In 1907, the residents of East Troy realized the need for organized Fire Protection. On May 27, 1907, the East Troy Fire Department was officially organized with 26 Charter Members. They were: Oscar Besch, Wayne Canright, Laurence Clancy, J.P. Chaffin, Walter Dickerman, Kirke Dickerman, James Donnelly, Charles Duncan, J.F. Ebert, Ollie Ebert, F.H. Gilbert, Dr. W.L. Hassold, Al Karnarth, O.R. Kurzork, R.J. Lacy, Ray Lacy, O.H. Marshall, S.E. Marshall, B.F. Meyers, Thomas O' Connor, Edward B. Rohleder, B.F. Schwartz, G.E. Schwartz, Herman Wendt and Chas. H. Zinn.
The Fire Dept. started with a horse cart and the ringing of the church bell to sound a fire alarm. In 1918, a chain was installed to the bell so that the bell rope would not be broken.
In 1923, The East Troy Rescue Squad was formed. They started out using the car of whomever came first to the call and later acquired a Packard as a Rescue Squad. This served until 1952 when a GM truck was purchased and outfitted as a Rescue Equipment Truck.
July 29, 1948, at a grass fire at theTriangle Sportsmen's Club, Joseph Harter was overcome by smoke and later died. To date, he is the only East Troy Firefighter to lose his life in the line of duty.
The following story is reprinted from the December 28, 1983 issue of the East Troy News by: Darryl Jordan
If there was ever a time for the Christmas spirit to show up, Christmas Eve was it as East Troy and area fireman were helped by community members while they were fighting a major downtown blaze. During the fire, over two hundred firefighters and rescue personnel participated in the morning battle. And that doesn't include the hosts of angels in the guise of volunteers and donators who kept the firefighters going. The 12:45 a.m. fire couldn't have happened on a colder morning as temperatures plummeted to near record lows of 15 degrees below zero and the wind chill temperatures dropped to below minus 60 degrees. The size of the fire brought in Troy Center, Mukwonago and Elkhorn fire departments for immediate assistance. By the time the fire was brought under control after dawn, 14 other departments were called for manpower and equipment to replace those worn out by the cold weather. Damage to the two story structure, owned by James Manderfeld, East Troy, is considered extensive at this time, East Troy police said. There was damage to the second floor apartment and businesses in the lower portion of the building including Johannesen-Farrar Insurance, Tripco Travel, and Charlie's Barber Shop. Also damaged was a small adjoining building housing Mitch's Barber shop. None of the buildings was occupied at the time of the fire, the police said.
The cause is sill under investigation. The fire was noticed at 12:45 a.m. by police officers Jim Kelter and Robert Javorek who then summoned help and evacuated next door bars and apartments on the north side in the buildings on the square, according to the Assistant Police Chief Dave Fox. Assistance for additional firemen from Mukwonago, LaGrange, Lake Geneva, and Elkhorn. Aerial ladders from those departments summoned enrout to the fire by East Troy fireman Wayne Klett. Fire chief don Pluess said, "He was using his head. Getting the aerials in may have saved the buildings on the north side of the square. As the early morning wore on, more help was called from Lyons, Williams Bay, Delavan, Rochester, the town of Bloomfield, the town of Linn, Genoa City, Eagle, Tichigan, Wind Lake, and North Prairie. There were also other fire departments standing by, said ETFD secretary Robert Barutha. Fire to the structure was contained by three or four a.m. according to members of the E.T.F.D., but it was far from out. A persistent fierce fire was still raging above Mitch's Barber Shop.
