The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 1, 2013

Clinton Fire Department: A walk through time

CLINTON — In a few years the Clinton Fire Department will celebrate 125 years in existence with little to show for it in the way of artifacts. It’s a deficiency Fire Chief Mike Brown and Battalion Chief Creighton Regenwether hope to end with the help of the community.

Brown and Regenwether plan to turn the former secretary area at Central Fire into a room filled with historic memorabilia. Regenwether even created a two-tier wooden display case to exhibit the fire department’s relics. The space would become the starting point for tours, but would also fulfill a need within the fire department.

“Unless you understand where you’ve been, how can you move forward?” Brown asked.  

A number of fire department items are on the display at the Clinton County Historical Society, and the department has a few items such as an old alarm box that used to alert the department of a fire before the days of 911 and the record book of every firefighter that has ever served in the department. Beyond these items, department officials believe an abundance of artifacts could be floating somewhere in the community unbeknownst to them.

Even the fire department’s original charter has eluded the department’s officials.

Brown asks residents who have an artifact or know someone who does to help support the mission to create a historical display by donating or lending them to the fire department.

Specifically Brown said he would like to see old helmets, coats, uniforms, badges and old nozzles, but would appreciate any historical item. He would also like to see old photos that highlight the department’s past and potentially get a computer running that would display videos and other written artifacts during tours.

While Brown and Creighton can remember the past based on stories from former firefighters, they would like to have the physical remnants.

“The badges used to have a one, two, three or a four on them depending on the station. We don’t have any of those,” Brown said.

They hope to learn about the past too far removed for Brown’s 26 years of experience or Regenwether’s 33 such as the time when horses were still vital to ferrying the firefighters to a scene.  

“We have to remember,” Regenwether said. “There’s probably stuff out there that I wouldn’t even know.”

Currently all the firefighters are making trips to the historical society to see the items that exist and get a sense of how far firefighting in Clinton has come. Soon department officials hope they will be able to reflect on the history within their own four walls, but advise they won’t be able to without the help of the community.

“I just think it’s only fair for somebody to get this stuff together,” Brown said. “It’s part of the department’s history.  It’s part of Clinton’s history.”

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