ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Fire Department






1847-1899 section  Other Segments 2000-2016 section  



Established 1857





The committee on fire department was authorized to ask for proposals for keeping holes cut in the ice for the use of the fire department during the winter.    WR



[same date] The following officers of the Watertown Fire Department were elected at the annual meeting last night:  President, John Chapman; vice-president, Arthur G. Krebs; secretary, G. E. Gloger; treasurer, A. A. Hardie.    WR



Mayor Grube recommended that the fire limits ordinance be amended so as to include all that district extending from Tenth to Church streets and including two blocks north and south of Main and West Main streets.   WR


02 13       PHOENIX BALL

The ball of the Phoenix Fire Company, No. 2 at Turner Opera house Saturday night, was very largely attended and proved a source of great enjoyment to all participating.  Music was furnished by the city orchestra and a program of twenty-eight numbers danced.  The grand march was led by Edward Schultz and Miss Lucy Reihle.  The hall was profusely decorated with bunting, flags, etc., while from the ceiling hung a large placard bearing the inscription. “God Bless the Ladies and Protect the Firemen.”  From this depended a picture of William Schulte, “Our First Chief.”  In the lower hall an excellent supper was served by Herman Yahr.  A number of firemen from neighboring places attended the ball.



Wednesday afternoon a successful test of the Fyricide fire extinguisher, for which George H. Hastings is agent, was made on the old Tremont House premises.  The extinguishing ingredient utilized in this device is a very finely pulverized chemical, which as soon as applied has the desired effect.



An alarm of fire was turned in from the Watertown Steam Laundry last Tuesday evening at 7 o’clock, the cause being a small blaze which had started in the floor near the chimney.  It was extinguished by employees before the firemen could get to work, although they responded in double-quick time.  No damage was done .


03 06       A. B. LIEBERMANN FIRE

[same date] The clothing and gents' furnishing goods stock of A. B. Lieberrnann, Third Street, was partially destroyed by fire Saturday morning.  When Mr.  Lieberrnann opened the front door of the store at about 6:30 o’clock he was confronted by a dense cloud of smoke, and it was discovered that a blaze had started near the stove and that the tables containing stock nearby were on fire.  The alarm was immediately given and both hose companies were soon at work on the flames, which were promptly extinguished.  The damage to the stock from smoke and water, however, was considerable, while the building was damaged only slightly.  The latter is owned by Charles W. Schulz.  Mr. Liebermann’s loss is covered by insurance.  The fire is supposed to have been started by a spark from the stove. 



The work of the fire department has been up to its usual splendid standard.  It is unfortunate that the city has so far been unable to put in a fire alarm system which would unquestionably be a great benefit; but we doubt if the necessary funds can be spared for that purpose.  Its members in all of the departments are deserving the thanks of all our citizens for the willingness with which they respond to all calls in their line of duty.   WG


04 27       BOYNE’S HOME FIRE

At about 11 o’clock last Tuesday morning fire destroyed about $50 worth of property at Edward Boyne’s home on Western Avenue, and the fire was put out without calling out the fire department.  But shortly after 12 o’clock noon, someone gave the alarm that Mr. Boyne’s house was on fire, the fire bells were rung and the department responded promptly, but imagine the firemen’s disgust when they heard the above fact.   WG



Early last Sunday morning someone ignited a broom saturated with kerosene and shoved it behind the window blind of the house occupied by Mrs. Carr on Jones Street.  Mrs. Carr and her two small children were asleep at the time, but were awakened by the smoke entering the house.  She sent her two children to the city hall to give the alarm of fire, but officers Pieritz and Berg arrived on the scene shortly and put out the fire.  Whoever is guilty of this dastardly act deserves the very severest kind of punishment, for whoever sets fire to a building, endangering loss of life, no matter what the provocation is, is a murderer at heart and a very dangerous person in any community.  Every effort should be made to bring the guilty party to justice.    WG



Monday evening the Ahrens engine was taken to Main Street bridge for the purpose of testing the new fire hose recently purchased.  The engine has been out of service for some time, and could not draw water from the river.  On examination, the cylinders of one of the engine were found to be clogged with several large stones, and how they got there is unknown.  They were too large to be drawn through the hose, and must have been placed there by someone.  As long as this engine is used by the city, it should be properly looked after, for it may be needed in an emergency.  All fire apparatus in the city should be thoroughly inspected by the proper authorities at certain stated intervals during the year.    WG


10 24       TEST OF NEW HOSE

Five hundred feet of new hose assigned to the Phoenix Fire company was given a test Thursday evening and Main Street bridge, the Silsby engine being brought into service.  The hose stood the strain of 240 pounds of pressure and was pronounced satisfactory.   WR




At 11 o’clock last night an alarm of fire called the department to the stock yards of the Milwaukee road near the Third street crossing, where a blaze had in some manner started.  The firemen extinguished it promptly, with but slight damage resulting.  Had the fire gained headway the loss might have been considerable, as Theodore Huber’s lumberyard is in close proximity. (401 Clyman)   WR



Jos. Jentzen, who has operated sprinkling wagon in this city for the past nineteen years, has sold his outfit, including horses, to Louis Griep.


For the next season of six months the Board of Public Works has let the sprinkling of streets in this city to T. J. Euper, the lowest bidder for $2520.  The probabilities are that Mr. Euper will sublet the sprinkling, one district to James Burke, one to each of the parties owning the fire department teams, and will retain one district for himself.   WG


05 24       DENT HOME FIRE

At 12 30 o’clock last Saturday morning the fire department was called to the home of Robert Dent, where the summer kitchen, about three feet from his residence was on fire.  R. Dent was awakened by the blaze and telephoned to the police station.  Before the fire department arrived Mr. Dent, with the assistance of his neighbor, Joe Harvey, succeeded in keeping the fire from doing much damage to the residence.  The fire department responded promptly, and put the fire out before much damage was done.  The fire is supposed to have been the work of an incendiary.   WG



The Fourth of July celebration of 1901 . . . . In the evening a fire run will be given on Main Street by the local department, followed by fireworks and a sham a battle on the river. . .   WG


06 21       OUTHOUSE FIRE

[same date] During the noon hour last Monday a fire in an outhouse in the rear of Herman Dobbratz’s brought out the fire department.  It was promptly extinguished.  Edward Rimestead, while trying to board the hook and ladder truck at the corner of Main and First streets, fell and narrowly escaped death, being flung against the wheel of the truck with terrific force.  He was taken to Dr. Werner’s office and medical attention given him at once.  He was badly shaken up and bruised, and his injuries will lay him up for several days.  He is employed as a teamster by Wm. Hartig.  


Cross Reference note:  Herman Dobbratz had a saloon and residence at 109 S. Third


07 19       NO WASTE OF WATER

Users of city water are hereby requested not to waste any water during this dry weather.  This appeal to consumers is made necessary because the flow of the well is limited, and to keep a sufficient supply of water on hand for the protection of property against fire must be the first consideration, and should appeal to the justice of every fair-minded citizen.   WG



Thursday afternoon September 5 ,1901, our neighboring city of Jefferson suffered the greatest fire in its history, and at one time during the day it looked as though the entire manufacturing and business portion of the city would be wiped out, as well as the county jail and courthouse.  Aid was telegraphed for to this city and the Silsby engine and Hose Cart No. 2 were taken to Jefferson and rendered favorable assistance.  A staff correspondent of The Milwaukee Sentinel said of the fire:” A stiff southwest wind, fanned what looked like a significant blaze into a raging conflagration, threw the entire city in a pandemonium, brought under control at 6 o’clock only after damage of $10,350 had been done.”


Aid from Fort Atkinson, Johnson Creek, Janesville and Watertown was requested about half an hour after the fire was discovered about 12:10.  The origin of the fire is not known although Superintendent Lewis M. Smith of the chair manufactory, where it was first found, believes that sparks from a passing train at noon flew into the open windows of the comparatively new brick factory building.  At 12:10, after every man of the fifty employees had left the place for lunch, smoke was seen issuing from the windows of the third floor nearest the tracks.  A single stream could not hold the flames in check and it spread to the paint shops and offices.  No call to outside cities was made even then, but when St. Mary’s church caught fire the appeal, which was quickly responded to, was sent.   WG



Another of Watertown’s old and respected citizens, Wm. Dobbratz, passed peacefully from earth Thursday night of last week at his home, 913 N. Fourth Street, aged 68 years.  His death came rather sudden, as it was only last Monday that he became ill, the cause of it being a cholera orbus.  Mr. Dobbratz was born March 8,1833, in Sternin in Kreise Coerlin, Prussia and came to Watertown when he was 10 years of age, and has ever since made this city his home, during most of which time he was engaged in the boot and shoe business.  He served his ward several times in the city council, was one of the founders of St. John’s Lutheran church in this city, was a member of the old Watertown fire department, and a member of the Watertown Arbeiter verein.



At 9 o’clock last week Thursday night the fire department was called out by a blaze in Carroll’s bookstore in Main Street.  A pile of paper in the rear part of the store in some unaccountable manner caught fire, and for a time it looked as though the fire would prove serious.  The loss is a small one and is fully covered by insurance.   WG



01 10       PRACTICE

Chief Doerr called out the fire department Sunday afternoon for practice, having received the consent of the committee on fire department.   WG



The city clerk was instructed to advertise for sealed proposals for hauling the hook and ladder truck.



(same date)  A resolution passed to the effect that the engineer of the fire engine be released from the duty of running the steam road roller but he is required to keep in order the Ahrens fire engine and clean and oil the steam roller.


03 07       MONOTONOUS

Saturday night a false fire alarm was turned in shortly before 12 o'clock.  This false alarm business is getting to be monotonous, and the next one who turns in a false alarm deserves a horse-whipping.  It is about time was stopped.   WG



At the annual meeting of the fire department George P. Gates was elected chief and Albert Borchart assistant chief.  The following named fire wardens were also selected:  First and Seventh wards, Ed Riemstead; Second and Sixth wards, John Guetzlaff; Third and Fourth wands, Fred Harsh; Fifth ward, Louis Schulz.   WR



[same date] At 2:25 Tuesday afternoon the fire department again responded to a telephone call to extinguish a blaze at the residence of Dennis Powers, corner Montgomery and West Madison streets, Third ward.  A boy who happened to pass by noticed smoke coming from the house and notified Berth Smith a neighbor, who telephoned to one of the fire department stations, but before they arrived Wm. Ardie and Albert Will who were passing by broke open a door and extinguished the flames which had started near the kitchen stove.  The damage was small.   WR


05 31       LOUIS VOGEL

Louis Vogel, aged 33 years, died Saturday morning of consumption with which he had been afflicted for several years.  He was a member of the Anchor Hose company No. 1.  The funeral took place from the home of his mother, Mrs. Emilie Vogel, 926 North Fourth Street, Tuesday afternoon to St. John’s church.   WR



The fire run by the department was a grand feature and was in itself an object lesson, not as an example of what our fire laddies might do in an emergency, but what they do time and time again without hardly attracting even a casual word of praise.


It was fine, even the horses seemed to enter into the spirit of the occasion.  With ears laid back, distended nostrils and eager, flashing eyes, and every muscle in active play, they needed no urging to make them beat the devil’s tattoo with their iron-shod hoofs on the brick pavement as they swung into view and out of sight between two long drawn breaths.


Every man was in his place, the engines under a under a full head of steam, flying sparks and clatter of horses’ feet, one by one, engines, hook and ladder trucks and hose carts passed in flying review, and as the people saw it they might well realize how much they are dependent upon the efficiency of our fire department for the safety of life and property.


Hurrah for the fire boys; their show was fine because it was real.    Watertown Republican, 07 12 1902.  



During the heavy wind and rain storm that passed over our city Monday afternoon lightning struck and set on fire the Watertown grain elevator near NorthWestern depot, but the prompt response of the fire department saved the building and contents.    WR



                CHRISTIAN BECKER

Secretary of the Fire Department and Treasurer of the Pioneer Fire Company. 



The Committee on Fire Department was given power to hire men to keep the ice open at Silver Creek and Boughton bridges for the use of the fire department.


