Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

Welcome to the official website of the City of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin!

In the 1850's, local members of the community formed a loose sort of bucket brigade. The history books describe it as a mostly "social" organization that dressed up in uniforms and marched in parades more than put out fires.

JANUARY 17, 1863 - An ash barrel started a fire behind a business on the south side of Front St., approximately midway between the current alley and Center St. The fire quickly spread both east and west from building to building along Front St. The alley in the middle of the block stopped the fire from continuing further to the east. But as the fire moved west and approached Center St., someone remembered that the last business on the corner, a dry goods store, housed large quantities of gunpowder and lantern oil. Fearing an explosion, several men went into the store in an attempt to remove the combustibles. They managed to throw numerous barrels of gunpowder into the river behind the store. As the fire continued to rage, the men started to remove the lantern oil. The oil spilled and caught fire. The burning oil flowed across Front St. and Center St. starting buildings on fire both north and west of the intersection. The fire was finally stopped when it came to the only brick building, the bank. Total loss was estimated at $50,000.

History says that after the fire, there was an initial outcry for better fire protection. But as the businesses rebuilt and local politics took their toll, the issue died over time.

MARCH 7, 1866 - Another fire, this time on the north side of Front St., destroyed 12 buildings. Men, women, and children embarked on a massive effort to stop this fire by passing buckets of water from wells and pumps from two blocks in all directions. This fire was stopped on the east and west sides by a couple of businesses that had the foresight to build brick buildings after the last fire.

This time, the call for better fire protection wasn't ignored!

DECEMBER 1, 1867 - 93 - German immigrants petitioned the city council to form a fire brigade. The city granted the petition and the Germania Fire Company, No. 1 was formed. The city also decided to purchase its first fire engine at the cost of $3,200.
Germania Fire Company
The Germania Fire Company. The top of the pumper is visible behind the firemen in the center of the picture.
The hose cart is left of center behind the first row.
This picture was taken and the intersection of Front St. and Spring St., looking east up the Park Ave. hill.(1)

MAY 6, 1868 - The Germania Fire Company took delivery of its first fire engine. It was a hand-powered pump and arrived by train. The engine was named "Old Able and Willing." The following day, the pump was paraded through town. It was also tested. The pump was capable of sending a water stream to the top of the highest three-story building in town.

The engine was to be kept at the city's first fire station, which was located on Madison St. on the north side of the cotton mill (now the Weyenberg Shoes Lakeside Plant). The station was only big enough to hold the engine and a hose cart (which had been made locally). Long ropes were mounted at the head of the engine and the hose cart. Hand drawn by volunteers, two by two, they proceeded up the street as fast as manpower could move them.

OCTOBER 7, 1873 - After six years, the citizens of Beaver Dam felt they needed a fire bell. A bell was purchased for $75. In December, the new bell was delivered and installed in the new belfry (which had been built for $23.50). From that time on, the bell became a familiar sound when fire threatened. On many nights, the bell woke sleepy citizens to respond.

But the bell did not always stay on top of the firehouse. It was taken down occasionally to lead a local celebration. When Grover Cleveland was elected president, the bell was mounted on two wagon wheels and paraded through town ringing out the celebration.

Hose Cart Team
The Germania Fire Company with the Hose Wagon.(1)
First Firehouse
The Beaver Dam Cotton Mill (recently Weyco Shoes). The small building to the right is Beaver Dam's first Fire Engine House.(1)

SEPTEMBER 3, 1878 - Someone decided that an engine company was simply not enough for all of the fire needs. So Hook and Ladder Company, No.1 was formed with 21 members and housed their apparatus on Front St.

In early 1879 (exact date unknown), logic prevailed when the Germania Fire Company and the Hook and Ladder Company decided to merge under one fire chief. The new company was officially named the Fire Department of Beaver Dam.

AUGUST 5, 1879 - The Fire Department petitioned the city council to build new and larger quarters. On August 15, the council selected and bought a large lot at the intersection of Spring St. and Maple St. (then called Middle St. and now the site of Bank One) for $825. They decided to not only build a new fire station, but a new city hall as well. The new building was brick construction, 70X44 feet, three stories high, roofed with tin, and cost $10,580. Plans were approved and a contractor was selected. The building was to be completed by September 1st. (It seems that politics and contractors moved a little faster back then.) The fire bell was moved from its former location to its new home and the original fire station was razed.