Fire officials cautiously assumed it was a leaking gas line, until a few hours later when the gas company showed up to turn off the gas. It was decided to keep the fire going instead of putting it out which could put raw gas in the building , creating an explosive condition. The firemen also decided not to turn off the gas at a main line so as not to turn off furnaces in the area. As it was, power was cut for some areas for nearly an hour. Firemen later found that roofing tar and asphalt melted and formed a pool which burned like natural gas. "It was a lot to worry about," O'Leary said. The wind, although cold and fierce, may have helped save other buildings on the square coming from northwest, the smoke was blown to ground level across the square. According to Doris Jensen and Carole Worrall, store owners on the north side, the snow cover on top put out the embers that blew that way. At the beginning of the fire, the smoke from the fire was so thick, that a reporter who started to walk across the square lost sight of is feet in five paces. It was the dense smoke and cold winds that created the most problems for the firemen and set up the remarkable first aid stations at the Village Hall, Masonic Lodge, and OK Hardware. Fifteen firemen were taken to the Lakeland Hospital and Burlington Hospital for treatment of frostbite and smoke inhalation. By Two o'clock, the village hall was opened by wives of the firemen and other concerned citizens who served food and carved firemen out of the hats, gloves and jackets that were covered with half an inch of ice.
Soon after, the Masonic Temple and the OK Hardware opened their doors to provide shelter. Other businesses also opened their doors and hearts to help out with the fire, according to Barutha. East Troy OK Hardware, Western Auto donated gloves, Ben Franklin and Rademacher's donated clothing, hats, scarves, and other wearing apparel. Ray's Shop Rite opened his doors during the blackout so that the ladies could get as much food as possible. If it went through the check out counter it would have come to $200. It didn't go through. Barutha said Mike Nigbor made runs to his Family Pride Laundromat throughout the night to dry coats and pants. East Troy Motors provided coffee and in between hot sandwiches, thawed out gloves in the microwave, according to one fireman. The organization and the cooperation exhibited by the villagers impressed the American Red Cross and the Milwaukee Fire Buffs Club who go to fires to help care for firemen, Barutha said.
"The fire buffs were so non-plussed they couldn't do anything, so they went back home." The traffic in the shelters was constant as red faced firemen came in from a few minutes of fighting the fire. Their coat buckles had to be chiseled loose to unfasten. Helmets rested on ice reinforced earflaps and some received immediate attention for frostbit with warm water basins for the hands and hot towels for the face. "The community response was something to behold," Pluess said. East Troy fireman Tom Reimer agreed, "It was amazing how fast people showed up. In two hours the chili was ready and another two it was crowded with people ready to help out. In Milwaukee they would have closed their doors. Every time I turned around someone offered me a cup of coffee and I didn't have to worry about dry gloves." Troy Center fireman Darryl Durbin was also grateful. "The rest of the firefighters and I would like to thank the ladies who were busy, concerned and ready for anybody with frostbite or an iced-over coat. It was the most most beautiful thing. The response is greatly appreciated," he said.
While warm supplies never stopped, the water supply became a matter of concern. The fire hoses had to remain open to prevent freezing which caused such a drain on the village water supply that the level of the water in the tower was reduced to nine percent, even thou the wells were producing 1500 gallons per minute at that time. Pluess had Michael Prescott, Troy Center Chief, handle water and tanker assignments inside over the radio because his hand was frozen from getting water inside his glove.
"Prescott handled the assignments and called for extra help. "He did a fine job and a half," Pluess said. "He was fabulous." By six o'clock, they were trucking water from Mukwonago, and some came up from Genoa City. More than 1,200,000 gallons of water was used to douse the fire. Pluess in the meantime ran back between units to coordinate the aerials because his radio was out, but singular heroics are hard to distinguish. Each man praised the mutual assistance pact agreed to by Walworth County fire departments and even more praise worthy was the coordination that existed during the fire. "Everything went smooth considering the conditions," Barutha said. "Everybody worked as an efficient and coordinated team. The East Troy Fire Department can't in any way convey at this time their gratitude to their fellow firefighters and people in the community," Barutha expressed to the news. "Its nice to know other firefighters will back you up at one a.m. in terrible weather from 20 miles away," Mark schmidt said. "They didn't care about conditions. Damn lucky no one was hurt." "It was the help of every man there that put out the fire," Pluess said. "The chiefs of the other departments saved the square." Prescott echoed the sentiment. "I'll remember all the fire departments there working as a team and the professionalism they showed. Some guys worked for more than an hour at a time. They were so fatigued. I can't say how proud i am to be a volunteer fireman." By ten, the fire was, for the most part out and by twelve, most of the visiting departments had left. All that was left was a little touch up work and a lot of cleanup. In the end, the fire was beaten by the best of our any weather friends.