The history of the Lake Villa Fire Department actually began in 1931, when
civic minded men, meeting together at the final meeting of the Oscar Sorensen
Post No. 703 of the American Legion in Lake Villa discussed the need for a
fire department in Lake Villa Township. At this time neighboring fire
departments answered calls in the township. It was felt that a department at the
center of the township might be able to save some buildings or even put fires
out before they were out of control. It must be noted that this spirit of
cooperation between neighboring fire departments for mutual aid is still a very
viable part of our present fire protection plan.
These men recognized the need and set out to make it possible. They formed
the Lake Villa Volunteer Firemen's Association. With William Marks residing as
President, Al Kapple as secretary and D.R. Manzer as treasurer the charter
members of the organization included; John Effinger, Lester Hamlin, Frank
Slazes, Barney Barnstable, Herman Wolff, Bill Rhodes, Ben Cribb, H. Peterson,
Harry Nickerson, Louis Leonard, William Peterson, Joe Koelstra, Harry Stratton,
Carl Miller, Frank Nader, Bill Hook, Bill Weber, Verne Nixon and Charles Brock.
In an attempt to raise money for equipment, the association had its first dance
at Cedarcrest on July 3, 1931. Tickets were sold for fifty cents each. A total of
561 tickets were sold and the group now had $280.50 to use as a down payment
on a fire truck. They also began to sell Fire Protection Membership Cards to
residents of the township for $3.00.
In 1936, a fire protection district was created and Judge Perry Persons
appointed William Weber, William Marks, and Louis Brickman to serve as its
first trustees. The district included the entire township of Lake Villa, and the
firemen's association transferred its equipment to the district for the sum of one
At this time, Barney Barnstable became the new fire chief. Personnel remained
the same and a contract was made with the newly created Lake Villa Fire
Protection District to provide the needed man power. The contract made
between the firemen and the trustees in October, 1936 is basically the same
type of contract in use today. The fire department determines its needs and
the Fire Protection District levies the taxes for the purchase and maintenance
of the needed equipment.
During this period of transition, the fire equipment was moved from Cannon's
garage to Hucker's old garage on Main Street in Lake Villa and from there to a
section built for it at the newly built village hall in 1934. The firemen, always
doers, helped with some of the finishing of the interior of the building.
By 1938 it was decided that the firemen who had served a year or longer
should be provided with uniforms by the department. Previous to this, the
firemen just dropped everything when the siren sounded; wearing whatever
clothes they needed for their employment. It seems to remind us of those famous
Minute Men of the Revolutionary War!
In 1940, it was obvious that the township was growing rapidly and more
equipment was needed. During the Great Depression Years many families
moved from the city to their summer cottages around the lakes. Survival was
easier in the country than in the city. Families could cut wood in neighboring
farm lots for heat and often worked on the farms for the food their families
needed. Again, the community helped by making the plight of these people
In May of 1940, G.E. Miller obtained a donation of brick to build a new firehouse
on Grand Avenue about a block from the Cannon Garage. In October of that
year, steel and lumber were purchased and the firemen along with other
interested members of the community built the fire station at a cost of $6,000.
The 40's were a busy time and a new Ford fire truck had been purchased and
the fire station, a garage, and a storeroom had been built. Along with the
physical growth, the firemen were growing in expertise. Not only were they
called to fires, but their training in first-aid was needed in automobile accidents
The 1950 U.S. census for Lake Villa Township revealed that the population of
the township had grown from 1,214 to 3,048 in a ten year period.
During the 40's, many of the firemen had served in WWII. Letters, much
treasured, came back the fire station from these men with the hopes they'd soon
be home. God must have been with them. By 1950 they were home and their
names were back on the active list.
In 1950, more equipment was needed so a Dodge truck, a Jeep, and a 35 foot
ladder for the Ford Truck were purchased. In 1954 another Jeep was
purchased, a radio tower were installed, and a two-way radio was installed in
the squad truck.
The 50's also saw some of our firemen off to the Korean War. In the ten year
period form 1950-1960 the township again experienced a rapid increase in
population from 3,048 to 8,122. With our township encompassing 25.8 square
miles, the population density grew from 155 to 315 people per square mile.
In 1960 a new Ford truck was purchased and a new Jeep was added in 1963.
The fire station was no longer adequate, therefore a new addition was added
on the west side of the existing building. Roy Nordstrom of Fox Lake was low
bidder and did the construction work. By now, the demands on the firemen had
become so great that they could not do the building themselves. However,
much of the interior and finishing work was done by them. The men spent much
of their spare time restoring the old Pirsch truck which had been purchased in
1933. Due to the unusual pumping ability of this old truck the department was
able to defeat all comers at the Firemen's Convention in Antioch, Illinois in
1975. The record has never been broken.
A committee for the department spent much time evaluating the existing
equipment and deciding what needed to be replaced.The Committee decided
a Mack truck would best serve the department needs and they replaced the
1940 Jeep with a new one. It was sold to Britt Sandy for $500.
In 1970, the U.S. Census showed the population of the township as 11,593.
This meant the population density had risen from 315 people per square mile in
1960 to 466. Part of this rapid growth was the Establishment of The Village of Lindenhurst in 1956.
The first aid available by the firemen was no longer adequate. It was decided a
new unit was in need. This new unit was the Lake Villa Rescue Squad. Funds
were solicited by the group through local agencies. Though it was independent
form the fire department, fire department members volunteered their time to
assist in the fund raising. By 1977, this group had its own building and
equipment. Solicitation for more funds raised $15,900.00 for a portable radio
which would allow their trained paramedics to keep in constant contact with
doctors while still in the field. Also purchased was a Life Pak portable
electrocardiogram and detachable defibrillator to immediately treat heart attack
In 1974, a diesel tank and pumper were installed at the station for the use of the
equipment. In 1975 a Dodge chassis was purchased and the apartment above
the firehouse was completed. In 1976 a Dodge truck was acquired. In 1977
plans were made to add an addition to the existing firehouse on the east end.
Phil Vos was the contractor for this project. The remodeling has been done so
skillfully that it is hard to detect where the addition joins the original building.
Other changes in the 70's included: the purchase of a standby
generator., the donation of ground on Route 59 as possible location of
substation by Harry Pavel, the installing of 911 as an emergency number for the
public to call for assistance, A Hurst Tool purchased (designed to cut away
portions of an automobile when someone is trapped inside), and a request
made by the Rescue Squad to respond to all structural fires in case their help is
It is a small wonder that our department has seen such necessary growth in the
past 50 years. It is hard to imagine a population of 1,214 growing to 16,114 in
that brief span of time, an increase of 1,333%.
It is a different kind of Fire Department these days as the Lake Villa
Fire Department begins its 75th year. The department has turned over its
roster to a new generation of aggressive, intellegent and dedicated individuals
who have different commitments than those of our past members, with different
career backgrounds and family obligations. It's not unusual for a retired
member to pay a visit and not know anyone except for a few veterans and they
always comment on the growth.
The 26 square mile fire district has changed from corn fields to subdivisions
and form two lane country roads to our four lane highways over the past 75
years. Especially over the past two decades the department has had to keep
up with rapid changes. The call volume has not drastically increased but the
demand on the department has with the need to plan review and code
enforcement, along with increased building and fire equipment maintenance.
The station has more than doubled in size accommodate the larger specialized
equipment such as the 105 foot ladder truck and two 2,500 gallon tankers.
The greatest asset to the department, besides the roster of
firefighters, is the consistency and dedication of the chiefs, who have server over the past 75 years, including current chief Frank Slazes Jr.
The department has had four chiefs since the first chief Fred Hamlin
served from 1933 to 1936. Hamlin was followed by Ervin (Barney) Barnstable from
1936 to 1973, Elmer Sheehan from 1973 to 1987 and Frank Slazes from 1987
to 1989, when his son and current chief, Frank Slazes, Jr. was appointed.
No matter how much history has changed the Lake Villa Fire Department still remains dedicated to service.