Hinsdale Fire Department . . . Our History
July 4th, 1894 was a busy day for the men of the Hinsdale Volunteer Fire Department. On that day, the secretary of the organization enumerated the calls they answered in his ledger. First, a fire at the home of Linus C. Ruth, village attorney, caused by fireworks. Then, a wagonload of hay burned in the street. The department "responded promptly saving the wagon the horses and a man and dog". Then came the last fire of the day, at the Henry house. The conflagration burned it to the ground but, noted the secretary, they were able to save the lot.
These unintentionally humorous entries represented the earliest official records of the Hinsdale Fire Department, which has served the community for a century.
When the first settlers arrived in this area in the 1830's and built their cabins along Salt Creek and the Southwest Trail, fire was an ever-present hazard. Bricks were unavailable except for the richest of the early settlers and no quarries had been established. Therefore, houses were built of logs and wood.
Fireplaces were only part stone, the upper half usually was built of green sticks and mud. Since a fire almost always had to be kept going, for warmth, light, boiling water, melting bullet lead or cooking, the green sticks would dry quickly and split.
Cooking would deposit grease and soot on the chimney walls, and this would often ignite, creating the most common hazard of the era-a chimney fire. These were often hard to control, since they burned directly into the walls and roof. No small danger, especially to settler's farther west, were the prairie fires set by the Indians every fall.
These fires burnt off dead grass and drove game to waiting hunting parties. This assured a good food supply for the winter. Lightning, then as now, was a threat, since few of the pioneer homes had lightning rods. The high elevation and the trees of Brush Hill made the place particularly liable to this type of damage. Other dangers were lamps and candles, the settler's only source of light.
The people of Brush Hill had to be their own fire protection. There was no great cooperative effort, since the homes were often separated by great distances, and posed no danger to the surrounding area when a fire did occur. Then again, dwellings were usually of a single story, and the household goods could be saved easily. The cabins themselves were easily replaced. A man merely did his best to douse the fire with well water or pump water. But with the advent of the 1840's, Brush Hill was thickly settled-Houses were going up closer together and a cluster of stores created a business section at York and Ogden.
Fire now posed more of a threat, since one burning structure could conceivably take the whole village. So, something having the semblance of a fire department came into being. When a fire was spotted, the citizens would be called by a bell, and a bucket brigade would be formed from the nearest water source-which was sometimes Salt Creek. Most residents kept a bucket by the door to answer such fire calls.
Although the bucket brigade was helpful, it lacked the speed to get to the fire and the ability to carry a water source. Brush Hill had no pumping engine, so they could not direct a single, powerful stream of water on the fire. The result: most fires were total loses. Probably the first, and only, great fire in Brush Hill occurred in 1848 when the Torode saw mill burned down. One could almost call this provident, since Fred Graue then bought the property, and with the help of William Ashe built the fine brick gristmill, which still stands there today.
The actual history of the Hinsdale Fire Department starts with the incorporation of the Village of Hinsdale in April, 1873, nine years after the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad built its tracks a mile south of Brush Hill.
Real estate investor and promoter William Robins bought 800 acres south of the tracks in 1866 and had a town platted. By 1872 his village, christened Hinsdale, had a population of about 500. The business district of the new town grew rapidly, and from it sprang the first fire-fighting force. It was sort of a cooperative effort among the merchants in the area. They agreed to watch for fire hazards and help each other with fires in the business center, the most vital part of the new village. Hinsdale Hose Company No. 1, direct progenitor of the present Hinsdale Fire Department, may have been established as early as the 1870's. It was an off shoot of the merchants' protective association.
Fire threats in those days still came from chimneys but now overheated boilers, stoves, and furnaces accounted for a good many fires. People who did not know how to properly use"new-fangled" products, such as gasoline were dangerous. One man's chicken house burned down as he was de-lousing chickens with gasoline. Electricity had not yet replaced the candle and lantern, as witnessed Chicago; and even the steam locomotives on occasion set fire to a roof or autumnal tree with sparks from the smoke stack. The first big fire recorded was in 1877, when the new Universalist Church burned to the ground.
