Starting with a “bucket brigade,” firefighting began in the village of Cleveland as soon as a few businesses and houses sprung up, well before the turn of the 19th century.
But 100 years ago, in 1923, the Cleveland Fire Department officially organized.
So, in recognition of its centennial anniversary, the group celebrated with an open house on Saturday.
“One hundred years of doing anything at all is an amazing commitment,” said sixth-grade teacher Brady Hahn, who doubles as the CFD fire chief. “That comes from our current members, those that came before us and the true compassion and foresight that the people that incorporated this department had in them.”
Hahn also said it was a day to recognize the people and groups that kept the CFD going for a century.
“There has also been 100 years of support from the city of Cleveland, the townships that we provide our service to and anyone who has ever helped us out either financially or physically. That all needs to be celebrated and thanked.”
The day included music well into the night, a rib cooking contest, a kids carnival, a bake sale and a Pfeffer tournament. Visitors could see CFD memorabilia on display in the firehall and tour the fire trucks.
As a hard and lingering downpour pushed the entertainment—including the main act, the popular band IV Play—from the street downtown to inside the firehall, the firefighters, their spouses and all the vendors needed to change plans.
“Everybody we worked with bent over backwards to make it happen,” Hahn said.
About the CFD
Around 1915, what would become the CFD purchased a pair of 50-gallon tanks. They were filled with water and pressurized by mixing soda and acid. The tanks were mounted on a two-wheeled cart that was pulled by the firefighters. In about 1923, the tanks were mounted on the back of a large Buick sedan.
Later, the CFD purchased a fire pump and mounted it on a truck. In 1948, with donations from community members, the city of Cleveland and Cleveland Township, it purchased a two-ton Chevy and installed on it a 500-gallon tank, hoses and other firefighting equipment. Also with support by donations, the CFD purchased a resuscitator about the same time.
In 1954, the CFD purchased a 1000-gallon water truck. A dozen years later, it bought a rescue truck. In 1969, it bought a 750-gallon-per minute pumper truck. The firehall then is now the current city hall. The current firehall was constructed in 1990.
The CFD currently has 30 members and a daytime response member, large participation for a small town, Hahn said.
Being a volunteer is a large commitment. Initial training, which includes the courses of Firefighter 1, Firefighter 2 and Hazmat, is 140 hours plus skills. All members of CFD are required to also be medically trained in some format. It can be, in order of increased certification, a first responder (EMR), an emergency medical technician (EMT) or a paramedic. Initial training for EMR is 50 hours. Initial training for EMT is anywhere between 150 to 200 hours.
“We also have variances that allow us to do more such as administer glucagon, Narcan and epi pens,” Hahn said.
In addition to all of that, CFD members train one or two evenings each month, some Saturdays and during other classes such as State Fire School. These training sessions are for both fire and medical, Hahn said. Some of them are run by the CFD's in-house training officers and some are taught through outside resources, often by Safety and Security Consultation Specialists (SASCS) of Minnesota Lake.
The CFD covers 62 square miles. Besides Cleveland city, it serves the townships of Cleveland, Cordova, Washington, Sharon and Elysian…from the Demar Estates on the north side of Lake Washington to Jefferson Heights on the far east side of Lake Jefferson. From almost to St. Henry to almost to the Caribou Gun Club.
Last year, the CFD had 118 incident command reports (ICRs) or “runs,” a record number. These calls included medicals, car accidents, fires (structure, wildland, automotive), gas leaks and mutual aid to neighboring communities. In addition, CFD members work sporting events, 5k runs, community events and open houses.
Their major equipment includes six trucks: a heavy rescue truck, a pumper truck, a pumper-tanker truck, a tanker truck and two grass rigs. They also use two boats and a side-by-side.
“The CFD has all of the equipment needed to perform any call we receive,” Hahn said. “We can cut someone out of a car, sonar the bottom of a lake, run an efficient fire scene, restart a heart or perform automated CPR. This is thanks in large part to our gracious donors, gambling, and grants through various avenues such as the state and federal, local businesses, as well as larger corporations and family trusts.”