1887 - A private company out of Watertown, New York, was awarded a contract to build and operate the city's first underground water system. The water supply system was built in 1888, followed by the sewer system in 1889. The water supply system included fire hydrants at regular intervals. The system was intended to provide 50-60lbs. of water pressure. Once the system was running, "Old Able and Willing" was retired after 20 years of service and sent to the junk yard. Since water pressure was now supplied from the hydrant, the number of people needed to fight the fire was also reduced. The Hose Cart and the Hook and Ladder Truck became the only apparatus needed at a fire.

Sometime after 1890, it was decided that groups of firemen pulling the apparatus up the street was no longer the best idea. Instead, they decided to pay cash to area residents for bringing their horse teams into town for the fire. When the fire bell rang, teams of horses raced in from all directions. The first team to reach City Hall was hitched to the Hose Cart and the owner was given $5. The second team was hitched to the Hook and Ladder wagon and the owner given $3. History notes that competition among the area residents was fierce since the money paid for hauling the fire wagons was considered a sizable fee.

DECEMBER 18, 1905 - The city purchased its first horse fire team and was placed at City Hall. The horse's names were "Jack" and "Sindey". A double harness was hung from the ceiling of the fire department ready to drop onto the horses when the alarm was given. This first team pulled the Hose Cart. In 1910, a team was purchased for the Hook and Ladder Truck. The money that used to be paid to area residents for their teams was now used to support the department's teams.
Fire Horse Team
The Hook and Ladder Truck in front on the new Fire Station.(1)
JANUARY 11, 1911 - The Baptist Church located across from City Hall at the intersection of N. Spring St. and Maple St., burned down with practically a complete loss. (The same church on the same site burned down once before in 1863. Also the year of the first big downtown fire.) City residents had been becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the privately run Beaver Dam Water Works Company. During the fire, the water pressure was so poor that the stream couldn't even reach the eves of the church. This prompted the city to file a formal complaint with the state against the water company. The city finally purchased and took over the operations of the water system in 1914 for a sum of $133,000. (1)
Baptist Church Fire
August 1, 1919 - The city purchased its first motorized fire truck.  It was an American LaFrance Pumper with a 750gpm pump. (2)
First Motorized Fire Truck
1923 - A new 300-pound electric siren was purchased and placed on top of City Hall. At some point prior to this time, the old fire bell had been discontinued in service and replaced by a steam siren located on the electric plant less than a block away from City Hall on E. Third St. When the new siren went up, the old 1873 bell came down. It was going to be sold for junk. But, Mr. Butler F. Babcock purchased it to save it from the junk pile. Mr. Babcock then gave it to Mr. Henry Pope, then owner of the cotton mill next to the old fire station site, who had taken an interest in preserving the history of the Germania Fire Company. On May 30, 1927, Mr. Pope put up a memorial with the bell and a bronze plaque marking the site of the city's first fire station in honor of the original German immigrants service and sacrifice. The bell and plaque were moved in 1960 and now stands in front of the current fire station. 
Original Germaina Memorial Germainia Memorial Bell Germainia Bell Plaque
The only known picture of the Germania Fire Company Memorial as it originally stood on Madison St.  (Milwaukee Journal, 1928)(1)
and the memorial as in now stands in front of the current fire station.(3)
1924 - The years of horse drawn fire trucks officially ended with the purchase of a motorized Hook and Ladder Truck for $11,500. This ladder truck remained in service until March 20, 1955 when it was sold to the City of New Glarus to continue service in their city.  The last fire department horses finished their careers working for the Street Department.
Fire Department 1926
The Fire Department in 1926. (1)
JANUARY 21, 1929 - The winter of 1928-29 was one of the worst on record. The snow drifts in the streets were so high, that the fire trucks couldn't get through. The horse team was put back into service with the hose and ladder equipment put on a sled-mounted wagon.
Sled Horses
AUGUST 8, 1932 - Fire destroyed the Solar Corporation plant located just north of the train tracks in Beaver Dam Junction (now the location of Taylor Rental on N. Spring St.). The plant, which produced electric batteries, suffered an estimated loss of $100,000. The fire originated in the south end of a brick building in the area around an oil furnace, which was used to melt metal. The furnace was started around 2am. Later, a night watchman noticed that burning oil was spread across the floor, with flames spreading rapidly to other parts of the building. The alarm was received at the fire station at 4:30am. When firefighters arrived, the blaze was already beyond control. Two firemen were injured battling the fire. Earl Herdrich was injured when a brick wall collapsed on him and Roland Eichel suffered smoke inhalation.