Around 1880 John C. Ross, a prominent resident and member of Chicago's Board of Trade, donated a hand-drawn hose cart and bucket wagon to the Hose Company. Then, in 1886 the Village made its first purchase of equipment, buying a horse-drawn hook and ladder truck with hose, axes and accessories. Probably in this year the Hinsdale Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was formed. They shared quarters, equipment and personnel with the Hose Company, and the two were formally merged on March 6th, 1893, under the name Hinsdale Volunteer Fire Department. Up until this year, the department had its headquarters at 25 E. First St. During 1881, a 2½ story frame structure was built on the property. The lower floor served as a jail, village hall, and police and fire department quarters. The Colored Baptist Church used the upper story every Sunday evening. An African American man, whose name is unknown, served on the department before 1895, possibly making our department the first integrated unit in the western suburbs.
Originally the hose company had limited its membership to 25 volunteers, but this number fluctuated considerably. The following are the names of all known members who served prior to 1897:
|1. John G. Bohlander Jr.||2. August H. Dannemark||3. Charles Pfeifer||4. W. S. Johnson|
|5. Charles O. Ring||6. H. M. Bohlander||7. Henry Huser||8. B. G. Merrill|
|9. J. W. Ross||10. Dennis Kenny||11. Harry Coleman||12. C. P. Zufall|
|13. H. F. Ross||14. H. B. Mills||15. C. F. Skeels||16. H. Lytle|
|17. R. D. McAurther||18. N. H. Webster||19. H. W. Prouty||20. Charles Hedge|
|21. O. K. Hoffman||22. George A. Wright||23. Peter F. Dehr||24. L. H. Johnson|
|25. Herman Westfall||26. Robert Merker||27. Chaunce Warner||28. William Herman|
|29. Nick Metz||30. Robert Reed||31. C. W. Whitton||32. Sam Elvin|
|33. Eddie Meyers||34. F. A. Roth||35. William Heinke||36. L. Wakeman|
|37. John W. Nicholson (Honorary)|
In these early years, the department was a private organization with officers. Their bylaws were subject only to approval by the Village. Any man desirous of becoming a member had to make an application and be advanced by an established member. His application was then voted on at the regular meeting of the department. Dues were $1 a year; this money was used for minor expenses. Each man had to refrain from drinking in excess or disporting himself in such a manner as unbecoming to the department, or face expulsion.
Before 1898, the volunteers were not paid anything, even for time spent fighting fires. In that year, a petition was passed by the taxpayers asking The Village Board to pay the men for firefighting time. Before 1898, the department's only income was by donation from fire victims and the receipts of the annual ball. These balls were glamorous affairs held at Gardner's Hall. Usually 100 tickets were printed, firemen and friends getting in gratis. The first annual ball was held in 1891. Total receipts for the 1893 affair were $156.25, disbursements $49.88-leaving $106.37. "After much discussion", noted the secretary, it was decided that each man would withdraw $5 and "the remainder be placed in the treasury".
During the 1890's the department seemed to be more interested in socializing than fighting fires. This can be seen noted in these entries from the record books: "ordered paid bills for cigars, telegrams, soda water, and neckties; ordered new uniforms and debated whether or not they should have a stripe down the side; Moved and seconded that this department go to the World's Fair in a body on Fireman's Day 1893; Decided to have a slaighride(sic) to Elmhurst and invited the Elmhurst firemen to join in the fun". After a meeting "spent the rest of the evening celebrating". Moved and seconded that "we buy 18 tickets to the Chicago Fire Department circus".
Members were prohibited from smoking during meetings; each offense and other bylaws brought a fine from $1 to $10. It was apparently mandatory that all men attend the annual balls, as this bit of the record shows (dated Jan. 22, 1894): "An excuse was asked of N. H. Webster for not attending our last ball, it was given as follows: he had a very pressing invitation from a young lady in LaGrange to attend a party there, and after duly considering both the dance at home and the dance in LaGrange, he chose the latter on account of the lady's persuasive powers. Yet he admits that he did wrong and assures the company that a repetition of the offense shall not happen again. And (sic) he further maintains that he never insinuated that our ball was not to be a pot-rasslers dance and defies anyone to prove the same". This excuse was accepted but Webster left the department shortly after-perhaps he objected to the interference with his love affair.
