Through the Years

The Fertile Fire Department was organized in 1910. Historical data on the department prior to 1935 are meager and sketchy. The original wooden fire hall and bell tower stood about where the present siren tower stands. Around 1912 this tower blew over. It was then moved to the site of the present fire hall. The present fire siren was purchased in about 1925.

Fire equipment in the early 1900's consisted of hose carts pulled by volunteer firemen. Later, these were pulled by horses. An agreement was made with the two draymen, John Droppo and Eric Grinde that the one who got to the fire hall first with his team, received $1.00 for pulling the hose cart to the fire. A chemical cart was also acquired for small fires.

Later, the fire hall was the brick pump house next to the wooden water tank. This tank was replaced by the present steel tank in 1927. Also around 1927, a used Model T truck was purchased by the village. It was rebuilt by O.O. Kvenvolden, Ford dealer, and Oscar Brunsberg, mechanic, into a fire truck to haul the hoses and firemen.

In the early years operating funds were raised by the firemen putting on Fireman's Ball dances, masquerade parties, and basket socials, with Joe Rasmus as auctioneer. They also solicited donations from business men when the treasury became real low. John Droppo, drayman, was chief and H.A. Malmberg, banker, was the secretary during this era. J.B. Austinson, lawyer, was also secretary, taking over from H.A. Malmberg.

In 1934, the village council purchased a new Ford V8 fire truck from Oscar Brunsberg, a pub, agent for the Alderman Mattson Ford Co., of Crookston, and the Luverne Fire Apparatus Co. of Luverne, MN. This was a tremendous step for our little town and a source of pride. The hose carts were discontinued and the chemical cart was retired in 1935. Wilbur Hoadley, barber, was a chief, and Solon Gullickson, Implement Dealer, was secretary-treasurer in 1935 when records became available.

The Minnesota State Fire Department Convention was held in Crookston in 1937.

The fire department took part in the high school homecoming parade in October 1938. It was about this time that the Fertile Fire Department contacted area townships urging them to buy their own fire truck to be housed in Fertile and manned by local firemen for rural service. This proposal was not accepted.

Ben Bjorgen, Standard Oil bulk agent, replaced Wilbur Hoadley as chief in 1946. Solon Gullickson was re-elected secretary/treasurer.

The Minnesota State Fire Department Convention was held in East Grand Forks in June 1948. Ben Bjorgen, Gaylord Aarness and Earl Erikson were local delegates to this convention.

In 1953 Willard Erickson, Implement Dealer, replaced Ben Bjorgen as chief and Solon Gullickson was re-elected secretary/treasurer

After many meetings, rival fire service contracts were executed with surrounding townships, eventually numbering ten full on part townships in 1954. A used fire truck was purchased from the Crookston Fire Department for our rural service.

In 1956, Willard Erickson was re-elected chief and Earl Erickson replaced Solon Gullickson as secretary/treasurer. In 1957, the Fertile Fire Department asked Village Council for better facilities than the crowded brick pump house we had for many years. Our request was rejected, so the 24 man Village Fire Department took a big step. They organized and incorporated itself as the Fertile Fire Fighters Association Inc., an independent corporation, in order to borrow money to build a suitable fire hall and purchase new equipment to properly serve our community and surrounding townships.

In the summer of 1958, we purchased our number 1, a new Dodge Fire Truck, through Lloyd Hanson Motors and General Safety Equipment Corp. of North Branch, MN for $9,330.85. In the fall of 1958, we contructed the present cement block fire hall, with people of Fertile and the surrounding community. It was a tremendous undertaking that proved what can be done when everyone pulls together as a team. The cost of the building was $5,436.45. In 1958 we started our annual Fireman's Ball for fundraising.

In 1962, we purchased our 4 wheel drive jeep from Jerry Petersen Implement, mainly used for grass fires, for $1,200.00. In 1963, the Fertile Fire Fighters hosted the fall meeting of the Northern Region Fireman's Association. During the night of August 30, 1964, we fought possibly our biggest and most spectacular fire in our history - the G.T.A. elevator, we had assistance form the Crookston, Gary and Ada Fire Departments.

In 1969, we purchased our unit number 2, an I.H.C. Fire Truck through Solon Gullickson Implements and the Forstner Fire Equipment Co. of Madelia, MN for $18,297.00. An innovation was the blaze orange color, instead of the traditional red, the first for this entire area. We sold our 1936 model unit to Beltrami.

In April 1970, new two way radio equipment was installed in the fire hall and fire trucks, replacing used lower power equipment donated by Nordheim Electric a few years before. The cost of the new setup was $1,074.15. In 1972, fire phones to homes of individual firemen were installed. We also acquired a resusitation unit.

