IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items
updated 07/19/2016

Waukon Fire Department

Waukon Fire Department

- on left, fire station on First Ave. NE, built in 1974
- on right, the old station located in what is now (1983) the city garage, under the "old library". Prior to that, about 1948, the department was located in what is now the senior Citizens Center at extreme left of picture

~The photos & information on this page (unless otherwise credited), were contributed by Connie Ellis for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb, March 2011; her source: Supplement to Waukon Newspapers, February 15, 1983


Co. I, Waukon Fire Department, ca 1900

Front Row: Harry Martindale, Capt. Nick Closch, Sidney Bowen, Herman Johnson, unknown, Bert Dickson

2nd Row: unknown, Ben Oleson, unknown, unknown, unknown, Jim Carlson, unkn King

3rd Row: 7 unidentified

4th Row: Roy Elliott, unknown, unkn Birchner, Paul Peterson, Charlie King, unknown, unknown

5th Row: unknown, unknown, Raymond, unknown, John Hennesey, unknown, unknown

6th row: unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown, Merritt Burt, Will Langheim, unknown, Jim Burt

Top Row: unknown, Ervin Stevens, Bob Lyons, unknown, unknown, unknown

close-up of the above photo

~source of photo: The Merritt Burt (1876-1948) collection
~contributed by Cheryl (Burt) Johnson, granddaughter of Merritt Burt. (Cheryl's email address is in the Surname Registry for "Burt")
~contributor notes: There is no date on the photo, so I guessed it to be around 1900. Jim Burt (1884-1940) was Merritt Burt's brother. They are pictured in the 6th row.

ID's of any of the unknown firemen can be emailed to the Allamakee co. IAGenWeb coordinator



92nd birthday next month, and growing in capability and ability

The city of Waukon is in the process of buying a new “city” truck for its volunteer fire department, to go along with the new “rural” truck the volunteer group got a few years ago. And, last year, for the first time, the city and the rural fire board agreed that there should be some compensation for the fire chief, so the city now has one “paid” fireman. Both are signs of progress for a company which is the pride of its citizens, who delight in telling each other that the “first response” time of the local volunteers is equal to that of many paid departments.

Fire Chief at present is Phil Stone. Other officers are: Glen Mathis, first assistant; Glenn Krueger, second assistant; Wilbur Rose, John Kerndt, Darrell Rogness, board members; George Haler, training officer; and the following truck captains: Tom Kerndt, bush wagon; Randy Sweeney, city truck; Mike Snitker, rural truck; Randy Murphy, tanker one; Joe Kroack, tanker two; Bob Zahn, Jr., “Little Jewel”; Jim Ryan, emergency rescue, and Doug Clark, jeep.

Jim Hager, Gary Berger, and Gary Soper, form the investigating committee, and Phil Stone, and Ralph Anderson, the sick committee. George Haler, Matt Ryan, Jim Ryan, and Randy Sweeney constitute the training committee.

Waukon Fire Dept. Members, 1983

Front row, left to right: Jim Ryan, Pat Campbell, Glen Mathis, Don Sweeney, Don Haler, Merv Hill, Terry Lubahn, Randy Sweeney, Ralph Anderson, and Phil Stone.
Second row: George Haler, Harlan Herman, Everett Kirkeby, Gary Berger, Matt Ryan, Francis Kessel, Vince Mathis, Mike Snitker, and Neil Becker
Third Row: Bob Campbell, Doug Clark, Bill Campbell, Greg Rosendahl, Glenn Krueger, Randy Murphy, Jim Allison, and Mick Eberhart

Not pictured: Charles Howe, Valiere Dundee, Wilbur Rose, John Kerndt. Ralph Martin, Gary Soper, Glen Cooper, Harry Teff, Bob Zahn, Jr., Darrell Rogness, Gary Bulman, Joe Kroack, Vivian "Viv" Wiltgen, Leslie Neverman, Tom R. Kerndt, Jim Hager, Wayne Howe, Bernell Roderick, and Al Snitker


Waukon, Iowa - March 4, 1891

Pursuant to previous announcement, a meeting was held at the council room in the city of Waukon, Iowa, this evening for the purpose of organizing a Fire Company, as proposed at a Citizens meeting held on the evening of February 25th, 1891. The meeting was called to order by C.M. Beeman, chairman of a committee appointed at said citizen's meeting to solicit names for membership of said company. On motion Mr. Beeman was made permanent chairman of the meeting and T.C. Medary was chosen secretary.