During the 1880's and 90's, each member of the department was equipped with a bucket, axe, and five-foot ladder. The buckets, made at the harness shop of Henry Bohlander, were kept at home. When the fire bell sounded, each man grabbed his bucket and made haste to the firehouse. During this time period, a bell on top of the firehouse called the men since there were no phones and few (if any) men were on full-time duty. After the power plant was built (about 1900), a steam whistle there was used to alert the men.
The department kept no horses. Rather, when the bell rang any man in the area with a team of horses rushed to the firehouse. The first team there hitched to the hose cart, and the owner of the team received $5 for the use of the horses. The second team to arrive took the hook and ladder, and the owner of this team received $2.
Bliss Reed, who delivered beer door-to-door, had a beautiful team of white horses which were usually stabled in a barn in the alley between Washington and Lincoln streets. He used to say that every time the fire bell went off, his horses would dance a jig, for they knew they were in for the excitement of a rush to a fire.
Charles Pfeifer, who was a member and Chief of the department, operated a funeral home. He usually used horses from the livery stable on the north side of the tracks to draw the hearse. These horses, however, were trained to respond to the fire bell; and they reportedly took off during a funeral, "causing much consternation". J. G. Bohlander never used his horses because they got scared.
The earliest Hinsdale fire of which we have an accurate and full account occurred March 8, 1891. In fact, The Chicago Journal reported it as "A fatal fire in Hinsdale" the next day. "Shortly after 12 o'clock last night, a fire was discovered by Lt. C. W. Whitton, of the Hinsdale Fire Department, in the two-story brick building occupied on the ground floor as a general store by Ditzler and Linsley. The rear portion of the upper floor was occupied as a dressmaking establishment and the front room as the living quarters of Mr. Andrew Durphy. The people on this floor were all aroused and all escaped except Mr. Durphy. Sam Elvin, of the volunteer hook and ladder company, forced his way through the flames to Durphy's room. He found Durphy lying unconscious on the floor, and attempted to lift him, but was forced to escape by the window to save his own life. The floor soon after fell through to the basement and Mr. Durphy was burned to death."
As the Hinsdale department seemed powerless to fight the fire, which threatened to destroy the entire village, assistance was called from Chicago and Aurora. Two engines were prepared from Chicago but word came that they were not needed. The one from Aurora arrived too late to be of any assistance. The building was destroyed but the south firewall prevented it from spreading. Ditzler and Linsley placed their loss at $10,000, and $15,000 on the building owned by the Fox brothers. Both firms were well insured. But Ditzler and Linsley were to suffer another fire, just as bad, eighteen years later, in January of 1909.
A basketball game had just ended at Garfield School when the fire whistle started blowing frantically. It was a cold blizzardy night, some said -20 degrees, and there was a high wind. Despite this, many of the people who attended the game came over to help fight the fire at Ditzler and Linsley's. (Located on the north-east corner of First and Washington).
Chief Bohlander and his men tried to fight the fire as best they could. The winds fanned the flames and threatened the whole block. Help was called from LaGrange and Downers Grove. The latter department commandeered a Burlington engine and car from the roundhouse in their village. They loaded their pumper and headed for Hinsdale. Chief Kline of D/G is reputed to have said, "Ring the bell and blow the whistle, the whole of Hinsdale is burning down!" Such was not the case. Fire walls and diligent dousing for several hours by the three departments, prevented the spread of the fire. The water had frozen to the men's coats so they were like straightjackets. This was the last fire for Ditzler and Linsley. They sold out to R. M. Clubb later that year. The only casualty at the fire was Chief Bohlander, who suffered exposure, contracted pneumonia, and so retired from the department.
The secretary of the HFD kept only haphazard records during the early years. These records, because of their brevity and almost flippant method of reporting, are humorous, although, many of them were undoubtedly tragic fires.
