As the Warrenville Fire Protection District celebrates its 75th anniversary the Historical Society is helping commemorate the organization’s milestone. In honor of the formation of this vital community institution, the following details the second of two fires in the mid-1930s which pushed the people of Warrenville to form the district. The first fire, that of the first Warrenville Baptist Church was detailed in our winter newsletter, a copy of which can be found on our website. For more information about the District’s anniversary visit their website http://www.warrenvillefire.com. The Museum will have a display of Fire Department’s Anniversary through the end of the year.
On Saturday, March 7 the Bertha MacDonald residence on Batavia Road went up in flames. This time there was action. It took only four days to get a group of aroused men together in St. Irene’s hall. When they left that memorable Wednesday evening, March 11, 1936, they had made plans for the formation of the Warrenville Fire District and the financing of firefighting apparatus, they had signed up a company of volunteer fire fighters, and they had obtained $500 in pledges to start off the drive.
In the ensuing weeks solicitation letters for funds went out and the traditional annual benefit dance was inaugurated in April. By June 13 the fire truck which had been purchased was exhibited and demonstrated at an outdoor festival and dance.
The mettle of the new recruits was put to the acid test in six months, during the night of January 26, 1937. In frigid temperatures they were called to battle a blazing apartment house on Batavia Road and Fourth Street (the final remnant of the Seminary dormitory and later Colonel Warren mansion). The occupants had been thawing out water pipes in the basement with homemade kerosene torches shortly before 6 o’clock when the building caught fire. Before the alarm could be sounded, flames shot up inside the walls, attacking both floors and the attic.
It was a long night for the firemen, according to the Chicago Daily News. “Volunteers on the scene a few minutes later removed furniture from the Charles Chester family apartment upstairs, and the Roy Stanton family quarters on the lower floor. With bucket brigades filling the booster tank of the single fire engine, water was played on the flames for more than two hours.
“Both floors crashed thru, however, and the interior was totally gutted before any headway could be made. The fire was extinguished at a late hour, volunteers and the apparatus retiring from the scene. At 7 o’clock this morning flames again rose out of the debris and attacked what was left of the building. Walls crumbled, and sparks and fire shooting in all direction threatened adjoining homes. The volunteers were recalled and saved surrounding property from damage.”
The fire department has made tremendous advances since those early trials. The original Warrenville Fire District was incorporated as the Warrenville Fire Protection Company, August 11, 1937. Following a general election July 3, 1939 it became a taxing body, incorporated as the Warrenville Fire Protection District.
When it became clear that more and better equipment was needed, along with a base from which to operate, a second organization called the Warrenville Volunteer Firemen’s Association was formed. This group in 1946 purchased the Baptist Church lot, the Baptists having opted to build their new church on Warren Avenue.
In their free time the firemen went to work with their own hands, managing to get the building enclosed by the onset of winter. Completed and ready for use in 1947, the firehouse is a monument to the dedication, skill, and perseverance of “Warrenville’s Finest.”