Base 90

15412 Lima Road
Huntertown, IN 46748
260-449-3696


History

The majority of the text of this article was written by Forest J. McComb in 1973.

Most Volunteer fire departments are exactly what their name implies, Volunteer. Labor to operate and maintain the department is donated time by the membership. The Huntertown Volunteer Fire Department was formed on this very simple premise.

In the early 1900’s, the citizenry of Huntertown saw a need to start a fire department after several homes and businesses were destroyed by fire. In 1918, the town fathers got together and through private donations called "popular subscriptions", raised enough money to purchase two chemical carts that used soda, acid and water to extinguish fires. The carts were kept in a small building in back of the McComb and Snyder General Store. When they were needed, the carts were towed behind buggies, light wagons or automobile-any way that they could get to the fire.

There was no formal organization in the beginning except for one officer, William Snyder, of the afore mentioned general store, was appointed Chief. The balance of the membership was just a group of men and boys willing to offer their time and services.

In 1922, a used Ford Model T truck was purchased, again by "popular subscription". Also purchased was a painter’s ladder, lanterns, axes and other small tools that were carried on the truck. It also sported a four inch alarm bell mounted on the front with a piece of spring steel. When the truck was responding to the fire, the rough conditions of the roads made the bell jingle and clang and announced their approach. That winter, on an extremely cold night, a kerosene heater left unattended, set fire to the building. Everything was lost, truck, pump, tools and all. The bell that was on the front of the truck was found but was in poor condition. Conrad 'Cooney' Tucker kept the bell and upon his passing in 1992, the bell was passed to his brother, Howard "Hoppy" Tucker. When Howard died in 1998, the bell went to his son Terry and is still in the family today.

Perry Township went without fire protection until 1928. Then Township Trustee, George (Cal) Gump, purchased a Model A Ford pumper from the Prospect Fire Engine Company. The truck boasted both a chemical and water tank, making Huntertown one of the first departments anywhere to have both on the same apparatus. A small building was built, behind the school, by Sam Surfus, to house the truck. The building was insulated in an attempt to keep the pump from freezing in the winter. This however did not work. The pump froze that first winter and the pump casing cracked. The pump was kept in service, and due to the many chemicals in the water in northern Indiana, welded itself shut.

In 1930, the department officially organized. A board of directors was elected and a constitution was adopted that is still in use to this day. The first board members of the organized fire department were Arthur McComb, President; Sylvester Warner, Secretary; and Claude Grim was named Fire Chief.

Up until this time, the department had been successful in saving considerable amount of property but there were growing pains. Once in the years between 1930 and 1938, a call came from the eastern side of the township for a barn fire. Members arrived at the station and tried to start the Model A. It would not turn over and after several attempts with the electric starter; the battery ran down and died. Several members, (estimates include 15 or more), took turns using the hand crank at the front to get it going. After several more minutes, the engine coughed, sputtered and finally started. Claude Grim and Cooney Tucker rode the truck to the scene and the other members followed in their personal vehicles. They arrived on the scene only to find that equipment and personnel from Garrett and Auburn Fire Departments were already there and had the fire under control. Our department had done the best they could but that would not save them from a horrible ribbing from the two other departments. On the way back to the fire station, Claude Grim told Cooney, "We have got to get better equipment!"

Cooney Tucker was elected Fire Chief in 1946. Under his leadership the department grew not only in size but in experience and knowledge. Cooney served as Chief until 1956 when Einer Jensen was elected. Einer served one year and in 1958, Cooney was reelected and served until retiring in 1977.

In 1942, the department was given the old Huntertown School building, which used to stand on the site of the current fire station, to use for their new home. The old building was renovated and modified so equipment could be stored inside. This period of time is where the business of firefighting transitioned into a science. Many of the techniques and equipment invented in this time were the foundation of the fire service today. Gone were the days of hand carts and unreliable equipment. Now, equipment and apparatus existed that were specially designed and built to serve the modern day fire service. Along with the evolution of equipment came an evolution in tactics. Training was brought to the forefront. No longer was it good enough just to have some people show up, take a truck to a fire and do the best they could. Now, members were required to attend weekly training sessions to learn new ways of fighting fires, vehicle extrication, rescue and eventually emergency medical training.