On Nov. 4, 1893, there was a disastrous fire in Western Springs, which started in a bakery. The Hinsdale Fire Department and several others responded. Two months later the HFD sent a note of thanks to Mrs. Shaffer, "For her kindness in serving lunch to the firemen during the fire." How they ate lunch and fought the fire at the same time is a mystery.
The merits of the department were portrayed in 1897 in "Hinsdale the Beautiful": "Fire, with all its attendant terrors, never found a more able conqueror than in the Hinsdale Fire Department. Since the company was fully organized, the town has had ample and effective protection from the devastating fire fiend. Many are the instances in which some of the finest mansions have been rescued from what would have been certain destruction. The boys deserve all the credit. Let them be royally supported, encouraged, and their noble deeds of sacrifice and valor fully appreciated."
Most of the fires before the day of the motorized truck were total losses. Since there were no phones, the person who spotted the fire would have to run or ride to the station and ring the bell. There was then a wait for the firemen to arrive, learn the destination, and leave for the fire. It took a while to secure the horses and hitch them to the apparatus. Water was scarce, and the level in the mains was often low.
All of this resulted in loss of valuable time and lack of power to fight the blaze effectively. In 1893, there were 11 fires, total damage amounting to $20,350, or nearly $2,000 a fire. Forty years later, when the department was fully mechanized, telephone communications, and an adequate water supply, 101 calls were answered and the total damage amounted to only $5,315, roughly $53 per call.
In December 1897, a "new truck" was purchased, possibly a hose cart. It cost $125, but included in the purchase price were 700 feet of hose, two nozzles and two pipes. The old hook and ladder was finally replaced about 1912 with a model T pumper. In March 1916, the village board decided to purchase an automobile hose cart of the "flivver type" for the department. The keys to these trucks were kept behind glass near the door. When the alarm sounded, anyone who could drive, sprinted for the building and broke the glass, and took the trucks to the site of the fire. Bliss reed still made it, according to some people.
In 1925, a Pirsch fire truck was bought to replace one of the old Ford pumpers. One of the first fires attended by this truck was the power plant of the sanitarium. Spectators were surprised to see it arrive being towed by a Marshall Fields delivery truck.
Three bad fires hit Hinsdale in the half-year between December 1926 and July 1927. The first, and most spectacular, was the fire at the post office on Dec. 5, 1926. A fire call came in a t 7:15 PM. And both of the fire department's trucks responded. The fire started in a rubbish pile in the basement of the building and spread quickly. Bystanders dared the flames to remove sacks of mail and move them to Karlson's shoe store. The building was practically destroyed, with $9,000 damage, but all of the post office equipment was saved. Ten men fought the blaze for ten hours. The second fire was the power plant at the sanitarium. Explosions wracked the building, which was a $12,500 loss. The third and last fire in the series happened July 21, 1927, at a barn on Ogden and County Line Road. The fire was reported just after midnight and was well under way when the department arrived. Fourteen riding horses and sixty tons of hay were lost with the building. Eight horses were saved. The loss amounted to $24,000.
In 1928, a second Pirsch was bought to replace the other older Ford. This left the department with "two powerful trucks with a guaranteed speed of 65 mph." These engines were equipped with over a thousand feet of hose each and had powerful searchlights, which would throw a beam 800 feet or more. "With such a well-equipped department," said the Doings; "it was no wonder that Hinsdale's insurance rates 'ranked with the lowest in the country.'"
The old frame building, which served as department headquarters, at 25 E. First St., was moved to the rear of the lot around 1933. The brick police building was then greatly expanded, and the fire department was re-installed there. The old wooden structure behind the building at 25 E. First was taken over in 1933 for use as a blacksmith shop, and was torn down about 1955.
On Feb. 17, 1946, there was a fire at the home of L. Jungworth on 60th and County Line Road. The "small truck" and five firemen, including Walter Flemming, his son, Ellsworth, and Henry Eschmann, responded. The Flemmings were in the house when a false ceiling collapsed. Ellsworth Flemming escaped, but his father was trapped. Rescue efforts by Henry Eschmann and Ellsworth Flemming failed to prevent him from being badly burned. He died a month later, at Hinsdale Sanitarium, from wounds suffered at the fire making him the first Hinsdale firefighter to die in the line of duty. Walter's widow would not allow her son, Ellsworth, to ever participate in firefighting activities again.
