Welcome to the Bethalto Volunteer Fire DepartmentIt is our goal to provide the best possible service to the citizens and visitors of the Village of Bethalto. Bethalto Fire Department has a staff of dedicated volunteers who provide Fire, EMS, and Rescue services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Members of the Bethalto Fire Department are dedicated to serving anyone in need as if they were their own family. Come visit to see firsthand the work the fire department is doing for our community. If you live in the Village of Bethalto and are interested in helping others by serving with the fire department, please come by the station to obtain an application. We are proud to be serving the community for 125 years and we look forward to continuing our service to this great community that we call home.
Alex Campbell, Fire Chief
Three major fires led to the charter of the Fire Department. On December 27, 1867, someone set fire to the brewery just opened by Jacob Huppert, who became Bethalto’s first mayor two years later. The second major fire occurred August 12, 1879 when the Bethalto grade school burned. Three years later, on a sultry August night, a dust explosion destroyed the Kauffman Mill. More than 1,200 barrels of flour were immediately engulfed in flames drawing neighbors out of their beds to view the blaze. A fire of that intensity creates its own wind and soon flying timber and sparks sailed through the air to the roofs of nearby houses. Thoughts of saving the mill were abandoned as citizens ran to save their own homes. No neighboring houses burned, but a nearby elevator and a large grain storehouse perished alongside the mill.Three major fires led to the charter of the Fire Department. On December 27, 1867, someone set fire to the brewery just
The citizens of Bethalto joined together after the mill fire and decided to take action to prevent that kinds of loss in the future. The first equipment, a hand-drawn cart with wooden ladder and rubber buckets was delivered in 1885 and the department filed its charter on July 20 of the same year. There was no alarm in the early days. Notice of a fire was given by running to the firehouse yelling, “Fire! Fire!”. The firefighters would rush from their homes for the equipment which they pulled by hand to the location of the blaze.
An alarm bell and hand pumper were purchased in 1891. The pumper was still hand-drawn, but it eliminated the need for the bucket brigade. Suits, hats boots and rubber coats were also purchased that year as the department became more professional. But lack of equipment was all too obvious in a second fire which destroyed the rebuilt Kauffman Mill in 1895. Many jobs were lost in the fire, as the mill was not so quick to rebuild. The population of Bethalto dropped by almost half in the 1900 census, a reflection of people moving on to find new employment.
Records for the Fire Department are sparce from the turn of the century to the department’s reorganization in 1930. A highlight of the period was the beginning of the Bethalto Homecoming celebrations, which started in 1919 on the Labor Day weekend to welcome home soldiers who fought in World War I. The reorganization of 1930 also birthed a new motorized 3550 Ford Pumper Truck. The truck saw its first service just six days after delivery.
As the Department became more sophisticated, it retired the old fire bell and replaced it with a siren in 1936. It was tested everyday at noon. It soon became evident that a new building was needed to house the new equipment. A concrete block building was erected on Oak Street in 1938, entirely paid for with funds raised at the Homecoming, wrestling matches and rabbit barbeques.
The decades that followed saw the purchase of several trucks, alarm systems and equipment, the volunteer building of the Fish Stand in Central Park, increased training efforts, and the assisting on fire calls in out-of-town locations including Moro, Cottage Hills, Rosewood Heights and other surrounding communities.
Fire science is an ever-changing occupation. The Bethalto firefighters must be familiar with the workings of the equipment, the best approach for any given fire situation, the hazards involved in search and rescue, the preservation of evidence when a crime scene is present and the skills of arson detection. They are brave in the face of certain danger and quick-thinking in life-threatening emergencies. They are the men and women who leave spouses at the dance to answer a mutual aid call from another department; the ones who leave their child’s first birthday party to go splint a broken leg.
The Bethalto volunteer firefighter gives all he or she can to protect the residents of Bethalto and their possessions. They have given the Village 125 years of protection and devotion.