CROSS REFERENCE NOTE:  The 150-year history book on the Watertown Fire Department mentions a spot underneath the Oconomowoc Avenue bridge where the Rock River was kept open during the winter by inserting a barrel in the ice and piling manure on top of it.  In a fire emergency a hose could be lowered into the water through the opening.


The Committee on Fire Department reported that they purchased 500 feet of Paragon hose from the Eureka Fire Hose company of Chicago at 90 cents a foot and 500 feet of Gold Seal hose from the Goodyear Rubber company at 75 cents a foot.



The annual meeting of the Watertown Fire Department for the election of chief, assistant chief and four fire wardens was called to order at the city hall Monday night by Vice President Edward Boyne in the absence of President M. Hurtubise who removed from the city.  Secretary Gus Gloger kept the minutes.  As there was no opposition to the reelection of George P. Gates for chief of the department he was elected by acclamation.  For assistant chief John Kehr was a candidate and secured 48 votes out of 82 cast.  The retiring assistant chief is Albert Borchardt of the No. 2 company.  The newly elected assistant belongs to Hook and Ladder Co. No, 1.   The old fire wardens were again elected as follows:  First and seventh wards, Edward Rimested; Second and Sixth wards, John Guetzlaff; Third and Fourth wards, Fred Harsh; Fifth ward Louis Schultz.


03 21       FACTORY OF F. C. JAEGER

[same date]  The wood working factory of F. C. Jaeger in Seventh street narrowly escaped burning Sunday morning shortly after 1 o’clock.  An alarm was turned in and the department arrived on the scene in a short time and promptly extinguished the flames.  The fire started in the boiler room and when the firemen arrived was burning briskly.   The building and contents suffered.  The building is insured.



Peter J. Euper, a well-known business man and contractor.  A member of the Department almost from the time of its organization, being a member of Phoenix Hose Cos. No. 2.  The flags on the city hall and Phoenix Engine house were placed at half-mast out of respect to his memory. 



Upon resolution of Alderman Mayer, the mayor appointed the following committee to investigate the merits of an electric fire alarm invented by Joseph A. Salick, H. C. Mayer C. Mulberger, J. F. Prentiss, R. H. Radtke, H. C. Fredrich.



The Common Council of the city of Watertown, do ordain as follows:


Section 1.  That the city of Watertown establish and maintain an Emergency Hospital, and for that purpose make use of the second story of the brick building, on First street, which is owned by said city, and located on a part of lot number two (2), in block number twelve (12), in the First ward of Watertown, Wisconsin according to Cole Bailey & Co s plat of the village of Watertown, now City of Watertown, Jefferson County, Wisconsin.  Said building being also known as old No. 1 Engine House.


Section 3.  That the equipment and care of said hospital become the duty of the Commissioner of Public Health of said city, who shall be responsible to the city for the care of said hospital and shall take charge of all surgical instruments, appliances, medicines and supplies, and attend to the proper cleaning of said hospital, fixtures, surgical instruments and appliances, as often as required, in order to keep the same in good sanitary condition and cause the hospital rooms to be properly heated, whenever necessary.   WDT, 04 19 1903



At 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon the Fire Department was called to fight a fire at the James Forncrook Box Factory in Third Street [same as 1000 S. Second]. 


It proved to be one of the fiercest fights the firemen have had in years. 


Owing to the strong wind blowing from the south it was a question for a time if the whole neighborhood could be saved from the flames, but by the persistent efforts of the department the neighboring buildings were well guarded until the fire was under control. 


The factory had shut down at 4:30 o’clock and Mr. Forncrook and the workmen had left.  The loss is in the neighborhood of $9000, there being $1500 insurance.  A large number of men are also thrown out of employment. 


The residence property just north of the factory was in great danger and in evidence of this and in gratitude to the firemen, the owner, Dudley Fitzgerald, presented them with $25.  


1899-1900 Watertown City Directory


06 20       Ordinance, gunpowder, dynamite, nitro glycerin . . .


12 30       THE IROQUOIS THEATRE FIRE occurred on December 30, 1903, in Chicago.  It is the deadliest theater fire and the deadliest single-building fire in United States history.  At least 605 people died as a result of the fire but not all the deaths were reported, as some of the bodies were removed from the scene.  The remains of the Misses Orlena and Anna Moak of Watertown, victims of the Iroquois theatre fire in Chicago, were laid at rest in Oak Hill Cemetery.



01 02       It is reported that at the time of the fire at the residence of Robert Brennecke [813 Western Ave] a lady living in the neighborhood discovering the fire by the reflection of the flames through a window, telephoned to the central office asking that the fire department be notified.  She was told to go to an alarm box and turn in an alarm which would have required several minutes, even if she had known where the alarm box was located. If the report is true, it is to be regretted, for every person in the city is anxious that an alarm of fire should reach the department at the earliest possible moment, and as the city has given the telephone company a valuable franchise and its employees go upon the roofs of buildings at all times to string wires leaving wire and nail holes in the roofs, it certainly would be but a simple matter of courtesy to aid in the preservation of property from destruction by fire. The writer does not wish to be captious nor critical in the matter and only refers to it that the company in the future may cooperate with other citizens in extending all possible aid in case of fire.  


01 27       Three weeks ago, the Republican in the issue following the fire at the Brennecke residence contained a general criticism of the Telephone Company for not turning in the alarm to the fire department telephone to the central office. Immediately following the appearance of the article in the Republican, the Daily Times of January 6th contained the following “explanation”:  


An erroneous impression has gone abroad regarding the turning in of a fire alarm at the time of the Brennecke fire.  The telephone manager wishes it corrected.  He says that since the introduction of the fire alarm system the telephone central has never been requested by the authorities to turn in fire alarms as previously done.  On the day in question, however, one of the operators was called up and told to turn in an alarm.  The manager claims the girl tried the west side house but got no response and she then notified the person calling that it might be quicker to turn in the alarm from the box and not wait.  If this be true the published statements regarding the affair are unjust to the operator.  Hereafter when persons wish to send in an alarm in case of fire and when the fire alarm box is not in the immediate vicinity they may send the alarm by telephone to the central station, giving the location of the fire and central will notify the fire department and both houses simultaneously.  This matter has been arranged with the telephone management by Chief Clafer, who requested that the public be notified through the press of the change.


02 18       The Silsby fire engine which was sent to Seneca Falls, N.Y. some time ago to be repaired arrived back Thursday, and was tested Saturday by Chief Glaser and assistants and found to be all right, and is hoped that its service will not be needed.  


05 18       A trial of old fire engine No. 1 was made yesterday afternoon, the scene being on the river bank back of the old brewery.  The trial was under the direction of Otto Biefeld, former chief, and was for the purpose of instructing the new engineer of fire engines, August Schmidt with the duties of the position to which he was recently elected by the council, which was formerly held by Mr. Biefeld.  Despite the fact that the engine has been in service in Watertown for a period of thirty years this summer, the former chief declares that it does just as good work as ever and that during the trial yesterday, it threw a stream across the river. It is said Mr. Schmidt takes hold of the work with much credit to himself. The first engineer was Ferdinand Bursinger and the first chief William Schuette.  


06 22       F. Kahlpacker of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the employ of the LaFrance Fire Engine Company, with headquarters at Chicago, reached here yesterday morning and put a new pump on the fire engine Phoenix No. 2, which was repaired by said company and received back about four months ago. After the new pump was attached the engine was tested by the chief and assistants and furnished the required quantity of water and it appeared to be serviceable, throwing a strong, steady stream of water without the aid of parts, with which it keeps the boilers supplied with water. Mr. Kahlpacker took his departure last night, feeling quite confident that the engine would be accepted by the city council at the regular meeting tonight.  



The fire department was called on Friday noon by the burning of four stacks of grain near Tivoli island.  How the stacks took fire is a mystery yet to be solved.  Shortly after its return, a false alarm was turned in and the department given another run for exercise and to get warmed up so as to use hot drivers.



The final test of the Silsby engine was made yesterday afternoon, perched on the river bank near the Cady Street bridge and subsequently on the Main Street bridge. The first test was based with three lengths of hose and water was thrown nearly if not quite across the river at that point.   Afterward with the Siamese twin coupling, water was sent across the river without any trouble. The engine was then taken to the Main Street bridge and a further test made, which was as satisfactory as the first. The tests showed that with the new cylinder and the adjustment made by Mr. Langdon, the representative of the American Fire Engine company, the work was accomplished with less than half of the coal formerly used, a stronger and more uniform water pressure maintained and a gain of one three quarter inch stream secured.  The old machine is now better than when it was new and good for thirty years more of service.  



There was an alarm of fire sounded late Wednesday night and the department was out with its usual promptness and made a run over the sixth ward to extinguish a blaze in a chicken house.  It is a mystery as to how the chickens started the fire.   WR


10 05       FIRE AT IXONIA

Mayor Wertheimer received a telephone message Monday afternoon that the village of Ixonia was burning up and send help.  He at once ordered steamer No. 1, and a hose wagon up to the St. Paul depot where these were placed on a flat car and started for the village mentioned.  The fire started in the elevator owned by H. C. Humphrey and destroyed the same; also the Milwaukee railway stock sheds. The loss of the former was $3,000, and the latter $50, both were covered with insurance.



The work of constructing the long talked of fire cistern in the Meckelberger settlement was started yesterday by the contractors.  The construction of this means of fire protection was in compliance with the urgent demands of the residents in that section of the city for better protection.  It is a step in the right direction and is prompted by the fact that the city is spread over nine square miles, leaving some of the residents and taxpayers in the outlying district without ample protection.  The work, which was started yesterday, is the first step toward giving effective protection in the districts that are not protected by water mains.  The city will endeavor to furnish protection to other districts similarly situated from time to time and as fast as the finances of the city will permit.  The new cistern is to be 35 feet long and about 11 feet high.  It is a recognition that is due the citizens in that section of the city and the mayor and city councilmen are to be commended in the action taken.   WDT



The fire department was called out yesterday noon to extinguish a fire in the residence of Robert Brennecke, 813 Western Ave., which caught from a Christmas tree, the candle upon which it had been lighted. The blaze was put out by the use of chemicals after quick work by the department. The wall paper was badly scorched, furniture blistered by the heat and two costly rugs ruined. Mr. Brennecke has reason to congratulate himself that he escaped with so small a loss.   WR




Three weeks ago, the Republican in the issue following the fire at the Brennecke residence contained a gentle criticism of the Telephone Company for not turning in the alarm to the fire department telephoned to the central office.  Immediately following the appearance of the article in the Republican, the Daily Times January 6th contained the following “Explanation.”


As an erroneous impression has gone abroad regarding the turning in of a fire alarm at the time of the Brennecke fire, the telephone manager wishes it corrected.  He says that since the introduction of the fire alarm system the telephone central has never been requested by the authorities to turn in fire alarms as previously done.  On the day in question, however, one of the operators was called up and told to turn in an alarm.  The manager claims the girl tried the west side house but got no response and she then notified the person calling that it might be quicker to turn in the alarm from the box and not wait.  If this be true the published statements regarding the affair are unjust to the operator.  Just censure is always admissible but unjust censure harms innocent people.


And on the 17th inst., the following local appeared in the Daily Times:


Telephone Fire Alarms.


Hereafter when persons wish to send in an alarm in case of fire and when the fire alarm box is not in the immediate vicinity they may send the alarm by telephone to the central station, giving the location of the fire and central will notify the fire department at both houses simultaneously.  This matter has been arranged with the telephone management by Chief Glaser, who requested that the public be notified through the press of the change.  Since the introduction of the fire alarm system but little attention has been paid to the method of notifying the department, but good service in this respect is now promised at the central telephone station.


The Republican does not claim that it brought about the change — but has a sort of a suspicion that it set the ball in motion which has resulted in good.


01 31       SMOKE HOUSE FIRE

The fire department was called out Saturday morning at 3 o’clock by a fire at 1000 Vine Street, the home of Theodore Wiese, by the burning of a smoke house on his premises, which was destroyed.  In the evening there were five large hams and two shoulders in the smoke house and when the fire was extinguished the remains of but one ham and the two shoulders were found which leads to the suspicion that four hams were taken by thieves and the house set on fire to conceal the theft of the hams.