Two comparable fires occurred after World War Two. The first was a fire in Oakbrook on the afternoon of Nov. 20, 1949. The stables at 31st Street and York Road were a complete loss and there was $30,000 damage. The second was also in Oakbrook and occurred in the late Seventies. A horse barn belonging to the Butler family, located on 31st Street adjacent to the family home, burned to the ground. This fire is significant because the Hinsdale Fire Department was the first company to be able to pump water on the fire. This was due to the area not being hydranted and the Oakbrook units became mired in deep mud while trying to affect a drafting operation from Salt Creek. Hinsdale was called to the scene with our lightweight compact pumper and directed to pump water from draft out of the Butler's swimming pool. Hinsdale's drafting operation was directed by FF William Eby.
On November 19, 1959, Chief Henry Eschmann retired. He had been chief since 1954. Chief Henry Pullman succeeded Chief Eschmann for six months until May 9, 1960 when The Village of Hinsdale hired Emanuel Fried to be the new fire chief. Chief Fried started his fire career with the New York City fire Department in 1936. Chief Fried had been battalion chief of the 44th battalion in New York City. During his tenure as the battalion chief of the 44th, that battalion was considered the busiest in the world. After his retirement from New York, in 1958, he served as a fire consultant on the East Coast. Chief Fried is well known in the fire service because of his extensive writings on the subject of fire tactics. His book "Fire Ground Tactics", has been used extensively for years as a textbook to teach tactics and strategy on a wide range of levels throughout the fire service. Chief Fried brought a new outlook to the Hinsdale Fire Department. He was instrumental in acquiring new technology and equipment for the department. While he was at Hinsdale, he developed and invented (with the help of the members of this department) the pry axe, also known as the Fried Tool. This tool was patented and is in use throughout the U.S. The prototype for the patent process is still in the custody of the Hinsdale Fire Department and can be seen in the display case in front of the fire department. Chief Fried's extensive collection of slides and papers survives today and is a source of inspiration to those who have had the opportunity to read them. Chief Fried was definitely ahead of his time. Chief Fried left the Hinsdale Fire Department in December of 1967 to assume the post of Chief in Chicago Heights Ill. Chief Fried resigned that post in 1972. He was active in the fire service the rest of his life, lecturing and teaching until his death in Florida on May 27, 1987 at the age of 74.
Chief Fried was succeeded by Chief Leo Musch on Jan. 1, 1968. Chief Musch was born on Sept. 28, 1932. He was originally appointed to the Hinsdale Fire Department on Nov. 1, 1957. During Chief Musch's administration, many important events took place involving the Hinsdale Fire Department. In July of 1970, an anonymous donor gave the Village of Hinsdale a 1970 Cadillac ambulance. This was the first real ambulance Hinsdale ever had. Prior to this time the police department handled the ambulance utilizing a standard station wagon that had been refitted into an ambulance. Because the police could not patrol in the ambulance, it had to be parked in the station. Due to the fact that the police had to come in from patrol to get the ambulance, it was decided that it would be better if the fire department would take over the ambulance detail. Members of the fire department at that time had taken a "basic first-aid" course.
In 1973 the Village of Hinsdale celebrated its 100th anniversary. Throughout the year there were several celebrations commemorating the centennial. The fire department was very much involved with these galas. Many of the members grew mustaches and sideburns that actually made them appear as "centennial" fire men. Special uniforms were purchased and a piece of antique fire-fighting apparatus was acquired and refurbished by the members of the department. The members of the department operated a beer garden on property owned by Beluomini's tavern (near the corner of 55th and Madison). Much celebrating was done by all. Chief Musch was instrumental in the acquiring of the antique pumper and its renovation. This pumper is still owned and maintained by the members of the Hinsdale Fire Department. On July 4th, 1996 the pumper and the building that houses it were dedicated to Chief Musch for his foresight in preserving the history of the fire service and the Hinsdale Fire Department in particular.
