Chesterton Tribune

Fire Department Facts

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• After Frank Bergstrom’s harness building burns on Calumet Road in 1886, concern is expressed that there is no town fire department when for two blocks there is a solid row of wooden buildings downtown.

• In April, 1895 fire consumes 1,000 bushels of wheat, oats, corn, feed, flour and lumber at the Blackwell mills at Calumet and Porter Avenue for a $20,000 loss; no insurance.

• The Chesterton volunteer fire department is organized in June, 1902.

• A train spark ignites the Chicago Hydraulic Press Brick Co. fire in Porter in October, 1904. Chesterton responds as Porter has no fire department and one person later recalls, “It was so hot at times we could smell our clothes scorching.” The brickyard sends firemen $100 in gratitude and rebuilds.

• When the regular Chesterton firemen doesn’t hear the alarm for a 1937 fire on 15th Street, two local men in a nearby tavern take the fire truck and respond. They later are arrested for public intoxication and driving a motor vehicle without the permission of the owner. They are acquitted by a jury. The men later sue the town citing lost chance for advancement at work, and for becoming “ill and nervous.”

• Five men are killed March, 1955 in an Indiana Toll Road gas explosion two miles south of Chesterton. The flames can be seen in Furnessville. Firemen respond, but water is of no help.

• The same month in 1955 Chesterton firefighters respond to a fatal fire at the home of Porter Town Marshal Francis Ray Wiesemann, which claims the life of his wife Esther and daughter Camilla.

• Obrecht Truck & Trailer fire blazes in September, 1960.

• The Chesterton Fire Auxiliary helps feed about 100 college students from Minneapolis, Minn. in 1978 after a snowstorm strands their buses at the Duneland YMCA for nearly three days.

• The Dalmatian statue in front of the Broadway fire station is in memory of Daisy, the Chesterton department’s mascot who accompanied firefighters in the truck. She died in 1988 and is buried at the station; Bob and Sandy Mitchell donated Daisy’s statue in 1997.

• Chesterton Terrace apartment building is completely destroyed by a gas explosion and fire in September, 1996. Call comes in as a barbecue grill on fire; seven departments respond.

• The following month, Ferrellgas on 15th Street sustains an explosion and fire, catapulting propane tanks into the air.

• Old St. Patrick Church on Third Street is reduced to a gutted shell in an August, 1998 fire.

• Malo’s Flower Shop on Lincoln Avenue burns down in February, 1999 but firefighters save nearby gasoline pumps.

• A stubborn peat fire burns here in 1999. In 1895, the peat swamp west of the enamel factory at 15th Street was set fire by a passing train. Buildings were saved then by digging a trench near the enamel factory and filling it with water.

Information provided by Eva Hopkins


Posted 4/5/2002