Antigo Fire Department History

Welcome to the Antigo Fire Department History Page

City of Antigo Fire Department – 100 years of History

  • 1883: H.A. Kohl organized the first bucket brigade starting the City of Antigo’s Firefighting history.
  • Early 1885: First hand pump arrived in Antigo and was used that same day at a fire at the Herman and Becklinger mill.

Photo of Antigo Fire Fighters 1885

  • June 7, 1885: City council approved the purchase of a horse drawn steamer, a hose cart, and a hook and ladder cart from Gleason and Bailey.
  • July 7th, 1886: The city appropriated $900 for purchasing fire hose and Louis Novotny was hired at $100 per year salary to act as the steam fire engineer.
  • June 10, 1885: A resolution was introduced by Alderman George Clithero, which passed, instructing the fire department committee to lease a lot on main street near the Lewis corner on which to erect an engine house.

Photo of Early Engine House 1885

  • August 11th, 1886: Fire department was reorganized after Fire Chief F. M. Sherman resigned. New officers were; C. S. Leykom (Chief), W. F. White (Assistant Chief), A. D. Rice (Secretary).
  • February 1888: Volunteer members of Rescue Hose Company No.1 resigned and the citizens were called upon to organize a hose, hook and ladder and engine company pursuant to the laws of 1887. The apparatus of the resigned companies was collected by the city marshal with authority of the city council.
  • May 6, 1888: The Antigo Engine Company was formed and accepted by the city council.
  • October 18, 1888: Multiple structure fires at the A. C. Clark, W. F. Bowman and Ross Hardware buildings.
  • December 15, 1891: Multiple structure fires at the H. Boldt Cigar Manufacturing, Ed Cleary, L. Strasser buildings, Lee Waste and John Ogden Stationary and Antigo Electric Company.
  • May 20, 1893: The most devastating fire in Langlade County occurred on this date. The entire village of Bryant was destroyed by fire and several buildings in the city of Antigo were leveled by wind-swept flames.
  • August 5, 1899: Warren Hill took over as Fire Chief with Anton Boll as Assistant Chief.
  • 1903: Antigo established its first paid fire department with G. O. Palmiter being the Fire Chief. He was followed by Dan Leonard who became Chief in 1904.
  • AFD’s Horse Brigade: Notable horses that were stationed at the City of Antigo Fire Department in the early 1900’s went by the names of; Dick, Colonel, Bob and Roy. The hose cart they pulled weighed 5,250 pounds fully loaded.

Photo of AFD’s Horse Brigade Early 1900's

  • October 2, 1911: Antigo purchased its first self powered fire engine, an American La France. This marked the end of the horse drawn era for the City of Antigo Fire Department.

  • January 6, 1916: The Antigo High School was destroyed by fire.

Photo of Antigo High School Fire 1916

  • 1916: The City of Antigo Fire Department purchased its second fire engine from the Seagrave Company at Columbus, Ohio. Accounted by the newspaper stating “ the new truck is of massive size. It is painted a handsome dark red, striped with lines of gold and gray and the words Antigo Fire Department are lettered on the body with the city monogram on the hood.”
  • 1926: A new Peter-Pirsch motor-pump equipped truck was purchased at a cost of $6500. The unit featured a 500 gallon per minute pump, a 40 gallon chemical tank, 200’ of attached hose, 1200 feet of hose carried in the body of the truck, a 30’ extension ladder and a 14’ roof ladder.

Photo of Peter-Pirsch motor-pump equipped truck 1926

  • 1927: Fire destroyed the Faust Lumber Company( formerly the Langlade Lumber Company), Antigo’s largest sawmill. The loss was estimated at $150,000.
  • 1938: Common council approved the purchase of a new Clintonville Four Wheel Drive pumper for $8000 which fireman affectionately named “Big Bertha”. The vehicle was powered by a 110 horsepower, six cylinder engine and was equipped with a 500 gallon per minute rotary pump, 55’ and 35’ extension ladders, two wall ladders and two roof ladders.
  • September 12, 1942: An auxiliary firemen’s unit was formed as part of the “Citizens Defense Corps” and was headed by Chief Joyce. 12 men qualified and received arm bands. Another 18 were expected to join the force after completing their Red Cross first aid course. The duties of the men were to aid regular fire-fighting forces.
  • 1946: The department underwent a major change with the addition of 3 firefighters and implementation of a 2 platoon system. Under the new system, the department was divided into 2 groups, one remaining at the station for 24 hours and one off duty. However, all 11 firefighters and Chief Janousek were subject to call at any time.
  • 1948: Firefighters under the direction of Chief Lindsay completely remodeled and redecorated the department. Improvements made by the firefighters included updated plumbing, heating and light fixtures. Telephone service was extended to all parts of the building and equipment racks and benches were built. The new kitchen included a new stove, built in sink, recessed refrigerator and custom built cupboards. The extensive project also featured a lounge for firefighters to relax.