|The antique pumper is still displayed in front of the Hinsdale Fire Department at 121 Symonds Dr|
Also in 1973, the fire department purchased a new diesel powered Hendrickson fire engine. This was the first diesel powered pumper in the Hinsdale inventory. This pumper was painted black over yellow because of a study done by Chief Musch. The study indicated this color scheme enhanced apparatus visibility to the general public in emergency responses. The engine purchased in 1973 was refurbished in 1987 and traded in, in 1997.
In 1974, through Chief Musch's intervention, the Village of Hinsdale appropriated money to hire a fourth man per shift. This guaranteed that there would be at least three full time members to respond at all times. This extra man helped greatly. This signaled a departure from the department reliance on part time/paid-on-call personnel. The department continued to use POC (paid-on call) personnel but slowly, through attrition, this program began to wane.
In 1979, the Hinsdale Fire Department purchased a used aerial ladder truck from Wayne County Michigan for $26,000. Chief Musch was deeply involved in the evaluation and the purchase of this piece of equipment. The Village of Hinsdale had not had a ladder truck since nearly the turn of the century. Chief Musch and the men under his command did the demographic evaluation that led to this purchase. The truck was purchased on a trial basis to see if the fire department actually needed such a piece. Subsequent studies vindicated Chief Musch's decision and a replacement was purchased in 1990.
In 1981-'82, the department replaced another engine with a squad/engine using specifications developed by Chief Musch and members of his department. Chief Musch retired on Nov. 1, 1982.
On Nov. 2, 1982 The Village of Hinsdale decided to combine the police department and the fire department into one department to be called the Department of Public Safety. The Director of Public Safety was Kenneth Felbinger. He had been Chief of Police prior to this time. The Deputy Director of Public Safety in Charge of Fire Operations was Robert Kaspar. He was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the fire department. He answered directly to Kenneth Felbinger. Originally, the members of the police and fire departments were to be cross-trained but this arrangement was never implemented. Deputy Director Kasper retired November 1,1985. His replacement was Stanley Bulat who took over on January 1, 1986. Chief Bulat held the rank of Deputy Director of the Hinsdale Fire Department. The same day Bulat was promoted, Mr. Felbinger retired. The Hinsdale Department of Public Safety was temporarily led by the Village Manager (Charles Dobbins prior to May 1, 1986; Ronald Rusky after May 1, 1986) until Christine Higgins was hired on September 8, 1986. Mrs. Higgins was the Director of Public Safety. Early in 1986, the village board authorized the fire department to increase the number of full-time members to five per shift.
In the mid-eighty's the federal government passed the Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA). FSLA stated that a village employee from one department could not "double dip" or work for another Village department without being paid overtime from his primary department. This was a very important development for the Hinsdale Fire Department. Many of Hinsdale's POC firefighters were members of different Village departments. FSLA required the village to pay those firefighters overtime from their primary departments at their primary salary. The costs of such a ruling made it impossible for the fire department to continue to employ these members. Many were forced to resign. This left the department with about ten POC firefighters. Recruiting attempts were unsuccessful and this number remained static for the next five to eight years.
In early 1987, at the direction of the Village Board, the fire department was authorized to develop a paramedic program. On May 1, 1988, the Hinsdale Fire Department enlarged its full-time staff to bring the number of members on duty to six. All of these members were hired as firefighter/paramedics. Also on this date, the Village Board authorized the fire department to contract for supplemental paramedic services from Public Safety Services Inc. for a period of one year. This contract was let in order to help Village personnel get the paramedic program started. On May 1, 1988, the Hinsdale Fire Department began operating their emergency ambulance service at the paramedic level under the direction of the Good Samaritan Hospital Emergency Medical Services System. This brought the best possible emergency care outside of the hospital emergency room to the residents of the Village.In 1997 another attempt was made to recruit POC firefighters. Five new members were hired to be trained but their training was unsuccessful. The POC program ended except for one member who was "grandfathered in" since 1977.
