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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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050714FIREFIGHTERS.jpg

CELEBRATE 50 YEARS—The Town of Peshtigo Fire Department is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The Department got started on April 28, 1964 with 35 volunteers and presently the department has 24 trained firefighters responding to over 75 calls annually. The present department members are bottom row from left, Matt Connolly, Bob Eggener, Kelsay Bourdelais, Libby Abel, Ryan Kass, Mark Monnette; standing from left are Chris Callies, Chris Krische, Assistant Chief Rich Seils, Chief Mike Folgert, Captain Clarence Coble, Jim Meyer, Cameron Vaught, Derek Monnette. Not present when photo was taken were members Jim Bebo, Jed Buechler, Brian Eggener, Scott Fredericksen, Travis Kuffel, Brian Peterson, Brittany Peterson, Tim Roggendorf, Norm Rohde and Jason Schultz.

Town of Peshtigo Fire Dept. Serves for 50 Years

What started as an idea by residents 50 years ago, the Town of Peshtigo Fire Department has grown today to a full fledged modern and well trained fire department.

They have 24 members and six pieces of apparatus and average over 75 calls annually.

The very first meeting of the Town of Peshtigo volunteer firefighting company was held at the town hall located on the Old Peshtigo Road on April 28, 1964. The original roster of volunteers included Adolph Benson, Dennis Behnke, John Benson, Art Bigger, Ken Brezsko, Louis Canick, Robert Carlson, Earl Cherry, Al (Bud) Cohorst, Joseph Cohorst, Milton Crego, Norman Dahl, Clayton (C.J.) Dobbins, George Dobbins, Alex Dudka, Jack Eastman, Franklin (Tut) Edwin, Tom Grandaw, George Gressel, Charles Hayward, Melvin Hartman, Herb Hoffmann, Ervin Jasch, Bill Jensen, Bob Johnson, Dick Johnson, Earl Johnson, Melvin Johnson, John Knutson, Richard Kotecki, Ed Kowalski, Charles Krause, Herman Krause (Town Chairman).

Others were Michael Linley, George Martin, Richard Melka, Norm Mumpy, Oren Ninneman, Bob Opsahl, Bernard Pazynski (Town Supervisor), Leonard Peth Jr., Leonard Peth Sr., Nels Plym, John Price, Len Rasner, Howard Rettke, Mel Torkko, O.G. Ullspurger, Mike Weber, Bud White, Joe Ziemann, and Richard Zoellner.

Howard Rettke was elected as the first fire chief and ran the department until August of 1966. During that time the town purchased a new American LaFrance pumper truck that was housed in Marinette under a contract the town had with the City of Marinette. In that contract firefighters from the City of Marinette responded along with town firefighters to all calls in the town.

Town of Peshtigo Resolution number 27 authorized the firefighting agreement with the City of Marinette and the purchase of fire equipment at the annual meeting of the Town of Peshtigo on April 2,1963.

The resolution stated: WHEREAS, it is deemed essential to the well being of the citizens of the Town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin that an agreement be entered into between said township and the City of Marinette, Wisconsin to provide for the fighting of fires which occur in said Town of Peshtigo, by the Marinette Fire Department, and

WHEREAS, in order to enter into such agreement it will be necessary for the Town of Peshtigo to purchase one piece of firefighting equipment to be used by the City of Marinette.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the electors of the Town of Peshtigo, at the Annual Meeting on April 2, 1963 that the Chairman and Clerk of said Town of Peshtigo be and hereby are authorized to enter into a fire fighting agreement with the City of Marinette.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chairman and Supervisors of the Town of Peshtigo be and hereby are authorized to purchase a piece of fire fighting equipment to be used by the City of Marinette under the terms of the fire fighting agreement above authorized.

Dated this 2nd day of April, 1963.

The contract then with the City of Marinette included:

THIS AGREEMENT, made and entered into by and between the City of Marinette, Wisconsin, and the Town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin.

