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A Look Back on our Department's History...

The Village of Iola was incorporated on June 4, 1892.  Three months later, the Iola Village Board appointed a committee to prepare a resolution for fire protection.  The resolution was adopted at their next monthly meeting and the Iola Fire Department was formed. Within two months, the department's first purchase of ladders cost the village $22.62.  Three months later two dozen buckets were purchased for an additional $6.75.  By the end of 1894, the village had purchased a chemical engine from the Chemical Fire Extinguisher Company.  It was stored at the local mill until a suitable building could be created to house it.  While the first chemical engine was being purchased, the village decided that a fire company needed to be organized for the purpose of fire protection.  On October 6, 1896 the first fire company was formed with G. Amunson serving as our first chief.  Near the end of year in 1899, the village purchased a W.S. Nott Steam Engine from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It included one engine which had a pumping capacity of 350 g.p.m, and could push out 14o psi, 1000 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose, two play pipes and nozzles, two No. 1 cloth caps, 1 chief's hat, three fireman's rubber coats and hip boots, and two hose reels.  The equipment cost the village $1421.

Iola's first engine shown on the left: a W.S. Nott Steam Fire Engine

Near the end of the year 1900, the village had constructed our first engine house. The building cost $1512 to construct.  Although remodeled once in the 1950's, this building remained our fire station until our current building was constructed in 1986.

The first Iola Engine House built in 1900. This building still stands in downtown Iola.

Over the years, several other vehicles were added to the fire department.  A few of those historical apparatuses are shown below.

Our Model T Ford Fire Truck.  This trucke was used by the department from 1926-1944

Iola's 1938 Reo Fire Truck along side our 1913 Waterous Gasoline Fire Engine

Our old Engine 921 International Fire Truck with a group of firefighters.  Those pictured included (from left to right) - Lloyd Cooper, Ingval Olson, Myron Johnson, Robert Gunderson, Don Loken, Harold Larson, Leo Haroldson, Robert Grossbier, and Art Christoph. Carl Waller is standing on the truck

Old Engine 924

Old Brush Truck 923

Old Brush Truck 923

In 1948, the Iola Fire Department expanded its coverage into some of the rural areas.  The Town of Helvetia, Town of Harrison, and Town of New Hope joined resources to become the "Rural Fire Fighting Service."  Their first purchase was a Jeep fire truck of which there were only four of its kind in Wisconsin at the time. Only a few months later this truck would be called into action for a swamp/bog fire which took 186 man hours and six different responses to contain the blaze.

In the spring of 1970 the Iola Ambulance Service was created.  A 1968 Oldsmobile Cotner-Bevingtong four-place unit was purchased to serve as an ambulance. Voie's Funeral Home donated all of the equipment to be used on the new ambulance. The ambulance was staffed by volunteer firemen who had undergone "Standard and Advanced Red Cross First Aid" training. The Iola Lions Club supplied the volunteer firemen coverall uniforms to use while on calls. A two stall garage was built next to the fire station to house the ambulance and for a second ambulance to serve as a backup unit.


Iola Ambulance Service's First Ambulance and crew.

Old Secondary Ambulance & Rescue Snowmobile and Sled

Old Ambulance 805

 In April of 1976, the Iola Fire Department and the Scandinavia Fire Department entered a mutual aid agreement to assure that fire assistance would be available to both departments.  Although this mutual aid agreement has since been replaced by our current Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), it reflects the positive relationships that have been formed between our department and our surrounding communities.  In the fall of 1979, the department added a Hurst Jaws of Life to their equipment in order to enhance their ability to respond to automobile accidents.  In 1986 our current fire station was constructed and the equipment and vehicles were moved in.  The Iola and Rural Fire Department and Ambulance Service currently has two engines, a tender, a rescue truck, a brush truck, two ambulances, two trucks serving as squads, one UTV dedicated to fire responses, one UTV dedicated to medical responses, and a John Deere Gator which serves as a medical response vehicle.  In addition to this,  we have added a large three-stall shed on our property (Station 2) to store a response vehicle as well as other department equipment.

Training with our first Jaws unit

Iola & Rural Fire Department & Ambulance Service member and apparatus photo (1986)

Iola & Rural Fire Department & Ambulance Service Apparatus (2023)

Iola & Rural Fire Department & Ambulance Service members (2023)

The Iola Father's Day Fire of 1999

 June 20, 1999 – Father’s Day – was disrupted by a blaze that destroyed seven buildings on the west side of Main Street in downtown Iola under a gorgeous blue-sky and calm weather.  More than 200 firefighters from Iola, Scandinavia, and eight other Central Wisconsin fire departments, along with volunteers from the large group of bystanders, battled the blaze that destroyed historic century-old buildings, some dating to pre-1890.  Eleven businesses and eleven apartments were engulfed by the flames. Shared basements and attics meant the fire easily sped from one building to the next in a short period of time.  A towering plume of black smoke stuck out like a sore thumb in the blue sky.

 By knocking down two buildings in the middle of the block, firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading north to the rest of the block.  Fortunately, no one was injured, although two cats, one kitten and a dog perished in the blaze.  Residents and business owners sifted through the rubble the days after but found little, although a wedding ring thought lost in the blaze was one of the treasured finds.  Fire inspectors could pinpoint where the fire started among the burnt rubble, but not the reason for the tragic blaze.

Businesses destroyed include Bestul Realty, Iola Vision Center, Grandpa’s Still, Physical Therapy Associates, Iola Veterinary Clnic, State Farm Insurance, Sweet Medicines Pharmacy, Kranski Krafts, X-L Communications, Associated Claims Service, Coatco, and Yonash Construction.

The determined village quickly rebuilt buildings so businesses could get back on their feet, but there is still a historical hole in the heart of Iola.

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