                A 1906 Gamewell automatic system, on display at the Hall of Flame Fire Museum and the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, located in Phoenix, AZ, is believed to be that of Watertown.



04 16       The fire department was called out yesterday afternoon about 3:30 o’clock the scene being at S. Molzahn’s building, corner Third and Madison streets.  The fire started in some mysterious manner in the cupola on the building.  It is a mystery for the reason that the cupola is shut off from the building.  There are no chimneys or electric wires therein, a fact that is causing considerable speculation as to the origin.  Fortunately the flames were extinguished before much damage was done.   WDT

10 20       Steam heating plant; Phoenix engine house   WL

11 02       Twenty crates of matches source of fire   WL

11 06       Proposed new building for storage of city property including the No. 1 fire engine   WL



04 22       No. 1 fire engine was taken out of its storage and tested  

05 20       Lehmann & Schroeder fire 

06 27       Wisconsin State Fireman's Assn, Lake Mills

08 07       Beals & Torey false fire alarm.   WG

08 07       Letter of Nic Bruegger on his time with H&L Co.

10 16       Gus Neitzel recollection

11 27       Fire insurance agents of city elect officers   WG

12 11       Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 elected officers for the ensuing year   WG

12 18       Phoenix Fire Co. grand ball at Turner opera house    WG



01 01       Anchor Volunteer Hose Co. No. 1 elected for the ensuing year; Phoenix Fire Co. grand ball   WG

01 08       Copeland-Roach Motor Co purchased former fire engine house/emergency hospital   WG

01 15       Officers elected   WG

02 05       Winter storm shuts down fire alarm system    WG

02 05       Reeseville nearly wiped out by fire; Watertown Fire Dept arrives by train   WG

02 12       William Schimmel Residence Wrecked by a Gas Explosion

02 26       Fire at L. H. Cordes’ home on Third Street    WG

03 05       Improvements at Water Works Plant; pressure increased for fire fighting   WG

03 19       JOHN GLASER Elected Chief

Last Monday evening the Watertown Fire Department elected the following officers.  John Glaser receiving 53 to 32 votes for chief over George Kunert.  The new chief has been a member of the Phoenix Fire Co. for over 20 years, and has served as chief of the department heretofore.


Chief—John Glaser.

Assistant Chief—A. A. Hardie.

Fire Wardens—First ward, Edwin Kohl; Second and Sixth wards—John A. Gruel; Third and Fourth wards—Chas. E. Kerr ; Fifth ward, Albert Borchardt.   WG

03 19       Hose team of c.1895 remembered   WG

04 02       Clyman Fire Company organized   WG

04 30       Circus performance to benefit volunteer firemen   WG

05 14       Bids for hauling fire apparatus    WG

05 29       Officers elected, Phoenix Hose Co No. 2    WG

06 04       Amoskeag fire engine owned by city of Columbus, Dornfeld-Kunert secured contract for new boiler on   WG

07 09       Elevator at Richwood destroyed   WG

09 03       Names of Fire Companies:  For the benefit of an inquiring subscriber in Milwaukee we will state that the names of the Watertown Fire companies are:

Anchor Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1.

Anchor Hose Co. No. 1.

Phoenix Fire Co. No. 2.   WG

09 03       Overhauling Waterloo’s Silsby steamer   WG

09 10       Alarm of fire test   WG

10 01       Letter from Ernst Wood; Phoenix Fire Co recollections   WG



01 07       You are invited to the Phoenix Fire Co’s ball at Turner Opera House Saturday evening, Jan. 29, 1910.   WG

01 14       Officers re-elected   WG

03 11       Wisconsin House fire   WG

03 11       Fire Dept elections, Glaser reelected chief   WG

04 05       Money receive from insurance companies   WG

          - Phoenix Co, 35 men; Anchor Hose Co, 34; Hook and Ladder Co, 33 men.

04 22       Robert Kerstell, Engineer Fire Engine; Standing committee, William Schimmel, John Kehr, Charles Kohn

04 29       Statement on condition of dept by Mayor Grube   WG

06 17       Brandt-Dent factory fire   WG

07 08       Max Naatz electrocuted, employed fixing fire alarm wires   WG

07 29       Carl F. Otto elected treasurer, in place of George Weber, deceased.   WG

08 12       Homecoming celebration, fire apparatus parade part of   WG

08 19       Louis C. Ullrich [1850-1910], former member of old Pioneer Fire Co.   WG

10 15       Signage, Anchor Hose Co. No. 1. dance




The fire department, through Chief John Glaser, expresses its thanks to Mr. George Hawkins for a generous supply of cigars in recognition of the prompt response of the department when called to his place recently.   WG

03 23       False Fire Alarm.  Watertown—At 9:50 o’clock Monday a false fire alarm was turned in from box 13 and the fire department responded promptly, several firemen narrowly escaping serious injury by the hook and ladder truck crashing into hose wagon No. 2.  False alarms are periodically turned in here and sooner or later the guilty party will be caught and severely punished.   WG

07 28       Fire at the New Commercial Hotel

08 24       Jaeger wood working plant totally destroyed by fire.  WG


The Volunteer Fire Co. of this city met last week and elected the following officers:

President – Justin Wallace

Vice President – Wenzel Kunert

Secretary – Walter Kuenzi

Treasurer – Charles Gruel

The treasurer was placed under bonds of $500 to be furnished by the department.  The regular meeting date was fixed at the third Tuesday in each month.  A committee of three, Fred McLaughlin, William Kasten and R. Traeumer was appointed to petition the city council to purchase badges for the members.  The total enlistment of men was 42, divided into three companies.   WG

-- --           Fire Engines, popular iron toys of 1911 



10 04       CHARLES STRAW, 1851-1912





12 19       FIRE ALARM CALL

From this date parties discovering a fire and notifying “central” at the telephone station, must state the exact location of the fire.  It is then the duty of “central” to at once notify both engine houses as well as the waterworks station.  – John Glazer, Chief.   WG


_____      LOUIS E. DORNFELD

From 1912 to 1917 Louis E. Dornfeld drove the Hook and Ladder for the North First Street fire station.  The care of his horses was always a great concern and on the icy, wintry night of the Carl Schurz home fire one of his horses took cold and the team needed to be replaced.




Some years ago when the steam fire engine drawn by horses came into use its effectiveness was so far superior to the hand pump and bucket brigade of a previous era that many firemen believed the very pinnacle of progress had been reached in fire fighting.  But since that time has come the motor age.  We are purchasing no fire horses this year.  In fact, I do not believe we will ever purchase fire horses again for the department.  The days of service of these noble animals are drawing to a close.  The fire horse will soon be a memory in New York.  They have served their purpose well but in the future of fire fighting the horse plays no part.  The gasoline motor has usurped his place




About 7:30 o'clock last Sunday evening the fire department was called to the home of Mrs. Herman Korban, 1138 River Drive, by a small fire started by a defective chimney. Hand chemicals put out the fire before much damage was done.   WG


02 05       SALARIES

[same date] The engineer of the fire engine is to receive $700 instead of $660; the fire chief will receive $100 per year instead of $60.   WG



Last Friday fire at Hubbleton destroyed the feed mill owned by R. Elliott of Madison.  The fire communicated to the lumber yard nearby and destroyed a quantity of shingles.  The loss is about $2800, partially covered by insurance.  Assistance was asked from Watertown and the Silsby engine and a hose cart were taken to the depot to be shipped to the fire, when word came that the fire was under control and it was unnecessary to send aid.  WG



Sunday evening the fire department was called to the corner of Market and Second streets, where a fire was in full headway at the barn of Henry Guse.  The firemen had scarcely returned to their stations when another alarm called them to the barn in the rear of Rudolph Meade’s hotel and saloon at First and Milwaukee streets, which was ablaze.  At this place a man was seen leaving the barn shortly before the fire was discovered by Mrs. Erdman, who resides on the Milford Road, and was waiting for her husband when she noticed the barn on fire.  Across the street from Mr. Meade’s place the firemen discovered a fire in the rear of the Racek warehouse.  A pile of kindling had been arranged and set on fire and a torch was found nearby.  The same evening Mrs. John Guetzlaff saw a man striking matches in a barn in the rear of the Guetzlaff saloon in North Third Street and she called to him what he was doing and he replied “can’t a fellow light a cigar,” and beat a hasty retreat.  It looks very much as though a systematic effort was made Sunday evening to have fires by the wholesale, and no doubt the “fire bug” is still in the city and it might be well for our citizens to exercise a little extra watchfulness till the fellow is found out and put where he will not do any harm.  WG



Shortly after nine o’clock and again shortly after 12 o’clock Tuesday night false alarms of fire were turned in from boxes 63 at Hancock and North Fourth streets, and from box 51 at North Montgomery and West Green streets.  John Glaser, chief of the fire department, while trying to mount the hose wagon as it was leaving the Phoenix engine house, slipped and one wheel of the wagon ran over his foot, injuring it quite severely.  WG



While the family of Peter West, 1320 Boomer Street, was up town last Saturday morning, fire destroyed the barn on the premises and its contents.  WG


09 03       JOHN SOLON FIRE

The fire department was called Sunday afternoon to the premises of John Solon, West Main Street, where a small blaze in a barn threatened to destroy considerable property. The damage was slight, covered by insurance.  WG


11 12       FIREMEN’S BALL

A large crowd attended the Firemen’s ball at Masonic Temple hall last Saturday evening.  WG


12 10       FIRE AT CLYMAN

Early last Thursday evening fire destroyed about $20,000 worth of property at Clyman, nine miles north of this city on the C.&N.W. Ry.  This city was called on for assistance to help fight the fire, which threatened to destroy all the business portion of Clyman.  A number of our firemen and one of our fire engines and hose carts were sent to the scene of the fire on the C.&N.W. Ry. and Juneau also sent their fire apparatus.  The engines were not unloaded at Clyman, owing to there being no water available.  The hose, however, was attached to a standpipe reservoir there and put into service as long as the water lasted.  The firemen, however, with the assistance of residents of Clyman, controlled the fire in a short time and confined it to the vicinity where it originated.  The double store building owned by Mrs. G. Coler and occupied by H. Lekachman Mercantile Co. was totally destroyed, with contents, and the saloon and hotel building adjoining, owned by Wm. Hartwig [Hartig assumed] of this city, and occupied by Emil Kressine, was also badly damaged.  The fire is said to have originated by the explosion of the gasoline lighting system in the Lekachman store while the proprietor was lighting it.  He was badly burned about the face and neck.  WG  /   Google book citation 



At 5:30 o’clock Sunday morning fire at the home of George Schleicher, 608 North Church Street, caused by an overheated furnace, destroyed the home and contents to the extent of $1000 worth before it was put out.  It was partially covered by insurance.  WG  



01 07       FIRES IN CITY IN 1914

During the year ending December 31, 1914, the fire department answered thirteen calls in the city, according to records at the No. 1 engine house and were as follows:


Feb. 1—Korban chimney.

Feb. 23—Irving’s chimney.

March 8—Guse barn.

March 8—Maede barn.

April 24—Watertown Grain Co. elevator.

May 2—Peter West barn.

June 10—Krahmer’s barn.

July 4—Kraft house, Ninth ward.

Aug. 30—Robinson barn.

Nov. 4—Kraft barn, Seventh ward.

Nov. 23—Leo Jurck house.

Nov. 24—Kostjal house.

Dec. 19—Schleicher house.


Mr. Schleicher sustained the heaviest loss, which amounted to about $1000.