WITNESSETH:

WHEREAS, the Town of Peshtigo has purchased a fire truck for fire fighting purposes in the Town of Peshtigo, and

WHEREAS, the officials of the Town of Peshtigo have expressed the desire to store and garage said fire truck in the Marinette Fire Department,

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual promises and agreements hereinafter contained,

IT IS AGREED by and between the City of Marinette and the Town of Peshtigo:

1. That the City of Marinette agrees to allot space in its fire station for the storage and housing of the Town of Peshtigo fire truck and equipment. That during the period when the Town of Peshtigo fire truck is housed in the Marinette Fire Station, the City of Marinette agrees to furnish said truck with gas, oil, grease, plus maintenance and minor repairs up to a total of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) in any twelve (12) month period. That the Town of Peshtigo agrees to pay the City of Marinette for all the services provided in this paragraph, the sum of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.0) per annum.

2. Any repairs, replacement or addition of parts or equipment made or added to said Town of Peshtigo fire truck in excess of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) will be paid by the Town of Peshtigo, and the Town of Peshtigo agrees to replace the fire truck or any fire fighting apparatus when it becomes necessary to do so.

3. Upon receiving a fire alarm from the Town of Peshtigo, the Marinette Fire Department will immediately respond with the Peshtigo Township fire truck manned by two (2) fire fighters of the Marinette Fire Department. In the event the Marinette Fire Department would be unable to provide a driver for said truck, then in that event the Town of Peshtigo Fire Chief, or some fire fighter delegated by him, is authorized to move the truck to the scene of any fire. The area covered consists of that part of Townships 29 and 30, or Ranges 22, 23 and 24 East, situated in the Town of Peshtigo, Marinette County, Wisconsin.

4. The City of Marinette agrees to provide the volunteer firemen of the Town of Peshtigo with adequate training and knowledge for the protection of human life and property.

5. The Marinette Fire Department will have the right to use the Town of Peshtigo fire truck within the City of Marinette for training, emergencies and special situations.

6. When the Peshtigo Township fire truck responds to a fire alarm in the Town of Peshtigo, the rate of pay is fixed at Two Dollars and 50/100 ($2.50) per hour per man for off-duty City firemen responding to the alarm.

7. The Town of Peshtigo shall insure its fire truck with automobile liability insurance and procure workmen’s compensation insurance to cover all firemen answering fire alarms in the Town of Peshtigo.

8. The two per cent (2%) fire department dues paid by the State under Section 101.29 of Wisconsin Statutes shall be paid to the Town of Peshtigo.

9. The Town of Peshtigo agrees that the operation of its fire truck when in service shall be under the direction of the Chief of the Marinette Fire Department or the firemen of the Marinette Fire Department which answer an alarm to the Town of Peshtigo.

10. Terms of this agreement shall be for one (1) year and be renewable from year to year at the option of the parties.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have hereunto set their hands and seals this 5th day of September, 1965.

At the first official meeting of the fire department on April 28, 1964 forty-two members were present. The following officers were elected president, Howard Rettke, vice president, Richard Kotecki and secretary-treasurer was Michael Linley. Training sessions were scheduled for May 4, May 18 and June 15.

In June of 1964 the town was divided into 3 companies each with a captain assigned to that area. The area of Highway 64 was assigned to Art Bigger, the area west was assigned to Orrin Ninneman and Ralph Benson took care of Shore Drive.

In October of 1964 the town board abolished the ordinance authorizing the volunteer firefighting company and created the Town of Peshtigo Fire Department with Howard Rettke remaining as chief.

In April of 1965 the town board set the pay rate for volunteer firefighters responding to fires at $1.00 per hour.

In June of 1966 the town’s first tanker which was a 1966 Chevrolet outfitted with a 1000 gallon water tank was purchased from Gustman Chevrolet in Marinette. This was in addition to the pumper truck previously purchased. Both trucks were then housed in the Marinette Fire Department.

A new fire chief was elected in August of 1966 with Adolph Benson taking over the reigns. He was in charge until September of 1969, when Tom Grandaw was elected chief. Grandaw held that position until March of 1983.

During that time the department purchased coats and other equipment needed by firefighters. In 1970 the town bought 11 firefighters coats for a grand total of $70.04 each. In 1971 mutual aid agreements were signed with the cities of Marinette, Menominee, Peshtigo and Oconto. The department purchased their first paging radios in 1973.

As the department grew more room was needed and a new fire station was built by the town hall on the Old Peshtigo Road in July of 1977.

The fire department made history in 1981 when Grace Pennings was hired as the first woman firefighter. Pennings remained on the department until 2010 when she retired as assistant chief.

