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The Chillicothe Voice

Chillicothe Fire Department Centennial Celebration

Mar 29, 2023 11:23AM ● By Dave Price, Assistant Chief

The date was May 3rd, 1923. The newly elected city council was being seated and introduced. Mayor L.A. Rider was the new mayor and Miss Ilian Wait was the new city clerk. Mayor Rider made the usual appointments to fill committees, appointed department heads, and made all the usual promises to the citizens of Chillicothe. Mayor Rider made one unique appointment that night. He appointed Harry M. Lee as the Fire Chief and asked each council member to choose one man to be appointed to the Fire Department. The following men were appointed as fire fighters on the Chillicothe Fire Department: Walter Sickenger, Robert Graham, John Burkhardt, Ervin Ludwig, Edward Carter, and George Matice. Mayor Rider also challenged the Fire Chief and fire fighters to hold regular meetings and be trained in fighting fires. These appointments broke from the normal appointment of a Fire Marshal to head up the local fire brigade that reported through the Fire, Water, and Light Committee. From this time on, Chillicothe has had a Fire Chief and a volunteer Fire Department.

The Chillicothe Fire Department has come a long way from the days of hand drawn hose carts, borrowed ladders to reach second floor windows and roofs, and a few chemical extinguishers to modern, state-of-the-art fire engines, a 100 foot aerial ladder, and the best rescue equipment on the market. When Mayor Rider appointed the first fire department they had one motorized truck, several hundred feet of hose, and a few men to operate the equipment. Today, you will find approximately 45 well trained and well-equipped men and women who operate four fire engines, one ladder truck, one 3500-gallon tender, one heavy rescue truck, one medium duty rescue truck, one squad, one brush truck, three boats, one hovercraft, and one ranger utility vehicle. We answer a wide range of emergency requests from medical assists, vehicle accidents, river rescues, and fires of all kinds. We are part of a statewide mutual aid system (MABAS), and communicate on portable radios capable of reaching anywhere in Peoria County and beyond. In addition, the CCFPD provides building inspections, plan reviews on new construction, school fire drills, fire prevention education, and fire investigations. Chief Lee started with a dedicated Fire Brigade and through the years, men and women under the direction of Chiefs such as Tom Anderson, Gail Myers, and now Marvin Roderick have built this department into a professional and respected ISO Class 4 Volunteer Fire Protection District. 

May 3rd, 2023 Chillicothe will pass the Centennial Anniversary of these appointments. The Chillicothe Community Fire Protection District will commemorate and celebrate that occasion on Saturday May 6th, with an open house at Fire Station #1 and a parade down Second Street that afternoon. The public is encouraged to attend and help us celebrate 100 years of progress, and 100 years of serving this city and surrounding community with one of the best volunteer Fire Departments in the State.

Please join with us on May 6th, as we celebrate 100 years of service and honor the past and present members of the Chillicothe Fire Department.