A statement was made by Mr. Medary in regard to the amount of money that had already been subscribed to purchase the necessary outfit that was proposed to furnish the company with, and it appearing that there was not enough money yet in sight, it was moved and carried to postpone the organization of the company until some future time.

A roll was called of those who had expressed a willingness to join the company if the requirements were met with on the part of the citizens in a financial way. A set of rules and regulations governing the company which had been drawn up were read for the purpose of letting the parties who desired to become members know about what would be required of them was then read, and the roll was again called to ascertain if they would be willing to comply with them and all answered in the affirmative.

It was moved and carried that the present committee to solicit names for the company be continued until the next meeting. After some desultory remarks from various parties, the meeting, on motion, adjourned to convene again on next Friday evening, the 6th installment for permanent organization, provided the necessary $400 to equip it with be subscribed.

T. C. Medary, Secretary

Council Room
Waukon, Iowa
March 6, 1891
Pursuant to adjournment of previous meeting the parties interested in the organization of a fire company in the city of Waukon, Iowa, reconvened this evening for the purpose of completing the organization, it having been learned that the necessary financial requirements had been met. The next meeting was called to order by the chairman, C. M. Beeman. The minutes of the previous meeting were read after the roll had been called and the same were approved.

The rules and regulations which had been drawn up for the government of the Company were read at length, after which they were taken up article by article and the blanks in the various sections filled, upon which the rules were unanimously adopted.
On motion the company then proceeded to the nomination and election of officers for the ensuing year, as provided for in the rules with the following result:

Foreman – Hans Johnson
Assistant Foreman – James E. Duffy
Secretary – C. M. Beeman
Treasurer – R. J. Alexander

The newly elected officers then took their seats and the Company was declared duly organized.

C. M. Beeman, Secretary


Filed February 10, 1902
C. L. Bearce, Secretary

After examining the records and data at hand your committee makes the following report:


Name of Member Installed & Record of Attendance
R. J. Alexander, Charter Member, Regular
C. H. Barthell, March 11, 1901, Regular
Hugh Deeney, May 8, 1899, Regular
C. W. Carpenter, January 11, 1897, Regular
Joseph Healey, June 13, 1892, Regular
H. R. Ludeking, April 10, 1899, Regular
Ben Longheim, November 14, 1892, came in on application June 24, 1897 & has since been regular
R. B. May, Charter Member Roll Call May 10, 1897, out about a year but never expelled
Ed F. Medary, March 12, 1894 Regular
T. F. McGeough, May 9, 1898 Regular
H. A. Nagel, July 8, 1901 Regular
L. B. Olson, June 12, 1893, having been absent for about a year, came in on application June 14, 1897
John Painter, May 8, 1899, attended 2 meetings
Charles E. Stilwell, October 10, 1892, Regular
Con Sullivan, July 13, 1896, Regular
R. J. Steele, July 13, 1891, Regular
Theodore Stock, September 13, 1895, Regular
Herman Thies, Charter Member, suspended August 9, 1897 no further action taken, attended February 1898 & since regular
J. S. Thompson, February 12, 1900, Regular


C. L. Bearce, Charter Member, Regular
Charles Colsch, May 14, 1900, Regular
C. H. Dean, March 13, 1901, Regular
W. H. Hale, Charter Member, Came in on application September 13, 1896 & has since been regular
J. B. Hays, Charter Member, Regular
Charles D. Johnson, June 13, 1897, Regular
Henry H. Ludeking, September 13, 1895, Regular
James McGourty, April 8, 1901, Regular
Corry H. Stilwell, December 10, 1894, Regular
Frank Thomas , March 12, 1894, Regular
B. F. Barthell, May 13, 1901, Regular
A. H. Doty, November 11, 1901, Regular
Simon Meierkord, November 22, 1901, Regular


