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Written by Marie Darrow
Compositor - Ben Penkivich, for the Gillett Public Library
Scanned and contributed by Jennifer Bumann
Family Site  Researching Oconto County surnames


(Page 30)
     The fire department Is the oldest continuous civic organization in the city. Prior to 1904 there was no chartered organization, but there was a fire department with Fred Block, a harness maker, as the Chief. Everyone in the community was pressed into service during a fire. The equipment consisted of one two wheeled hose cart which was pulled by hand.

    Eventually a formal fire department was organized and chartered in 1905. Gene Hackett was the first Fire Chief; his term lasting from 1905 to 1910. Joe Hilgenberg followed him from 1910 to 1912; Arthur Sack from 1912 to 1913; George Sohr from 1913 to 1915; William Ehlers from 1915 to 1917; George Sohr from 1917 to 1919; Lawrence Stuelke from 1919 to 1921; George Sohr from 1921 to 1927; Joe Hilgenberg from 1927 to 1959 (over 30 years as Chief), Herman Krueger from 1959 to 1961; and Rudy Wagner, the present Fire Chief, since 1961.

    Every summer tournaments were held in various communities, and the teams of fire fighters engaged in contests to sharpen their fire fighting abilities. Gillett belonged to a tournament area that.included Oconto Falls, Cecil, Cllntonvllle, Shawano, Marion and Tlgerton.

    The chartered department acquired a second two-wheeler hose cart, hand propelled, and took a great step forward when Emil Thibedeau made a hook and ladder outfit for them, also hand propelled.

(Page 31)
    There were three sources of water for the firemen to use. The old pail factory had a punp, a water tank at the depot, and water could be pumped from the grist mill on the shore of Savage Lake. After a hot day, the firemen would test their equipment by wetting down the dusty streets.

    The first fire alarm was nothing more than the sounding of a locomotive whistle. The first fire alarm system was placed on the Municipal Building, consisting of a siran and bell. All calls were received by telephone or call boxes. The present system is a 7 1/2 horsepower 220-440 volt, 3 phase, purchased on August 8, 1966.

    The Department has eleven fire phones that are placed in the homes of firemen to receive calls. These firemen are assigned to call other firemen to alert them. The Department has three public stations at various locations throughout the city.

    At the present time, there are 84 fire hydrants and two pumping stations.

    Our new Chevrolet pumper, 500 RPM capacity, was first used September 2, 1941. Up until this time, the Department used a Chevrolet hose truck served by hydrants only. A new H-R72 Howe International, 750 gallon pumper, fully equipped, was purchased March 26, 1966.

    Among the biggest fires fought by the Gillett Fire Department are:

    1. In 1913, the Gillett Woodenware Co. was destroyed.

    2.  The Holm and Kroner Opera House, which included a bowling alley, danceland and bar, located on the northwest corner of Richmond and Main burned down. On the same day L. J. Newald's Sale Barn located one block south burned along with William Kerkhoff's house.

    3. The most stubborn fire occured at the old music hall which was lo-cated where the Legion Hall now stands. Clothing was stored there, and it smoldered for days.

    4. On August 27, 1929, a complete loss of the barn was the result of the fire of a tavern and barn belonging to Mr. Alma Zemke. Zahn's Garage is now located on this spot.

    5. On January 19, 1937, the Evangelical Church located on East Washington Street was totally destroyed by fire.

    6. The Catholic Parsonage was severly damaged by fire on March 16, 1937.

    7. The warehouse and regrlgerator room of the Straubel Cheese House incurred a great loss in the fire of April 11, 1944.

    8. The Gillett Methodist Church was completely destroyed by the fire of November 21, 1966.

    9. The building owned by Dr. Donald Miller, located at 119 Main Street, was completely lost to fire on November 11, 1967. This is where the old Gem Theater used to be located. The front of the building was used as office area, the rear of the building was used for storage.

(Page 32)
    10. A complete loss resulted from the fire of August 4, 1967, at Warvel Products, Inc., Ill Franklin Street. This was formerly Nor con Mfg. Co. and before this it was the old grist and flour mill.

    11.  The home of Mrs. Muriel Hicks was completely lost to fire on February 2, 1972.
Gillett 's First Rescue Squad:  First row; Elmer Cota, Mert Horsens, Art Kasten, Ray Mueller, Bob Gruber, Wally Wagner, Clarence Runge. Second row; Kay Mueller, Audrey Kasten, Bob Ludeman, Dr. Barcome, Sophie Horsens, Rudy Wagner, Irene Gruber, Frances Thomson, Gene Young.

Gillett Area Rescue Squad

The Gillett Area Rescue Squad was organized in 1955 to provide Emergency services and oxygen to persons in need,  The service was originally manned by members of the Gillett Lions Club, who had been trained American Red Cross Advanced First Aiders and the funds to begin operation; thereafter, the Service hoped for donations from other organizations and public spirited citizens. In a short time the value of the service became apparent. Other persons became interested and were trained and became dedicated volunteers in the Rescue Squad Service. In 1956, a used  panel  truck was  donated  to  the service Mr. Carl Husman, and was used to
carry the necessary equipment to the scene of an accident or sudden illness.  The volunteers sponsored a number of card parties and chill suppers to raise funds to obtain other necessary equipment and funds to continue operation.
(Page 33)
    About 1959, a used van was purchased and remodeled.

    In 1964,  the need had expanded to a point where a larger and better vehicle was needed. It was made public that the service would need about $12,000.00 for a new truck-type vehicle;  at which time other interested organizations and individuals made donations for the proposed new vehicle.    Response was extraordinary. In 1965 the squad drew up specifications and advertised for bids for the new vehicle. The new rescue truck was built and delivered to the squad on October 12, 1964. The vehicles are the property of the City of Gillett, except that no funds raised through taxation.

    As the need for transportation became critical,  the volunteers sensed the need for an ambulance, which was acquired and delivered to the service on January  11,1974; at which time the ambulance service was incorporated and the Rescue Service  became a part of the Ambulance Service. The ambulance was funded by county levies against the area communities.    These monies were paid toward the new ambulance along with a $5,700.00 grant from the State of Wis. Highway Safety Fund.

    Presently the service is manned by 19 regular members and 6 on a stand-by basis: of these,  13 members are trained Emergency Medical Technicians and 12 members are trained in Red Cross Advanced First Aid.

    The following members were the Chartermembers of the organization:
Arthur and Audrey Kasten —— Robert and Irene Gruber —— Ray and Kay Itoeller —— Elmer Cot a —— Rudolph Wagner —— Wally Wagner —— Robert Loedemann —— Clarence Runge —— Merton and Sophia Horsens.

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