The department responded to one outside call, which came from Clyman on Dec. 4.  The damage at the Clyman fire was about $11,000.   WG 



Elevator, Coal and Lumber Yard Destroyed by $30,000.00 Fire.   WG



Members of the Watertown Fire Department enjoyed their annual outing in the woods alongside Rock river, just past of the city limits, last Sunday.  All report having had a delightful time.   WG





The main building of the Watertown Creamery Company plant, at the SE corner of First Street and Western Avenue, was practically destroyed by fire.  Robert Duthie, president of the company, had built dwelling rooms into the west wing of the plant, and was sleeping in the building, until awakened by heat and smoke.  Leaping from his bed, he discovered that he was cut off from the telephone.  He reportedly threw his clothing out the window and fled in his night clothing to the power house of the waterworks, from where the fire alarm was turned in.  The buildings and machinery were formerly the property of the Jahnke Creamery Company.  Not long after the Jahnke company went into bankruptcy they were purchased by Mr. Duthie’s company from the George Koenig trust for $5,000.  Later this site was the location of the Steinhorst egg plant and Berres Bros. coffee.  Now (2016) the Watertown Street Department garage.  House on left stood at Western and S. Second, facing Second (i.e., 800 S. Second) and demolished when garage was built.



02 19       MASONIC TEMPLE FIRE, 2-6 East Main

Chapter on Masonic Temple.     Masonic Temple image set  



Chief 1886-1887, Death Of




But for the fact that Edward Leschinger was on the river bank between O’Connell and Cady streets Thursday morning the little child of Otto Biefeid, Jr. (*) would have been drowned in the river.  The little tot tumbled off the bank into the water and Mr. Leschinger, who was watching the test of the new motor truck (**), saw the accident and went into the river and brought the little one to shore in safety.    Watertown Weekly Leader, April 25, 1917


Webmaster’s notes:

(*)  g-grandfather of Watertown’s current Fire Chief, Kraig Biefeld.  There were 3 Ottos, the above-mentioned SON of Otto Jr. (therefore Otto III).  The Otto Jr. family resided on the lot where Johnson Arms is currently standing on N. Water St.  The Otto Sr. house was on O’Connell St., right behind the old Otto Biefeld factory on N. Water.

(**)  This incident aligns with the April 1917 arrival of the city's new triple combination pumping engine, cited on page 198 of the book on the 150-year history of the Watertown Fire Department.




A 50-year-old bell from the first motorized fire truck in 1917 was donated to the missions in 1967. 








Charles A. Gamm today tendered his resignation as a member of the Police and Fire Commission.  He gave as a reason that he expects to be absent from the city considerably owing to poor health.  His term expires in 1922.  His successor will be appointed by Mayor Mulberger and under the rule will be a republican in politics.  Confirmation by the council is necessary.  Mr. Gamm was appointed a member of the commission when it was first organized, by Mayor H. G. Grube, and has served continuously since.



Have you made up your mind to attend the Firemen’s mask ball to be held in Turner Opera house Saturday, January 26?  If not, you had better, for it will be the first mask ball of the season.  It will be the largest social affair staged here. 


There is $114 in cash to be offered as prizes, the largest amount ever offered in cash at any mask ball ever held in this city.  The merchants have contributed prizes to the amount of $141.  Better buy that ticket now as you will regret it later if perchance you find the tickets all gone.


The Weber-Stube orchestra will furnish the music.  They guarantee to last as long as the dancers do.


The firemen protect you, make you feel secure in your homes, work hard for you when you are in distress.  They are going to help you in the way of amusing yourself on Saturday evening, January 26.  Your cooperation is all that is necessary.  Artistic ability on your part may mean that you will go home richer than you came.  For the prizes will not be stinted.  The merchandise premiums are too numerous to mention.



The elite of the east mingled with the brawn of the west, courteous southern chivalry rubbed elbows with the orient, old world costumes and clothes of modern but past days were commandeered for the Firemen’s mask ball in Turner Opera house Saturday evening. 


Everybody knows the story which has been handed down from the earliest peoples as a heritage of joy to the present day.  Aladdin and his wonderful lamp presided for the brief space of one evening of unlimited joy in this, the century of activities.


Both lower floor and balcony were crowded to capacity.  The grand march played by the Weber-Stube orchestra started promptly at 9:30 o’clock and was led by Jack Glaser and Jack Kuenzi.  The judges, Charles W. Harte, Frank P. McAdams, Emil Creuz, Mrs. Harry Stube and Miss Gertrude Schatz then picked the winners as they passed in review.


The first prize of $25 was won by "Old Glory group” composed of six girls dressed in red. white and blue with white stars.  The Misses Hattie Krueger, Alma Sterwald, Hilda Siebort, Bertha Fleuter, Josie Loukota and Jeanette Hoeffner made up the group.  The second best costumed group prize of $18 was awarded the fairies, comprising Misses Josephine and Grace Collins, Margaret Nellins and Meta Buske, dressed in ballet costumes.  Five coons copped the comic group prize of $10.  The color scheme consisted of red, green and black.  Messrs. Leonard Johnson, Max Schultz, Hugo Vogel, Ewald Radtke and Lawrence Brown made up this group.


Misses Zayda Weber and Elsie Schwendke, dressed in colonial costumes, were awarded the $10 prize for the best dressed couple.  Fatty Arbuckle and wife, Ray Schmedel and Lorraine Ott, won the $6 prize for the best comic couple.  Misses Ella Knoll and Helen Hoeffner were awarded $5 for the second best dressed couple.  They wore colonial costumes.  Edward Buske was given $5 best Uncle Sam.  August Henschel of Oconomowoc received $5 for the gents best costume.


Herbert Schatz and Miss Martha Knoll won the $5 special prize offered for the best tango by Gruel & Glaser, and Ernst Leschinger and Miss Winifred Lange won the $5 special waltz prize offered by “Nig" Preusse.  Paul Borchert and Walter Weihert won the $3 prize for second best comic costumes.  Miss Tillie Kaercher was awarded $2 with a jockey costume.  Roy Ditttmann took a $2 prize for carrying the best electrical outfit.  Clarence Peters and Miss Pearl O'Brien won $2 in the turkey fox trot. 


The following were awarded merchandise prizes:


Elmer Donner and Viola Buege, best American couple; Mrs. Edward Buske, flower girl: Ernest Brill, best original makeup; E. Krueger, fireman; Ruth Johnson, best school girl; J. Weihert, Happy Hooligan; Minnie Rebahn, Goddess of Liberty; Howard Krueger, beat workingman; Ferd. Dittmann, hod carrier; Walter Potter, painter; Norman Glatzel, Jew; Richard Hilgendorf, Chinaman; Fred Block, clown; Gust Boehm, clown; Edward Kehoe, Irishman; William Kohls, clown; Harry Davenport, cook; Meta Korff, best chauffeur; Pat Riley, policeman; Della Johnson, schoolboy; Hugo Zillmer, farmer; Max Wolff, tramp; S. M. Lord, negro; R. Budewitz, yellow kid; A. R. Bahr, tramp.     The Watertown News, 01 28 1918



The city fire truck will have a license this year according to advice received from Madison.


The “Old Baby” according to Collie, or “What’s the matter with it now” by the chief, will cost the city an additional $10 this year as heretofore no license tag was necessary.  Attorney General Haven on Friday advised Secretary of State Hull that the law providing for the licensing of automobiles and other similar motor vehicles applies to all such vehicles owned by municipalities.  This ruling means that all cities owning motor fire apparatus, fire patrols, police patrols and motorcycles will have to take out state licenses for such vehicles, the same as they do for motor vehicles used by city officials.    The Watertown News



Under unfinished business Alderman Glatzel asked if many fire hydrants were frozen.  Chief Jack Glaser stated that a man had been hired without his knowledge to keep the hydrants clear of snow, but that he had found in Western Avenue that the work was not satisfactorily done.  In other years he had looked after the matter and had packed the hydrants to keep them from freezing.  The mayor then advised that the committee on fire department and the chief to get together and untangle their differences.



Alderman Beurhaus asked if any of the28 ½ tons of coal put into the Phoenix Engine house was left or what had become of it.  Chairman Harte of the buildings committee said the greater part of it should still be in the bins.  In answer to Mr. Beurhaus’ question, Mr. Harte said in 1916 the house had used 32 ½ tons and in 1917 39 tons, but this year a saving was effected by storm windows and conserving the supply in other ways.  He said the present supply at the Phoenix house would last through the year and the surplus, if any, could be used in the city hall, where the supply was sufficient for only three weeks.






-- --           BELL FROM 1919 FIRE TRUCK

A 50-year-old bell which served on the first motorized fire truck in 1919 was destined to Ghana, Africa.  The brass bell which was used to herald fire runs on the Fire Department’s first fire truck is being reactivated and will start a new “career” in Africa.  A Watertown couple, engaged in mission work for the Assemblies of God, is taking the bell with them when they return to their mission field following a 13-months furlough “at home.”  They are the Rev. and Mrs. Edwin Ziemann whose residence in Watertown during the furlough has been at 501 Division Street.




The Junction House served the public until it was destroyed by fire at high noon on Friday, Oct. 9, 1920.  It was never rebuilt.





A September 15th fire destroyed the elevator portion of the American Grain and Malting Company complex east of the C. M. & St. Paul Railroad depot.  The fire started in the roof of the elevator, presumably from sparks of a passing locomotive.  High winds prevailed and the department had difficulty in combating the flames.  Despite the efforts of Chief John Glaser and the men under his command, the elevator was a total loss.  At the time it was said to have been the worst fire since the Masonic Temple fire four years earlier.


When the fire hose was attached to the hydrant it was discovered that the city pressure was “very feeble” and both the auto truck engine and the 1876 Ahrens steamer were brought into service.


The Liggett-Meyers Co. had a large amount of stemming tobacco stored in the building at the time, all of which was lost.


The Daily Times reported that “resident owners were quick to invoke the law of self-defense and put their garden hose in operation.  The roofs were manned and the wooden surfaces of the buildings kept drenched until the danger period was passed.”


The elevator had been erected more than 60 years earlier and was considered one of the largest in the state.  The first owners were Jonas and Silas Sleeper, who conducted it for many years, being among the pioneer grain buyers in the area.  Subsequent owners were William Buchheit, the American Malting Company and the Fleischmann Malting Company.


Cross Reference note:  The mill burned in 1946 and again in 1959.






    Watertown Wis, June __24




     June 17, 18 & 19, 1925

Admission Ticket, Drawing for $1,000 in Gold




It was a sad day in Watertown, when, on March 9, 1928, Turner Opera House caught fire and burned down



11 17       FORMER HABHEGGER SALOON Consumed.  Habhegger’s Sommergarten 




The Evans Block [101, 103 and 105 E Main], a three story structure housing the Princess Confectionery and the Main Cafe, as well as living quarters was swept by fire the Saturday morning of 12/1/34 to such an extent that the eastern half of the building will have to be almost completely reconstructed . . .   WTribune



Feb          Emil Luther funeral; volunteer fire dept, tribute paid    WDT




A disastrous fire the first of the week at Watertown destroyed the auto paint shop of Chas. David Sons, on Madison Street, entailing a loss of $4000 to $5000.  The blaze, which started in the shop, was discovered shortly after 1 o'clock, and an alarm was turned in.  The entire fire department force was called out and battled the blaze for four and a half hours.  Several automobiles, huge quantities of oils and paints were destroyed, the oils adding to the fierceness of the blaze.  Several firemen were overcome by the fumes.  They revived when taken out. of doors.  Firemen were able to keep the blaze within the confines of thee shop proper, preventing its spread to the store at the front of the -establishment and from nearly buildings.



02 19       Former Phoenix Engine House returned to Christian Becker estate    WDT








   116 East Main

Chapter on Bittner and Tetzlaff  





     < pdf file






  Wayne Wendt and Ronald Nuernberg; initial training, paid fire department. 

Brings the paid department to full strength — 14 firemen, seven on duty on each of two shifts.



                JAEGER HOME

Fire this afternoon caused minor damage at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. R. Jaeger, 808 Cady Street, the blaze starting in the attic wiring.  Firemen were called to the scene and soon had the fire extinguished.  There was some smoke damage and the smell of rubber, due to wire insulation burning, was evident in the area.  The house is being insulated at the present time.  The fire started about 1:30 p.m.  Three fire trucks responded to the alarm.   WDT



                FIRE PREVENTION WEEK

      Joe Checkai and Cecil Granger, high school student, honorary fire chief, elected by fellow classmates.  Fire Dept inherited police paddy wagon and used it as an equipment truck.



