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GRAND RAPIDS VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT HISTORY


On a meeting held on January 23rd, 1959 at the Town of Grand Rapids Community Hall, It was voted to organize and staff a volunteer fire department. The Town of Grand Rapids Volunteer Fire Department was set up as a thirty-five member department that would work in cooperation with the City of Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department to combat fir which occur in the township. At this meeting, Ervin Kawalske was appointed as the first fire chief. Since that time, the town board has appointed ten other fire chief.

On April 27th, 1959 the fire department held its first business meeting. At this meeting the first By-Laws and Constitution were approved. Since the date the by-laws were in acted, the have been revised nine time with the most recent being March 6th, 2006. At this first meeting, a pay rate was set up for members that responded to calls, trainings, and meetings. Members would receive $1.00 per hour for all fire calls. Also members would be paid $1.00 per hour and not to exceed $2.00 for trainings and meetings. Currently, members receive $11.50 per fire call, training, and meeting. At that first meeting, the membership of the department was set at a limit of one fire chief and thirty-five members of consisting of five elected officers and thirty fire fighters. Current by-laws now allow for 1 fire chief, nine officers, and thirty fire fighters.

On July 15th, 1959 the department held its first election of officers. Position elected at this meeting was the Assistant Chief, First Captain, Second Captain, First Lieutenant, and Second Lieutenant. The Fire Chief was not elected at this time. It was set up that election of officers would be done at the annual fire department meeting which will be held in March of every year. The election of officers would follow the by-laws with the Chief, First Captain, and First Lieutenant being elected on the even-numbered years and Assistant Chief, Second Captain, Second Lieutenant elected on the odd-numbered years. Officers would be elected to a two year term. The practice of electing officers by the membership and approval by the town board is still done today but with several changes.

The first new fire truck was bought by the town was on April 25th, 1960. This High Pressures Engine was purchased at a cost of $10,642.

When the fire department was first formed, the two fire trucks were housed at the town garage. In October 28, 1960 the first fire station was completed. This station was located on Huntington Blvd. The town bought the land for this station and the fire department members, families, and friends did most of the construction of this first station.

On October 7th, 1963 the first associate member was place on the department rosters. It was decide that the department should train personnel to replace a member so that we could always strive to maintain a fully staffed and trained roster. This practice is still in place today. Our associate members are required to complete all training required by members, respond to all calls, and attend monthly meetings and training. These associate members still today operate with out any compensation.

August 10th, 1966 saw the first official officers meeting held. Monthly meetings would be held so that the chief could keep all officers informed about department operations. T

In October 16th, 1966 the new town municipal building was completed at 2410 48th Street South. This building would now house the fire department, police department, and town office employees.

December 3rd, 1967 the town bought a used 1964 Ford Meto Utility Van and converted into a department Squad Truck. This van was set up as a command vehicle and transport of firefighters to fire scenes.

September 24, 1974 the town bought a new 1974 Ford Meto Utility Van for $2,300 to be used as the new squad vehicle. This vehicle replaced the 1964 Ford Meto Utility Van. This van was set up as a command vehicle and transport of firefighters to fire scenes.

In August of 1977 the department put in service a new Dodge Power Wagon 4X4 as our brush truck. This vehicle replace 1940s military vehicle that had been used for brush fires. This truck was purchased for about $10,000.

August 7th 1978 saw the Grand Rapids Volunteer Fire Department become a class “A” fire department for insurance rating. In 2006 the fire department completed all requirements under the current ISO standards to receive a class “A” insurance rating of six.

In May of 1979, the first battery operated pagers and a repeater were purchased for the fire department. This system would now allow the fire fighters to receive notification of a fire call as long as they were in the coverage area of the repeater system. Prior to this new system, the fire fighters were alerted to a fire call by a ring down phone system. This means that the fire man would get a phone call at home to tell them that there was a fire call.

In June 1983, the town board authorized the fire department to start the process to purchase a new class “A” fire engine to replace an old and out dated fire engine. This engine was purchased for about $96,000.

In 1985 a study was done to determine if a new fire station should be built. The fire department was now housing more fire truck in the building in which it was designed for. It was decided to build a new station behind the current municipal building. Ground braking for the new station was held on March 20th, 1986. In September of 1986 work on the new fire station was completed. The fire department is still currently responding to all call from this station.

February 3rd 1986, the town decided to purchase a used 1983-84 Chevrolet milk truck and convert it in to a tanker for the fire department. This vehicle replaced the old Tanker 3 (old military duce and half aka The Green Lizard). This vehicle was labeled a Tanker 2. The cost of this project was $28,208. This truck was placed in service in July of 1986.

