Over the past 125 years, the Janesville Fire Department has had a variety of trucks to serve its area.

The Department has used dances, fundraisers, donations from city and rural residents and has even ‘canvassed’ the community asking for financial support. Let’s take a step back in time as we share with you the history of the trucks and apparatus used by the Department.

After a water tower was installed in 1908, the fire department obtained a hand-drawn ladder unit. This was used until 1926, when the City Council and fire department purchased a second hand Jeffries Speedwagon for $900. Minutes from the February 3, 1926 meeting state; “the Janesville Fire Co. is the proud owner of a new motor driven fire truck”.

During 1936 and 1937 an International Truck was researched and purchased for $3,200. Like the first truck, this also was paid for equally by the fire department and the council and was built on a chassis purchased from firefighter J. P. Breuer. It was used for all fires until the need for more rural protection created the push for truck No. 2, a 1940 Chevrolet with a chassis purchased from firefighter Chas. Nyquist.

With the advent of newer farming practices, the need for water in rural areas changed. Discussion on trucks for water supply was introduced.

In 1951 the department purchased another Chevrolet chassis for a water supply truck. Money for the truck came from funds raised by annual dances and from collection of funds from farmers in the vicinity where the department served. It is noted in Department records that, by 1960, the Fire Department served approximately 400 farms (minutes of 12/07/60).

In 1958, a pumper truck was purchased for village use. This 1958 can still be used today and you can see it during the annual Hay Daze parade. In 1961, a Chevy tilt-cab pumper truck was purchased for use in both village and rural fires. This truck was sold to the Toivola Volunteer Fire Department near Duluth when a new pumper was purchased.

In 1978, a used (1967) military truck with four-wheel drive was purchased to be used primarily for rural grass fires. And in 1979 a used (1974) truck chassis and an 1800-gallon tank was purchased to increase the water hauling capacity for rural fires.

In 1980 a larger pumper truck was purchased for $45,000 and took the place of the 1961 Chevy tilt-cab model. This truck served as the primary pumper until a new Ford pumper arrived in 1990 (cost $102,000). Both of these pumpers teamed up for the department for about 15 years until the new 2004 Toyne Pumper was purchased. The Toyne pumper, our primary pumper today, was purchased for $255,000.

In 1970, a Ford van was purchased to carry rescue and firefighting equipment. Over time, this unit began to respond to all calls and became known as the “Rescue Truck”. Our current 1999 Ford F550 was purchased in 1999 for about $110,000. This truck replaced our first white GMC Rescue Truck which was sold to the Pemberton Fire Department.

Water supply continues to be an important part of the Fire Department’s responsibilities. Presently, we serve around 79 square miles of rural areas. In 2002, the Department purchased a new brush truck to replace the older vehicles from the MN DNR. A Ford F-350 Crew Cab was purchased for just over $27,000 and is still used as our brush truck. Recently, the department has owned ATVs to help with brush fires. The 2007 Land Pride Treker purchased from Smiths Mill Implement is the current unit.

For the past 25 years, the Department has used a few “tanker trucks” for water supply. In 1995, the Department purchased a Ford tanker and in 2000 a used (1993) Chevrolet tanker was put into service. The Ford tanker is still in use and the Chevy tanker served until just a couple years ago when the Department purchased a 2017 Freightliner for just over $200,000. This tanker carries 2,500 gallons of water and has a pump on its side. This Freightliner is the newest addition we have with the Department.

A portion of Lake Elysian is also in the Department’s fire district. Records show that, in 1967, the Waseca County Sheriff furnished a boat to the Department so that it could patrol Lake Elysian during the summers. Prior to this boat, any efforts on water were provided by boats owned by individual fire fighters. Eventually, the Department stopped patrolling the Lake during the summer months, but the Sheriff's Office still continues to furnish the department with boats to use for water rescue efforts.

SOURCES: Fire Department records, City Hall records, “The History of Janesville 1856-1956” printed by the Centennial Committee of the Chamber of Commerce (reprinted in 1981), and “The History of Janesville 1956-1981 printed by the Historical Committee.

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey.

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