The beginning of almost 100 years of service.
Early records show that the original fire department was an independent department of firefighters, backed up and supported by 125 stockholders living within a radius of about 8 miles. This independent company’s first President was Mr. George Dickson and the first Fire Chief was Mr. Dick Houck. The first piece of equipment was a model “T” Ford truck with chemical equipment on it. Many fire calls were answered by this fire department, but the records are sketchy and incomplete. They evidently started in 1922 as the first call on record was on January 27th of that year at the A.P. Hill Store. One tank of chemicals was used. Some years later they purchased a Reo Speedwagon truck with a chemical unit. This truck also answered a good many rural calls. Sometime later, a front-mount pump was added to this truck to pump water.
On March 17, 1936, this rural area – excluding the City of Yorkville – became the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District. This Fire Protection District is tax supported and consists of Bristol and Kendall townships and some additional territory. It is one of the oldest fire protection districts in the State of Illinois and all property owners within its boundaries pay taxes to support it.
The first trustees for the Fire Protection District were Mr. August F. Corneils, President, Mr. Grant Nesbitt and Mr. Tom Penman. Since then Mr. John Ament, Mr. Earl Hasemeyer, Mr. Simon Dickson, Mr. John E. Stewart, Dr. Dean Schlapp, Mr. Vernon Ament, Mr. Robert Johnston, Mr. Robert Schwartz, Mr. Louis Thurow, Mr. Robert Fisher and Mr. Kory Elleby have held positions as trustees. The present board is Mr. Richard Dickson, President, Mr. David Stewart, Secretary, Dr. Gary Schlapp, Treasurer, Ms. Phyllis (Johnston) Yabsley and Mr. James McCarty.
Early records of the district are also sketchy, but in 1939 the district purchased an International truck with a 500 gallon per minute, mid-ship pump and a 350 gallon tank. All of these years the department operated out of the garage at Mr. Bert Almay’s residence on West Main and King Streets.
In 1946 the department moved to East Hydraulic Avenue. That same year, a new 1946 International truck was purchased. It had a 500 gallon per minute pump and a 1,000 gallon water tank.
In May of 1946, the City of Yorkville voted to join the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District. At this time, the members of the old Yorkville Fire Department joined the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District. With the addition of the City of Yorkville, the Fire Protection District now protects approximately 81 square miles in the center of Kendall County. Also in 1946, Chief Houck resigned as Fire Chief after serving as Chief for 24 years. Other members to serve as Chief are Mr. Win Pricket, Mr. Ralph Blake, Mr. Russel Devick, and Mr. Larry Bretthauer. The current Fire Chief is Michael Hitzemann. In 1948 the Kendall County Fireman’s Association was formed to provide mutual aid with surrounding departments, mainly Kendall County departments, but had working agreements with Sugar Grove, Sheridan, Morris, Serena and Plainfield.
In 1950, the first two-way radio was installed in the 1946 International and was on the Sheriff’s radio frequency. Mr. Wm. Hayden was the sheriff at that time and handled the fire department telephone calls and radio traffic. This was one of the first departments in this part of the country to use two-way radios. A base station was soon purchased and was assigned a frequency to be used as a fire band. A short time later, tone alerting receivers were purchased for each fireman to summon him when a fire was reported. These receivers, in most cases, were kept at the firemen’s homes.
n 1952, the Fire Protection District moved from its location on East Hydraulic Avenue to a building built to be a fire station at the corner of Bridge Street (Rt. 47) and Fox Street. In 1955, an American LaFrance pumper was purchased with a 750 gallon per minute pump and a 750 gallon water tank. This pumper was the first custom pumper purchased in the area. Also in 1955, the Senior Girl Scout Troup #56 came to the firemen requesting them to sponsor a Fourth of July celebration in Yorkville. The firemen agreed to do so if the Girl Scouts would collect money to buy fireworks. Over the years, other organizations have helped to make a safe and happy celebration. This celebration continues to be a unique feature for Yorkville.
In the late 1960’s, the firemen formed a water rescue unit. It was not funded with tax monies, but rather from funds earned with an annual Firemen’s Ball fundraiser and the annual pancake and sausage breakfasts. It was felt that, with the dam and the river running through our district, it would be a benefit to the community. At that time the closest water rescue unit had to come from Ottawa.
For many of the early years there was no ambulance service covering the district. At some time Larson Funeral Home purchased an ambulance and formed Larson Ambulance Service. It provided first aid and transportation to the local hospitals. In the 1970’s, several firemen completed the Emergency Medical Technician course and assisted Larson Ambulance Service.
In 1981 the Fire District asked the residents of the Fire Protection District to pass a referendum to support a fire district based EMS service. For many years it functioned very closely with the fire department but as a separate organization. In June of 2000 the two organizations combined into one organization. In 1981 when the EMS was formed the District purchased the building at 1203 North Bridge Street. This building was home for the EMS service and also served as a second station for the fire department.
For many years the members were all volunteers, receiving no pay. As the district grew, the members were paid a few dollars per call to help cover the expenses they incurred responding to calls. In June 1992 the first full-time members were hired from a contract service. We started with two full-time paramedics. As the call volume increased more full-time personnel were added. In 1999, the fire department moved from its main location at the corner of Bridge Street and Fox Street to a new fire station at 103 East Beaver Street. This station became Station 1 for both fire and EMS.
Into the 21st Century
In July 2005, part-time firefighters were added to cover shifts from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday. This helped provide protection while other members worked their regular jobs. Today there are 13 people on shift 24 hours a day, ready to respond. They are a mixture of firefighters and firefighter/paramedics, full-time and part-time. Additionally, there is a Fire Marshall, Administrative Assistant, Battalion Chief, Assistant Chief and Chief on duty during the weekdays.
In 2005, the station at 1203 Bridge Street was sold and a new station was built at 2101 McHugh Street. This station houses both fire and EMS equipment and is known as Station 2. That same year the district also purchased a Pierce 105’ tower ladder truck.
In 2007 a new station was built at 4400 Rosenwinkle Street. This station houses both fire and EMS equipment and is known as Station 3. The district also purchased two Seagraves Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) pumpers, with 1500 GPM pumps and 1000 gallon water tanks. Compressed Air Foam enhances the fire extinguishing characteristics of water. Less water usage to extinguish a fire equates to reduced water damage in a fire situation.
This is a brief history of the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District. This information has been gathered by many people. A special thanks to Chief Win Pricket, Chief Ralph Blake and Chief Larry Bretthauer.
Last updated March, 2010