On Feb. 17,1987, Stanley Bulat's title was changed from Deputy Director of Public Services to Fire Chief. He still answered to Mrs. Higgins but the title change more accurately reflected his duties. Mrs. Higgins resigned on Sept. 9, 1988. The Village Board decided not to replace her and the Fire and Police Chiefs reverted to their former posts as department heads answering to the Village Manager. The transition was smooth and all parties involved generally applauded this decision.
Stanley Bulat continued as Fire Chief until Nov. 17, 1993 when he retired. During his period as Chief, the Hinsdale Fire Department replaced and upgraded its equipment. Today this department enjoys some of the best equipment in the western suburbs as a result of this replacement program.
|On July 4th, 1996 The Hinsdale Fire Department held a dedication ceremony to honor Leo Musch. Cheif Emeritus Stanly Bulat and Chief Patrick Kenny posed for a picture with Leo next to the plaque that remains on the station today.|
Thirteen men have held the rank of Chief of the Hinsdale Fire Department. The first, as far as we know, was Charles Pfeifer, who was chief at least as early as 1892 and who held the post until his resignation in 1907. (2) John G. Bohlander Jr. replaced him but resigned two years later because of ill health contracted at a fire (as mentioned earlier). (3) Peter F. Dehr, a member since 1894, then took over and remained in office until Dec. 1, 1926, when (4) Henry J. Domianus, the first salaried chief, was appointed. The Village Board also hired two full-time firemen at this time. Domianus, who also served as police chief for several years, retired in 1951. Men who have held the position since are:
January 1st, 1954 -
November 19th, 1959
November 19th, 1959 -
May 9th, 1960
May 9th, 1960 -
November 1st, 1968
January 6th, 1968 -
November 1st, 1982
November 1st, 1982 -
November 1st, 1985
February 2nd, 1987 -
November 17th, 1993
| Patrick Kenny
February 1st, 1994 -
January 4th, 2008
| Michael Kelly
January 4th, 2008 -
April 1st, 2012
| Richard Ronovsky
April 1st, 2012
Today's fire department has changed dramatically from the humble beginnings in a stable more than one hundred years ago. The men that got together more as a social club in the early 1890's would be truly amazed to find what has developed from that genesis. The names Bohlander, Dehr, Reed and others can still be found in the phone book in the Hinsdale area. Others like Mills, Metz and McAurther had streets and parks named after them. But one thing that they wouldn't find amazing is the sense of duty and pride in department that has been passed on from generation to generation, through the more than one hundred years since our department started.
Today the Hinsdale Fire Department includes fifteen fire fighters and six officers. In 2014, our department answered 2,791calls for service, everyone taken as seriously as those received on that July 4th in 1894.
So runs the story of the early years of the Hinsdale Fire Department but we know it is incomplete and that portions are probably incorrect as well. Leo M. Musch has endeavored for several years to collect and preserve for the village all of the records and relics he could obtain about the history of the HFD. A number of interesting items-the lantern, a badge, and cap of Charles Pfeifer, as well as original photos which illustrate this article-are on display in the new fire department building . But there is still a lot of history missing-so if you have any recollections or relics pertaining to the department, its men, or great fires they fought, Chief Musch would greatly appreciate hearing from you.
This history would have been impossible to write without the help of the following persons, who supplied from memory what written records lacked: Fire Chief Leo Musch; Miss Myra Bohlander; Miss Marie Homann; Mrs. H. J. Domianus; Sig Karlson; Keith Rimbey; Mr. And Mrs. Alleck Linn; Ex-Police Chief Ernest Rediehs; John A Hartman Jr.; and the staffs of the historical section, Hinsdale Public Library and the DuPage County Historical Museum.
Portions of the above article were re-printed, with only the changes noted, as closely as possible to the original, from an article written for The Hinsdale Doings dated Nov. 26, 1970. Other portions of this article written after extensive research into the logbooks and files of the Hinsdale Fire Department.
Hinsdale Fire Department
Updated in 2015
FF/PM Nick McDonough