   Gay Theder, Asst Fire Chief, Herb Vehlow, Police Chief, Dean Van Ness, City Manager, Al Linde, Fire Chief.



11 08       Emil Doerr, 1879-1956; City Hall flag flown at half staff for Mr. Doerr; had been a member of the old Watertown Volunteer Fire Department   WDT



07 11       SCHNAPPSIE

Schnappsie, the dachshund mascot, has a birthday   WDT


12 15       TOY PROJECT

Members of the Watertown Fire Department have completed ‘‘Toy Project 1957” and many shelves of toys which have been put in condition for further use to delight youngsters are ready for distribution.  The toys will be distributed to children in needy families through the Watertown Family Welfare Association which cooperates closely with the firemen in the annual toy program.  Firemen said that this year’s assortment of toys is larger than in many recent years and that they appreciate the cooperation of the public which again helped make it possible.


12 31       FIRE LOSSES IN 1957

Watertown fire losses in 1957 were up over figures in 1955 and 1956, but they were still low for a city this size, the annual report of Fire Chief Al Linde today showed. The year 1957 did not see a single major disastrous fire in the city. Fire losses for the year were estimated at $24,700. In 1956 the loss here was $9,744.17 and in 1955 it was $14,772.42.   A total of 184 alarms was responded to in the city this year. In 1956 there were 161 alarms. Rural losses in the area which the department serves were higher than in the city this year. Estimated damage was $34,515 and 55 alarms were answered in the rural sections. In 1956 rural losses were $8,225 and there were 36 alarms. In 1955 rural losses were $20,565.   WDT



2017 note:  Don Peters later owned this fire engine for 20 years.  Originally Watertown Fire Department Engine One.  We have a set of 8 pics taken in 2017 (WHS_013_380A-380H)


The city’s first motorized fire truck was a 1917 Seagrave.  The second was obtained in 1928.  Both were in service into the 1940s, with the 1928 Seagrave in use until 1957. (p 198 of fire history book)



08 14       Fire protection of rural townships, first steps toward new contracts   WDT

09 02       New fire station proposed . . . again   WDT

09 27       Safety conditions at City Hall; special emphasis on the Fire Department's quarters   WDT

09 29       Christmas toy project preparation   WDT

09 30       Question of a future fire station; City Council   WDT

10 21       Schnappsie, the dachshund mascot, banished from City Hall   WDT

11 26       Family Welfare Assn, Fire Department repairs and turns over toys for distribution   WDT



04 29       OLD ELM MILL FIRE

The old Elm Mills plant fire resulted in a loss of $250,000.

The sub-headline in the Watertown Daily Times said it all: 

“Holocaust Destroys Huge Plant in City”


^ Click to link to portfolio of images


The heaviest concentration of the fire fighting equipment used in the city since the 1946 Fleischmann Malting Company fire was thrown into operation the morning of April 29, 1957, to battle a quarter-million dollar blaze which again destroyed the plant, this time operated under the name of Old Elm Mills.


The plant, which sprawled over an entire block between South Eighth and South Ninth Streets, and Station Street and the Milwaukee Road Railroad tracks, was doomed within an hour after the fire was discovered.  The Old Elm Mills office across the street was untouched.


The Watertown Fire Department sent all of its equipment to the scene within moments after the alarm came in and was joined later by departments from out of town, including Oconomowoc, Juneau, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek and Lebanon.


The fire produced intense heat.  Cars jammed the area for blocks and thousands of per-sons visited the scene and watched the fire, there being a steady coming and going during the day.  Many school children who "skipped" classes were in the crowds that surged about the place.  Police kept the crowds at safe distances.


Firemen fought the blaze at many points, concentrating their efforts to prevent damage or destruction to nearby homes and buildings.  At least two homes were wetted down by owners to prevent fires destroying or damaging them.  One of the businesses whose property was in danger for a time from the raging fire is that of the Sinclair Refining, which has a bulk plant at 1108 South Eighth Street.  Firemen maintained a steady watch on the progress of the fire and prevented it from spreading to the oil installations.


One of the city's large industrial plants, the Mid-States Shoe Company, had some of its men on its roof with water and wet bags to prevent fire from starting on their property.


Captain Paul Buchholz suffered a foot injury when he was struck by a piece of metal when a cupola broke from its moorings and tumbled to the ground. 


Only the lower floor of the huge brick building was used for storage.  The big metal build-ing part of the plant was used for storage of grain and the grain bins, built of wood, and was quickly consumed by the flames. 


Old Elm Mills came to Watertown in 1949 from Elm Grove.  The Old Elm Mills plant, formerly the Fleischmann Malting property, was the scene of a previous disastrous fire.  That was on March 1, 1946, when one half of the structure was destroyed.  Before the Fleischmann Malting acquired and operated the property it was known as the William Buchheit Malting Company.


The "Old Malt House," had long been regarded as a potential fire hazard by neighbors and other citizens regarded the structure as a source of danger if a fire got started in it.  It had been erected and added to over many years and was built at a time when there were few houses nearby.


CROSS REFERENCE:   The mill was the site of a previous fire, that of the Fleischmann Malt House, in 1946.


11 13       1959 CHRISTMAS TOY PROJECT

Some of the boys which the members of the fire department have completed thus far in their 1959 Christmas toy project have been taken from the fire department’s workshop and placed in storage for use at Christmas time when the toys will be distributed through the channels of the Family Welfare Association.  Meanwhile the firemen are at work on the balance of the' toys that have been contributed to their project.  These will be completed well ahead of time, making them good as new, placing some in repair and painting or brightening others.  Firemen could use some more toys but if anyone has toys to contribute they should be brought to the department without delay, since the men hope to complete their project well ahead of Christmas.   WDT


12 07       1959 CHRISTMAS TOY PROJECT

The Watertown Fire Department's 1959 Christmas toy project has been completed and no further toys are being accepted for the program until next year.  The firemen spent busy hours in their spare time in their toy repair shop and have made a large number of toys which were contributed available for youngsters of the city at Christmas time.  The toys have been stored and will be distributed through the Family Welfare Association of Watertown just before Christmas.   WDT







                LINDE AND THEDER

   Gay Theder, Asst Fire Chief, Herb Vehlow, Police Chief, Dean Van Ness, City Manager, Al Linde, Fire Chief.



05 14       DEATH OF ED KAERCHER, member Volunteer Anchor Hose Co. No. 1

Edward F. Kaercher, 85.  Was born Jan. 16, 1866, a son of Mr. and Mrs. John Kaercher and lived all of his life in Watertown.  He had worked at the Hartig Co. plant for 40 years, retiring at the age of 77.  He was also, a former fireman here, being for 25 years a member of the Volunteer Anchor Hose Co. No. 1.  Mr. Kaercher was a member of the Plattdeutscher Verein.




Walter H. Schuenemann, 720 Emmet Street, has been promoted to the rank of captain in the fire department.  His new rank takes effect tomorrow.  He was named to the rank to replace Leonard Arndt, veteran fireman, who has retired from the department.  Donald L. Asmus, 814 Cady Street, has been named to the fire department to fill the vacancy left by Mr. Arndt’s retirement.  He will not take over his position until June 1, however.



06 17       Watertown Civic Center, Fire Dept station would be part of plan   WDT


10 07       Delay is an old story in the city council.  And last night, another chapter was added to what has become a long-running serial.  The council once more delayed action on plans for a new fire station.  A resolution which would have authorized the firm of Riley and Horn, architects, to draw plans for a new fire station at the recreation building site with the understanding that the building is to be expandable for future development, was voted down and the issue has again been put over for two weeks.   WDT



City Assessor Note:  1960-61, Turner Hall offered to city for police & fire station, $75,000








The City Council last night added hundreds of more words to the long standing and running argument over plans for a new fire and police station and when it was over it had approved, by a vote of 3 to 2, to take the next step for the construction of such a building but, which in the end, won't even get off the ground, according to present indications - at least not during the present administration.  The 3 to 2 vote was on a resolution to authorize sample soil borings on the site of the proposed building - the block which now houses the recreation building.  But even now the actual construction has two strikes against it.  Councilman George Shephard and Councilman Raymond F. Franz who have previously declared they will not support the $400,000 bond issue to finance it last night repeated their statements “for the official record.”     WDT



Fire early this morning at the O. J. Goeldner building at 113 Main Street, occupied by Siegel’s Economy Store, caused damage estimated at $20,000.  The building, one of Watertown’s Main Street landmarks, is owned by the O. J. Goeldner Estate, Mrs. Joseph Wimmer of this city and her sister, Mrs. William Bennin of Cambridge.  As a result of the fire, which started in the basement near the stoker-operated boiler, the stock in the store suffered heavy damage and part of the floor in the rear of the building was burned away.   WDT



With only one more regular meeting remaining for the present city council and with the deadline for action on the proposed and long-argued and hotly debated question of a new police and fire department building running out, the issue now will go over into the new administration which is expected to have its share of headaches before it can resolve the proposition one way or another.  At last night’s meeting of the council, an attempt was made to approve a plan calling for a new financing venture but it lost 4 to 2.  Under the original plan, the structure, also known as the safety building, was to be financed with a $400,000 bond issue.  The new plan, contained in a resolution which was introduced last night, would have divided the financing — 50 per cent through a bond issue and the other 50 per cent by means of a ten year loan negotiated through Watertown banks.  The banks had agreed to this plan in the event it was adopted.   WDT



The common council last night set the wheels in motion for a new fire station, possibly on the old Webster School property in Western Avenue.  At the suggestion of Alderman Herman Gerth the mayor named a committee to study the issue and report back.  The alderman said he was bringing up the matter to get the issue started in the present council, that it was an old issue which had been thoroughly explored by the previous administration but that it never reached a definite conclusion.  He said he thought it was time for the present council to turn its attention to the problem and that the logical first step would be for a special committee to “start the ball rolling.”   WDT



A petition signed by 26 residents of the area opposing plans for the location of the city’s new fire station on the site of the old Webster School in Western Avenue was filed with the common council at its meeting last night.    WDT




                By a vote of 12 to 2 and with no debate whatever, the common council last night approved Memorial Park as a site for Watertown’s proposed new city hall, which is to include both fire and police department headquarters.  Last night’s approval had been foreshadowed on Monday when the aldermen held their committee meeting and at which only two aldermen — Erich E. Nuernberg and Kenneth Wilkes — indicated they would oppose the plan.  They cast the only two negative votes on the resolution last night, a resolution which was introduced by Alderman William Wiegand, the council’s president.   WDT






Fire early this morning badly damaged the Schuett feed and grain mill located on old highway 26 about four miles south of Watertown opposite the Ebenezer Moravian Church.  The mill, owned by Wilbert E. Schuett of 1508 Prospect St, was a large building, 135 by 40 feet and was formerly owned by Piper Bros. The mill portion was badly gutted but the part housing the garage and storage utilities was saved by Watertown and Johnson Creek firemen.  Cause of the fire was not immediately determined but the state fire marshal’s office was called to launch an investigation.  A Madison resident, 21, who was found in the nearby Ebenezer Cemetery a short time before the fire has been traced by the license number of the car. Madison police authorities said the suspect has a police record.  Firemen here placed the loss at between $25,000 and $30,000, only partially covered by insurance.  WDT



Members of the Fire Department today issued their first call for help in their annual Christmas toy project.  They appealed to people with old and discarded toys to turn them in at the fire department.  Firemen will take them to their basement toy shop and in their spare time will repair and brighten them up for further use by children who will receive them at Christmas time through the medium of the Watertown Family Welfare Association.  Toys which are damaged or broken beyond repair are not wanted nor are broken plastic toys, since these cannot be repaired.    WDT


12 29       FIRE LOSSES IN 1962

Watertown fire losses were nominal in 1962 and the city was fortunate in not having major fires, the year’s end report made by Fire Chief Al Linde.  The fire department responded to 158 alarms in the city during the year and losses were placed at $23,346.05, estimated and adjusted up to Dec. 28.  Rural fire runs totaled 56 during the year, with losses placed at $50,551, estimated and adjusted up to Dec. 28.  Last year the department responded to 172 alarms in the city and losses were placed at $35,475 while rural fire runs totaled 31, with losses of only $2,835 that year.  WDT



