Fire Department History
Marysville has come a long way since the first days of the logging industry and say mills to the Will-Saint Clair automotive era.
The Village of Marysville was incorporated October 28, 1919. On May 12, 1924, Marysville became a city with a council, manager, and home rule form of government.
The Fire Department, established in 1919, did not receive a motorized fire truck until April 13, 1920. The first fire engine was an American LaFrance; complete with hard rubber tires on wooden spoked wheels. The truck was purchased for $9,250 from the American LaFrance Engine Company of Elmira, New York.
Marysville’s first Fire Chief was Mark Harrington who earned $160 per month and also was supplied with living quarters. The “James House #6”, better known as the Marysville Land Company office, was where the makeshift fire station was located (east of the Detroit Urban Railroad Track on Huron Boulevard). The fire engine was kept in a rear garage behind the Land Company.
During Prohibition Days, it has been said that confiscated alcohol was used in the radiator because it was the closest thing they had to antifreeze.
In 1924, the City erected it’s own fire station. This was known as Marysville Fire Station #2, which was located off Huron Boulevard where the Chrysler Corporation property is today. The wooden structure consisted of no more than a two-car garage where the engine was kept. Full-time Fire Fighter James Nelson and family lived to the rear of City Hall (located across the street). Telephones were used to notify the 15 volunteer fire fighters and a fire whistle was also sounded from City Hall.
Shortly thereafter, the 1920 LaFrance received “brand new” pneumatic air filled tires and was adapted with a booster water tank.
In 1932, the City Fire Department converted a Model T pickup truck into a grass fire truck. The Fire Department at this time consisted of two paid fire fighters and 15 volunteer fire fighters.
In 1933, a new fire station was being erected across the street from Station #1. A labor program called Work Project Administration, initiated by President F.D. Roosevelt, was responsible for the construction of a new fire station. (This program was initiated from 1930-1943 to relieve the national unemployment level.)
The fire station was a 30’ x 50’ two story cement block and brick structure. New brick was used on the outside with used, painted brick on the inside. Plumbing was “state of the art” streamlined copper. The downstairs had the capability of housing two apparatus, one car and a holding cell for law breakers. (The jail cell was carried over from the old Fire Station #1.) The upstairs was a wide open room with one bathroom. It was to be used for town meetings and dances. The new station was occupied in November of 1934, at a cost of $6,500. The old Station #1 was sold and moved to the location that is now Delaware and Gratiot. At this location it was used as a feed store and later a used car dealership.
In 1940, a second fire engine was purchased. It also was an American LaFrance. The department at this time had a paid Fire Chief, James Nelson, Assistant Fire Chief Lenk, one full-time fire fighter and 15 volunteer fire fighters. The Department purchased a 1942 Seagrave fire engine in 1946. This engine was bought for one dollar from the Dow Magnesium Facility (through the United States Government).
Around 1959, an addition was added on the east side of the station to make room for the new rescue truck, a 1959 Dodge. The old 1920 LaFrance became worn out and was cut up and converted into a road grader used by the Department of Public Works. A Department of Public Works employee by the name of Casimir Osentoski, who at the time was a Marysville volunteer fire fighter, did the work. “Cass” went on to become the longest active volunteer fire fighter in the history of the Marysville Fire Department, retiring after 37 years of dedicated service.
In the mid-1960’s, the Department grew to one Fire Chief, one Assistant Fire Chief, three full-time fire fighters, and 15 volunteer fire fighters. Sleeping quarters and offices were added to the upstairs.
In 1964, Mr. Harry Dart of St. Clair Township donated a new Chevrolet rescue truck to the Department.
In 1965, the Department purchased a Ford/LaFrance with a 750 g.p.m. pump that carried 500 gallons of water. The 1940 LaFrance was taken out of service and sold.
On June 15, 1966, the three full-time fire fighters and Assistant Fire Chief became a Union, organized as Marysville Fire Fighters, Local 1635 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The duty shift at the time changed from a 10 hour and 14 hour duty day to a 24 hour shift.
In 1968, the 1942 Seagrave was replaced with a new American LaFrance “Class A” fire engine. This truck was capable of pumping 1,000 g.p.m. and carried 500 gallons of water. The City population at the time was around 5,000 people.
In 1970, the Department grew to six full-time personnel: one Fire Chief, one Assistant Fire Chief, and four full-time fire fighters.
In September of 1976, the City of Marysville became the first community in St. Clair County to initiate the 9-1-1 emergency number. This was also the year the Fire Department purchased a Dodge Van style ambulance. The Department has had State licensed E.M.T.s since 1974, who transport sick or injured people to the hospital.
In 1979, a new Dodge Conversion Unit rescue/ambulance was purchased. The 1964 rescue was retired and given to the Water Department for a utility truck. The Department at this time consisted of one paid Fire Chief, one Assistant Fire Chief, one Lieutenant, seven full-time fire fighters and 20 volunteer fire fighters. The Marysville Fire Department had initiated a Fire Code Division and all full-time personnel and most volunteer fire fighters were trained and certified in the State’s 66 hour fire training program.
Many changes took place in the next five years. All paid fire personnel had completed 240 hours of the advanced fire fighters training at the State level.
A Fire Investigation team was initiated in 1983 with the Marysville Police Department. The Fire Department had 12 personnel trained in medical advanced airway procedures and I.V. therapy. All training took place at Mercy Hospital in Port Huron under the direct supervision of the late Dr. Gordon Gibb. The Marysville Fire Department was the first in St. Clair County to offer limited advanced medical care to its citizens. (The 1985 census was approximately 7,800 people.)
In April of 1986, construction was underway to add 5,000 square feet to the “out grown old fire station”. The main changes included more apparatus space, office space, new restrooms and a new dispatch center.
In February of 1987, the Department received a new Ford Pierce 1250 g.p.m. top mounted pump panel fire engine from Pierce Manufacturing, Appleton, Wisconsin. The truck carries 750 gallons of water, 800 feet of 5″ hose, 750 feet of 2 ½”, one 2 ½ preconnect hose, two 1 ½” preconnects of 200 feet each and 100 feet 1 ½” preconnect (reel hose). The truck also has a mounted 750 g.p.m. deluge monitor on the roof.
In 1989, another first for St. Clair County and the citizens of Marysville was the addition of automatic electronic heart defibrillators to the medical equipment on the ambulance and rescue squad. Specialized equipment with specialized training continued to improve the Marysville Fire Department.
The fire department moved to a new facility in 1997 located at 1355 Delaware Avenue that houses both the police and fire departments.
In 2011 Marysville Fire Department began performing mutual aid to surrounding communities in the event of larger events.
In 2013 the police and fire departments merged to create the Department of Public Safety.
The Fire Department presently houses two engines, two ambulances, one 4-wheel grass fire truck, one fire car, one light water foam trailer and a fire/rescue boat. There presently is a Public Safety Chief, Deputy Public Safety Chief, eight full-time fire fighters and thirteen part paid fire fighters.
Originally submitted by retired firefighter John A. Jeffries.
Edited May 11, 2022
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