The History of the Lake Park Fire Department

According to records, the first session of the Fire Department was held in the room of the power house in Lake Park on May 18, 1903. The meeting was called to order by Wm. Retting, who was elected chief at the same meeting. A total of seventeen members were enrolled as members of the department and they included: Bob Green, H. Thompson, F. Flint, Ed Starr, F. Schrier, K. Chrysler, A Hamman, John Siehl, B. Denkman, C. Weaver, Wm. Retting, W. A Leonard, O. Schnuser, H. Ekiny, I. Bames, A Miller, and L. Benson.

Between the first organizational meeting in May of 1903, and November of the same year, much time was spent raising funds for a hose cart, fire bell, coats and hats, etc.

On November 18, 1903, the fire department answered its first call, which occurred during the early hours of the morning. Although the building, one of S.G. Palmers, was lost in the fire, the official record reads "the company did as good as could be expected under the circumstances, and encouraged by the people, did splendid work." In spite of the fact that Palmer's building was not saved, the adjoining building was saved by the firemen, and the owner of the establishment donated $20 to the company for additional supplies.

During the early years of the Lake Park Fire Department, members were fined 25 cents for every unexcused absence. Besides, they received no compensation for their volunteer labors.

It wasn't until 20 years later, in 1923, that the fire department purchased its first fire truck. The truck cost was just under $500, and the department stood half of the cost, with the town paying the other half.

In June of 1933, the fire department disposed of their old fire truck, and purchased a new one, after nearly a year of study and meetings with the town council.

The most disastrous fire in the history of Lake Park completely destroyed the J.F. Anderson Lumber Co. Yards, the former Sindt Elevator (which had been recently purchased by Farmers Exchange) the Rock Island Depot, the household goods of station agent J.B. Price, the Rock Island water tank, windmill, pump house and two box cars in the early morning hours of July 16, 1936.

Although the exact origin of the fire, which caused an estimated $58,000 loss in property, was not determined, it appeared to have started in the northwest corner of the Anderson lumberyard shed and spread rapidly to the other buildings. According to the story in the Lake Park News, "a northerly wind and heroic efforts of the local fire department prevented the conflagration from entering the upper business blocks of the community."

The great amount of combustible material feeding the fire created flames of great height that illuminated the night in elaborate fashion. The brightened sky was visible at Estherville, 28 miles to the east and many from other towns were attracted here by the huge flames.

The second largest fire in the history of Lake Park occurred on December 3, 1963, when fire completely destroyed the Playdium Bowling Alley facilities and building owned by Elmer Larson. Five other businesses also received damage as a result of the fire. To the north of the bowling alley at the State Theatre, the fire burned the tar from the roof, but it stopped at the insulation, and the firemen were able to put out the blaze. Also in the theatre building was the Lake Park Department Store. Smoke and water damage caused an estimated $12,000 loss. Other businesses also received smoke and water damage during the fire. The firemen, including departments from Spirit Lake and Harris, fought the fire most of the morning, and the local department remained at the building for most of the afternoon.

In December of 1955, and again in March of 1966, Johnson's D-X Service Station was completely gutted by fire, and each time rebuilt. The 1966 fire caused an estimated $27,000 damage to the business, and the business was reopened for business within a week of the blaze.

Other large fires to mention of importance are Arco Dehydrating Plant, The Lake Park City Maintenance Equipment Building in 1980, The Jaycox International Harvester Farm Equipment Building in 1984, The Pub Tavern in 1988, the Concordia Lutheran Church Parsonage in 1989 and the downtown fire in December 2008 that destroyed three buildings and damaged the post office (see also: Fire destroys three buildings, damages Post Office).

The summer of 1979 was a busy time for the department as they studied plans and specifications for a new 750-gallon-per-minute pumper and also a new fire station with adjoining community room. Some of the interior finish work of the new fire station was done by donated labor from the volunteer firemen themselves. From 2016 to 2017, the Fire Station was remodeled with new siding, doors and sign. Again, as in 1979, members of the department donated their time to give the station a much needed facelift.

In 2003, the Fire Department celebrated 100 years of service to the community and the surrounding areas.

Today, the Fire Department continues to provide protection to the areas in and around Lake Park. The fire district encompasses approximately 80 square miles in northwest and western Dickinson County and approximately 20 square miles in the Sioux Valley area of Jackson County, Minnesota. The department is manned by approximately 25 volunteer members.