01 12       JOHN A. GRUEL, Jr., of 120 William Street, who retired as a member of the Fire Department on Dec. 31, was honored by fellow firemen last night at the city hall, in the firemen’s quarters.  A dinner was served at 7 o’clock.  Mr. Gruel was presented with an engraved watch as a memento from fellow firemen.  Mr. Gruel, who is 55 years of age, was born in Watertown, a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Gruel and has lived here all of his life.  His father was a member of the old Watertown Volunteer Fire Department.   WDT

   1928 Seagrave decommissioned in 1963; vehicle bell displayed at engine house in 2013.  The city’s first motorized fire truck was a 1917 Seagrave.  The second was obtained in 1928 and decommissioned in 1963


09 16       OLD FIRE ALARM SYSTEM.  The National Historical Fire Department Foundation which maintains the “House of Flame,” at Lake Geneva, Wis., has shown an interest in acquiring the old fire alarm system which now operates in Watertown.  The system may wind up in the flame museum at Lake Geneva.  That was announced last night when it became known that the city will operate under an entirely new and up-to-date alarm system once the fire department moves to its quarters in the new city hall sometime next year.  Mayor Robert P. White announced that a delegation from the foundation has been in the city to look over the present system and has expressed a desire to secure it when it is abandoned by the city.   WDT


11 07       CHRISTMAS TOY PROJECT.  More toys are needed for the Fire Department’s Christmas project on behalf of needy children.  Firemen today repeated their recent appeal that discarded toys be brought to the fire station at the city hall now so they can continue to work on getting them ready for Christmas, making repairs where needed and painting and making them presentable at Christmastime.  Firemen said they are asking for toys at this time because they want to complete their project well in advance of Christmas and keep their toy shop humming with activity.   WDT



The board of police and fire commissioners has created a new rank in the fire department, that of lieutenant.  It proposed two such members.  Each position will carry a $300 a year additional salary.  Last night, after Mayor Robert P. White brought the plan to the attention of the council, pointing out that in view of the fact that the city budget had already been approved, the $600 required could be taken from the contingency fund rather than make a change in the budget, the council agreed.  WDT



Two members of the Watertown Fire Department who have been recommended by the board of police and fire commissioners for promotion to the newly created rank of lieutenant have been named to the positions by Fire Chief Al Linde and will begin their new duties Jan. 1.  The men are Harold Hell and Donald Asmus, two of the members of the department who took the prescribed examinations.  WDT





Don Nehls, Ken Thiede, Dinty (Lawrence) Meyers, Gus (August) Theder, Art (Arthur) Ebert, Paul Kehrer (Koehler), Ken Krort (Kropf), Rueben Henning, Tom Gillis, Hubie (Hubert) Lenius, Louis Checkai, Paul Schoeneman (Schuenemann).



For the first time in many years, the members of the Watertown Fire Department are not refurbishing old toys and repairing toys for Christmas. What has been a long established custom here had to be dropped this year because in the new municipal building there are no shop quarters for the department. They cannot spray paint, which they often have to do when repairing and brightening up toys, nor can they do other work required for toy repairs because their quarters are such that no such working facilities are available. In the old city hall firemen used a basement area. There is no such area in the new building for them, so they reluctantly had to abandon the project which for so many years helped bring joy to children in families which could not provide toys.    WDT



01 28       33 MOBILE RADIO UNITS

A proposal to purchase 33 mobile radio units for use by members of the fire department and the auxiliary firemen will be laid before the common council tonight.  Such units will enable firemen to be called to department headquarters when a fire alarm comes in or they are needed for some other reason, day or night.  The units would be triggered automatically in event of an alarm.  The lowest proposal reported is for $4,298, which includes $825 for batteries.  The highest quotation is for $4,750, which also includes the sum of $825 for batteries.   WDT



Gay Theder, assistant fire chief of Watertown, will retire on July 1, it was announced following a meeting of the firemen’s pension board at which he was granted a disability pension.   WDT

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Two firemen here advanced in rank following the recent announcement that Capt. Walter W. Schuenemann had been appointed assistant fire chief starting July 1.  He succeeds Gay Theder whose retirement, for reasons of health, became effective at midnight.  Lt. Harold Hell today became a captain in the department and Wayne Wendt became a lieutenant.   WDT



Watertown’s auxiliary firemen are an important unit of the city’s fire fighting force and we would not know what to do without them, Fire Chief Al Linde told members of the common council last night after being invited to appear to answer some questions several aldermen had raised the night before at the council committee meeting.  The subject of the auxiliary came up during a discussion of the “small” raise provided for the auxiliary members under terms of the 1966 city budget.  The men now get $400 per year and under the new “raise” would get $416.  However, after Chief Linde appeared last night, it was agreed that at least $500 is to be paid each man and a further study will be made to work out a fair compensation for the members of the auxiliary.  The new salary will be fixed when the complete city salary ordinance for 1966 comes up for adoption in December.  WDT






One of the important factors in keeping down fire losses in any community is rigid and periodic fire inspections which lead to corrective measures in reducing potential hazards.  In Watertown such a program is being ably handled by Capt. Roland Thiede of the fire prevention bureau who took on the duties of fire inspector during the latter part of 1965.  Since then he had been revamping the program and working out a systematic inspection schedule.  He inspects some 520 buildings and institutions every four months within the confines of the city fire limits and two annual inspections are made out of the limits in areas which the fire department of Watertown serves.   WDT



In spite of the newly revised city ordinance governing rubbish fires, the office of the fire inspector, Capt. Roland Thiede, has been kept busy investigating complaints from residents in various parts of the city regarding the odor of smoke and smoldering rubbish fires.  When those complaints are checked out by the fire inspector or other investigating officers they hear such remarks as, “No one else complained,” or, “I know who complained. They are always complaining about something.”  It should be pointed out, the inspector said today, that the prevailing winds are mostly from the west, so neighbors to the west of such fires usually get the smoke and odors from fires and under such conditions they cannot be blamed for complaining or seeking for relief.   WDT




When the common council meets Feb. 7 it will be asked to provide a better means of apprehending persons who turn in false fire alarms and bringing them to justice. During the past month, there has been a substantial increase in the number of false alarms being turned into the fire department. This not only increases the possibility of a serious accident injuring the fire department personnel and damaging equipment but could seriously affect the efficiency of the department should a real fire occur at the same time.


04 01       PATRICK THEDER joined force.  Filled vacancy by retirement of Jerome (Whitey) Donahue.    WDT




A 50-year-old bell which served on the first motorized fire truck in 1919 was destined to Ghana, Africa.  The brass bell which was used to herald fire runs on the Fire Department’s first fire truck is being reactivated and will start a new “career” in Africa.  A Watertown couple, engaged in mission work for the Assemblies of God, is taking the bell with them when they return to their mission field following a 13-months furlough “at home.”  They are the Rev. and Mrs. Edwin Ziemann whose residence in Watertown during the furlough has been at 501 Division Street.


05 22       BURNING OF TRASH

You can still burn rubbish in the city of Watertown — if you use an incinerator type rubbish or trash burner and if you use it according to the provisions of the city ordinance, especially the part which requires such a fire to be at least 20 feet away from any building or structure.  A burning permit is not needed for the above type of small rubbish fire, according to Capt. Roland Tiede of the Watertown Fire Prevention Bureau and city fire inspector.  He stressed, however, that a burning permit is required for any outdoor fire not contained in an incinerator, rubbish or trash burner.






11 06               


12 09       Two men are to be added to the Watertown Fire Department on January 1.  At last night’s meeting of the police and fire commission Dennis L. Ruegg, 800 South Third Street, and Dennis M. Schramm, 416 South Church Street, were engaged.  Also hired was Michael F. Meyer, 404 East Water Street, as an auxiliary fireman.  Ruegg now is self employed as a trucker, and Schramm is presently engaged by the City Street Department.  Ruegg presently is a member of the auxiliary fire department.  The addition of the two men will bring the total number of full time men in the department up to 20, which includes the chief and inspector.  Two additional men are needed because the work week of each man is being reduced by four hours.   WDT



                CITY HALL DEMOLISHED




A framed certificate of merit was presented to William Brennan, Watertown High School senior, for his lifesaving efforts during a fire last July 14 at Bethesda Home.  The 1967 award was presented by the Jefferson County Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars during half-time ceremonies at the Gosling/Oconomowoc basketball game Friday night.  Young Brennan, employed as a ward attendant at Bethesda, was cited for his efforts in evacuating 84 non-ambulatory handicapped patients during the fire.  Presenting the merit award to the youth was Albert Groska, Brookfield, Second District commander of the VFW. Brennan is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Brennan, 400 South Washington Street.  




A fire at the Globe Milling Company, 318 South Water Street, early this morning caused an estimated $50,000 in damages to the building and contents.  An alarm was received at the Watertown Fire Department at 6:08 a.m. today with all firemen and auxiliary firemen called to combat the blaze.  Firemen remained on the scene until 8:20 this morning.  The fire apparently originated in the ducts of the blower system, according to authorities.



                DONALD ASMUS becomes chief, replaced Al Linde

Donald Asmus has been chief of the department since Dec. 1, 1970; Retired Jan. 2, 1986.  Joined dept in 1950.  Replacing long-time chief Al Linde. 





Fire completely gutted the interior of the King’s Shield cocktail lounge, an entertainment bar at 1500 Bridge Street, early this morning, causing heavy smoke and fire damage to the entire interior.  Total damage was estimated at approximately $50,000.  The Watertown Fire Department received a call from a nearby resident at 2:46 a.m. after flames were noticed coming from the structure.  The fire apparently started in an area near the side entrance and then extended up onto the roof area.  All fixtures, chairs, tables, bar equipment and other items were badly damaged in the blaze.  Firemen fought the blaze in sub-zero temperatures for nearly two and one-half hours before returning to their quarters at 5:13 a.m.  The King’s Shield is owned and operated by Rich Etteldorf, 115 1/2 East Main Street.




The Meyer Ambulance Service of Watertown closed its business at the end of 1976.  Lloyd (Dinty) Meyer operated the service for over 42 years. 



07 06       Flood of 1982, Fire Department pumps water from basements and businesses 

Residents got a precursor of things to come on July 6-7 when 1.63 inches of rain fell.  It was Saturday, July 10, 1982, when the skies opened and deluge of water hit the city.


12 11       Fire truck gets a new engine and transmission to “improve roadability and pumpability.”  Fire Chief Don Asmus.  The Watertown Finance Committee will vote on the $23,000 expenditure.  Mayor Kenneth Thiel said the work has already been approved by the full council as part of the 1983 budget.  A diesel engine and automatic transmission will replace the gas engine and clutch now in the 15-year-old truck.  Asmus said the truck will require less time to warm up and will be easier to drive.   WDT



01 08    Fire resulted in an estimated $500,000 damage to G.J. Graphics, 602 South Water Street, Saturday night.  The cause of the fire was not determined as of this morning and the state fire marshal has been called in to investigate.  Smoke was pouring from the roof of the one-story wood frame building known as Rock River Court when firefighters arrived.  G.J. Graphics, Neumar Insurance Agency, Wisconsin Analytical and Roll-Rite Products occupy Rock River Court. Neumar, Wisconsin Analytical and Roll-Rite were cleaning up soot today, but their businesses were not otherwise damaged by the fire.


02 05       Transfer trauma patients to Madison and Milwaukee hospitals by EMS   WDT


05 05       Riverview Commons apartment complex to be rebuilt following fire  WDT


12 13       Fire broke out at The Office tavern, damage estimated at $100,000   WDT



03 24       Watertown Outboarders Club destroyed by fire early   WDT


09 12       Firefighter Robert Ott, a member of the dept since 1957, exercised his option for early retirement.  Initially appointed to the auxiliary in Feb. of 1957, he became a regular of the dept. on Apr 1, 1962.   WDT



02 03       Pumping capacity of city's wells could be exhausted   WDT


03 26       Duck rescued from river   WDT


06 18       Chief Asmus Resignation.

