There is no service provided by a community that is more important than a fire department and the Maple Lake area is fortunate to have a volunteer fire department that is second to none.
On July 7, the Maple Lake Fire Department will celebrate 75 years of service to the Maple Lake community with a day of events in downtown Maple Lake.
The current fire department was formed in 1937, but there was an earlier attempt to provide fire protection in the City of Maple Lake. A fire department was organized in 1892 with Martin O’Loughlin as the fire chief. But this first attempt at providing fire protection slowly died out during the early 1900s due to a lack of leadership and a complacent, “It can’t happen here,” attitude.
In 1936, there was no formal fire department in Maple Lake. Instead, residents had a cart with 30 feet of hose and one nozzle. When a fire broke out, someone would report the fire to the local telephone operator. Evelyn Hoffman was the telephone operator at the time and she would call someone she knew who was interested in fighting fires. That volunteer would get the cart out of the jailhouse building while someone else went to ring the church bell. When calls came in to the switchboard, Evelyn would tell them where the fire was. Those responding to the alarm would run to the cart and pull it by hand to the fire.
The need for a more organized fire department was made evident with a fire in 1936 near the city park. Volunteers trying to hook the hose up to a fire hydrant were unable to do so because the man who took care of the town streets would use that hydrant to water his horse, opening the hydrant with a pipe wrench. Since the use of a pipe wrench instead of a hydrant wrench wore down the corners, volunteers had to try to use another hydrant a block away
and the house almost burned down.
A group of concerned citizens
got together and established the
Maple Lake Volunteer Fire Department. The original 15 charter members were Cliff Peterson, chief; H. O. Bolduan, treasurer; Bill Dircks, ass’t. chief; Al Dircks, secretary; and members Ed Starry, Wayne Gee, Ray Muller, Basil Loch, Ervin Kloss, E. R. Vandergon, Tony Oberprillar, Hank Mavencamp, Harry Stuhr, Lawrence Rachel and L. P Hance.
In a past Messenger article, the late Al Dircks remembered what fire protection was like in the early 1930s.
“The church bell would ring, everybody would run up to the fire house and pick up the hose cart and go,” Dircks said. “If there was enough manpower, they would run down the street with the cart. If there wasn’t, they’d get behind a pickup, hold the thing and away they’d go.”
Dircks, Maple Lake’s fire chief from 1956 to 1966,
described the fire
department back in the ’30s as “very crude.
Sometimes after a fire, they
would just drop the hoses
where they were standing,” Dircks said. “And
maybe someone would remember
to pick them up a few days later.” In 1937, a fund-raising drive began to purchase
needed equipment. The first fundraiser netted $12.51 for the fire truck fund. Following other fundraising efforts and borrowing from the local bank, they purchased a 1937 International Fire Truck, which is still housed at the Maple Lake Fire Hall for use in parades.
The fire department offered rural and lake residents fire service at a rate of $5 for five years. The village would pay firefighters $1 for the first hour of firefighting and 50 cents per hour thereafter. In 1990, the fire department was made a beneficiary of property tax revenue, eliminating the need for member subscriptions.
The early fire department shared
space with the city jail and the city council chambers. When the city council would meet, they would move the fire truck out to hold their meetings. That building was located under the old watertower at the northwest end of the current fire hall.
In 1955, a new building with two truck bays was constructed on that site at the corner of Oak Avenue and Division Street. An addition with two more truck bays was added in 1970 at a cost of $12,000. At that time, the fire department had two pumper trucks, two tanker trucks, two cars and the ambulance. In 1997, 3,700 square feet of space was added for equipment and meeting rooms at a cost of $185,000. And in 2007, a heated storage building with three bays was constructed behind the fire hall at a cost of $48,000.
Innovation has been part of the Maple Lake Fire Department’s history. Herb Bolduan, a member of the department, developed the fire number identification system for rural and lake residents. The plan was presented to the state, which granted permission to use the signs along highways in March of 1959.
The ambulance service provided by the fire department has also been an important service. In February of 1959, a Chevrolet station wagon was purchased to be used as the fire department’s first ambulance. Firefighters took basic First Aid instruction to help with medical emergencies. In 1974, nine firefighters took the rigorous train-
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