Chester Township History & Genealogy

Fire Department

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Chester Township Fire Department

Conklin businessmen established the first fire department in Chester Township in 1912.  The department served only the village of Conklin.  Pearl Arnold was the Fire Chief, serving for eight years.  Funding for the department came from solicitations, donations, dances and dinners.  The equipment consisted of 15 buckets and two ladders.  The equipment was stored on the west side of Frank Lacey’s blacksmith shop, located on the corner of Conklin and Miller streets.

Conklin Fire Department bucket brigade fighting fire in building at corner of Sehler & Main.

Click on the following link to view the membership of this first fire department.

In 1920, the department purchased a chemical pressure system consisting of two tanks on a two wheeled cart.  The cart was pulled by two men.  The department also obtained a large dinner bell to alert the firemen in case of a fire.  Ed Dinkel was elected Fire Chief.  He served six months.  Then Egbert Doane was elected Fire Chief, serving for 48 years.  The department continued to serve just the village of Conklin.

The Chemical Rig originally had wooden, spoked wheels.

Egbert Doane, Fire Chief, 1920-1962


























In 1929, the Chester Township Board passed a resolution to form a fire district, to raise money for fire equipment by special assessment in the platted areas of the township, and to purchase a fire truck and equipment.  They voted to raise $4,000.00 to purchase a truck, $2,700.00 to purchase hose, and $600.00 for maintenance.  There is no record of the fire district being created or any equipment being purchased.


In 1937, the fire department, still consisting of Conklin businessmen, recognized the need to formalize the fire department organization and open the membership to more than Conklin businessmen.  A fourteen person volunteer fire department was formed and Egbert Doane, again, was elected Fire Chief.  The department was incorporated as the Conklin Fire Department (CFD).  The department purchased a 1926 Chevy truck chassis equipped for fire fighting as a pumper at a cost of $300.00.

1926 Pumper with the tank and equipment removed.

In 1938, the CFD purchased the old post office building on Main Street from Charles Bean for $500.00.  At this time, the firemen continued to be alerted to calls by the ringing of a bell.  It wasn’t until 1946 that the CFD purchased a siren and mounted it on the windmill that was located behind the telephone office on Miller Street.  When a fire call came in to the telephone office, the operator would set off the siren.


On April 13, 1946, the CFD entered into a contract with the Chester Township Board for the provision of fire protection, with all calls to be answered regardless of location.  The contract gave the CFD $900.00 for one year.  In 1948, the department purchased a 1948 Ford 1 ton chassis equipped as a pumper. The 1926 pumper was sold to Duane Finkler, a local fruit grower and dairy farmer.


Click on the following link to view a copy of the 1946 contract between the Conklin Fire Department and Chester Township. 


From 1946 through 1950, the contracted amount from the township remained at $900.00 a year.  In 1951, the amount of the contract was raised to $1,500.00.  A 1941 Chevy truck chassis equipped as a 300 gallon tanker was purchased.  The department also purchased resuscitation equipment in the form of two oxygen tanks and masks.


In 1954, the department built a 10’ by 20’ addition to the back of the fire station on Main Street.  The department continued to contract with the township for $1,500.00 a year.  The department purchased a new 300 gallon per minute pump for the 1948 pumper.  They also purchase a new, larger siren, placed on a tower behind the fire station, and two Scott Air Packs.  The next year, 1955, they purchased a chemical, called wet water, to be added to the tanks on the fire trucks which increased wetting ability of regular water. “Wet Water” is designed to help fight stubborn, smoldering fires in upholstery, bedding, paper, hay and brush. Treated water penetrates more quickly, extinguishing the blaze with only 1/3 as much water.  Then, in 1956, the department purchased 200 feet of 1 inch nylon hose.

A proposal for 1 mill for fire protection was placed on the April 1, 1957 ballot and passed 83 to 30.  This 1 mill for fire protection was renewed by the voters until 1988, when the millage amount was raised to 1.5 mills.  The 1.5 mills for fire protection have continued to be renewed to the present day.  The contract with the township was renewed for $1,500.00.  With the passage of the millage, the contract in 1958 was increased to $2,000.00 per year.  A 1948 Ford chassis was purchased to replace the 1941 Chevy chassis.


In 1962, Egbert Doane resigned as Fire Chief and Herbert Schaefer was elected the new chief.  In 1964, the department purchased land on Conklin Street to build a new fire station.  This same year, the department purchased one additional Scott Air Pack.


In 1966, the new fire station was completed and a new 1966 Ford chassis pumper was purchased.  The new pumper arrived November 4, 1966.

Construction of new Fire Station in 1966

Fire Department equipment from 1920-1962

Fire Chief, Herbert Schaefer with new 1966 pumper

In 1967, a telephone alarm system was placed in service.  The alarm system consisted of a special telephone in the home of every fireman.  When a call was made to the fire department, it would ring in to every fireman’s home.


In 1970, Herbert Schaefer resigned as chief and Gerald Gillespie was elected the new chief.  Radio dispatch service was approved by the Chester Township Board, but the contract with the Grand Rapids Fire Department (GRFD) was not finalized.  The department also purchased a Jeep to use as a brush rig.  In 1972, the contract for radio dispatch service with GRFD was signed.  One radio was purchased for the pumper and a monitor was purchased for each fireman.


In 1973, the department received the loan of a truck from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The Township Board approved the expenditure of $1,200.00 to purchase and install a 1600 gallon tank on the DNR truck.  The following year, 1974, a used GMC truck was purchased to replace the Jeep as a brush rig.


In 1977, six men from the department completed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training.  The men who completed the training were:  Steve Denhof, Alan Rosel, Bill Rosel, Clarence Webb, and Dennis Zimmer.  After successful completion of the EMT training, the department began accepting medical, first responder, calls.


In 1979, Gerald Gillespie resigned as chief and Elroy Schaefer was elected chief.  Then in 1982, following a bitter dispute with the Township Board regarding the Board’s efforts to micromanage the fire department, several members of the department resigned, including Chief Elroy Schaefer.  Edward Kelly was elected as the new Fire Chief.

In 1986, the department purchased a Hurst Tool for use in extrication of accident victims.  In 1989, Edward Kelly resigned as chief and Dennis Sheridan was elected to replace him.  Also, in 1989, a new tanker truck was purchased.  Then in 1990, a DNR rescue truck was accepted on loan. 


In 1991, the department established the position of Medical Officer and Galen Rosel was appointed to this position.  During this same year, 1991, Ottawa County 911 took over the dispatch services.   In 1992, a 1978 Emergency Squad was purchased to replace the DNR rescue truck.


In 1994, Dennis Sheridan resigned as chief and Dwight Sheridan was elected to replace him.  In 1995, a special fire millage of 2.5 mills for 2 years was approved by the voters.  The millage was approved for the construction of a large addition to the fire station and the remodeling of the existing fire station building for offices and a meeting/training room.  The total cost of this project was approximately $220,000.00.  The project was completed in 1997.


2002 Pumper

Pumper-Tanker Purchased in 2005

Fire Chiefs & Assistant Chiefs, 1912-2005

The Bleeding Heart

Fire Department Photos & Clippings

Chester Township
Ottawa County
Michigan, USA