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Home > Exhibitions > 100 Years of Service: The Muscatine Fire Department

100 Years of Service: The Muscatine Fire Department

May 21 - TBD October, 2016

100 Years of Service: The Muscatine Fire Department

Significant local fires in the mid-1800s were combated by Muscatine citizens who filled countless buckets of water to suppress the flames. A single fire in June of 1865 destroyed fifteen buildings in Muscatine. The high school burned down in 1868 followed by a grain elevator in 1869. Businesses and homes were lost in Muscatine. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 led many to question if a fire could devastate a city with a professional fire department, what would happen to towns with only a bucket brigade? 

On January 7, 1875, forty-eight men led by Gustav Schmidt formed Muscatine’s first volunteer fire company. The volunteers took on the name, Champion Chemical Fire Co. Some other well-known volunteer departments included Rescue Hose Co., Relief Hose Co., Excelsior Hose Co., and the Hershey Hose Co.

In 1913, P. M. Musser gifted the first motorized fire truck in Muscatine. The city of Muscatine replaced 500 volunteers with a chief and 12 men beginning January 3, 1916. The professional crew was soon tested. On January 15th, a fire broke out at the corner of Second Street and Iowa Avenue. Although the building was lost, the professionals fought heroically to prevent the blaze from spreading to the rest of the block.

In the 100 years since the fire on that cold day in January, the Muscatine Fire Department has experienced changes large and small such as the addition (and eventual closing) of the “Central Fire Station” at 308 Sycamore Street and the introduction of many technologies. Mike Van Wey, retired fireman and author of Muscatine Fire Department: 128 Years of Dedication, suitably summarized that “the desire to give the citizens of Muscatine the highest possible level of service” is what unites the Muscatine fire department of the past, present, and future.

Mike Van Wey will also give two presentations on the History of the Muscatine Fire Department.  The first will be Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 5:30 P.M. and the second on July 14, 2016 at 5:30 P.M.  There will be special visits by the Muscatine  Firefighters at the Annual Ice Cream on June 26, between 1:00 - 4:00 P.M.  The Summer For Tots classes are going to learn about fire safety and about the Muscatine Fire Department.  

The exhibition is on view May 21 -TBD October, 2016.