funeral. Bob was asked to a meeting on the porch of Floyd Olsen’s Funeral home (now Range Funeral Home) by Carl Meyer, Jack Banners, and John Ferguson, the three District Trustees at the time. It was there that he was asked to be Chief of the Department. Chief Klint spent 57 dedicated years with the department before his untimely death in 2000.

    In 1970 the department purchased another new pumper. It was a 1969 International built by John Bean Division of the Food, Machinery, and Chemical Corp. Of Lansing, MI. It incorporated a 1000gpm pump and a 600 gallon booster tank. Realizing the need for some type of elevated apparatus to protect apartment and industrial complexes serviced by the district, in May of 1976 the department purchased a Peirce 50’ tele-scoping water tower that was built on a 1976 Hendrickson chassis. It had a 1250gpm pump, and was equipped with a 500 gallon water tank.

    With the need for a station in the center area of the district, plans were drawn up for a new fire house and department headquarters. In 1978, Station 3, now known as Station 51 was build at 011. S Briggs St. The new station gave the department a centralized location for training and day to day operations. 

    Another milestone in providing better fire protection for the citizens of the East Joliet Fire Protection District was reached on January 2, 1985, when the district trustees hired three full time employees. Hired to work from 0700 to 1630 hours, Monday through Friday, were John Matthews, Mark Ksiazak, and Greg Walling, all from the volunteer force. Matthews was appointed as a staff Lieutenant to observe the daily operations of the newly created paid force and to provide leadership on the fire ground. the other two members each held the position of firefighter. 

    In 1990 the East Joliet Fire Department celebrated it's 50th Anniversary. Like the last 50 years, the 1990's saw continued change at East Joliet and in the fire service. In the early 1990's the department went to voters to approve an Ambulance District. When approved it allowed the department to provide even better Emergency Medical Services to the citizens of the district. The district was now able to operate an Advanced Life Support ambulance during all hours of the day. The newly formed Ambulance District also allowed the department to collect more tax revenue to better service and equipment to its citizens. 

    With the addition of the Ambulance District and the increasing need for Emergency Medical Services the department saw the need for increased staff personnel for daily coverage of the district. during the 1990's the days of 7:00am to 4:30pm shift were changed to three 24-hour shifts. The district also brought on part-time employees to assist the full-time personnel already employed by the district. the full-time employees would work 24-hour shifts with 48 hours off while the part-time personal work 12 or 24 hour shifts, allowing the district to have personnel on staff 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. In 1997 the 10 full-time firefighters of East Joliet unionized as the East Joliet Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 3775. With the increase in call volume, Station 2 in Preston Heights was remodeled to be used as a daily staffed station. this allowed the district to run two ALS ambulances and fire coverage from two stations 24 hours per day.  

    In February of 2000 with the untimely death of Chief Klint, the District's Board of Trustees approved and promoted Assistant Chief Robert Scholtes to Chief of the department. Today the East Joliet Fire Protection District consists of full-time, part-time, and paid on call personnel that run out of two fire stations with an average of 2100 calls a year. 

​  We have come a long way in the last 82 years.