At the conclusion of 1985, Donald Asmus will no longer be chief of the Watertown Fire Department.  Asmus submitted a letter informing Mayor Kenneth Thiel of his wishes to retire on Jan. 2, 1986, 35 years and one day after he started as an auxiliary fireman at the department.  In the letter, Asmus said: “Having made the most difficult decision I have had to encounter, I hereby tender my formal notice of retirement to become effective Jan. 2, 1986.  “May I take the opportunity to extend my heartfelt appreciation for the courtesies and cooperation that have been afforded to me while an employee of the city of Watertown by the present and past administrations.”  Asmus has been chief of the department since Dec. 1, 1970, replacing long-time chief Al Linde.


07 03       Defibrillation, electric shock treatment in an attempt to restore a halted heart beat, could soon to be part of the Watertown emergency medical service program.  The common council Tuesday evening approved the expenditure of $27,000 to implement the service pending approval from the state Department of Health and Social Services.  The $27,000 amount includes approximately $15,000 for the equipment to be installed in the department’s two EMS vehicles with the remaining amount spent as overtime to train the EMS technicians.    WDT


10 14       Candle Glo Motel restaurant fire  

Fire officials say the cause of a fire which damaged the restaurant at the Candle Glo Motel, 1200 North Fourth Street, Wednesday night may never be ` the blaze with the State Fire Marshal, classified the cause this morning as “undeterminable.”  Asmus said it was unlikely foul play was involved.  Firemen responded to a report of smoke coming from the kitchen of the restaurant at 8:10 p.m.  The fire was discovered by the owner of the motel, Irene Thekan, who was in the basement doing her laundry.   WHS_005_435;    WHS_005_436


10 21       Ronald Weavel New Chief

Ronald E. Weavel, 45, a lieutenant on the Rockford Fire Dept, became the new Watertown Fire Chief on Jan. 1.  The new chief was selected from a field of over 20 candidates, and was the unanimous choice of the commission.  Weavel succeeded Fire Chief Don Asmus who has headed the department for the past 15 years.  Asmus announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31.     WDT


12 11       Ronald Weavel appointed Fire Chief.  The changing of the guard starts Monday, as Watertown's newly appointed fire chief, Ronald Weavel, begins his first day at the 20-employee department.  Weavel is expected to work with current chief Donald Asmus until the first of the year when Asmus will officially retire.  Asmus has been head of the department for the last 15 years and has been affiliated with the department since 1951.  Weavel comes to Watertown from a lieutenant's position at Rockford Fire Department.  In Rockford, the lieutenant's position is equivalent to that of a shift commander.  Weavel was an employee of the Rockford Fire Department since 1966 and has 20 years of firefighting experience.   WDT



01 01       Ronald Weavel Fire Chief 1986-1994 

                Ron Weavel succeeded Don Asmus as Chief, Watertown Fire Dept., 1986-1994.  Ronald E. Weavel, 45, a lieutenant on the Rockford Fire Department, became the new Watertown Fire Chief on January 1, 1986.  The new chief was selected by the Police and Fire Commission from a field of over 20 candidates, and was the unanimous choice of the commission.  Weavel succeeded Fire Chief Don Asmus who headed the department for 15 years.  Asmus retired December 31, 1985.


After eight years as chief of the Watertown Fire Department, Ronald Weavel sought new challenges in 1994.  Weavel announced his resignation effective January 15, 1994, in a letter to the Watertown Police and Fire Commission.  Weavel accepted a position in the private sector, working in inspections, investigations and consulting.  Although the work continued to be in the fire prevention and protection field, he wouldn’t be answering the fire call for the first time in his 30-year career. 


Obit, Ronald E. “Bo” Weavel, 1940-2012


Earl Nienow, firefighter for 29 years, retired in 1986 as lieutenant.


01 07       Carlton Hotel fire:  Smoke detectors may have saved the lives of 25 persons as fire moderately damaged the Carlton Hotel, 115 South First St.  Both police officials and firemen responded to the hotel at about 4:45 a.m. after a tenant, Fred Long, ran three blocks in near zero degree temperatures to the police department.  “We're very fortunate those fire detectors worked.  If they didn't we could have had a terrific fire, because it could have spread very easily up those pipe chasers.” - Fire Chief Ronald Weavel   WDT


02 15       Joel Edwards.  Announced a promotion and hiring of a new firefighter in the department.  Joel Edwards, 39, 114 Warren Street, has been promoted to lieutenant in the department to replace Earl Nienow, 1323 South Third Street, who retired in December after 34 years of service.  Keith Becken, 27, 1036 Meadow Street, started employment with the department on Jan. 9 to replace Edwards.  Becken, from Milwaukee, was a member of the Greendale Fire Department for 2 1/2 years.  He also is a certified EMT.  He is single.   WDT


02 21       Watertown and town of Lebanon agreed to coincide the boundaries of Emmet EMS district and fire district   WDT


03 05       No one person is running the department.  He may have the title “City of Watertown Fire Chief,” but after two months on the job Ronald Weavel has done more than his share in spreading the responsibility of running the department to his 20-man staff.  “No one person is running the department anymore.  This is a 20-man department,” said Weavel, a Rockford, Ill., fire lieutenant before being named Watertown fire chief last December.  “When I first came here, I told them (the staff) if you want to get involved, you can get involved.  And that's what they've done.  We've got 20 quality guys here, all willing to work.”  What Weavel has done is not reduce his workload.  His day is still filled with administrative duties - conferences with his men, state fire officials and perhaps a neighboring fire department.   WDT


03 16       It sure didn't take long for the Watertown Fire Department's newest piece of equipment to prove its effectiveness.  Firemen Thursday afternoon used a 1,200 gallon per minute water deluge gun to virtually disintegrate an ice jam off the North Second Street bridge, freeing water which was rising at a rate of one foot per hour.  Ice jams continued this morning in the area of the Division Street bridge, City Engineer Edward Bennett said.  With temperatures expected to climb into the 40s today and through the weekend, however, Bennett expected almost all of the jams to break up naturally.   WDT


03 28       Ruling out arson, Watertown fire officials today say they are still unsure on what started a blaze at Loeb Industries' metal processing facility early Saturday evening.  The metal processing plant, one of two Loeb buildings at 1111 South Tenth Street, sustained extensive smoke damage throughout and fire damage to its west side receiving end, where officials believe the fire started.  The plant and adjacent office building were unoccupied at the time of the blaze.   WDT


10 03       It was November 1985 when Ronald Weavel promised progressiveness as he took the helm at the Fire Department.  Almost one year later, the progress may be a little slower than expected but the commitment hasn’t waned.  June 1, 1987, appears to be D-Day for the Watertown Fire Department.  That’s when the insurance service officers are expected to come to the city and see if the fire department, with the water department, deserves a class three fire protection rating.  The class three would mean a two-class jump from the department’s present class five rating.  WDT



12 06       Members of the Watertown Fire Department may begin an advanced training program next year that would increase the lifesaving abilities of the emergency medical squad.  EMT coordinator Mike Knope said the department has applied for state approval of the training program, which is an intermediate level for emergency medical technicians.  If the state determines that the city has a need for more highly trained EMTs, the instruction probably will begin next spring.  “What this is going to do is give us the authority and capabilities to perform better on the emergency scene,” Fire Chief Ronald Weavel said. The training would be provided by the Madison Area Technical College in conjunction with Watertown Memorial Hospital.  The hospital would serve as the medical control or adviser when fire personnel begin using the advanced techniques, probably next fall.  WDT



01 12       Officials at Watertown Memorial Hospital are studying a letter from Mayor David R. Lenz that suggests that the hospital begin a service that would transport patients from Watertown to other hospitals in an emergency.  The Watertown Emergency Medical Service provides transportation within the city to Watertown Memorial Hospital, but does not transport people to hospitals outside of the city, except in life-or-death situations.  In severe cases, Flight for Life from Milwaukee and Med Flight from Madison provide transportation.  Non-emergency transportation is available from Pederson Funeral Home and FISH, a volunteer service for the elderly.  WDT


08 20       Fire Chief Ronald Weavel has been named president of the newly formed Jefferson County Fire Chiefs’ Association.  Weavel said the organization hopes to promote coordination among the county’s 13 fire departments to provide more efficient fire protection for Jefferson County.  “What we’re hoping to do is get more involved so that we will be able to advance the service (in the county),” Weavel said.  The association, which held its first meeting in July, will be looking at several areas of cooperation, including cooperative purchasing, standardization of mutual aid system and programs for advance officer training.   WDT


09 10       Emergency personnel remove an injured passenger from a single-engine airplane that crashed just south of Watertown Municipal Airport in a field west of River Drive at approximately noon today.  Preliminary reports indicated that five people were injured and transported to Watertown Memorial Hospital.  The plane was a Piper Cherokee 6.   WDT


11 13       Watertown’s emergency medical personnel have started a training program that will allow them to handle a wider variety of emergency situations.  A total of 11 fire department personnel are studying intermediate-level emergency medical techniques, a 22-week program that will greatly enhance the lifesaving skills of the city’s EMS squad.  “I think it’s something that is going to save lives,” said Fire Chief Ronald Weavel.  “It’s a step toward advancing and providing better emergency care for the community.”  Currently, Watertown EMTs are certified to handle basic life support situation.  However, out of 701 EMS runs in 1987, about 498 or 71 percent of the situations called for treatment beyond what the basic life support skills could provide.   WDT



05 29       D&L PALLET FIRE

TOWN OF WATERTOWN — Firefighters battled strong winds and intense heat while extinguishing a pallet fire just south of the city limits Wednesday.  The fire destroyed about 20,000 pallets at a storage area owned by D&L Pallet Inc. on County Trunk Y, according to plant foreman Bob Vogel.  He said the loss included four trailers used for storage.  Officials from the Watertown Fire Department are investigating the cause of the fire, which was reported by a resident of the area at about 4 p.m.  “When we arrived, the pallets were totally involved (in flames),” said Capt. Dennis Schramm.  “With the wind, the fire was hard to control,” he added.   WDT


12 16       DUN-IN TAVERN FIRE

TOWN OF MILFORD — Fire caused extensive damage to the kitchen of the Dun-In Tavern, N8004 County Trunk A, Tuesday night.  According to a report from the Watertown Fire Department, the fire started from grease in a deep-fat fryer in the kitchen.  Owner Don Schroeder attempted to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, but was unable to contain the blaze.  Several customers were in the business at the time, but were able to evacuate without incident.  Firefighters battled the fire in bitter-cold temperatures, which dipped to about zero degrees.  When they arrived, flames were visible from the northeast corner of the building.   WDT




The city’s firefighters’ union has filed a complaint against the city of Watertown over its proposed employee substance abuse policy.  Michael Knope, president of the local firefighters’ union, said the union believes the policy should be negotiated as part of its contract with the city.  The firefighters are serving under the second and final year of their current contract.  “It was a negotiable subject and they failed to negotiate it,” he said.   WDT



In an attempt to alleviate a manpower shortage in the city fire department, the Watertown Common Council voted, 8-1, to hire three additional firefighters/emergency medical technicians.  By hiring additional personnel, the council hopes to substantially reduce the number of overtime wages paid to firefighters.  For example, during the most recent city payroll summary, the department used 198.25 overtime hours from June 14 through June 27.  From May 29 to June 12, firefighters logged 246.75 overtime hours.  Part of the problem is caused by a staff reduced by people on disability leave, retirement, training sessions and vacation.  In addition, the number of calls for assistance, particularly for emergency medical help, has increased steadily in recent years.   WDT



Several acts of vandalism this week have raised some serious concerns among the Watertown water and fire department staffs.  For the past two nights fire hydrants have been opened illegally and left running, according to Michael Olesen, water department manager.  He said, “This is extremely dangerous and puts the city’s fire protection in jeopardy.  It can place us in a situation of not having enough water in the towers for industrial and home use, and certainly not enough to fight a major fire.”


