Tri-Village News

Grandview fire department, station turn 90

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A 90th birthday party often calls for 90 candles -- but in this case, perhaps not.

The Grandview Heights Division of Fire this month is celebrating its 90th year.

The department still operates out of its original station at 1016 Grandview Ave. Grandview created its own fire department in 1924 after the city of Columbus canceled its fire service to the community.

"It's the oldest fire station still operating in central Ohio," said fire Capt. Mike Shimko.

The building opened Aug. 8, 1924, and also housed the offices of what was then the village of Grandview Heights.

"We believe City Council met in what is now the fire department's day room," Shimko said.

The mayor's office is thought to have been located in the area now occupied by the chief's office, he said.

In the early years of the fire department, Fire Chief Meral Klingensmith and his family resided on the upper floor of the building in what is now the finance department, Chief Steve Shaner said. A dormitory for firefighters took up the remainder of the upper floor, he said.

It took four days before the department made its first official run, Shimko said.

On Aug. 12, 1924, Klingensmith responded to a grass fire at the corner of Goodale and Northwest boulevards.

Klingensmith's entry in the department's original log book states there was no damage.

"He used 10 gallons of a chemical/water mix, which is what they used to put out fires in those days," Shimko said.

Often in those early years, the chief would respond solo to a fire, he said.

The department used a combination of volunteers and paid firefighters in its first decades, Shimko said.

"We know there were some paid firefighters because the records show that during the Depression, when the budget was tight, the mayor paid their salary out of his own pocket for a time," he said.

During its first several decades, the department responded only to fires, since the concept of EMS had not been created, Shimko said.

"They had a lot of chimney fires and a lot of grass fires," he said.

Recently, while looking through the original log book, Shimko found a May 16, 1925, entry for a run to a lumber company on Goodale.

"Apparently, there must have been a big storm. The roof blew off and it tore down the electrical wire," he said. "There was no fire, but I got a kick out of something they wrote down: 'Sure one wild night.' It must have been quite a storm that night."

The department still has the original 1924 Seagrave fire engine Klingensmith and his staff used, along with the department's second fire truck purchased in 1936.

The 1924 truck is tiny and archaic compared to the sophisticated vehicles of today.

"You have to remember this engine was the cutting edge back in 1924," Shaner said. "The original bays were built to handle these smaller trucks, so now whenever we order a new engine, like we have on order now, we have to make sure it's going to fit through the bay's exit."

The antique trucks are used for parades and as part of the annual visit fourth-graders make during Fire Prevention Month, he said.

"We give them a history lesson about the old trucks," Shaner said. "It's good to remember your heritage and where you came from."

A second bay was added in 1936 for the additional truck. In 1959, the section of the building that now houses council chambers, the police department and city offices was added to the building.

The thick walls of the 1924 building interfered with the reception of computerized dispatching equipment installed on the department's current fleet of vehicles, Shaner said.

An amplifier had to be installed on a bay wall to ensure good reception, he said.

Before the era of modern radio communication, Grandview came up with an interesting way to notify police officers of a call, Shimko said.

"The officers would be out on patrol. The city's street lights were controlled from this building and they would turn the streetlights on and off to let them know they needed to come back here and find out what was up," he said.

The building apparently once had an old-fashioned fire pole that firefighters slid down when responding to a call, Shimko said. A closed-off circular cutout in the ceiling over the original bay still can be seen.

"It would have been a lot of fun going down that pole," he said.

Despite its age, the fire station still serves the department well, although maintenance is a continuing concern, Shaner said.

"We will come to a point, someday, when something will have to happen," he said. "No building can last forever."

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