Name of Member Installed & Record of Attendance
George W. Carpenter, May 13, 1900, Regular
T. F. Dunlevy, October 12, 1896, Regular
M. Heiser, Charter Member, Regular
F. A. Ludeking, May 11, 1896, Regular
C. C. Larson, September 13, 1897, Regular
Price Montgomery, February 12, 1900, Regular
F. R. Norton, November 13, 1899, Regular
F. H. Nagel, June 12, 1899, Regular
Sam Peck, December 10, 1894, Regular
George E. Stone, March 11, 1901, Regular
Emmett Siekmeier, February 13, 1899, Regular

D. R. Walker, Regular

A. B. Clark, April 14, 1891, Attended regularly until December 15, 1891, Attended next roll call June 12, 1893, Next roll call November 13, 1893, next roll March 13, 1896, Elected chief, March 9, 1896 & since then has attended regularly

M. A. Wittburger, Charter Member, Regular

Respectfully submitted for your approval this 10th day of February 1902.
Charles E. Stilwell
L. B. Olson
D. R. Walker
C. L. Bearce, Secretary



The following men have served with the Pioneer Fire Department along with date elected:

Charter Members

Hans Johnson
James E. Duffy
C. E. Beeman
R. J. Alexander
J. H. Heiser
C. L. Bearce
R. A. Nickols
W. H. Hale
George Stone
C. L. Reid
E. B. Gibbs
J. A. Markley
H. Kreiger
J. S. Johnson

T. J. Kelleher
M. A. Wittlinger
William Blanchard
H. V. Duffy
H. G. Fisher
W. C. Bromwell
Herman Thies
Frank Zimmerman
R. B. May
A. B. Boomer
Henry Greeling
John Holahan
M. Heiser, Jr.
J. B. Hayes
J. E. Mills
M. J. Walker

