Prior to 1915, the Village had no organized fire service. In 1906, an earthquake, measuring 8.2 on the Richter Scale, hit San Francisco, California. A deadly fire ensued, wiping out a large area of the city. This incident, which made national headlines, combined with the Great Chicago Peshitgo fired of 35 years prior, increased public awareness about the importance of a fire company. Residents of Cascade, also were aware of the need for a fire service. An article from a May 16, 1906, local paper, gave a progress report on the Village. In addition, the article also made a list of things Cascade needed. A fire company was first on that list.
On September 2, 1915, appointed chairman, A.P. Croghan, called a meeting of citizens interested in forming a fire company. At this meeting, J. E. Hoffman was appointed to the position of secretary. It was decided that a committee be formed for the purpose of investigating firefighting methods used in adjoining territories. The members of this first committee were August Radtke, William Koepke, Aloloph Ruppenthal, L.A. Moll and J.E. Hoffmann. A week later, on September 10, 1915, the committee reported that they had investigated for departments at Beechwood, Newburg, Waubeka, Random Lake, Elkhart Lake, New Holstein, Chilton and Hilbert. At the majority of these departments, the committee found that gasoline engines had replaced the work intensive had pump. The committee report was read and a motion was made and carried that the Cascade Fire Department be formed. The first officers of the Cascade Fire Department were as follows: Otto Boetcher-chief, Ed Schneider-Assistant Chief, A.P. Croghan-Secretary, William Koepke-Tresurer. A committee was formed to formulate a constitution and bylaws, acceptable to the county government. These bylaws were passed on September 17, 1915. The following men were the charter members of the Cascade Fire Department.
J.H. Halboth, Arthur Halboth, William Koepke, August Kramer, James Flanagan, C.W. Schreiber, Otto Boetcher, August Radtke, L.A. Moll, Marcus Eggebeen, Ed Schneider, Carl Heidel, Frank Miske, Harold Lammers, H.G. Salter, J.H. Cooney, Fred Zelm, H.W. Ninnemann, Charles Goll, James Kelly, Leo Schultz, Paul Grabs, A.P. Croghan, J.P. OReilly, Otto Schlenter, Carl Rogers, Arthur Bastian, Reinhold Hellmer, John Meilhan, Arno Bartlet, Arno Meyer, Frank Buss On October 7, 1915, the department purchased its first piece of equipment, a ball baring hook and ladder truck with chemicals for $681.00. A fire bell was also purchased to warn the firefighters of an alarm. The bell was utilized in the following manner: When a fire call came into the Cascade Telephone Company’s switchboard, the operator would ask someone to ring the bell, summoning the fire men.
The bell was located on Madison Avenue at the spot where the river crosses. This bell was later moved on top the present fire hall. While attempting to remove the bell from the fire station in 1965, the bell crashed through the roof. Today the bell is stored at the residence of a current fireman. The membership voted to become members of the Eastern Wisconsin Firefighters Association on March 1, 1917. The fire Department is a current member of this organization. On November 1, 2009 the fire department joined Badger Firefighter’s Association.
The invention of the automobile mechanized the fire service. Horses were no longer needed to pull the apparatus to the fire scene. The Village purchased a Model T Ford on July 10, 1919. They mounted a 500-gallon Howe fire pump on the back. The first truck cost $4000.00. The gas tank on this truck was mounted behind the engine and the gas was fed by gravity into the motor. When the truck was forced to climb a steep hill, the engine would be above the fuel supply and no fuel could get to the motor. The early Cascade Firefighters were forced to turn the truck around and back up the hill.
On October 19, 1926 the fire department purchased another Model T Ford. Instead of gasoline engine pump, this truck was fitted with a large chemical tank. The chemical tank operated through the use of soda acid. When the fireman arrived at the scene, the acid was mixed in the tank creating pressure. The soda acid chemical truck was used to fight fires in rural areas, because of the difficulties in hauling water to the scene. Former Cascade Fire Chief Harold “Bill” Vanderkin, explains one of the setbacks of using the chemical tank, “If the fire didn’t wreck the building, the acid did.”
New technologies in the fire service protect the firefighters and make their job both more safe and efficient. In the field of fire communications, the Cascade Fire Department used the fire phone to summons their members to the fire hall. Several fire phones were placed in local businesses, when the fireman were needed these phones would ring. Today, each firefighter is issued a “pager”. Fire and rescue dispatching is done by the County Government through the use of repeater towers, strategically placed throughout the county. Pagers have allowed members, residing in rural areas, to respond to fire scenes at the same time as firefighters who live in the village.
When the Cascade Fire Department was formed, protective fire fighting gear was largely unheard of. The early members did not have boots, helmets or coats to protect them. The very principle of fire fighting has changed, making protective gear mandatory. Originally, it was thought that the more water that was put on a fire, the greater the chance of success. Several hose lines were used from the outside of a structure. This technique did extinguish fires but also caused much water damage. Ad fire technology advanced, it was discovered that attacking fire from an “inside out” fashion was much more effective. Hitting the fire at the source, lessened the amount of water needed as well as the time needed to put out a fire. This method forced the firefighters to enter the burning structure.
The “inside out technique” combined with the increasing use of synthetic materials in construction, prompted the fire service to create breathing apparatus capable of supplying fresh air in a hostile fire environment. The Cascade Fire Department purchased two “Scott” air pacs in 1967. Today the fire department has 18 air packs. In addition, the equipment van purchased in 1994, contains a “cascade system,” used for filling the tanks. The department purchased a compressor to fill the “cascade system”. The use of the self contained breathing apparatus has made fire fighting more successful as well as safer for the firefighters.
