Local newspapers reported a fire in early 1888 on the roof of “Tidball and Neill’s building on 13th Street.” Rescue efforts removed goods from storefronts of the wood-frame buildings, which eventually burned down. No mention was made of a fire department at that time.
The Crete Volunteer Fire Department was formed in August 1888 with charter members: John Kerst, Emmett Beavers, Jim Linch, Ike Hudson, Bill Fulmer, Frank Casterline, Sid Fry, Frank Osborne, Let Goodwin, Perry Talley, Tom Quinn, Fred Church, Odd VanLoon, Mich Moore, George Rergate, John Hoelter, Bill Littner and Nich Sheer.
The early department had 750 feet of hose, one nozzle, and a hand drawn cart in their arsenal of equipment. In 1892 the department purchased a hook and ladder hand drawn wagon.
First fire truck
The first motorized truck was purchased in 1919. A second pumper truck with a 500 gallon capacity was bought in 1928. Another truck came in 1936. The fire department housed their equipment in a garage bay of City Hall after it was built in 1939.
A 1948 rural pumper truck was built by then-chief, Bill Weidner, and member Rosey Rozdalovksy.
The current station was built in 1966. Department equipment included two rural trucks, pumper truck, rescue squad and a tanker truck with a 15,000 gallon capacity. Just prior to two major events in 1969, the department purchased an aerial truck.
On Feb. 18, 1969 a Burlington freight train derailed and hit three anhydrous ammonia tank cars on the side track on West 13th Street, near Unona Ave. The neighborhoods west of Main Ave. from 17th Street south to 1st Street were evacuated.
Crete firemen responded to what they initially thought was a propane explosion. When they entered the area the fog “was so thick that firemen had to walk in front of vehicles to guide them in order to stay on the road.” They went house to house checking residents and used speakers for evacuation warnings.
Firemen used personal air packs to enter the affected areas as well as packs from the Crete Mills, National Guard and surrounding rescue units. Twelve area departments came in to help rescue and relief efforts. Nine people died as a result of the incident.
Ten days later, in the early morning of Feb. 28, 1969, a fire started in Merrill Hall on the Doane College campus along Boswell Ave. The college’s first building, a center of campus activity and organization, burned nearly to the ground, leaving only remnants of its 1879 brick walls.
In 1988, the department and over 840 guests gathered for a barbecue to celebrate the 100th anniversary. The department’s 1946 LaFrance pumper truck was restored for the 125th anniversary barbecue and dance held at Tuxedo Park in 2013.
Three members of CVFD have achieved 50 years of membership. They are the late Alvin “Rosey” Rozdalovksy and the late Clarence “Kipe” Busboom, and current member Chuck Vyhnalek.