In 1947 the Sanford area merchants, in cooperation with the Jerome Township Board, felt it was time that they had some sort of fire protection. The board authorized the purchase of a used 1924 Chevrolet Champion fire truck, and Frank Furst was appointed Jerome Township’s 1st fire chief. Frank lived in the business district where the Red Oak Lounge is today, and had a garage big enough to store the truck. Pictured – George Thornton firefighter, with 1924 Chevrolet Champion fire truck.
This truck did not have a pump, but had 2-20lb. soda-acid tanks. When firewater was needed, the acid was introduced into the soda water and the reaction was responsible to propel the liquid out of the fire hose until the reaction was complete and the tanks were empty. Allen Cole played a critical part in the mechanical aspects of that first fire truck. When Frank moved away in 1948 it wasn’t much of a surprise that Allen was appointed Jerome Township’s second fire chief. Allen would house the truck in his service station and keep it in good running order.
Allen realized that this truck was insufficient for the increasing needs of the township but the board at that time had no money for a new truck. Allen told the board that if he could get financing, he would buy a chassis and build a truck and lease it back to the township. Allen went to the local bank, Peoples State Savings & Loan and talked to loan officer Rex Schneider, who told Allen that if he was foolish enough to want to borrow money to build a fire truck for the community, then he guessed he would be foolish enough to loan it to him. The truck was a 1948 GMC one-ton chassis.
Allen and his workers at the garage outfitted it with a hand-fabricated body and installed a 250 GPM pump. That truck served the community as a front-line pumper until 1974 and served as a backup pumper until 1994. It was then decommissioned and sold to a Jerome Township firefighter, Dick Graham, who agreed to keep the truck in running order and show it off in parades and other civic events. The truck is still in parade use at this time. Pictured at left – Dick Graham with old engine 90. The truck that Allen Built.
Around 1954 other townships in the area were asking for fire protection as well and Allen agreed to cover 8 Townships; Edenville, Lee, Lincoln, Geneva, Greendale, Hope, Jerome, and Homer. A used 1950 Chevy cab-over fuel oil delivery truck was purchased and again handcrafted into a pumper/tanker holding 1,000 gallons of water.
The early 60’s brought about changes in the fire service as vehicle accidents and the need for vehicle extrication began to unfold. The day the US-10 freeway opened in 1961 a fatal car crash took place. Fire safety was getting attention in the newspapers such as this article with Chief Allen Cole and Chief Deputy John L. Smallwood. At left a Photo by Midland Daily News. Allen examines US-10 freeway’s first wreck hours after it opened in December 16th, 1961.
“Photo by Midland Daily News” Allen Cole and Bob McNett 1963.
It was time for the fire department to stand on its own. Voters approved a 2.0 mill levy for 4 years for a fire station and equipment. Property was purchased and a new station was erected at 725 Irish St. (See home page for picture of station 1) Two new trucks were purchased, one with some revenue sharing funds.
Photo by Midland Daily News
In addition to the new fire station and equipment, training was being formalized and encouraged by the Michigan State Firefighters Training Council. Firefighters were being trained to new levels including Haz-Mat, First-Aid, CPR, Officers Training and Firefighter Levels A,B,C,& D. If you passed all those courses and the State of Michigan written and practical exam, you would become a state certified firefighter recognized anywhere in Michigan, and be able to meet any paid fire departments minimum hiring standards.
Photo by Midland Daily News
It’s no secret that Allen Cole and the “fighting Coles” gave freely of their time. When the Calls for assistance came into Cole’s garage the Cole’s dropped their duties and Mrs. Cole (Lydia) grabbed the phone and started to call in the volunteer fireman one call at a time. It is been told that some of the Cole boys may have driven a fire truck prior to being old enough to have a driver’s license. Another new station (Station 2) will serve the residents on the east side of Sanford Lake and give them the same insurance (ISO) rating on their property insurance as residents on the west side. ( See home page for picture of Station 2)
This in conjunction with a generous county-wide grant to local fire departments also brought the department two more new trucks
Jerome Townships 1st heavy rescue old 95, a 1977 Springfield on a Chevy 1 ton Chassis.
Jerome’s 2nd tanker old 91, an American Apparatus on a 1977 GMC 9500 Chassis.
A new pumper is on order and will be replacing our old pumper right on the 20-year mark. Photo of 1994 Luverne on a Freightliner FL-70 Chassis.
Local foundations again are very generous to our cause and have blessed us with a new heavy rescue truck. Photo of 1999 Hackney heavy rescue on a Freightliner FL-70 Chassis.
Station 1 was remodeled and a new light-rescue for medical calls to houses was delivered in the fall of 2000. Photo of 2000 Chevy Suburban light-rescue vehicle.
Spring of 2004 a new engine was delivered and for the 1st time, the department had an engine on each side of the lake with the tanker as backup. Our goal now is to buy an engine every 10 years and decommission the old backup engine after 20 years. Photo of 2004 CSI apparatus on a custom Spartan Chassis with a 1600 gal per minute Waterous Pump.
In 2008 we brought on a new tender to replace the old 436 with the new 436. The design of this truck was to be the same as our Engine 421. Tender 436 can do everything our engines can and then some. The tender holds 2000 gallons of water, has a portable water tank, and has three water dumps for filling portable tanks.
George Thornton was 17 years old when the upper photo was taken at Cole’s garage in 1947 next to our 1st truck a 1924 Chevrolet Champion. George 57 years later pictured in the lower photo with the 2004 CSI/Spartan Engine is no longer a firefighter, but remains a friend of the fire department and an interested citizen.
With a renewed interest in teaching children fire protection information and basic fire safety. Flashy will be a big hit with them. Flashy is a battery operated fire engine with an automated talking Dalmatian that talks to the children through a voice activated wireless remote control system that also operates the fire engine with the use of control buttons and levers. Flashy was purchased with grant money to be used for public education.
In 2012 we purchased a new Utility vehicle to replace old 440. The design of the new Utility 440 was to be of more use than the old with the new one having a chainsaw for downed trees and a winch for larger ones to be removed from roadways. It will be used for wire down calls to free up the larger Engines.
In 2013 the Fire Department worked with Boy Scout Troop 776 from Sanford to G P S all 477 fire hydrants in Jerome Township and place them in the Midland County mapping system. Central Dispatch will now be able to tell the fire department the address of the nearest fire hydrant to the address we are responding to.