  • November 23, 1949: A new fire engine arrived at the City of Antigo fire department that was purchased to form a cooperative rural fire department which was the first in this part of the state. It was made up of 8 townships; Ackley, Antigo, Neva, Norwood, Rolling, Price, Polar and part of the town of Peck. The agreement stated that the Peter-Pirsch engine would respond to all structure fires in those townships with 2 fulltime City of Antigo firefighters. Two firefighters were also added bringing the total to 13.
  • September 20, 1948: City of Antigo firefighters became unionized and joined the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF). They were given the local #1000.
  • 1951: Staffing levels were now at 14 firefighters.
  • May 4, 1955: Assistant Chief John Rieland was promoted to Chief replacing the retiring Leonard Lindsay who served as Chief since 1948.
  • April, 1959: A new Howe Defender fire truck was purchased from the Howe Fire Apparatus Company of Anderson, Indiana for $22,500. It included a 300 horsepower engine and centrifugal 2 stage pump. The unit was equipped with liquid foam and water proportioners and had a built in 300 gallon dry powder extinguisher for gas and oil fires.

Photo of new Howe Defender fire truck 1959

  • 1967: Staffing levels were now at 16 firefighters plus the Fire Chief Joe Sterc.
  • September 24, 1968: The City of Antigo attained the distinction of owning the first orange colored fire truck in Wisconsin. The new $43,000 Ford-Howe combination 65’ aerial/pumper was assembled in Vinton, Va and replaced “Big Bertha” that had served the city for 30 years.

  • February 12, 1976: Mayor Francis Jones issued a controversial order to the fire department to suspend the rural contract allowing city firefighters to respond to rural fires. This stormy issue resulted in the formation of the Langlade County Rural Fire Control and later the creation of individual township fire departments.
  • March 10, 1978: Fire destroyed the home of Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers coach and general manager, on Bass Lake.
  • April 22, 1981: A new orange colored Grumann Fire truck was delivered at the cost of $53,777.
  • 1986: The city considered going to a volunteer fire department but instead it narrowed the department from 15 firefighters down to 10. This was later nixed and staffing levels were returned to normal.
  • 1988: The city council voted to shift from an all full time department to a combination full-time/volunteer department. This was later abolished in 1989 citing lack of interest from volunteers.
  • January 15, 1989: Chief Leonard Osness retired ending one of the longest careers by a City of Antigo employee. Chief Osness was with the department for nearly 45 years, having started on September 1, 1939. Replacing Chief Osness was James Hubatch, a 23 year veteran.
  • June 10, 1992: The City council agreed to purchase a 75’ E-One Quint aerial truck for $350,000 amid controversy. The city’s most expensive truck purchase to date.

Photo of 75’ E-One Quint Aerial Truck 1992

  • January 1, 1993: The City of Antigo fire department officially took over the ambulance contract for Langlade County and marked a new era for responding to both fire and medical emergencies from one station. 11 of the 16 full time staff at that time were already trained to the emergency medical technician level and Chief Allyn Swayze hired 22 EMT’s on a paid-on-call basis.

Photo of Langlande County Ambulance 1993

  • February 20, 1995: The fire department moved to its new quarters at the intersection of 4th and Edison St where it is currently located.
  • May, 1998: The Antigo fire departments latest fire engine arrived from Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wi with a price tag of $282,000. This replaced the 1981 Grumann and was spec’d by firefighters and Chief Kluck to be a “stand alone” engine with a 1500 gpm pump, on board foam and jaws of life extrication tools.

Photo of AFD Fire Engine 1998

  • 2002: Antigo firefighters upgraded their skills from EMT-basic to the EMT-Intermediate level which allowed for advanced life support measures.
  • December 19th, 2008: Antigo firefighters upgraded their skills to the Paramedic level.

Seal Wisconsin Paramedic

  • August 2020: Antigo fire department purchased a used 100′ ft Pierce Aerial Platform from Hilltop Fire District in Spartanburg, SC for $325,000.