A Brief History of the Hamburg Fire Department
After WWII, the small towns of southeast Michigan began to grow as people wanted to escape the big cities and seek a more pleasant atmosphere. These small towns depended on their larger neighbors for many services, including fire protection.
A tragic fire in 1945 triggered the creation of the Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department. Hamburg Hall caught fire and John Moore, who maintained the facility, lost his life. Realizing that Hamburg could not rely on fire departments from other communities to get there on time, Earl Fischer called a meeting of concerned residents on July 26, 1946, to establish a local fire department. Manly Bennett was elected the first fire chief and there would be a roster of 30 volunteers with an active wait list of others. The department was incorporated independently from the township government to save money and no one would receive pay for their service. Basic equipment was acquired by donations and fundraisers. The Hamburg Fire Department acquired two high-volume pumps. One pump was installed in a pump shed on the Mill Pond in town and the other was mounted on a trailer. Each volunteer fireman was required to have a trailer hitch on his vehicle. Whoever arrived first at the firehall would hitch up the pump and head for the fire. Since they could not carry water, they had to rely on local sources for water, such as lakes, ponds, water troughs, etc.
By 1948, It became apparent that the trailer mounted pump was no longer adequate and the garage in back of the hardware store would not be able to house newer and larger equipment. The firemen went to the township board and requested a plot of land on stone street. They received the land and enough money to build the first real firehall, Station 1 which still stands today. William Shaffer, a local merchant, put up the money, approximately $3500, for the purchase of a firetruck. The department bought a 1941 Ford truck which had been used at Willow Run Airport during WWII.
CHANGE IN THE 70’S
As the township grew and acquired more and better equipment, more space was needed. The former Gulf gas station, a century old building in the village, was generously donated by Charles Gallup of the Gallup Silkworth Company. Renovation was begun in 1979; and, thanks to historically minded men, the basic architecture was maintained. It was called Station 1A. This building still stands today, although it is a private residence.
WOMEN COME TO THE RESCUE
Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department opened its ranks to women earlier than most other departments. Firemen’s wives had participated in auxiliary work since the beginning of the department. But circumstances in 1973 allowed women to take an active roll in firefighting. In the spring of 1973, Skip Richter answered a call, one to realize he was the only volunteer available. He radioed his wife, Tiny, who rushed to the station to bring another truck to him. Fortunately, a couple of male volunteers met her there and took over. Tiny realized, that with more men working out of the area, this situation could easily reoccur. She was the fire chief’s daughter and determined the women could do it. She spoke with her mother, Velma about forming a group of firemen’s wives to be on call. Thus was born in May 1973, the Women’s Unit 10-W. Twenty-four women volunteered and began a year-long intensive training in First Aid and Basic Firemanship. They were called out many times to aid in the fighting of fires and other emergencies.
HAMBURG FIRE DEPARTMENT TODAY
Hamburg is still a volunteer fire department. However, it does now pay its volunteers on an on-call basis; and it does have several fulltime employees and 2 fire stations. Nick Miller is the current fire chief and comes from a long line of Millers in the Fire Department. His, dad George, was captain of the department in 1974. His Uncle, Jeff Miller, was assistant fire chief. His brother Matt, was a firefighter as was his aunt Mary Beth. If you want more information the Hamburg Fire Station on M-36 has some excellent displays.