1891-1899 1900-1939 1940-1980
A. C. Larson, 3-09-1891
Leslie Bearce, 3-09-1891
A. B. Clarke, 4-14-1891
L. A. Howe, 4-14-1891
John Mathews, 7-13-1891
S. A. Siekmeier, 7-13-1891
Alvin Morse, 7-13-1891
Walter Bulman, 7-13-1891
R. J. Steele, 7-13-1891
Otto Hagen, 7-13-1891
Truman Walker, 7-13-1891
Andrew Hulger, 7-13-1891
J. W. Pratt, 7-13-1891
I. E. Beeman, 7-13-1891
W. S. Hart, 8-22-1891
Bela Pardee, 8-22-1891
S. H. Opfer, 8-22-1891
J. H. Kelly, 8-22-1891
Nels Rippe, 8-22-1891
George Christoph, 8-22-1891
Otto Mickleson, 8-22-1891
U. Simonson, 11-09-1891
H. F. Kling, 11-09-1891
Fred Boomer, 11-09-1891
J. E. Waterman, 1-11-1892
Theodore Groezinger, 1-11-1892
John Casey, 1-11-1892
John B. Buggy, 2-08-1892
Hans Vold, 3-14-1892
J. C. Johnson, 3-14-1892
James Foley, 3-14-1892
C. O. Howard, 4-11-1892
W. S. Brady, 6-13-1892
Joseph Healey, 6-13-1892
M. W. Hendrick, 7-08-1892
Charles Stilwell, 10-10-1892
Ben Longheim, 11-14-1892
Louis Olson, 6-12-1893
John W. Culbert, 7-10-1892
W. H. Robbins, 11-13-1893
D. W. Kimberly, 11-13-1893
John Sweeney, 1-08-1894
E. W. Cummens, 1-08-1894
Albert Westby, 3-12-1894
Edger F. Medary, 3-12-1894
Ulrich Ludeking, 3-12-1894
William Ashbacker, 3-12-1894
R. B. Newell, 3-12-1894
J. D. Buggy, 3-12-1894
R. C. Kimberly, 3-12-1894
Frank Thomas, 3-12-1894
S. E. Angell, 3-12-1894
John Hager, 3-12-1894
Langford May, 7-09-1894
Bert Henrick, 7-13-1894
Sam Peck, 12-10-1894
Cora Stilwell, 12-10-1894
Jim Cummens, 12-10-1894
Neil Sweeney, 12-10-1894
Jerry Cummens, 12-10-1894
Paul May, 12-10-1894
Fred Robey, 2-11-1895
Otto Larson, 4-08-1895
Dan Rogan, 7-08-1895
J. B. Minert, 9-09-1895
L. T. Bigelow, 9-13-1895
H. Krieger, 9-13-1895
C. H. Earle, 9-13-1895
Dr. Earle, 9-13-1895
T. B. Stock, 9-13-1895
L. S. Meier, 9-13-1895
Dr. J. H. Griffin, 9-13-1895
Fred Simenson, 9-13-1895
S. K. Kolsrud, 9-13-1895
J. L. Curtis, 9-13-1895
Ray Smith, 9-13-1895
F. H. Mulumby, 9-13-1895
Henry H. Ludeking, 9-13-1895
John Opfer, 9-13-1895
H. Helming, 9-13-1895
Fred Carter, 9-13-1895
Paul D. Max, 5-13-1896
Royal Pratt, 4-13-1896
B. Martindale, 4-13-1896
Hans Gilbertson, 5-11-1896
Fred A. Ludeking, 5-11-1896
Ed Reid, 5-11-1896
James Sweeney, 5-11-1896
Thomas Wells, 5-11-1896
John Jennewine, 7-13-1896
Julius Westby, 7-13-1896
Peter Olson, 7-13-1896
L. O. Winiflex, 7-13-1896
Con Sullivan, 7-13-1896
Gegor Johnson, 7-13-1896
J. T. Dixon, 7-13-1896
F. S. Marshall, 7-13-1896
H. O. Sevensend, 10-12-1896
T. F. Dunlevy, 10-12-1896
C. W. Carpenter, 1-11-1897
George P. Lerfeldt, 2-08-1897
F. Reid, 4-12-1897
Charles Pratt, 4-12-1897
E. L. Coffern, 6-14-1897
Charles Johnson, 6-14-1897
J. E. O'Brien, 6-24-1897
Larry King, 6-24-1897
Ralph Prescott, 6-24-1897
Chris C. Larson, 9-13-1897
M. J. Buckley, 5-09-1898
T. F. McGeough, 5-09-1898
J. C. Wuirs, 5-09-1898
J. W. Chedd, 5-09-1898
Ed Howes, 6-13-1898
James G. Minert, 6-13-1898
James Fay, 6-13-1898
H. P. Kidder, 9-12-1898
Charles Van Nice, 10-10-1898