In June of 1988, the fire department completed all requirements under the current ISO standards to receive a class “A” insurance rating of seven.

In June 1990 the town purchased a used 1982 GMC tanker truck for the town crew and the fire department. The fire department donated $4,500 dollars of fund raiser money to upgrade this truck for fire department usage. The truck was labeled as Tanker 3. This vehicle replaced the Tanker 1 (Saratoga Tanker).

On August 1991 the department put in service a new High Pressure truck to replace the 1960 High Pressure truck. The cost of this truck was $92,000

In June 1995 the department put in service a new Grumman Squad truck to replace the old 1964 Ford Meto Squad truck. The cost of this truck was $93,305 of which $50,000 was donated by firefights through fund raising efforts. The new Squad Truck has setting for 8 firefighters.

November 1995 the department set up The Maynard Keuntjes Memorial Scholarship Fund in the memory of former Chief Maynard Keuntjes. The fund was started with a donation from the family of $500.00. The scholarship committee reviews all applications and award one scholarship per year in the amount of $100.00. This Memorial Scholarship is still in place today and has grown to the amount of $200.00.

In March of 1998 the department put in service a new GMC 4x4 Brush Truck replacing the old 1977 Brush Truck. This vehicle was bought though fund raising efforts by the firefighters and donated to the town. The cost of this vehicle was $52,485. This vehicle has setting for 3 firefighters

June of 1999 the department put into service a new Pierce Saber class “A” fire engine replacing the 1971 International Engine 1. This vehicle was purchased for about $250,000.00. Through fund raising efforts, the firefighter purchased all the new equipment for this truck at a cost of about $29,000.00. This new engine has setting for 6 firefighters. Old Engine 1 was reclassified as Tanker 1.

August of 2000 the town purchased a new tanker on a Sterling chassis to be used by the fire department and the public works for water shuttling. This vehicle replaced the old 1982 GMC Tanker 3. The firefighters donated $6,215.00 through fund raising effort to equip this tanker for fire department usage. The vehicle was labeled Tanker 3 and went into service in November of 2000.

In June 2001, the town purchased a new tanker on a Sterling chassis. This vehicle replaced the old 1983-84 Chevrolet Tanker 2. This vehicle was purchased for about $63,000. The firefighters donated over $6,000.00 through fund raising effort to equip this tanker for fire department usage. Also the fire department put into service a Thermal Imaging Camera. This camera was purchased through a donation of $13,650 from Ron’s Refrigeration and $8,000 donated by the fireman through fund raising efforts.

January 14th 2002 the town creating the first full time fire department position. The Fire Chief would no longer an elected position by the membership but an appointed position by the town board for a period of three years. The fire chief would also function as the town safety director.

On October 8th, 2002 over 200 firefighters and area residents gathered at the Grand Rapids Fire Station for the unveiling and dedication of the Fire Chiefs' Memorial. This memorial includes the memorial with the names of former GRVFD Fire Chiefs engraved on it; as well as a permanent flag pole installation. The memorial and flag pole was donated to the Fire Department by the Blanchard family, in memory of their husband and father, Glenn Blanchard. A flag was also donated by the family in honor of all past chiefs. The site prep work, concrete forming and finishing were completed by Grand Rapids Firefighters.

On January 1st, 2003 with the support of the town, the department started a retirement program for its members. The Length of Service Award (LOSA) is a state funded and town matched program.

In June 2003, the department put in-service a new F250 4x4 Crew cab truck to service as a second brush truck. This vehicle was funded through the Department of Nature Resources and town vehicle replacement fund.

In July 2003, the department was awarded a federal grant (FIRE ACT Grant) that is a 90/10 matching grant. The grant was written to upgrade current Self Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA) and purchase new Self Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA). The department was awarded $53,001.00 of which the federal share was $47,701.00 and our share was $5,300.00.

In August 2005, the department was awarded a federal grant (FIRE ACT Grant) that is a 95/5 matching grant. The grant was written to purchase turn out gear, helmats, boots, gloves, hoods, washer and dry unit. The department was awarded $48,680.00 of which the federal share was 46,246.00 and our share was $2,434.00.