In 1955, the fire department was reorganized under the Indiana non-profit Incorporation act as the Huntertown Volunteer Fire Company. It is also at this time that HVFD became an operating organization for Perry Township, which provides the housing and maintenance of the equipment. By this time, the department sported two pumpers, a tanker, a heavy rescue unit, rescue boat, and even an old 65 foot Seagraves ladder truck. It was around this time that the importance of the emergency medical service was emerging. HVFD began providing EMS service in 1956 after a dreadful accident. A young girl was killed when she ran between two parked cars and was struck. Her body lied on the street for over an hour before an ambulance from Fort Wayne arrived. Within 30 days, our first ambulance went into service thanks to the quick response of the citizens. HVFD has been providing EMS services ever since. 1956 was also a watershed year. Several new pieces of apparatus were purchased and placed into service. A new International Harvester John Beene pumper, a new heavy rescue unit and new tanker later to be nicknamed "Leakin’ Lena".

In the 1960’s, the department built on the foundation of the previous decade. One event of note from this time was a house fire in 1964. Terry Tucker, nephew of Cooney, was a senior in high school. He was in science class one day when the fire whistle sounded. Having permission to leave class on fires, Terry began to get up from his seat. The teacher did not like students leaving his class so Terry was told to sit back down, and so, he did. A few minutes later, the principal of the school walked into the class room and told the teacher that it was in fact, the teacher’s house that was on fire. The teacher turned to Terry and said "Tucker, go!" The fire station is right beside the school so it did not take Terry long to get there. When he arrived, he found only one other member there. He and Terry jumped into the lead pumper and left for the scene. The fire was behind the fire station a couple of blocks so upon their arrival, The other member stretched a high pressure hose line to the house as Terry started the pump and got water flowing. Having on hydrants in the town at this time, Terry knew he would need more water. He sprinted the two blocks back to the fire station and hopped into the tanker and drove it to the fire scene. He jack-knifed the tanker to expose the draft port and hooked up a hard suction line to the pumper. Two other members had arrived at the scene by now and were fighting the fire. After getting the tanker set up and his draft established, Terry ran back to the fire station and started the Ambulance/Rescue unit and headed out a third time to the fire. When Terry made the turn off of Lima Road on to Heber Street, the back door of the Ambulance fell off! He stopped, got out and tossed the door in to the back and continued to the fire. By now, the fire was under control and no other pieces of apparatus were need, much to Terry’s relief.

In the middle 1970’s, it was realized that the old fire station could no longer sustain the growing and changing fire service. It was decided that the old station would be torn down and a new one built in its place. So in 1976, the old station was razed and construction began of our current facility. It featured drive thru apparatus bays an office for the Chief as well as a kitchen, meeting and day room. The station was completed in the spring of 1977 and in an ironic twist of fate that would only be realized years later, the station was dedicated on Sunday, September 11th, 1977.

By the late 70’s through the 1980’s, Perry Township’s population began to change. Traditionally, most of the township was farmland. However, new housing developments began to be built on the southern end and the transformation to a more suburban environment took place. HVFD changed with the times as well. Radio communications were improved to the point that members no longer had to rely on the fire horn outside the station to alert them of a run. SCBA’s were purchased that allowed firefighter to not have to breathe the ever increasing poisonous smoke. Larger capacity pumpers and tankers entered service.

In 1997, the department found it station need a new addition. Office space and other non emergency related features of the fire station were found lacking. So a committee of members was formed to design an addition. The addition was completed in 1998 and several new rooms were added including, a computer room, Trustee’s office, larger Chief’s office, conference room, day room, bunk room and a weight room.

Today, HVFD continues its tradition of dedicated service to the citizens of Huntertown, Perry and Eel River Townships. We have state-of-the-art equipment and training. We also are trained to handle not only fires and accidents; we also handle hazardous materials, ice rescues, water rescues and many other types of emergencies. Our run volume has increased significantly over the past couple of years. We now averaged over 800+ calls per year.

With the increase in runs we have seen, in 2006 it was decided that we needed to hire some full time firefighter/EMT’s to better serve our community. Four new employees were hired including a full time Fire Chief. Until 2006, the fire chief was elected every year by member vote and was 100% volunteer. With the additional responsibilities placed on the position with the full time staff, it was decided the chief would need to be full time as well. The new employees were firefighter/EMT’s Jason Mueller, Jake Knudson, Robert Boren and Fire Chief Jim Reid. Jason Mueller soon left the job for a position on the Fort Wayne Fire Department, so Chris Wolf was hired to replace him.

Then in 2007 our full time staff was expanded again with three additional full time personnel. This expansion now enabled us to have two full time firefighter/EMT’s on duty 24 hours a day. Derreck Schwehn, Jason Hale and Jason Mueller were hired for these positions. With this hiring our shifts comprised of Schwehn/Knudson on the A Shift, Wolf/Hale on the B Shift and Mueller/Boren on the C Shift. This shift rotation remained the same until May of 2009 when Jason Hale left to take a Firefighter/Paramedic position with the New Haven/Adams Township Fire Department.