Canosia Township

  Canosia Volunteer Firemen   
Dedicated Effort
started in 1949

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In July of 1949, thirteen Canosia residents met at the Town Hall to discuss with the State Fire Marshall and a captain of the Duluth Fire Department the problems of forming a volunteer fire department. Local people were confident they could go ahead and hold an organizational meeting, and they advertised, through newspapers and radio, and also contacted the Rice Lake Fire Department and TOFF (Township Organized Fire Fighters) for advice.

On July 19, 1949, at a meeting in the Town Hall, the Canosia Volunteer Fire Department was officially organized. With Isadore Dunaisky as acting chairman, Bertha Pederson as secretary and Chris Hanson representing the Town Board, the following temporary officers were elected to serve on the new Canosia Volunteer Fire Department:

  • Chief - Art Anderson;

  • Assistant Chief - Ed Bessay;

  • Fire Marshall - Frank Dubla;

  • President - George Nickelson

  • Vice President - Evyand Rathe;

  • Secretary - Warren Whitely;

  • Treasurer - Melvin Abrahamson.

At the meeting, several members of TOFF described some common problems of a volunteer department and offered their assistance. Since none of Canosia's neighbors such as Grand Lake, Herman and Fredenberg had their own fire departments, mutual aid boundaries would be worked out though the years.

The old fire truck, a 1940 Dodge purchased by Ray Kehtel, was stored at the 5th District County Tool House at Four Corners and, from the beginning, the county was supportive with help on the vehicle.

The new Fire Department had many issues to solve: by-laws, incorporation, insurance, retirement benefits and others, besides retrofitting an old truck. But, through the first critical years, money was raised to cover basic expenses.

Fund raising was aggressive, and the community responded. The earliest Department minutes list money constantly trickling in from luncheons, bake sales and a smorgasbord, events often held by wives of the firemen, as well as donations from area businesses. The Old Pike Lake Community Club turned over their remaining funds; the former Civilian Defense Fund members donated their treasury balance; the Pike Lake Homemakers raised money; and the newly-formed Pike Lake Community Club began their own campaign. There were fund raising dances held at the Hollywood Inn, the Auto Club, the Jackson Club and Kehtel's Resort.

Canosia firefighters soon realized they would have to publicize their new emergency fire phone number (Melrose 1069) so they bought a postcard printer and, using the county's mobile X-Ray unit mailing list, notified Canosia residents.

Until a fire hall was built in 1954, Canosia firemen met at the County Tool House, where they worked on the truck, adding ladders and other equipment and practiced fire runs. A whistle siren had been donated to the fire department and (according to their minutes) one fireman suggested they try it out first before cutting a hole in the building. And it did work.

In the fall of 1949, after Gordon Bromme, a First Aid specialist, had opened his new store at Four Corners, he began classes for the firemen. A few stretchers were located and several people donated blankets.

In October of 1949, Canosia firemen rushed to a fire on the Miller Trunk in Herman Township where a barn with 45 tons of hay was already lost, but the firemen saved the home and milk house. In February of 1950, when department members on their way to work saw smoke at Gallaghers on the Miller Trunk, they "put out the fire with water pumps before the Rice Lake Fire Department got there" - as summarized in their minutes. There were several Canosia fires, one minor and one with property losses and, the following August, the men fought another Herman house fire. The department was now measuring their response time, gradually acquiring newer equipment and planning for the first fire hall.

The old Fire Department minutes from the formative years list many volunteers. A few were newly-arrived residents, but many were people who had seen the tragedies of rural fires unchecked by skilled firefighters, and several knew firsthand the awful days of the 1918 Forest Fire. To them, and all who follow as volunteers, this article is dedicated.

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