By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
FULTON, Ill. —
With 125 years of service down the hatch, countless lives saved and fires contained, the Fulton Fire Department took some time to celebrate the past, present and future.
Past and current firefighters, local and state officials and residents gathered to celebrate their appreciation for the Fulton Fire Protection District on Saturday at the fire station.
“This is one of the best departments around with some of the hardest working people I know,” Board President Don Loftus said.
Current Fire Chief Joe Michaelsen paid tribute to all of the past fire chiefs from the department. This encompassed those instrumental to the start of the established fire department as well as those who have held the position in more recent times.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without these guys,” Michaelsen said. “They really led the way for us.”
The fire department was organized in 1887, soon after a devastating fire on the northwest corner of Fourth Street and 10th Avenue. While the firefighters had little equipment at the time, they formed bucket brigades between the river and the fire. Firefighters raised money to purchase the first hose-cart in 1889 by holding a ball at the Opera House.
Other highlights in the department’s long history include the purchase of the first motorized truck in 1917. Unfortunately the engine was ruined not long after during a joy-ride following the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. A new fire station was built on the west side of Fourth Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues in 1952. In 1958, an election was held to establish a fire protection district which was directed by Eddie Loftus and Floyd Van Dellen. The first Board of Trustees included Loftus, Albert Norman and Bill Carswell.
All of the historical information mentioned and more were displayed at the celebration. The Fulton Historical Society compiled old newspaper clippings and photos on many of the fires throughout the years and other happenings at the department. Firefighters also assembled old and new equipment and trucks for display.
While the equipment and facilities have changed greatly, one thing has never changed from 1887 to today. The faces of those serving change, but the idea behind the bravery and courage required to run into a burning building when everyone else is running out remains the same.
“I’ve met presidents, but that pales in comparison to firefighters,” Illinois State Representative Don Moffitt said. “They are the real heros. When you help the fire department, you are helping the whole community.”