F. H. May, 10-10-1898
Emmett Siekmeier, 2-13-1899
Maurice Raymond, 4-10-1899
H. R. Ludeking, 4-10-1899
Levi Clark, 4-10-1899
H. J. Denney, 5-08-1899
Frank Tracy, 5-08-1899
John Painter, 5-08-1899
Boyd Smith, 5-08-1899
F. H. Nagel 6-12-1899
F. R. Norton, 11-13-1899
William Thomas, 11-13-1899
A. I. Sandbo, 11-13-1899
J. S. Thompson, 2-12-1900
Price Montgomery, 2-12-1900
Charles Colsch, 5-14-1900
George Carpenter, 8-13-1900
William Wilder, 2-11-1901
C. H. Barthell, 3-11-1901
Claude H. Dean, 3-11-1901
John McGourty, 4-08-1901
Ben F. Barthell, 5-13-1901
G. A. Hansmeier, 5-13-1901
John Blaggen, 6-10-1901
Simon Meierkord, 6-10-1901
H. A. Nagel, 7-08-1901
James D. Douglas, 7-08-1901
B. H. Doty, 11-11-1901
Charles E. Regan, 2-24-1902
Dennis Duggan, 6-09-1902
James Byrnes, 6-09-1902
A. E. Entwistle, 10-13-1902
J. M. Frederick, 11-10-1902
O. P. Martin, 11-10-1902
John Maroney, 12-08-1902
W. E. Fitzgerald, 1-19-1903
G. A. Jacobson, 3-09-1903
Lou F. Seelig, 3-09-1903
J. H. Daniels, 4-13-1903
Frank T. Bulman, 4-13-1903
O. J. Hathaway, 5-11-1903
D. A. Townsend, 6-08-1903
John H. Echart, 11-09-1903
William Schellschmidt, 3-14-1904
J. P. Dahl, 3-14-1904
Ira Wentworth, 5-09-1904
George Milks, 7-11-1904
Otto Hagen, 9-12-1904
W. C. Bender, 4-10-1905
A. S. Barne, 5-08-1905
A. W. Douglas, 10-09-1905
B. O. Swebakken, 11-13-1905
E. L. Rice, 8-13-1906
Calvin P. Stilwell, 8-13-1906
Jess Henderson, 9-10-1906
John Wittlinger, 9-10-1906
Canute Kaveny, 11-12-1906
Earnest Raymond, 3-11-1907
W. H. Longheim, 4-08-1907
John Kaveny, 6-10-1907
Wallace Luth, 6-10-1907
Henry Dravis, 6-10-1907
L. T. Hermanson, 6-10-1907
P. J. Mahoney, 6-10-1907
M. L. Collins, 6-10-1907
Lew Johnson, 6-10-1907
John Colsch, 6-10-1907
N. W. Entwistle, 3-09-1908
Otto Ney 8-10-1908
Oscar Hummel, 4-12-1909
Albert Larson, 4-12-1909
Henry Van Gorder, 6-14-1909
J. J. Hathaway, 6-14-1909
Dave Knopf, 12-13-1909
E. L. Knight, 2-14-1910
M. J. Barthell, 2-14-1910
Urban Healy, 2-14-1910
J. Willard Minert, 4-11-1910
E. W. Kiesau, 4-10-1911
S. H. Kiesau, 4-10-1911
John DeWild, 4-10-1911
Carl Davis, 11-13-1911
E. A. Allanson, 4-08-1912
Harry Voll, 6-10-1912
Edger Morstad, 9-09-1912
George Rhodes, 11-11-1912
W. H. Miner, 4-14-1913
W. B. Clarke, 9-08-1913
D. Feldstein, 11-10-1913
Theodore Rumoph, Sr. 1-12-1914
A. D. Larson, 1-12-1914
Alfred Dravis, 3-09-1914
Leonard Meierkord, 3-09-1914
Walter Hausman, 3-09-1914
Ludvig Larson, 5-11-1914
George Chase, 5-11-1914
G. A. McMillan, 10-12-1914
Hugo Geno, 6-12-1915
Thomas Brady, 8-09-1915
Vic Zoll, 8-14-1916
George Robertson, 9-11-1916
Earl Markley, 11-13-1916
L. J. Barthell, 1-08-1917
Leo G. Clarke, 1-08-1917
Floyd Siekmeier, 1-08-1917
E. J. Quam, 3-12-1917
Arthur Sandbeck, 3-12-1917
Harry M. Dasher, 3-12-1917
Ward Cook, 10-08-1917
J. S. Arnold, 10-08-1917
George Wittlinger, 12-12-1917
Lewis Hanson, 6-12-1918
A. C. Worm, 8-08-1918
Merrit Burt, 1-13-1919
E. Hansmeier, 2-10-1919
W. J. Deeney, 2-19-1919
