The Meyers Era

For the next almost 60 years, there would be a Myers at the head of the Chillicothe Fire Department. The fire department records show that in June of 1952, the fire department recognized the need for additional space and a larger fire station. From 1928 until 1954 the Chillicothe Fire Department was housed in the lower level of City Hall. You can still see the outline of the two stall openings in the South wall of City Hall on Walnut St. With the addition of larger trucks and more men, they had just outgrown the City Hall garage. Plans were drawn up and the bids were opened on April 29th, 1954 for the construction of Fire Station #1 in the city park on Chestnut St., our present location. The dedication of the new station was in 1954. The new station had four spacious truck bays, a large meeting room, and a kitchen. Subsequent remodeling through the years added two offices and a three-story training tower to the North side of the building.

Chief Myers and his leadership team wasted no time in moving the department forward. Since the beginning of the 20s, there was understood the need for fire protection outside the city limits. The community was served by the same department as the city. In 1953, the Fire Department recognized the need for a more official organization and division of assets. A group of firemen from the city founded a nonprofit organization called the Chillicothe Community Fire Department (CCFD). The CCFD established a fire protection district to better serve the residents outside of Chillicothe’s corporate city limits. The first CCFD board was elected on October 30th, 1954, and incorporation papers were drawn up in 1955 forming a private business enterprise to provide fire protection to residents outside of Chillicothe. Two fire departments now existed under one roof and lead by the same fire chief, Gail Myers. While funding for the City Fire Department (CFD) was channeled through the city treasury and the fire chief reported to the mayor and council, funding for the newly formed CCFD was discussed.

Chief Myers, A/C Newman, Fred Meister, and others developed a numbering system whereby every house and place of business outside of Chillicothe was numbered in sequential order starting South of town with Fire Number 1. A book was established with the names of homeowners for each house, and directions as to how to get to each house or business listed. At this time, there was no official house numbering system and many of the roads went by locally known names. It was not until much later that the County established the current road names and numbering system that we enjoy now. To each house with a fire number, the CCFD sent a “fire bill.” A notice to each homeowner and business owner that they were expected to pay a nominal, voluntary, fee annually to ensure fire protection and the response of firefighters and equipment to their house when called. Over the years, the system became very complex with the evolution of houses torn down, other houses built between existing houses, and subdivisions created with groups of houses where single numbers existed. The process evolved with alphabetical indicators to recognize new houses, ex. Fire number 99 may have added 99A, 99B, 99C, and so on. Sub-divisions were given prefixes followed by numbers identifying houses ex.: Woodland Heights became WH1, WH2, etc. Brookview in Mossville became BR1, BR2, BR3, etc. Fawn Hills became FH1, FH2, FH3 etc. This form of identification continued until the late 1990s when the County had completed naming roads and establishing house numbers based on a North/South/East/West grid system that tied the whole county together. The individual billing system that supported the CCFD continued until the advent of the Fire Protection District in 2017.

In 1957 the new station in Mossville was built. This station was identified as Fire Station #2. In 1960, the station in Rome was built and identified as Fire Station #3. With the acquisition of the North Chillicothe Fire Department, that station was identified as Fire Station #4. In later years, the numbers were changed to reflect the current numbering system of Stations 1, 2, 4, and 5.

Chief Myers was always thought of as a forward-thinking chief and proceeded to move the CFD and CCFD forward through groundbreaking decisions. Some of the accomplishments of the department under Chief Myers were:

– 1954, Two-way radios were installed and used in city fire trucks with the base station at the dispatch center.

– 1956, the first High-Pressure engine was purchased for the CCFD.

– 1959, Plectrons were purchased and put in service. These were radio receivers that could be taken home by firemen and were tone activated by the dispatcher. For the first time, firemen would not have to rely on hearing the whistle in town when there was a fire and because the Plectrons were capable of receiving voice messages, firemen could now hear where the call was and what kind of call, they were responding to.

– 1963, The first dedicated rescue truck was established. This supported the decision and trend for the fire service to branch out from just fire fighting to the need to perform specialized rescue operations with specialized tools, more than could be carried on a fire engine.

– 1968, Captain Gene Droll spearheaded the project to build the first rescue boat for the CCFD.

– 1969, CFD and CCFD members built a stand-alone generator set with lights on a pull-behind trailer to be used at a fire scene. The generator came from Caterpillar, the trailer from CEMCO, and the lights from the old High School football field.

– 1971, The first areal truck was purchased. A 75-foot mid-mounted areal that was capable of reaching the top of any building in our district. This was the first areal ladder for a volunteer department in Central Illinois.

– Until the mid-80s, the department enjoyed an exclusive radio frequency, not shared with any other fire department in the state. All other fire departments shared their radio frequency with at least one other department.

– Maintained a rotational time of 20 years to replace major pieces of equipment, thus ensuring up-to-date equipment in good working order and used equipment that demanded top resale dollars. All this without going into debt by taking out loans.

Throughout Chief Myers remaining tenure as Chief, he stressed professionalism and advanced training. He took us into the era of medical first responders and EMT’s, and kept the equipment up-to-date and as modern as any fully paid department in the state. Chief Myers retired in 2003, but never fully left the department until his death in 2010. Chief Mike Myers was succeeded by his son John Myers, then Mike Denzer, Jim Benisch (CFD), and Donovan Thompson (CCFD/CCFPD) (this was the first time in the history of the two departments that we had two chiefs, one for each department), Donovan Thompson, interim Chief (CCFPD in 2019) and finally, Chief Marvin Roderick (CCFPD) appointed in 2019. Chief Roderick was also a first, the first Chief to be appointed without having served or come up through the ranks of the CFD/CCFD/CCFPD. Chief Roderick retired from the Peoria Fire Department and brought with him a strong background in Operations and Training.

In 2017, faced with an uncertain income from fire dues, and the inability to project a reasonable budget, the department voted to petition the residents of the community to form a Fire Protection District. This proposal was met with overwhelming approval when presented on the ballot, and so the Chillicothe Community Fire Protection District was formed. We still maintained two departments with the City of Chillicothe retaining its fire department.

In 2019, through a referendum on the ballot, the citizens of the City of Chillicothe voted to have the city join the Fire Protection District. For the first time in almost 100 years, both the city of Chillicothe and the surrounding area were covered by the same fire department, the Chillicothe Community Fire Protection District. Currently, at the time of the Centennial Celebration, the CCFPD protects approximately 15,000 people, within 106 square miles, extending from the Illinois River to East of Rt. 40, South to Detweiler Park, and North to Hopewell Estates.

The CCFPD is a member of Illinois MABAS system which means that when called by another department, we will travel anywhere within Peoria County and beyond to answer a call. The department has grown a lot since the late 1800s. Going from a whistle and a bell to every member having a two-way radio, pager, and yes, an app on their phone. Going from two hand trucks to. . .

– 5 engines

– 1 100-foot ladder truck

– 1 3500-gallon tender

– 1 heavy rescue truck

– 1 light rescue truck

– 1 brush truck

– 1 hovercraft

– 1 UTV

– 1 command vehicle

– 1 rescue/fire boat

– Over 16,000 feet of hose

– And we proudly carry an ISO rating of 4 which is outstanding for a volunteer department. As we look back on the past 100-plus years and all the men and women who have served, we can be proud of our accomplishments and eagerly look forward to whatever the future of the Chillicothe Community Fire Protection may bring.

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