Bill Johnson was elected Fire Chief in 1983 and Clarence Coble, the longest serving fire chief, took over from Johnson in January of 1988. Coble held that position until December of 2009.

In September of 1996 the town purchased a 1988 International chassis from State surplus for $14,900 and was outfitted as an additional tanker. In April of 1998 the department took delivery of a 1986 truck on a long term loan from the Department of Natural Resources. The department then bought their first thermal imaging camera in May of 1999 for $15,500.

December of 2000 marked the end of the contract the town had with the city of Marinette and all town fire trucks were moved back to the Town of Peshtigo fire station but Mutual aid would continue with the City of Marinette. In December of 2004 the Town of Peshtigo created a Fire Commission with former fire chief Bill Johnson as chairperson.

Other highlights over the years included that the town board authorized ice rescue equipment complete with suits ropes and an inflatable raft. The fire station was completely remodeled in 2007 with a new roof, new walls, insulation, new plumbing, additional truck bays and an office. Cost of the project was $350,000.

In January of 2010 Mike Folgert was appointed chief, a position he presently holds. Chief Folgert praised the City of Marinette for all the help they provided to the fire department over the years. “If it was not for the City of Marinette, we might never have gotten off the ground as a fire department”, he stated.

Major fires the department responded to over the years include Nov. 20, 1964 Alphonse Monnette’s barn fire, Hale Road, Peshtigo; Feb. 18, 1973 Tradewinds Supper Club, Hwy. 41; Dec. 13, 1974 Dale Sieloff residence, Harbor Road, Peshtigo - 3 children died; April 27, 1975 Classic Auto & Antique Restoration, Hwy. 41, Marinette; Feb. 25, 1976 Fred Milack’s Dairy Barn; June 26, 1979 Tarragon Supper Club, Flame Rd.; Nov. 23, 1980 Bill Brown’s Supper Club, Hwy. 41, Marinette; Dec. 26, 1980 PineView Health Care Center, Peshtigo (now in City of Peshtigo); Sept. 11, 1982 Clarence Coble’s Barn Fire, Hale School Rd., Peshtigo.

Also April 2, 1990 Eugene Hasenfus residence on Pond Rd.; March 25, 1990 Peshtigo Harbor Fire burned 260 acres of marsh from the Hwy. BB boat landing, crossed Johnson Rd. to Pond Road; April 25, 1996 the Old Hwy. 64 Drive-In Theatre Fire; July 6, 1996 Willard Buss Barn Fire, N866 Hale Rd., Peshtigo; June 2007 Pond Road and Seagull Bar Phragmites/peat fires; May 24, 2008 Dory’s Supper Club, County Road B at Schacht Rd.; June 2011 Wayside Fire - burned 111 acres behind the Hwy. 41 wayside requiring prolonged extinguishment efforts for over a month.

Significant fire in adjacent communities that Town of Peshtigo assisted with included Feb. 17, 1971 the Silver Dome Motel (also fires in 1968 and 1970); Jan. 27, 1985 Bourbon Street & The Udder Bar, Marinette; 1985? Pete’s Sport Shop, Peshtigo; Dec. 4, 1992 Baker’s Studio, Accent Building Maintenance & Knight Kap, Marinette; Jan. 4,1993 Cheers 2 U Bar, 2110 Hall Ave., Marinette; March 13, 1994 Rodman Industries Warehouse, 2601 Cleveland, Marinette; Oct. 28, 1996 Panda Garden Restaurant, N4203 Hwy. 180, Porterfield; May 1997 Dunlap Square Building, Marinette; March 5, 1998 Rydahl’s Cleaners, 55 Hosmer St., Marinette; Nov. 2006 Aerial Company, 116 East Hosmer St., Marinette; June 26, 2007 K&J Department Store, 609 French St., Peshtigo, and June 25, 2013 Beaver Creek Wood Products, Marinette.

In celebration of the Fire Department’s 50th anniversary a picnic will be held Saturday, June 21 in Badger Park, Peshtigo. There will be a waterball competition for area fire departments, pig roast and a live band. The picnic is open to current and past firefighters, retirees, families and friends, mutual aid fire departments, local officials, and other supporters of the Town of Peshtigo Fire Department.

A golf outing will be held at Little River Country Club on a Friday in September and the Open House on the following Saturday. Dates and times will be announced.


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