As part of Warsaw’s July 6 First Fridays event, the fire department will be hosting a hog roast and other festivities beginning at 5 p.m. at Warsaw Fire Station One, 109 E. Main St.
There will be a charge for the dinner with all proceeds going to Hoosier Burn Camp. Artifacts and old photos will be on display and commemorative T-shirts will be offered for sale. A special invitation is extended to all past members of the paid and volunteer staff. A group photo will be taken at 7 p.m. and fire trucks will be on display throughout the evening.
Originally founded as the Warsaw Fire Department in 1859 as the Independent Protection Engine Company Number 1, the service has always served the city of Warsaw and Wayne Township. Four years ago, the department became a fire territory under a new state law but the area served remains the same.
Personnel were not hired for the service until 1912. Until then, it was all volunteers and even that group was preceded by a bucket brigade.
In 1861 after saving several buildings around the block on the northeast corner of Market and Buffalo streets, the name was change to Hose Company Number 1. Unfortunately the entire block was lost to a fire, but the company was commended for containing the fire.
In 1876, when Warsaw had officially been a city for one year, there were several fire volunteer groups: Protection Company Number 1, Hose Company Number 1, Never Fails Number 2, Hose Company Number 2, Lake City Hook and Ladder Number 1 and Independent Hose Company Number 1.
The first fire equipment was pulled by horses when the department was organized in 1912 by the city. They were a fine team of prancing horses that pulled a hose and ladder with a chemical wagon. Walter Horn was the first paid driver and therefore the date was established.
The horses, according to old historical information, were named Pat and Bill after two city councilmen of Irish descent, Pat Scollard and Bill Cronin. The horses were of such quality and personality they were the center of attention.
Previously the city had relied upon volunteer firefighters who pulled two two-wheeled hose reels by hand. These were hooked behind horse drawn dray wagons and were galloped to fire scenes.
Warsaw’s first motorized fire truck was named “Old Betsy” and used the wheels and chassis of the chemical wagon.
A highlight for the Warsaw Fire Department was when it held a Fireman’s Convention on June 26, 1930. It was early in the Great Depression and crowds lined the streets to see various fire brigades battle it out with water fights. It was interesting and free entertainment.
Also in 1930, Warsaw lost its only firefighter in the line of duty. Fireman Harold Shepler, 42, died Oct. 10. He drove the pumper to a fire on East Center Street and entered the basement of the house along with others. He came out, reported to Chief Moon and collapsed, never to regain consciousness.
In 1952, the current city hall was built at the corner of Market and High streets. It contained four overhead doors facing Market Street for the fire department to use. When a new fire station was built on East Center Street in 1978, the former fire department space at city hall was made into the city council chambers.
The longest currently serving member of the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory is Dan Fifer, who has more than 32 years of experience fighting fires. He will retire Dec. 1. His son, Brent, joined the department about one year ago. They were both following in the footsteps of Dan’s father, who served as Warsaw Fire Chief.