Chester Volunteer Fire Department
Inception-The first fire department was formed in 1898, but did not succeed due to poor organization, lack of leadership, and poor funding. There were eight fires in that year. The current department began with an organizational meeting on January 5, 1914. Temporary officers were elected to serve until the next meeting. On January 12, 1914 John Allison was chosen the first fire chief during the January 5th meeting and John Hobbs was chosen as President. Alex Newha was chosen for the position of Captain, Nick Swartz as Assistant Captain, Allie Kirkwood as Lineman, John Dolby and Donald Allison as “Plug-men,” Lawrence Brown and Robert Melby as “ Hose-men.” J.C. Cunningham was chosen for Treasurer. Walter Allison was Secretary. It is widely known John Hobbs was Chester’s first fire chief. However, at the initial organizational meeting, John Allison was appointed temporary chief. Mr. Hobbs was indeed the first elected chief. After Mr. Allison resigned July 16, 1914, Mr. Hobbs was appointed temporary chief by a vote of the floor.
At the January 12,1914 meeting it was decided to keep the temporary officers on a yearly basis, at which time elections would be held. The first fire department piece of equipment was a hose cart kept in a garage on Fairview Road. There were 25 members officially listed on the fire department charter. At that January 12, 1914 meeting it was approved to purchase an alert system at a cost of $75.71(equipment bought and installed). The system consisted of wire cables strung from the station to the senior officer’s homes, with dry cell batteries. A “buzzer” was then sounded to their homes when there was a fire call. This was before the city even had electricity. The fire chief expressed a need to be able to alert ALL firefighters of a call and so a large bell was approved for purchase to be kept outside the station and manually tapped when there was a fire.
At the July16, 1914 meeting the department by-laws were passed and also adopted. First department badges were approved. The resignation of John Allison as chief was accepted and a unanimous vote for John Hobbs as fire chief was accepted.
August 20, 1914 meeting- hose cart location on Fairview Road moved to city hall location on fourth and Indiana Avenue. Ruling was passed on sounding of fire bell in city to state “the bell will be tapped the number of times to coincide with the number of the street closest to the fire… for example 5 rings will signify the fire is close to fifth street. The bell will NOT be sounded
for any other reason than a fire call”.
January 1915- the first fund-raiser was announced- a euchre tournament. (Profits from this brought in nearly $67.50- a sizeable amount in those times.) A Minstrel play fund-raiser was planned also for later in the spring. The combined profits of these two fund-raisers were earmarked towards the purchase of the first motorized fire truck. Ordered in early 1916 and received March 5th, 1917. It was from Lafrance equipment.