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Fire Department History

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The first recorded fire in Chagrin Falls history occurred in October of 1834. The blaze involved a barn at the corner of what is now Main and Orange Streets. All seven men of the community responded to the fire where they formed an impromptu fire company. The historical account of this fire states that the men put forth “super-human efforts” and were able to save the barn from certain destruction.  Over the next ten years the little community by the falls grew from a hamlet of seven families to become an incorporated Village in 1845. Without the foresight to create a dedicated firefighting force numerous fires destroyed Village businesses, homes and barns.
It wasn’t until 1868 when an entire row of stores North of the Main Street bridge were completely destroyed that Mayor J.W. Williams and Village Council purchased a hook and ladder, buckets and ladders. Despite that there was still no group of organized people who were trained to use this equipment.

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On November 4th 1897 the Village Council drafted a constitution for a proposed fire department and appointed Mr. Fred Rehberg as the proposed organizations Chief. A few weeks later the Village received a new hook and ladder truck and immediately ordered fifteen sets of firefighting gear. Village Council established the Chagrin Falls Volunteer Fire Department and appointed twenty two charter members including a new Chief, Dr. Bernard LeRoy. The fire departments equipment was hauled by horses until the Village purchased its first motorized fire engine in 1923.

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As the communities around Chagrin Falls grew, in the 1930’s, the Chagrin Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department members formed a non-profit company known as the Chagrin Falls Suburban Fire Department which began providing fire protection for most of the Chagrin Valley including Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville, Chesterland, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, Solon and Woodmere.

In 1931 the Village updated its means of notifying members of an emergency by purchasing a rooftop siren replacing the bells that had served for so many years. Over the years more fire trucks were purchased by the Suburban Fire Department to protect the outlying communities they served under contracts. Village emergencies were handled primarily by Village Fire Department equipment.

The 1940’s saw the purchase of more modern firefighting equipment, trucks that could carry as much as five times more water than previous apparatus. In 1951 the Fire Department added Emergency Medical Care to its scope of responsibility when the Stroud Funeral Home donated an Ambulance to the Suburban Fire Department.

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The Auxiliary Fire Department was formed in 1955 to provide a formal training ground for young men interested in joining the regular Fire Department as there was a cap on its membership. The Auxiliary Department served its purpose well for the years until it was replaced by the current membership rank and class system in 1981.

The 1960’s brought us yet more modern fire apparatus, trucks with pumps twice the size of anything we’ve had before and diesel engines to power the trucks. The 1970’s saw the arrival of yet another new fire trucks including a 55’ ladder truck and a donated ambulance from one if its most dedicated members, C.S. “Brick” Harris and his sister Mrs. C.B. Waite. In the 1980 the Village appointed its first full time Fire Chief, John “Jack” Phillips. Chief Phillips handled the day to day operations of both the Village and Suburban Fire Departments.
In the 1990’s the Fire Department started to look as it does today with the purchase of modern, customized “E-One” Engine and Ladder Trucks as well as a move to large Rescue Squads. The new millennium has brought increases in staffing and new state of the art lifesaving equipment to handle the myriad of calls for service we
receive. 2015 brought us two new custom Pierce Apparatus to replace our twenty year old fire due Engine and Ladder Truck.

Our History Continues…..

FIRE CHIEFS
Fred Rehberg 1897
Bernard R. Le Roy 1897 – 1898
Tom N. Bright 1898 – 1903
G.E. Waite 1903 – 1908
G.D. Cameron 1908 – 1910
C.O. Rodgers 1910 – 1914
George Wilson 1914 – 1920
Harry Russell 1920 – 1923
C.B. Waite 1923 – 1924
Jack Grazer 1924 – 1926
George Wilson 1926 – 1934
Glenn Hunt 1934 – 1935
Fred Hern 1936 – 1942
Dave Chittock 1942 – 1945
Charles Hern 1946 – 1977
Bill Raymond 1978 – 1980
Jack Phillips 1980 – 1995
James Leffler 1996 – 2007
Frank M. Zugan 2008 –