L. W. Haines, 3-08-1920
P. J. Freuchte, 4-11-1921
Frank Hausman, 3-12-1921
Ben Huey, 7-11-1921
W. H. Burroughs, 9-12-1921
Carl Smedrud, 10-10-1921
Max Niblock, 2-13-1922
J. D. White, 2-13-1922
L. V. O'Brien, 2-13-1922
James F. Deeney, 2-13-1922
W. L. King, 3-13-1922
William Ryan, 3-13-1922
Leo Foley, 6-09-1924
Thomas Ryan, 11-19-1924
F. J. Luther, 1-12-1925
Otto Hanson, 1-12-1925
O. P. Gleisner, 12-13-1925
J. M. Schilling, 6-12-1933
C. E. Kiesau, 6-12-1933
W. J. Stone, 6-12-1933
Emmett Zoll, 6-12-1933
Ambrose F. Link, 6-12-1933
Peter C. Hendrickson, 4-08-1935
Bernard J. Deeney, 4-08-1935
P. H. Gallagher, 4-08-1935
Daniel J. Steele, 5-08-1935
Herb E. Taylor, 6-10-1935
Lawrence Russell, 10-12-1936
Earl Thomas, 11-09-1936
William Mulvena, 11-09-1936
Hubert Dayton, 11-09-1936
T. E. Kerndt, 7-12-1937
F. E. Spragg, 12-08-1941
Harry J. Theis, 12-13-1943
Charles E. Howe, 12-13-1943
Don A. Sheetz, 12-13-1943
Valiere Dundee, 12-13-1943
Ray H. Kreeb, 9-10-1945
Ralph M. Sweeney, 9-10-1945
Harry Kessel, 9-10-1945
Harry Westerholm, 9-12-1945
William Huffman, 9-08-1947
Paul Ryan, 1-12-1948
Grant Allison, 1-12-1948
Ralph Anderson, 1-12-1948
John L. Campbell, 1-12-1948
Dick Dasher, 1-12-1948
Matthew Ryan, 1-12-1948
Roscoe Ekleberry, 1-12-1948
Thomas L. Bigelow, 1-08-1951
Joe E. Tysland, 1-08-1951
Francis Plein, 1-08-1951
James T. Allison, 1-08-1951
Ralph J. Martin, 1-08-1951
George F. Haler, 1-08-1951
Leonard C. Hanson, 5-11-1953
Terrence Peyton, 5-11-1953
Rudy Moen, 5-11-1953
Mark “Pat” Campbell, 5-11-1953
Harvey A. Scheiner, 5-11-1953
Donald P. Sweeney, 5-14-1956
C. E. Erickson, 5-14-1956
Wilbur A. Rose, 5-14-1956
Blaine Goff, 5-12-1958
L. J. Rodman, 6-09-1958
Ora Smith, 6-09-1958
E. M. Kirkeby, 6-09-1958
Vivian F. Wiltgen, 1-11-1960
Joe Kroack, 3-13-1961
James Hennessy, 3-13-1961
Neil Becker, 3-13-1961
Virgil D. Smith, 3-13-1961
Gary Bulman, 3-13-1961
Darrell Rogness, 3-11-1963
Gary Berger, 3-11-1963
Vincent Mathis, 3-11-1963
Danny Campbell, 3-11-1963
Arthur D. Larson, 3-11-1963
William M. Campbell, 8-09-1965
Lynn A. Dundee, 8-09-1965
Mervin O. Hill, 8-09-1965
Wayne Howe, 8-09-1965
William H. Clark, 6-12-1967
Raymond Taylor, 6-12-1967
Harry Teff, 1-08-1968
Gordon Kaeser, Jr., 1-08-1968
John Peyton, 1-08-1968
Dale Becker, 1-08-1968
Robert Zahn, Jr., 1-08-1968
John Henry, 1-08-1968
Richard Zahn, 1-12-1970
Philip J. Stone, 11-09-1970
John Johnson, 10-11-1971
Douglas E. Hale, 1-10-1972
Gary E. Soper, 1-10-1972
James D. Hager, 1-10-1972
Randy J. Seeney, 2-12-1973
Glenn Krueger, 2-12-1973
Donald G. Haler, 2-12-1973
Richard D. Meyer, 2-12-1973
Glenn Cooper, 2-12-1973
James P. Allison, 2-12-1973
Francis D. Kessel, 8-11-1975
Thomas R. Kerndt, 11-08-1976
Glen V. Mathis, 11-08-1976
Terry L. Lubahn, 11-08-1976
Michael L. Snitker, 12-11-1978
Randy J. Murphy, 12-11-1978
Leslie Neverman, 12-11-1978
Greg Rosendahl, 12-11-1978
Robert Campbell, 7-12-1980
Doug Clark, 7-12-1980
Harlan Herman, 7-12-1980