The Cleveland Fire Relief Association facilitates gambling, both pull tabs and e-tabs, at three locations: the Cleveland Municipal bar, Kokomo's Bar & Grill and Beaver Dam Resort. Funds raised not only keep the CFD running but also support community groups that are looking for financial help, Hahn said.
“Requests come into the fire department for events such as After Prom, playground equipment, a tornado siren, sporting and club sports, an electronic community sign to post events, picnic tables for the shelter, scholarships for graduating seniors.”
Before he hit double digits, Hahn already knew he wanted to be a firefighter.
“When I was in fourth grade, our teacher asked us to make a design on a T-shirt that we would wear on career day. On my T-shirt I chose to put a firetruck, and I decided right then and there that I was going to be a firefighter.”
While he achieved his goal, as a father, coach and teacher as well, the time commitment is difficult, and the work is stressful.
“Being a firefighter and the chief takes an extraordinary amount of time beyond being a family man, a worker and an active member of the community. Also, the bad calls that stick with you can be stressful. It really just becomes a part of who you are though. The first two years are a lot of training, grooming and getting to know your role. After that it is just your life.”
But Hahn said the “family” that surrounds him makes the commitment worth it.
“It is often referred to as ‘the brotherhood’; however, females are a huge part of the department that I serve, and I do not want to take anything away from them. This family is truly worldwide. I have so many great friends that serve in area fire departments. The support, understanding and fun times that are shown by departments when needed is extraordinary.”
As its chief, Hahn is proud of the CFD and wants to see it continue to thrive.
“The CFD is a highly trained, efficient, well-oiled machine. The comradery is good, and the teamwork is fantastic. My goal is to maintain that positivity and teamwork-driven mentality in a positive way.”
Above: Fire chief Brady Hahn poses by the CFD’s 1953 Dodge Power Wagon. The CFD owned the vehicle many years ago but recently bought it back for parades and such. It was on display during the celebration.
Children of firefighters, seventh graders Sierra Lotspeich and Maliah Elias ran the bean-bag toss game at the kids carnival, held in the Township Hall.
Seventh grader Jeremy Miller helped with the shooting gallery.
Freshman Amelia Chmiel and her fourth-grade cousin Paxton Kluntz competed head-to-head on the sports obstacle course.
Sophomore Melissa Miller helped with the ball toss game.
Katie Wolf spins her blindfolded daughter Jasmine for a game kind of like pin the tail on the donkey.
Working at the bake sale were Isabel Duron, Dacota Lotspeich, Melissa Miller and Cheyenne Lotspeich.
Current and past CFD members are recognized on a plaque in the firehall.
Second grader Hadley McCabe buckled into the CFD’s pumper truck.
Second grader Sonja Koppelman in a junior firefighter cap.
Kindergartner Walter Glaser tries on firefighting gear during the kids carnival.
The Charlie Sticha Polka band was first on deck in the firehall.
Greg Muellerleile (CHS 1966) was one half of the 100 Years of Picken’ duo, which played in the firehall before IV Play. From 1976 through 1994, Muellerleile played lead guitar for what was originally called the Shaw-Allen-Shaw band.
Luella Olsen enjoyed trying the ribs from the rib cookoff. Her mom, Sam Olsen, is a member of the fire department. Luella’s grandparents are Tom Christensen and the late Tami (Goede) Christiansen. Her great-grandfather was Mel Goede, an elementary principal at CHS for 26 years.
On Friday retired members (and widows) were invited to the hall for dinner. Their combined service years totaled 383 years, said chief Brady Hahn. They included from L-R, front row: Jim Rohlfing, Gerry Struck, Duane Ploog and Jim Rusch. Back row; Kevin Hewitt, Gary Haase, Bev Olsen, Dave Ziesmer, Joe Rohlfing, Andy Queen, Dale Rogers and Jim Rogers. Missing from the photo are Wally Krenik, Ann Rohlfing, Janice Holicky. (Photo courtesy of Brady Hahn.)