On September 5th, 2005 the department placed in service a used 1995 65’ ladder truck. This ladder truck is also rated as a class “A” fire engine. This vehicle replaced the 1990 High Pressure Fire Engine. This Ladder/Engine was purchased for about $210,000. Most of the equipment was transferred from the old high pressure engine to the new ladder/engine. All the new equipment and fire hose needed was purchased though 2% Dues and fund raising efforts by the firefighters. The cost of this equipment was about $8,000.00. This new ladder/engine has setting for 4 firefighters.

March 6th, 2006 the officer’s rank was expanded. At this time the department added a Second Assistant Chief (Safety/Training Officer), Third Lieutenant, Forth Lieutenant, and Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) Lieutenant. The Third and Forth Lieutenants position would still be elected following current by-laws. The positions of Assistant Chiefs and RIT Lieutenant would be appointed by the fire chief following the current by-laws.

On May 5th, 2006, the fire department placed in service a new Pierce Contender class “A” fire engine to replace our old 1983 Pierce class “A” engine. This vehicle was purchased for about $212,000. Most of the equipment was transferred from the old engine to the new engine. All the new equipment and fire hose needed was purchased though 2% Dues and fund raising efforts by the firefighters. The cost of this equipment was about $12,000.00. This new engine has setting for 5 firefighters.

On July 1 2006, The South Zone RIT went live. This team is made up of members from the following departments: Grand Rapids, Nekoosa, Rome, Port Edwards, and Biron.

On August 1, 2006, fire department completed all requirements under the current ISO standards to receive a class “A” insurance rating of six.

In November 2006, the department placed in service a set of TNT extrication tools (JAWS of Life) to be placed on Engine 1. The purchase of these tools was done by fundraising efforts of the firefighters and a matching grant for Alliant Energy Hometown Challenge.

In January 2007, the department placed in service a new MSA HD2 E5200 Thermal Imager Unit to be placed on Engine 1. The old thermal imager will be moved to Ladder 1. The purchase of this tool for $8100, was done by fundraising efforts of the firefighters.

In August 2007, the department formally established a 45 day Associate Training Program. A mentoring officer was assigned this duty. All new members are required to go through this program and be evaluated prior to being issued any equipment.

In September 2007, the Membership Committee created The Robert Walloch Fire Fighter of the Year award. This is to honor Firefighter Robert Walloch served on our department as a member from August 1st, 1988 to April 16th, 2006 when he lost his hard fought battle with cancer.

On November 1st, 2007 the department joined MABAS Wisconsin Division 110 for Portage County. MABAS is a unique organization where every MABAS participating agency has signed the same contract with their 750+ counterpart MABAS agencies. As a MABAS agency, you agree to: standards of operation, incident command, minimum level of equipment staffing, safety, and on-scene terminology. MABAS agencies, regardless of their geopolitical origin, are able to work together seamlessly on any emergency scene. All MABAS agencies operate on a common radio frequency, Interagency Fire Emergency Radio Network (IFERN) and are activated for response through pre-designed "run" cards each participating agency designs and tailors to meet their local risk need. MABAS also provides mutual aid station coverage to a stricken community when their fire/ EMS resources are committed to an incident for an extended period.

In April 2008, the department put in service a new compressor and fills station for our SCBA bottles. This unit was purchased through a federal fire act grant.

In May of 2008, the department was awarded a grant from US Tobacco - Operation Ranger for a new Polaris 6x6 Ranger. Several private and local businesses made donations to this project to equip it with lights and an EMS skid unit. The firefighters bought a new trail to haul this unit on from last year’s celebration fund raiser.

On January 1st, 2009 the department went live with it newly formed medical first responder group. We see the need to get medically trained responders to the scene to shorten the gap from when “911” is call and the ambulance arrives on scene to provide care. The department received @ $25,000 for training and equipment from Community Foundation and Riverview Hospital Foundation.

In October of 2009, the department upgraded it communication towers. The town purchased two 90’ power poles. One at the fire station replaces a 50’ tower and one at the municipal building replacing a 40’ tower. The antennas were also replaced too. This will increase or communication greatly in the Grand Rapids and surrounding areas during calls.

In July 2010, the department set out to complete two projects. The first project was to replace 15 sets of turn gear by the end of this year. Also the body voted and approved the purchase of new pagers to start the process of replacing our non narrowband compliant pagers by the end of 2012. Both of these projects have been funded with our department 2% dues and fund raising monies. We have tried several years now to get these two projects completed via grants but have not been successful as the grant process has become more competitive with few dollars to go around. As a department, we felt this was the best way to approach these projects and still be fiscally responsible to our taxpayers by not asking for funds through our normal annual department budget process to address these projects.