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Fire Department History

Please see the news archive page for the Stray Dog Fire.

Disclosure: All information contained in the text below has been obtained through public record and personal accounts. If you have more accurate information with proof, please contact the Fire Department.

New Buffalo City Fire has a rich history spanning three centuries, although the exact date the department was formed is not known I have spent hours researching and looking for clues that may give some in site to the origins of the department.

Lets start by talking about our first fire engine... no strike that, our fire wagon, built sometime between 1865 & 1870 the hand pumper was the top of the line fire fighting apparatus in those days. Most fire departments, for that matter not too many museums, have a hand pumper like this still. Could it be because ours fought in one of the world's most famous fires, THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE of 1871? It could be.

 Our old fire wagon

As Chicago was burning a telegraph was sent, a telegraph asking for help. The fire department of New Buffalo responded. The hand pumper and fire fighters were shipped to Chicago by train to help battle the blaze. Unfortunately I cannot find any records telling us of exactly what they were able to do, how long their were gone or who went. But we still have the pumper and you can see it in local parades or by taking a tour of the fire station.


As New Buffalo grew, due to growth in the railroad years, more accurate documentation was being kept. Below is a detailed inventory of the village's fire department:

June 1 1893
1 Fire Engine
1 Hose Cart
250 Feet of Hose
1 Axe, 1 Shovel, 1 Saw, 1 Oil Can
1 Wrench
1 Hook and Ladder Wagon, 6 Ladders, 3 Hose Wrenches
2 Small Pipes, 2 Brass Lanterns
12 Leather Pails, 2 Suction Hose Wrenches
Although no official records of fires could be found, I'm sure the men of the department did their job with "Duty and Honor".

Classic NBCFD picture 1


Welcome to the modern world of fire fighting. In the late '40s the NBVFD saw changes that would ever shape the department. In 1948 the fire station was built, the one located at North Smith St. (right where the parking lot for City Hall is now). A new station was needed because on September 26 1948 a new addition was coming to the village, a 1947 American LaFrance Scout Convertible Pumper. The new truck hosted a 500 GPM pump and 300 gallon water tank. I have a picture of the guys with the LaFrance in front of the station, all though it doesn't have a date on it, I think its close to the time of delivery. The members include: Ellis Williamson, Wilmer Lidke, Harold Wolf, D. Duddleson, Dick Jones, Lonnie Hildebrand, Ed Paloucek, Tom DeVos, Ray Gooch and Leo Glossinger. I'm sorry if any names are incorrect and welcome corrections.

Classic NBCFD picture 2

Fund Raising
Fire departments hosting fund raisers have gone on probably since the invention of fire departments. Although New Buffalo's may not be as famous as the Chincoteague FD's Wild Pony Auction in Virginia, where the Assateague Wild Ponies are herded from the wild life refuge into town across the river, that is held every year since the 1940's. None the less NBVFD has hosted plenty. From a "FIREMENS BENEFIT DANCE" on April 13 1925 costing a dollar and ladies 25¢ to this past Sunday's "All You Can Eat Pancake Breakfast" costing $5.00. But what about all the raffles in between, where a lucky winner could receive a color TV, gas grill, CB radio, fishing rods, a bike, or cash. All fund raising has been to purchase equipment for the department. With all these fund raisers the department still had time to give back to the community like this time, as from a newspaper article in the 70's. "Fireman Jack Kennedy and Captain Ron Bond of New Buffalo Fire Department, with Scotty's Roller Bowl manager Edward Smith and Muscular Dystrophy patient Joe Sadowitz display trophies to be given at the Jerry Lewis Skate-A-Thon".

To Be Continued....