1934 - The Townships of Beaver Dam and Trenton jointly purchased a fire truck for protection in their rural townships. The truck was a Dodge Pumper.
BDFD Dodge
Here, the Dodge Pumper is on parade then owned by Fireman Dan Kenevan
1943 - As World War II raged, an added emphasis was given to local safety and security.  The first three full-time firefighters were hired by the City of Beaver Dam.  They were hired primarily as apparatus operators and to assure the equipment was maintained in a ready condition.
1944 - A fourth full-time firefighter was hired as a relief person for the existing staff.
OCTOBER 2, 1949 - A fire that started at 7am in a restaurant on the first floor of the Knights of Columbus building (at its current location on the corner of N. Spring St. and Front St.) ravaged the entire building by noon. Hundreds of people stood on the Williams Free Library lawn and watched firefighters from Beaver Dam, Columbus, and Waupun battle the blaze for five hours. An estimated 400,000 gallons of water were used. Three firefighters were injured and one suffered from smoke inhalation. Damage was estimated at $50,000.
KC Hall Fire
Hundreds of people turned out to watch the KC Hall Fire as it raged. (2)
BD Engine 98
This 1948 American LaFrance pumper served the department until 1975 and is seen in action at the KC Hall fire above.
It is still in operating condition and is currently owned by Mr. Peter Knaup of Beaver Dam, WI.(3)
MARCH 18, 1951 - The Beaver Dam Fire Department responded to a plea for help after a power failure, followed by a mechanical problem, caused an Iron Lung to cease giving its life saving support. Members of the department loaded a portable Iron Lung onto a fire truck and delivered it to the Lutheran Hospital (then located at 208 LaCrosse St.) to save the life of a polio victim.
Lamareaux Mansion

The Percy Lamareaux mansion was built in 1909. The building was purchased in 1922 by a group of local Lutheran churches and became the Lutheran Hospital. In 1937, a west extension was built, later to become Lakeview Hospital. The mansion and extension were used as a hospital until 1952, when the use of the mansion was discontinued. The mansion was then used for offices, and later storage. The condition was allowed to dilapidate until the mansion was finally razed in 1981.
APRIL 26, 1952 - The local V.F.W. chapter donated a 1949 Chevrolet panel truck to the Fire Department making it the department's first rescue truck. It carried such equipment as a resuscitator, a portable Iron Lung, and a cutting torch. Fire Department members became qualified in First Aid. History notes that this rescue service was not an ambulance service. A Hearse was usually called from one of the local funeral homes to actually transport the victim to the hospital. The elderly were especially afraid of getting into the funeral vehicle for fear that they would never come home.  Also in 1952, a fifth full-time firefighter was added to compliment the existing staff due to increased calls for service.
Rescue Truck
MAY 7, 1955 - The Beaver Dam Safety Committee added a 14-foot aluminum boat to the department's list of rescue equipment.
1955 Rescue Boat
Beaver Dam's first rescue boat. (2)(3)
MAY 13, 1958 - At approximately 7pm, a call came into the fire station that the County Fair Grounds grandstand was burning. (At the time, the fairgrounds were located on the current site of the Wayland Academy athletic field, south of Park Ave. and east of S. University Ave.) It was the general belief of nearby residents that watched the fire, that less than 15 minutes passed between the time when smoke was first spotted and the entire grandstand collapsed in a mass of flames. Heat radiating from the fire was so intense that it destroyed four other buildings, severely scorched several more, and started trees on fire on the Wayland Academy campus. Witnesses reported that the heat could be felt a block away. Columns of thick, black smoke rose so high, it could be seen from neighboring towns. Thousands of onlookers came from all around to see the blaze. The entire county traffic department, every available local policeman, several volunteers, and 25 members of the Army Reserve (84th Division, 334th Regiment, Company E) worked for several hours directing traffic. Total loss of the buildings and equipment stored in them was over $100,000. 3 firefighters were injured battling the blaze. A 14-year-old boy started the fire when he was playing with matches in the ladies restroom.
Dodge Co. Fair Grandstand
Dodge County Fairgrounds Grandstand as it stood at the 1911 Dodge County Fair. (1)
February 2, 1960 - A petition was started by a citizen's group in Beaver Dam in an effort to take the city's Police and Fire Departments "out of politics" by giving broader "optional powers" to the Police and Fire Commission, then held by the Common Council's Police and Fire Committee.  The petition was successful in getting a referendum on the April 5, 1960 ballot.  The referendum initially lost by 55 votes (2,117 to 2,062), but a recount put the referendum in place ultimately winning by 17 votes (2,081 to 2,064).  The referendum moved primary responsibility of the Police and Fire Departments from an elected Common Council committee to an appointed citizen commission. 
SEPTEMBER 17, 1960 - The Fire Department, along with the rest of City Hall, moved to their new, and current location at the intersection of S. Lincoln Ave. and Henry St.