Wednesday between 5:05 a.m. and 6:14 a.m. hydrants at Harvey and Thomas avenues, Sunset and Thomas avenues, Kossuth and Williow streets and Ninth and Clyman streets were opened.  Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. one was opened at West and Dayton streets, and at 1:20 a.m. they were opened at Brian Court, Harvey and Thomas avenues, Sunset and Harvey avenues, two on Twelfth Street in front of Webster School, and one on top of the hill at Richards Avenue. Although the hydrants were open less than half an hour, Olesen said the level of water in the towers dropped by 12 feet and over 150,000 gallons of water were lost.  WDT




City officials are considering upgrading Watertown’s emergency medical service with paramedic training for nine people.  The firefighters’ union asked the city’s finance committee to authorize the start-up cost of $36,000, spread over the next two years.  The estimate includes $14,000 for equipment, $13,500 for training and $6,720 for overtime.  Local union president Michael Knope said paramedic training would allow emergency medical technicians to provide “top-of-the-line care” to Watertown residents.  “It would undoubtedly save more lives,” he said.  “That’s been proven nationwide with any studies, particularly for cardiac patients.”   WDT



Paramedic service will be provided to Watertown area residents by early 1993 once emergency medical technicians complete training authorized by the Watertown Common Council Monday night.  Council members voted unanimously to authorize training and equipment costs for the program.  The city will pay half of the estimated $40,000 needed for training and equipment and the other half will be paid by the four townships served by the fire department — towns of Emmet, Milford, Shields and Watertown.  The costs will be spread over two years.  Paramedic training will equip emergency medical technicians with the skills necessary to provide more advanced cardiac care to heart patients, including more sophisticated defibrillation.  The equipment costs include the purchase of two new defibrillators.   WDT



The finance committee of the Watertown Common Council is recommending a change in the way fire captains are compensated.  The committee Monday evening recommended that fire captains be allowed to take up to 75 hours a year of comp time and after that point be paid for the overtime on straight time wage levels.  Under the present rules, fire captains are not allowed overtime pay.  As a result, all overtime is taken out as comp time.  This has had two negative effects.  First, in some instances firefighters are receiving more compensation then their supervisors, and second, the supervisors are often not working in their assigned duties because they are off on comp time.   WDT




Paramedic training for nine members of the Watertown Fire Department will be completed in one year instead of two, thus allowing the service to be provided by the end of this year.  In a special meeting Monday night, the Watertown Common Council voted 9-2 to authorize the additional expense for training all nine members this year instead of spreading the costs out over two years as originally planned.  The resolution was opposed by council members Myron Moldenhauer and Randal Behlke.  Aldermen John Buckley and Gerhard Maron were not present.    WDT



Watertown Fire Chief Ronald Weavel said a proposed reorganization of the department will improve administrative operations without affecting emergency services to the community.  “Our response time (to emergencies) is not going to be any different than what it has been in the past,” Weavel told the Daily Times.  The city’s 1993 budget proposal for the fire department reflects a reorganization of the work force.  Currently, one of the department’s three captains is on duty during a 24-hour shift.  The crew also has one lieutenant and five firefighters/emergency medical technicians.    WDT



Starting today, paramedic service will be available to residents of the Watertown area.  Nine firefighters are starting the last leg of their paramedic training with on-the-job instructors in Watertown.  The training program calls for each student to complete eight 24-hour ride-along shifts under the supervision of an instructor in Watertown.  Previously, the students finished 10 shifts of field training with paramedic instructors at the Madison Fire Department.  With the completion of the paramedic training, the Watertown Fire Department will be able to provide the highest level of emergency medical service available.  Previously, the department offered intermediate emergency medical service.    WDT




The Paramedics service officially started on January 13, 1993.  With the completion of the paramedic training, the Watertown Fire Department, under the leadership of Chief Ronald Weavel, was able to provide the highest level of emergency medical service available.  Previously, the department offered intermediate emergency medical service.



The Watertown firefighters union today blasted a finance committee recommendation designed to reduce department overtime.  The finance committee of the Watertown Common Council voted Thursday evening to recommend a policy which would reduce overtime costs to the city.  However, the union claims that policy would be dangerous to the safety of residents served by the department.  Patrick Theder, union president, said, “Union officials present at the finance committee meeting expressed their ongoing concern with dangerously low levels of staffing and for primary responses, both fire and EMS.  In truth, all the Watertown Fire Department has at present staffing levels is a token force that may be incapable of stopping the spread of a major fire in the early minutes when it really counts.”



Watertown Fire Chief Ronald Weavel today announced his resignation from the department, effective Jan. 15, 1994.  The chief submitted his letter of resignation today to Gary Smith, chairman of the Watertown Fire and Police Commission.  Weavel, who became Watertown’s fire chief on Jan. 1, 1986, said he has accepted a position in the private sector.  Previously, he was a lieutenant on the Rockford Fire Department.  Mayor Fred Smith said he anticipates the commission will take a “deliberate and careful approach” to finding a successor to Weavel, similar to its search this summer in hiring Police Chief Charles McGee.



In an attempt to keep overtime costs in line while ensuring safety, the Watertown Finance Committee has recommended changes in the fire department’s call-in policy.  The panel looked at the policy following reorganization of the department during the 1993 budget deliberations last fall. The Watertown Common Council decided not to replace a retiring captain, one of three employed by the department.  The two remaining captains were taken off their 24-hour shifts and placed on the day shift.  During budget discussions, concerns about staffing were expressed by fire union officials, particularly for the night hours when the captains aren’t on duty.



In times of tragedy only one thing matters.  That everyone survives.  Worldly items suddenly don’t matter — the value of human life is paramount.  A local group is spearheading a project designed to ensure that in a house fire, everyone in the family — young and old — gets out alive.  It’s called the Survive Alive Fire Safety House.  The Watertown Kiwanis have been working behind the scenes for months, collecting donations for the miniature home, which is used to simulate a house fire.  The two-story home comes complete with smoke and electricity.



Watertown Fire Captain Dick Gallup has been appointed acting fire chief, effective Jan. 15, according to Mayor Frederick Smith.  Gallup will assume command of the department when Fire Chief Ronald Weavel leaves.  Weavel announced his resignation earlier in December to accept a position in the private sector.  Smith said he appointed Gallup at this time so that he can work with Weavel to familiarize himself with his new duties.  “It will give a sense of continuity to the people who will be working under an acting chief for perhaps several months,” Smith said.  “I think he’ll do a fine job.”  Gallup, who joined the department in October 1970, was appointed captain in January 1992 following the retirement of Capt. Dennis Schramm.  Gallup became lieutenant in April 1984.



01 15       CHIEF RON WEAVEL SR., CHIEF 1985-1994

ROCKTON, Ill. — Rockton fire Chief Ron Weavel Sr., who has served nearly five decades in fire protection, retired January 12, 2009, from the Ronkton, IL fire department.


Weavel, 68, was the fire chief of the Watertown Fire Department from December of 1985 to January of 1994.


Weavel’s career began in 1958 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was offered the opportunity to work at the Great Lakes Naval Station’s Fire Department in North Chicago.  When Weavel’s military career ended honorably in July 1962, he continued to work at the naval fire station as a civilian worker and was later employed with the Beloit Fire Department in Wisconsin for a short period of time.  He started working with the Rockford Fire Department as a lieutenant in October of 1966.


He then moved to Watertown, Wis., with his family in 1985 to take his first position as chief.  In 1994, he became chief of the Rockton Fire Protection District.


In a January 13, 2009, article in the Watertown Daily Times Weavel said he is proud of his time with the Watertown Fire Department and that he was pleased with the ways relationships were established with the city’s water and police departments.  “With the water department, we improved the insurance services office’s fire defense rating,” Weavel said.  “We accomplished that in a timely fashion.  “The biggest memory I have is being able to see the department take off and really start going into the future,” he added.  “The firefighters took a hold of the department, ran with it and we got the paramedic program established when I was there.”


Weavel said one of the factors that resulted in him leaving Watertown for Rockton was the controversy surrounding a delayed response to an activated fire alarm at Marquardt Manor [1992].  Weavel added if it was not for this incident he probably would have stayed in Watertown until he decided to retire.   WDT



02 10       MICHAEL J. KNOPE, 1960-1996   WDT

Watertown firefighter/paramedic Michael J. Knope, 35, died from injuries suffered in a snowmobile accident in Langlade County.  A member of the department for 11 years, he was instrumental in the development of the paramedic program in the city.



The Watertown Fire Department recently hired four new firefighter/paramedics, including three as part of an expansion of the staff authorized by the Watertown Common Council for 1997.  The other firefighter/paramedic will take the place of firefighter Wayne Kugler, who retired from the department on Jan. 1 after more than 24 years of service.  Kugler began his career in October 1972.  He was a journeyman firefighter and a Wisconsin State Certified Fire Inspector.  His most current duties were apparatus driver/operator and fire inspector.   WDT


08 25       FLOOR OF ENGINE HOUSE   

A report has placed serious doubts on the ability of the fire department’s floor to hold heavy vehicles, especially the two tankers.  In response, fire Chief Richard Olson has removed two tankers from the building.  He also may take other vehicles off the floor, perhaps as early as today.  “We’re really between a rock and a hard place,” Olson said.  The report, prepared by Westbrook Associated Engineers of Spring Green, expresses serious concerns about the structural soundness of the floor due to deterioration.  In addition, the maximum design capacity of the floor may not be adequate for the department’s heavier vehicles, the report indicates.   WDT



03 22       WAYNE KUGLER RETIREMENT / Four new Firefighter/Paramedics

The Watertown Fire Department recently hired four new firefighter/paramedics, including three as part of an expansion of the staff authorized by the Watertown Common Council for 1997. The other firefighter/paramedic will take the place of firefighter Wayne Kugler, who retired from the department on Jan. 1 after more than 24 years of service. Kugler began his career in October 1972. He was a journeyman firefighter and a Wisconsin State Certified Fire Inspector. His most current duties were apparatus driver/operator and fire inspector.   WDT



The cost for filling the area underneath a portion of the Watertown Fire Department’s floor is $76,231. If the city proceeds with the project, the public works committee of the Watertown Common Council recommended hiring West Bend/American Building Systems for the work.  The firm submitted the low bid of three received by the city. The other bids, considered by the panel at Tuesday’s meeting, were from Burkel Construction, $78,000; and T.V. John and Sons, $116,400. The city is considering filling the southern portion of the area underneath the fire department with concrete as a way to increase the load carrying capacity of the floor.  WDT



A proposal to fill the area underneath the fire department floor to increase the load carrying capacity of the building was defeated by the Watertown Common Council Tuesday. The council voted 5-3 against hiring West Bend/American Building Systems for $76,231 to fill the portion of the basement underneath the department’s floor. The fire department has not been storing its heaviest vehicles in the fire station since last year, when it was determined that the floor was not designed to hold vehicles weighing more than 30,000 pounds. In addition, deterioration of the floor has led officials to believe that the actual load capacity has been reduced further.   WDT



Expansion of the fire station to the south is the main option being considered for solving the department’s vehicle storage needs. The public works committee of the Watertown Common Council has directed fire Chief Richard Olson to prepare a document to request proposals for possible construction. The document would outline the scope of the work to be done and request bids. Olson said the committee wants more information on this possible solution, which was favored over two other alternatives given to the panel. He noted that a final recommendation has not been made at this point.   WDT



Expansion of the station has been recommended by the public works committee of the Watertown Common Council.  The committee endorsed the construction of a building addition, 28 feet by 60 feet, in the south driveway of the fire station.  The addition will have room for storage of four of the department's largest vehicles.  Currently, the department is unable to store its heaviest equipment in the fire station because the floor's load capacity is inadequate.  The floor, which is deteriorated, wasn't designed to hold the larger fire vehicles being built these days.    WDT


08 18       Lenius building fire    WDT



07 11       All fire hydrants sandblasted and repainted   WDT

08 13       Larry E. Sterwald, 1938-1998   WDT

09 30        Henry Butts started as captain in the training division of the WFD   WDT

11 25       A railroad engine spilled more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel near a wetlands area    WDT



05 15       Largest volume of calls received since first formed, Q1 1999   WDT




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin