FROM THE HISTORY ANNALS....Marion's First Firehouse
One year after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Marion suffered one of its most devastating fires. On May 23, 1872, on the southwest corner of 7th Avenue and 10th Street was the fire known as the "$10,000 Fire." City leaders at that time came to the conclusion that an organized fire protection system was needed in their city. So, in the Spring of 1874, the Marion Fire Department came into being.
For $1,800, the Marion City leaders were able to procure two modern pieces of firefighting equipment, a Babcock chemical fire cart and a hook and ladder cart. Both of these carts were hand drawn, as horses weren't readily affordable. Volunteer firefighters were separated into companies and then assigned to each apparatus. The companies would compete against each other to see who would reach the fire first.
These brigades, or companies, would compete in firefighting contests, marching in parades, drills of pageantry, etc. These competing teams protected the City for over fifty years. One of the teams, Mentzer Hose Company, became the pride of Marion. They rose to national prominence in competitions around the country, which is well documented in local turn-of-the-century newspapers.
Early in 1921, City leaders decided it would be best to have a city run fire department. This was to coincide with the delivery of Marion's first self-propelled fire apparatus. Marion paid nearly $10,000 for the four-cylinder American LaFrance. It had a 300 gpm (gallons per minute) pump capacity and 1,200 feet of hose. The truck was originally housed in the auto garage in the 900 block of 7th Avenue (now a parking lot).
Elmer E. King was appointed as the first fire chief at a salary of $1,200 per year. Also hired was a "night driver" named Tom Barkwell at a salary of $25 per month. The 196's saw a few more paid men added to the payroll and the building of a new fire station. In August 1964, after several rounds at the ballot box, Marion residents approved a bond issue to build the badly needed new station at 600 8th Avenue. This building is still used today and is Marion's west side fire station (Station #1).
In the late 1980s, Marion saw the addition of Marion's first female firefighter, Maureen Boots. Marion Fire Department also at that time became an advanced level paramedic emergency response service. In December of 1991, Station #2, located at 3911 Katz Drive, was put into service. The bond issue for this station garnered an overwhelming majority of the vote. Both Stations 1 and 2 are in service today with over fifty firefighters of volunteer and career personnel.