Early fire fighting apparatus was slow and underpowered. As trucks became larger and more powerful, they had increased uses for the fire service. The first “pumpers” or engines were capable of pumping 500 gallons per minute. Today the Cascade Fire Department has two pumpers. The mini pumper pumps 750 gallons per minute , and the attach engine pumps 1,500 gallons per minute. In attrition the tankers, “tenders” also have pumps on them which range from 300 gallons to 750 gallons per minute. Water is essential for firefighting. Prior to the installation of water and sewer in the Village, the fire department relied on a combination of two cisterns placed at either end of town. In addition, water was drafted from the river to extinguish blazes. With the installation of sewer and water, fire hydrants ensured the steady supply of water. Water supply in the rural areas was a different story. Early fire trucks could not handle the weight of large amounts of water. In the 1930’s the department was able to haul approximately 800 gallons of water. To service the large surrounding rural areas, the department developed trucks specifically for hauling water. These trucks were “homemade,” with tanks being donated from old gas and milk trucks. The fire department tenders are capable of hauling approximately 5,000 gallons of water today.
In 1998 the Cascade Fire Department, along with the Cascade First Responders, expanded their rescue capabilities with the addition of the Jaws of Life, rescue tools. These tools are used to extricate patients involved in motor vehicle and farm accidents. The high price of the tools, almost $18,000.00, has been achieved through contributions from the Village of Cascade, the Township of Lyndon, and Mitchell and the Fire Department and First Responders. In 2000 the Cascade Fire department purchased a Thermal Imaging Camera for rescue and firefighter operations. Currently the fire department has 2 Thermal Imaging Cameras, the second camera was purchased in 2009 to keep up with changing technology.
Today, coats made out of fire resistant material have replaced rubber “rain suits.” Hip boots have been replaced with smaller boots and bunker pants made of fire resistant material. Helmets have been improved to withstand grater temperatures while giving maximum protection. Response times have been improved with the use of a centralized dispatching system along with improvements in radio and pagers. The Model T of yesterday has been replaced with huge trucks capable of pumping more volume faster than ever before. These improvements have come with a large price tag. Many small departments, due to lack of membership or funds, have been unable to keep pace with new advances in fire technology. The Cascade Fire Department hosts two fund raisers each year to defray the high cost of equipment. The Fireman’s picnic is held the first weekend in August, with the Poultry Raffle, held the last Friday in October. These two events, along with municipal support, allow the department to function.
Currently the Cascade Fire Department has 45 active members on their roster. Additionally 5 members have reached 50 years of service they are as follows: William Eggebeen, Elmer Grahl, Jerry Rosche, Adrian Steinke, and Harold Vanderkin.
The officers of the Cascade Fire Department were as follows; Chiefs: Otto Boetcher 1915-1916, Ed Schneider 1917-1919, Henry Skelton 1920, Paul Steinhardt 1921-1923, Fred Bilgo 1924, Hugh OReilly 1925, Jake Ruppenthal 1926, August Kaufman 1927, Otto Ebelt 1928-1930, Abe Eggebeen 1931-1934, Leo Long 1935-1937, Harold Schmidt 1938-1940, Leo Schultz 1941-1944, Adrain Steinke 1945-1949, Elmer Grahl 1950, Harold Vanderkin 1950-1975, Dave Breitzman 1976-1980, Bill Reilly 1981-1989, Gary Vanderkin 1990-1994, Willard Trakel 1995-2000, Eugene Perronne 2001-2005, and Todd Triebensee 2006-present. Assistant Chief: Ed Schneider 1915-1916, Henry Skelton 1917-1919, 1935-1937,1939, Paul Steinhardt 1920, Fred Bilgo 1921-1923, August Kaufman 1924-1925, Leo Schultz 1926, Fred Lemke 1927-1929, Ed Schellenberg 1930, 1944, Art Vanderkin 1931-1933, Leo Long 1934, Frank Turk 1938, Ed Feldt 1940, Harold Torke 1941-1943, Harold Schmidt 1945-1948, Clarence Berg 1949-1950, Adrain Steinke 1951-1952, 1972-1978, Vernon Voeks 1953-1956, Elmer Grahl 1957-1958, 1966-1967, Byron Held 1960-1965, William Eggebeen 1968-1971, Dave Breitzman 1976-1981, Bill Reilly 1979-1980, Gary Vanderkin 1982-1989, Charles Hahn 1990-1991, Willard Trakel 1992-1994, Eugene Perronne 1995-2000, Lonny Schneider 2001-present. 2nd Assistant Chief: Robert Becher 1973-1975, Harold Vanderkin 1976-1979, Gary Vanderkin 1980-1981, Charles Hahn 1982-1989, Willie trakel 1990-1991, Todd Triebensee 1992-1994, Lonny Schneider 1995-2000, David Propson 2001-2004, Todd Triebensee 2005, Fred Arbuckle 2006-present. Secretary/Treasurer: A.P. Croghan/ Wm. Koepke 1915, William Koepke 1916, Hugo Darneter 1917-1919, Louis Leissring 1920-1930, William Meilahn 1931-1933, Ed Schellenberg 1934-1935, 1945-1957, Warren White 1958-1961, Elwood Binder 1962-1976, 1978, Boyd Chittim 1977, Elemer Grahl 1980-1996, Richard Bidinger 1994-1996, Scott Trakel 1997-present.