History courtesy of Al Laney at Black Widow Graphics.
The year was 1868 and with the appointment of William N. Hartupee as Fire Warden for the town of Crown Point in November, the first official step was taken for the promotion of better protection of life and property. His duties were to inspect the homes for fire hazards, and more particularly the fireplaces, chimneys, accumulations of rubbish and any other condition that might constitute a fire hazard. The citizens of the then young community had no means of fighting fire other than a few hastily assembled buckets and the forming of a volunteer bucket brigade. With such limited equipment the village, at that time, could only take such precautions as they could manage in preventing a fire from starting.
The first meeting of the citizens to consider the formation of a fire company was held on March 27, 1869. After taking into consideration the growth of the community and the urgent necessity of better fire protection, it was resolved at a meeting held on April 24, 1868 to purchase a hook and ladder and other equipment to fight fires, and J. C. Sauerman was commissioned to purchase the necessary apparatus. It was also ordered at that time that all business houses be required to have four buckets filled with water at all times, hanging in a convenient place to be used only for fire fighting purposes.
On June 4, 1870, the sale of fireworks and other explosives was prohibited and a fine of $100 was fixed for a violation of this regulation.
On November 5, 1870, Henry Pratt was appointed to succeed W. N. Hartupee as fire warden, and city ordinance Number 53, passed at that meeting provided for the purchase of a hand fire engine. Adam Schmal was appointed to purchase the equipment.
First Fire Engine
Now having a hook and ladder and a hand pumping fire engine, the citizens faced the problem of an adequate water supply. Citizens were encouraged to provide reservoirs or cisterns in convenient locations and keep them filled with water. This served for the time being but the problem of getting the water to the pumper and from the pumper to the fire arose, and in February 1872, a hose cart was ordered, built and in April of that year, the sum of $500 was paid for 400 feet of rubber hose.
On January 6, 1873, G. P. Goulding, J. C. Sauerman and N J. Foster were appointed as fire wardens to inspect chimneys, flues, fireplaces and basements. A time limit was set for the repairs on same and a fine of $5 per day was fixed after the deadline.
In February, 1873, a fire company was organized and equipped and articles of association drawn. It consisted of sixty-four men, and was known as Fire King, Number 1. This was one of the most important movements in the community life of the town. The men who joined in perfecting the organization had a vision of the value the association would be in future years in the protection of life and property. Having a hook and ladder, hose, hose cart, a hand pumper and sixty-four men to operate the same under the guidance of three fire wardens was a long step forward from the early days of the bucket brigade.
The members of the fire company served then without pay, but were partly reimbursed by having a portion of their taxes remitted. They each paid annual dues of a $1.25, which went into the general fund of the fire company and was used to pay for small necessities, glove;, mittens, rain coats, handkerchiefs and other articles needed in the line of duty, and which were not provided by the city. From time to time as the years passed many pieces of equipment for the hose cart and fire engine and later the fire truck were purchased from this fund.
Some interesting facts appear on the records of the bucket brigade era. It is recorded that sixty-five cents was allowed for hauling the ladders back to the fire station after a fire. The purchase of new cuspidors for the fire station provoked a long argument between the town trustees and the fire department. The hand pump was manned by ten men on each side to furnish power for forcing the water from the sources of supply to the pumper and from there through the hose to the fire. At this time members of the fire company paid to belong to the fire department, and there was always a long waiting list of would-be recruits. Happy was the youngster who was permitted to help man the pump at a fire. He was the envy of every other kid in town. There were four big fire cisterns, located, one at each corner of the public square.
A water works plant became a reality on October 10, 1895. It consisted of a steam operated pumping station, a series of deep wells, and a huge iron storage reservoir, twelve feet in diameter that towered a hundred feet in the air, and had a capacity of 84,500 gallons of water. Water mains were laid along the principal streets and fire hydrants placed at convenient intervals.
Many new problems arose at this time. With the pressure from the water tower, along with the direct pressure of the station pumps in the mains there was no longer any opportunity for the use of the hand pumps except in the few locations where the hose would not reach from a fire hydrant to the source of the fire. On May 4, 1897 the old fire engine was sold and the money used to pay off loans.
In 1898, the town trustees established a fire zone. This fire zone was confined to the territory surrounding the public square, in which no new building could be erected of any, but fire resisting materials.
At this time the fire department numbered forty members, most of whom were business and professional men of the town.
The "Horse" era then followed. In 1915 the city authorities purchased a team of horses and a chemical tank, a new hook and ladder wagon and an additional 400 feet of new hose. Those horses were the pride of the city. "Duke" and "King" soon learned that the big gong in the fire station meant action, no matter what the time of day or night, and as the automatic doors to their stalls flew open at the first tap of the big bell, they would trot quickly to their allotted places, ready to be harnessed to the truck and sally forth at break neck speed as the door to the fire station swung open. They acquired almost human intelligence. No matter how long or how cold the night, they waited with patience after reaching the scene of a fire, while the firemen fought the blaze.
About this time the department was reduced to twenty-three men, including the driver who was then a paid fireman and kept on duty day and night at the station. An addition was built to the fire station and living quarters were provided for the driver on the second floor.
Modern Fire Engines
Next came the day when the horse drawn vehicles were discarded and one of the newest and most modern auto fire trucks was purchased for the use of the department. The price was $11,000 and it had everything a fire engine should have. It was soon revealed that protection could be given a wide area. Calls from the rural districts were frequent and in the spirit of a good neighbor, the members of the department never hesitated an instant to respond to a call for help no matter how remote it might be. Spectacular runs to Cedar Lake were frequent, and many incipient fires were stopped before any great damage ensued.
So great was the value of the protection and so many the calls made, that the city and township authorities entered into an agreement for the purchase of a second fire truck for use in country fires. The cost of this truck was $13,500 and its equipment included extra ladders and a chemical tank. Furnished by the LaFrance Corporation it brought Crown Point's fire fighting equipment up to the equal of any city in the country of its size. The funds for its purchase was furnished by Center Township and the City took over its care and a share of its upkeep.
The members of the department found that it added new responsibilities and new duties, but they never showed any laxity in the service it rendered. City or county calls were answered with the same promptness and the members of the fire company never left the scene of a rural fire until the last charred ember was out and all danger had passed. This truck has saved many times its cost in preventing loss and in the reduction of insurance rates.
Soon after the township truck was purchased a need for a pulmotor for use in drowning accidents was found, and one of these life saving instruments was purchased. A very efficient pulmotor squad was organized within the department and each member of the company took lessons in first aid and life saving methods. The Crown Point Fire Department became a life saving crew as well as a property protector. Since its formation there has not been a major accident in the southern portion of Lake County but what the pulmotor has been rushed to the scene, accompanied by an efficient crew of trained operators ready for service. (This is the early years 1868 through 1938.)
More to come (1938 through 1980).