In 1973 and 1974, due to stricter state requirements, we had to purchase new fireman’s hats, coats and boots. To purchase this equipment through the years, the Fertile Fire Fighter’s Assn. sponsored many different kinds of promotions, which included dances, snowmobile derbies, raffling of a car, boats and motors, snowmobiles and savings bonds. What we were able to achieve was due in large measure to the wonderful support of Fertile and the surrounding area.

The Fertile Fire Fighters presently serve the townships of Garfield, Garden, Liberty, Godfrey, Woodside, Onstad, Sundal, Bear Park and Spring Creek, either complete or in part. In the last 15 years, the surrounding area townships have benefited in service on an average of 4 rural calls to each city call. The cost per year per township was $125.00 from 1954 to 1960. In 1960 it was $150.00 until 1972 when it was raised to the present $200.00.

The 1975 Fire Department officers are: Fire Chief - Willard Erickson Assistant Chief - Duane Knutson Assistant Chief - Ted Nordheim Secretary/Treasurer - Earl H. Erikson

In 1975 a 4 wheel drive ½ ton pickup was purchased to replace the jeep grass fire fighting unit.

Oct. 22, 23, 24, 25, were the days of the Burlington Northern train derailment and explosion of a propane gas railroad car. Besides the damage to the railroad cars and track, several homes were damaged. Because of the quick response and dedication of the firemen a very bad situation was held under control. Bad as it was we were still lucky because if the right set of circumstances had been triggered, Fertile could have been blown off the map. It was a miracle that no lives were lost. Everyone is thankful for the prompt response and dedication to duty despite the danger to the Fertile Fire Department. We are also thankful to our Mutual Aid Fire Departments for their quick response and dedication despite the danger of further explosions, to the people of Fertile for their cooperation in evacuating the city, to the Sheriff Department and to the Highway Patrolmen. The Fire Department used over 105,000 gallons of water and 564 local man hours. Some firemen were on duty up to 40 hours of continuous duty. Burlington Northern reimbursed the city, fire departments, and local citizens for all expenses.

1976 - Earl Erikson retired after being on the department for 31 1/2 years. He was secretary/treasurer for 20 of these years. A 6X6 army truck was purchased that was to be equipped with tank and pump. This was painted brilliant orange by Willard Erickson. The jeep was raffled off and Kenneth Pederson was the winner.

1977 - Wally Ellegaard retired after 20 years with the department. It was decided to send one fire truck and one pickup fire truck on civil defense calls. The old potato warehouse was burned for a fire drill. New radios were purchased.

1978 - Arnold Berg and Duane Knutson both retired after being on the department for 20 years. Willard Erickson painted and trimmed the 1934 City Fire Truck (Old Betsy) to be used for parades. As Chief for 25 years Willard Erickson resigned from that position and accepted the secretary/treasurer job. The city purchased a used 1964 fire truck from Argyle. Chief Sheldon Bolstad resigned from that position as chief because he was to move from Fertile. Ted Nordheim was elected to replace him as chief.

1979 - The school was asked to keep exit curbs free of parking. July 15th during the Polk County fair the grandstand burned down. This was a disaster. Also lost was a new administration building and the records. Arnold Berg's hamburger stand which was very close to the grandstand escaped with only a small hole in the canvas. There were many chimney fires as people are burning wood for heat due to the high cost of fuel oil. There were several grain dryer fires and the usual grass fires. Donald Ellegard retired after being on the department for 20 years.

1980 - An addition of four stalls with electric doors was built on to the present Fire Hall. This addition cost $60,000.00. The Fertile Fire Fighters Assn. have invested over $100,000.00 in buildings and equipment since incorporating in 1958. The Fire Department is rated "A" for rural fire fighting.

1981 - The air masks were changed to positive pressure. This is a federal requirement. A new air mask was purchased for unit 2 1/2.

1982 - A fire phone was installed in the nursing home for 24 hour answering service. November 20th the Grantham building burned in an early morning fire. The Fox Beauty Salon owned by Julie Bak, a Barber Shop owned by Dan Straus, two apartments and several rooms that were rented were lost in that fire. One life was lost.

1983 - Chester Rice retired from the department after 20 years of service. A city resident died of smoke inhalation in a night fire in his home. A fire department can be called in the case of missing persons from the nursing home. The Harold Larson's lost their home by fire, caused by children playing with fire works in the home.

1984 - An air compressor with a four cylinder cascade system was purchased to refill air tanks. Also purchased were five air tanks, five fire coats, 15 helmets and 20 pairs of mitts.

1985 - New officers were elected. Ken Oien - Chief, Brian Nephew-Assistant Chief, Stuart Christian-Assistant Chief, Rod Risch-Secretary, Jim Smeby-Treasurer. A used 50 foot aerial ladder truck was purchased.

1986 - The 911 phone system is to be completed by December 16, 1986. This includes numbering all farms in our district. There have been many grass, chimney and grain dryer fires through the years.