Note: Wisconsin Dells Events - Thursday, September 9, 1982, Vol. 87, no. 11, was dedicated to the Delton Fire Department and its members. The article below, concerning the history of the department, was included in the publication.

History of the Delton Fire Department

The year was 1932. Most of America was still in the grip of the depression which followed the 1929 stock market crash; Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in the November elections; the city of Kilbourn had just, a year before, changed its name to Wisconsin Dells and the community in and around the Township of Delton was growing, and quite proud that had it been selected to be the site of the new Dell View Hotel, one of the grandest vacation resorts at that time, build in about 1928. The Village of Lake Delton would not be incorporated for another 42 years. On February 2, 1932, the Delton Fire Department was organized.

The new department consisted of only six men and one-third of a fire truck. According to Ember Adams, the only one of the original six members to be alive today, the Delton Department owned the truck with the Kilbourn (Wisconsin Dells) Fire Department and the Newport Fire Department.

"If we had a fire, the men from the Dells would bring it over here, but then we would have to go back to the Dells to hang the wet hoses and somehow find a way back to Delton," Adams said.

Other members of the early six-man organization included Bill Cole, Ed Gorman, Charles Retzlaff, and Clarence and Glen Simons. Cole was the Chief of the group.

The total sum of the department's property remained one-third of a truck until 1944 when the Town of Delton board voted the department some ropes and a ladder and a trailer to haul the ladder and some pike poles.

According to Mort Rodwell, a longtime member of the fire department, the Town board action came following an incident in which the firemen tried to save a drowning victim but were unable to because they lacked the necessary equipment.

Also in 1944, the Sarrington Construction Company (presently known as Scott Construction) gave the firemen the use of a water truck for several months of the year. This action allowed the department to become independent of the Dells and they received their own charter in the fall of 1944, having operated under the Dells charter until that time.

The following spring, in 1945, the department bought the water truck from Sarrington Construction. When the department first started using the truck, they stored it in Bill Cole's garage, then at a building at McBoyle's airport (which still stands across the street from the Dell View Golf Course).

In about 1949 the department bought its first rescue vehicle which was an old Packard funeral hearse, previously owned by Fedderly Funeral Home of Wisconsin Dells.

"We started using the town garage to store the truck, then when the township built a new garage in 1951 they gave us two stalls in the old part to store our water truck and a new Persh Pumper, which we had purchased from the Dells Fire Department in 1950," Adams said.

When the town built its own garage outside of the village of Lake Delton - which became incorporated in September 1974 - they gave the fire department the entire building. The fire department then shared the building with the Lake Delton Police Department until 1974 when the Village Hall was completed." After Lake Delton became a Village, the Department continued to serve both the Village and the Town of Delton and maintained the name Delton Fire Department.

As the years went by the department gradually added to its firefighting and rescue equipment. In 1961 they purchased a Ford van to carry firemen to fires, then later turned it into a rescue vehicle. This vehicle and the next one purchased, a 1969 Suburban, purchased jointly by the Town and the Village, were both made obsolete when the state enacted new regulations for rescue vehicles.

The Department's first state approved rescue vehicle was purchased from West Baraboo in 1976. Later in 1982 when the Town and Village purchased a more modern ambulance, the vehicle purchased from West Baraboo was used as a back-up. In the fall of 1972, the Lake Delton Lions presented the department with a snowmobile and rescue sled and in 1979 they presented the department with "The Jaws of Life," a piece of rescue equipment which is used to dissect vehicles to allow rescuers to help people trapped inside.

In 1961, the department purchased a 750 gal. pumper, in 1969 a used tanker, in the spring of 1974 the Legion bought the department a tanker and in 1980 the department purchased a 750 gal. pumper. At the present time the department owns nine vehicles, two 750 gal. pumpers, two 1800 gal. tankers, one rescue unit, one brush/grass fire unit, one utility vehicle/chief's car and two ambulances.

One of the worst fires ever fought by the Delton Fire Department occurred in June of 1932 at the Morris Hotel, during the department's first year of operation. Although the firemen were assisted by the Dells fire department, the large two-story hotel, located on Xanadu Road, at the present site of Camp Delton, could not be saved.

Another fire, considered by those who remember it to be the department's worst, occurred in February of 1956 at Timme's Mill, which was located on Mirror Lake, next to the Mirror Lake Dam. According to Ember Adams, the fire was so hot the Delton firemen and others who had come to assist from Reedsburg, Baraboo, Rock Springs, Roxbury, Lyndon, Badger, and the Dells, could not get near the fire.

"In addition," he said, "it had been a very dry winter and there was no snow on the ground so sparks kept setting the surrounding woods on fire, making our job even more difficult." The fire destroyed the mill and a grain elevator and damaged the bridge over the Mirror Lake dam.

Other large fires fought by the department included the Reedsburg Big Store fire in 1959, which Delton firemen helped to fight for ten and one-half hours; the Reedsburg Woolen Mill fire, in March of 1968 and several fires fought at a place called the Purple Grackle or the Cross Bow, fought in 1967 and again in 1974. The Delton firemen also assisted the Dells firemen in their battle, in bitter cold temperatures, against the blaze which took the Crandall Hotel in January of 1974.

As of this date, there are still no fire hydrants in the Village of Lake Delton but the firemen say they can get along without them. There are two old cisterns filled with water under the area of the present fire station which remain from the days when the fire trucks were first stored there. "If we ever run out of water from our two tankers we can always use water from the area's many pools or the lake," Fire Chief Larry Fish said. "The cisterns would be used if the lake was frozen in the winter," he added.

At the present time, the Delton Fire Department consists of 30 members. The firemen meet every first and third Monday night at the Firemen's Drill Hall and take part in community activities as well as serve it.

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