Monday, September 1, 2008

Frankville Fire Dept. is 50 years old

(lifted from this week's Postville Newspaper)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Frankville Fire Department. Discussion began in the mid-1950's about starting a department in Frankville, and with the help of Springfield and Military townships, and the Ossian Fire Department, the Tri-Township Frankville Fire Department was formed in June of 1958. A group of dedicated volunteers, a fire truck and a 16 x 40 cement block garage which was built in the following months to serve as a fire station, resulted in the birth of the Frankville Fire Department. Ray Teslow and Keith Evert were elected Fire Chiefs with Alden Grinna, president and Leo Berg, secretary of the new organization. Earl Koenig, Fred Steuri, Gary Snitker, Wesley Snitker, Leonard Crawford, Tillman Ashim, Le Roy Winters, Dick Hughes and Merle Cook were elected as fireman. Growth was slow but steady through the years.

In 1961 some rocky moments were recorded in the local papers as problems arose with response to area fire calls and mutual aid agreements with another area department. Current members of the department noted that departments then did not have the good working mutual aid agreements like departments today do. As the Frankville and Tri-Township Fire District gained equipment and experience the "new kids on the block" were accepted and the problem was resolved.

Like all other fire departments Frankville has had many notable fires, from the big barn fires, house fires, to simple little grass fires that got a little too big for the owner to control. All members have their memories of the first fire, and unique cases, and, most notably, all members who were on the department in the mid 1990's remember, what it hoped to be, Frankville's largest fire when the saw mill in town started on fire in 1997. Members spent 2 weeks putting out the original fire and the flare-ups which followed. Other memorable fires the Frankville department assisted with include the Iowa Turkey Products fire in Postville just before Christmas and assisting Decorah with the Matter's Dance Hall fire and the Sherman Williams Paint Store fire in downtown Decorah.

Other memories are "Ole Yellow" a military surplus truck that had been converted into a tanker. To hear the veteran firemen talk, it was a thrill to drive "Ole Yellow" to a fire. It was replaced by a used a pumper/tanker obtained from a neighboring fire department. In early '93 a new 1000 GPM pumper was placed in service. This is now the first responding unit to all structure fires.

Through all these memorable moments the amazing thing is this humble little department has done it all with a budget less than the average person's income (under $30,000/year), equipment and trucks built by its members, all in a town with no water hydrants, with all the water used to battle fires coming from the extensive dry hydrant. A dry hydrant, department members explained, is a tube running to a pond or stream so a fire truck can more easily access the water in the pond from the road. Frankville had been one of the leaders in the state of Iowa in dry hydrant placement due to the forward thinking of its members, the cooperation of local landowners, and the help of local contractors to do the dirt work needed.

In the past 10 years the department has seen many changes. A new station was in built in 2000. All members of the department and the community are quick to agree that the new station is a huge improvement over the garage that the department had started in. The new station has a meeting room, kitchen and space for 5 vehicles compared to 4, which has allowed for the improvement and expansion of services. The department built its own tanker as a deuce and a half army truck was converted into one of the largest water tankers in the tri-state area holding almost 3,500 gallons of water. The department has also acquired a pickup for grass fires; and, perhaps, one of the greatest improvements is that the Frankville Fire Department has expanded its services by now having an ambulance to help provide services in conjunction with the Postville, Decorah and Ossian EMS for the residents in the surrounding areas.

The Frankville Fire Department now has 21 volunteer firefighters, 4 EMTs, 4 First Responders and a crew of drivers. The department prides itself on training, with monthly drills, CEVO II (defensive driving classes for emergency vehicles), Haz-mat, weather watch, and 14 of 21 members are Firefighter I with more planning on challenging the FF I test this winter. The department has also been lucky in receiving 2 Homeland Security grants in the last 3 years for almost $200,000. This grant money has allowed the department to purchase new bunker gear, SCBA's (self contained breathing apparatus), PASS alarms, pagers, a breathing air compressor, and a thermal imager.

One other significant change that many have noticed in the past few years is the change in the department's name. To reflect the fact that the department does more than just fire fighting, when the department incorporated on it's own a few years ago, they chose a name to show this change and now go by the name Frankville Emergency Volunteer Association ( F.E.V.A.).

Frankville is also believed to be the first unincorporated fire department in the state of Iowa, that is a department in an area with no town mayor or city council. But even without a formal government the residents in the village of Frankville and the Frankville township saw a need for a department and have strongly supported it from its beginning, through the present. With the support of current members, the department plans on continuing for generations to come. The fire department has involved at least one member of nearly every family in the village of Frankville and three members of the Berg family truly make it a family affair as Doug, Teresa and son, Kollin are all members of the association.

The Frankville Fire Department has made many advances over the past 50 years going from a handful of dedicated men with one truck in a garage to all the group has acquired today. The group is quick to point out, however, that the success of the department has not only come from the many dedicated men and women who have served on the department, but also from the support of the residents and businesses in Frankville Township, and the surrounding communities. The Frankville Fire Department would like to take this opportunity to express its appreciation to all those individuals and business from the area that have been so helpful in assuring the success that this little department has had in the last 50 years, and as they look forward to serving the area for the next 50 years.