Waukon High School fire

Ask any resident who has lived in Allamakee County for at least the last 15 years what they remember about fire in Waukon, and the first to be mentioned is usually the day the old Waukon High School went up in flames. It was on that day, Friday, December 10, 1965, when Mrs. Charles Werdon, who lived across the street from the high school, got up to feed the baby and called in the alarm that brought Waukon's Pioneer Fire Department to the scene in full force.

Matt Ryan, then fire chief, reported that 160,000 gallons of water were poured into the fire, and that fire trucks burned more than 100 gallons of gasoline fighting the blaze. “There was ice on the ladders,” firemen who are still in the department recall of the day they were called to the high school. “It was cold, and it was a big one.”

“The fire started in a basement area of the school sometime before 4 a.m.,” the Waukon Republican-Standard reported, “and dense smoke was still pouring from the gutted structure more than six hours later. Fire departments from Decorah and Postville assisted in bringing the blaze under control, and Waukon firemen stayed at the scene most of the next day.”

Destroyed in the fire was the academic wing, which contained 15 classrooms, all of the school district and high school offices, a large library for the high school, home economics and industrial arts areas, the school lunch room and kitchen, and the boiler room. Because of the early hour of the fire's beginning, there were no deaths or injuries.

Waukon High School, 1965
Waukon High School fire
December 10, 1965

[Note of the transcriber: I was a member of the Class of 65'. We hold the distinction of being the last class to graduate from this high school building...Connie Ellis]


Oelberg Fire
While each fire received by the Pioneer Fire Department has a lasting and sometimes devastating effect on the people directly involved, some memorable blazes stand the test of time more than others. For example, there was the fire in the Albert Oelberg building, near the site of the present Waukon State Bank parking lot, which began the night of the fireman's ball, causing the celebration to be postponed until the fire was out. “The ice was running in the back door of Mahoney's Tavern,” firemen remember, as the building which housed second hand goods of inestimable value went up in smoke.


Iowa Oil Company fire

Iowa Oil Company fire, 1946 - photo by Guy Ahlstrom

By far, the most spectacular fire within recent memory was the raging oil fire that destroyed the Iowa Oil Company bulk station and a service station owned by Ray Zoll along the Milwaukee railroad tracks in south Waukon.

The May 4, 1946 edition of the Waukon Republican-Standard newspaper reported the previous day's fire with these headlines: “SPECTACULAR FIRE TAKES LOCAL OIL PLANT, 50,000 GALLONS OF GASOLINE, OIL GO UP IN FLAME.”

Firemen from Waukon, Decorah, and Postville departments battled the 1000 feet high flames, in an attempt to save five more bulk tank stations along the railroad tracks. In the end it was a strong south-westerly wind that saved the town, although all buildings within a ten block radius had been evacuated.

A photograph taken at the moment the top of one of the biggest tanks opened up and sent a curtain of fire over a 12-square block area, was printed on the front page. It shows the top of the tank splitting open and flames shooting upward into the air and spreading in all directions. Gas burning on the ground and a mass of smoke and flames moving north ahead of the wind, made it an awesome sight.

