Fire Department History
Shortly after Granite City was incorporated in 1896, a volunteer fire department was established to serve the population of 992. The only equipment available at this time was a manpowered hose cart. The man responsible for forming the volunteer fire department was Fred Stegelmeyer, who would also become the first fire chief and would remain so for sixteen of his twenty-five years as a member of the department.
Historical data available indicates that the first large fire was at the Continental Wire Works and The Drummond Box Factory (American Steel Co).
By 1920, heavy and light industry flourished and expanded, as well as residential and commercial building. As the demand for products made in Granite City increased, the railroads and trucking industries also expanded. In 1921 the all volunteer fire department was abolished and became part-paid and part-volunteer. The total personnel at this time consisted of ten volunteers and six paid men who operated out of the sole fire house at 19th and State St (Currently GCFD Museum).
In 1922 the volunteers were totally abolished, and a new station was constructed on the west side of town at Cayuga Street and Rock Road. This station was badly needed for fire protection due to the many delays and stoppages by trains at three different railroad crossings.
During 1923, the first mechanical equipment was purchased. The City Fathers voted to buy two American-LaFrance, 500 GPM Pumpers.
In 1941, people flocked to Granite City to work
in war time production, swelling the population to 29,000. As the population and industries grew, so did the fire department. At this time, five more firefighters were added, making the total number of personnel fifteen. During these war years, The Army Corp. of Engineers constructed a huge facility covering over 900 acres, erecting huge warehouses that were several blocks long.
In 1950, the City annexed the Village of Nameoki, to the North. More men and equipment were needed to adequately serve this area. Another engine house was added. This house, Station #3, was located at 3900 Nameoki Road. The men stationed here initially encountered some hostility from enraged citizens and were often snubbed. Gradually, neighborhood children began to hang around the fire house and before long a more responsive attitude between the firemen and the public developed. In 1956, the 72 hour work week of the two shift system decreased to 56 hours a week, when additional men were hired. Shortly after, the current three shift system went into effect and the hours were reduced to a 52 hour work week.
By March of 1977, the manpower of the Fire Department grew to 48 firefighters. Also in March of 1977, a crucial milestone was achieved, the Fire Department’s Ambulance Service was established. This allowed a much lower cost of EMS care than a private service agency to our citizens, which remains true today. The service began with the purchase of four Dodge ambulances and the hiring of 20 Emergency Medical Technicians.
In 2003, the Fire Department faced one of the largest blazes in its history, when the former NESCO manufacturing plant, which at the time was being used for tire storage by Michelin, was destroyed by fire. The flames blazed for over nine hours and would continue to smolder for another six days before being completely extinguished.
Currently, 54 Firefighter/Paramedics, Engineers, Captains and Shift Commanders provide emergency services, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to the citizens of Granite City. Our three strategically located fire houses allow us to have rapid response times.
Although many things have changed in the Fire Department over the past century, one aspect that remains unchanged is our firefighter/paramedics' high level of dedication & commitment to the community and citizens of Granite City.