by Logan Gruber
The Sauk Rapids Fire Department has been around for about 109 years. The city was just a village when the department started up.
The Benton County Historical Society has quite a bit of material collected on the history of the department, and we thank them for sharing some of it with our readers. To see some photos and for a salute to both the Rice and Sauk Rapids fire departments, turn to pages 6 and 7.
1908: The first fire chief of the Sauk Rapids Fire Department was John Teske. He was chief from July 8, 1908-July 12, 1910.
A notice was placed in the Sauk Rapids Sentinel on July 12, 1908. It read: “Volunteers Wanted – The village council has decided to organize a volunteer fire department. All who desire to join the organization, please report to the village recorder to have their name placed on a list. – I. A. Barnum, Village Recorder”
1920: The May 20, 1920 issue of the Sentinel indicates the village council bought a Waterous brand fire truck. It carried a hose, pump and some chemical to spray on the fire. The truck cost $4,500 at the time, and was paid for with seven payments of $642.84. The truck arrived on Sept. 9, 1920, and could pump 500 gallons/minute.
1948: The city acquired an International K-8 truck, which could pump 700 gallons/minute.
1951: Mutual aid was first set up with the countryside around Feb. 15, 1951. The fire department agreed to respond to farm fires within a reasonable distance if the Rice Fire Department agreed to send one of its engines to Sauk Rapids when needed.
1953: Ground was broken on a fire station and city hall next to the municipal liquor store in August.
1964: The fire department purchased another truck in June. This truck can pump 1,000 gallons/minute but also came with a 650-gallon tank. The price tag was $20,000.
1965: Reflective strips were added to the black coats the firemen wore to increase visibility. The black coats and hats were hard to see through smoke and at night. The fire chief and assistant chiefs wore white coats and hats, while captains wore black coats and red hats.
1978: A combination pumper-ladder truck was purchased in February. With a suggested lifespan of 30 years, the price tag was $127,812.
1979: In February, a furnace explosion causes the Lakeside Furniture building to burn down, totaling $365,000 in damage at the time.
In October 1979, a new firehall was finished. Mayor Ben Gratzek cut the ribbon. The fire chief at the time was Dennis Schlicting.
1998: Pirate’s Cove supper club burned down, totaling $1 million in damage.
2005: Demolition began for the new city fire station on Benton Drive. Six homes were demolished. It opened in September 2006.
2008: The fire department turned 100 years old, and celebrated with a concert by Bobby Vee at Sports Arena East.