They Battled the Big One

The most spectaular fire was that which destroyed the Iowa Oil Company bulk station in south Waukon on May 14, 1946. All buildings in a ten block area had to be evacuated and flames shot up 1,000 feet in the air. A picture hangs on the fire station walls today, commemorating the firemen who battled the Iowa Oil Fire. The picture shows the firemen from Waukon:

Ralph Sweeney
Theodore Kerndt
Otto Hanson
Lou Hanson
Bernard Deeney
Ray Krebs
Calvin Kiesau
Val Dundee
Ambrose Link
William Deeney
Pat Gallagher
Len O'Brien
Art Sandbeck
Charles Howe

The firemen from the Postville, Iowa Fire Department who helped fight the fire:

A. Burr Cook
Everett Cook
Pat Meyer
Lloyd Bruce
Leonard Pearson
Glen Olson
Jake Lambert
Lawrence Hofer
Craig Martson

Before and After Photos of the Iowa Oil Co. Fire

The photo below was probably taken in the winter of 1945 or 1946. The billboard in the background reads: "Hearts are Light Again" and the headline on the newspaper the man is reading says "War Ends". The Zoll Service Station is to the left of the billboard, and the bulk tanks are behind & to the right. The woman & children are not identified.

Zoll Service station & bulk tanks ca1945/46

~Before & after photos above & on the right were contributed by Janet Brooks Koozer from her personal collection, January 2012


Waukon, Ia - (AP) - An explosion, compared by one witness to an atomic bomb blast, touched off Monday a roaring gasoline fire fed by some 50,0 gallons of high octane motor and aviation fuel. Fire departments from Waukon and four neighboring towns fought the blaze which threatened about half of this northeast Iowa city of 3,000. First reports were that no one was injured.

Four hours after the explosion the fire was said by Francis Kurt, Milwaukee railroad clerk, to be out of control. He said however, that unless the wind shifted the town probably would escape. It was Kurt who said the bast was like that of an atomic bomb. "A large flame swept over half of the town," he said, "and you could feel its heat a half mile away. There was a loud roar with it." Kurt sid about 25 large gasoline storage tanks, operated by a half dozen oil companies, were in the immediate vicinity of the blaze, but that only three appeared to have caught fire within the first four hours. A number of residences and warehouses were across the street from the scene, he said, but added that the wind was blowing the flames away from them.

The first tank exploded at about 9:30 a.m. and the second tank was touched off about 11:45 this morning. The filling station and adjoining bulk plant were operated by Ray Zoll. William Huffman, a city employee standing by at the fire station, said no one had been reported injured so far. He said the fire was believed to have started from a spark while a truck was being loaded.
~Waterloo Daily Courier, May 13, 1946
~transcribed by S. Ferrall

Below: photos of the Zoll Service Station and of the bulk tanks after the explosion & fire.


Equity fire

There was the fire in the feed bins of the Waukon Equity building, which burned out of control during a cold October night in 1975.

The Pioneer Fire Department battled the blaze for several hours as tall storage bins toppled, fueled by the chaff of just-stored grain.

Burned to the ground on the site of the present Pladsen Motors, the feed company relocated on another site in north Waukon.

Equity fire, 1975

Duffy & Ludeking Feed Service, 1981
Duffy & Ludeking Feed Service fire, April 17, 1981


The Trucks

Left photo, from top:

City truck - Randy Sweeney, Capt. of city truck
Rural truck - Mike Snitker, Capt. of rural truck
Little Jewell - Glenn Krueger, 2nd asst. to chief


Right photo, from top:

Emergency Rescue - Randy Murphy, Capt. #1 tanker

Tanker No. 2 -
Don Haler, with son Eric, with #2 tanker of which Joe Kroack, is the captain

Brush Wagon -
Harlan 'Herk' Herman
Tom Kerndt, Capt. (not pictured)


~source of the photos & information on this page (unless otherwise credited): SUPPLEMENT TO WAUKON NEWSPAPERS, February 15, 1983
~transcribed & contributed by Connie Ellis for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb, March 2011


Return to Misc. History index