MARCH 1964 - The city received a new International Travel-All Emergency Vehicle. This was Beaver Dam's first unit specially constructed for the rescue service. The vehicle was equipped with oxygen outlets, the newest stretchers, and other rescue equipment. Up to three patients and an attendant could be transported in the back of this new unit.  The growing need for rescue service also prompt the hiring of the 6th full-time firefighter in 1964 and the 7th as a relief officer in 1965.

SEPTEMBER 1964 - The city acquired a "Resuci-Anne" manikin for practice of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

1973 - The structure of the department changed again when the city purchased a second ambulance to increase the rescue capability. It was a modern 1973 Dodge ambulance. The department hired 2 additional full-time members, bringing the total to 9 personnel, and took a step further in the services provided by training department members as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT).
First Ambulances
The 1973 Dodge and the 1964 International. The backbone of the EMS service at the time.(3)
1974 - The 32nd Division National Guards Inc. disbanded and donated $10,000 to the Fire Department to increase their rescue capabilities. A 1975 Thompson rescue boat with a 165hp Mercury inboard engine was purchased along with other medical and rescue supplies and equipment. This boat is still in use today as the department's primary water rescue vehicle.
1979 - 3 more full-time firefighters were added bringing the total to 12.
June 8, 1982 - As a further extension of the department's EMS services, the Beaver Dam Fire Department helped create and sponsor the Lowell-Reeseville First Responders.  Today, the Lowell-Reeseville First Responders continue to provide this critical service to their area.

JUNE 1988 - Department members completed EMT-Intermediate training (which included the use of IV therapy and additional drugs for patient care) and the department received state certification to become an EMT-Intermediate provider.

MARCH 1989 - The department added another Emergency Medical skill to its list of services. The department purchased and members became certified in the use of Automatic External Defibrillators. This device could now be used outside the hospital and increase the chances of a person suffering from cardiac failure. 

FEBRUARY 16, 1990 - The Monarch Range buildings were set ablaze by three men and a juvenile at about 11:30pm. More than 100 firemen from seven area departments battled the fire. The fire started in the basement and moved into a machine shop area. Automatic closing of the building's fire doors and a massive effort by firemen kept the fire contained to the south end of the building. Demolition crews moved in early the following day and worked around the clock for three days to tear down the smoldering ruins. City officials had been concerned about a possible fire on the abandoned 13.5-acre site for some time. On January 24, 1990, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources rejected clean-up funding sought by the city and county concerning the site.
September, 1997 - 3 more full-time Firefighter/EMT positions were added.  Full-time staff now includes 15 personnel.
History and photos compiled by: James Yaroch, Firefighter, Beaver Dam Fire Department.


1) Photos courtesy of the Dodge County Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.
2) Photos and story courtesy of Citizen Publishing Company.
3) Beaver Dam Fire Department Records