In 1834 when the Delaware Fire Department was first organized, all personnel were volunteers or “Minute Men”, as they were referred to, until approximately 1870 when full-time drivers for the various pieces of apparatus were hired. It was at that time that the apparatus such as the steamers, the ladder wagon, the hose reel and chemical units became horse drawn necessitating drivers. These drivers, in 1870, became the first full-time fire department for the Village of Delaware. All other personnel were Minute Men. The use of Minute Men to augment the department continued until the early 1960’s when the department became fully paid.
The Fire Chiefs that served the Delaware Fire Department are listed chronologically below:
1858 W. Miller
1868-1870 John Carahan
1870 Nicklas White
1870 Charles V. Oweston
1870 George Aigin
1871 William J. Davis
1872 John Oller
1874-1875 W. E. Moore
1875-1876 Charles V. Oweston
1876 Jacob Kruck
1880 William J. Davis
All Chiefs, up until the appointment of C. 0. Jones, were considered part -time receiving salaries quarterly. They, along with the firemen, were confirmed by City Council and appeared as a pan of the City Council minutes. The Chiefs, until 1903, were elected by the department members and then confirmed by City Council.
All Chiefs were appointed by act of City Council until the appointment of Chief Fred Bills who was subjected to the first Civil Service examination for the position. Additional officers were selected by Civil Service examinations from 1941 on.
Civil Service examinations for Firemen were implemented around 1914.
The Fire Chiefs
Ed Balmer served as Fire Chief from 1890-1892
W. E. Moore served as Fire Chief from 1892-1894 (not pictured)
E. M. Heller served as Fire Chief from 1894-1900
Mont Battenfield served as Fire Chief from July 1900 unti11903. He was born in 1860 and represented the third ward on City Council for four years. He was employed by Riddle and Graff & Co., cigar manufacturers. During his tenure the department consisted of a hose wagon, a chemical engine, a hook and ladder truck, and two Silsby Steamers kept in reserve in case of an accident at the water plant. (not pictured)
C. 0. (Oscar) Jones served as Fire Chief from May of 1903 until October 1906. He was born in 1855 and lived on a farm for awhile and worked for some time in a flouring mill. He moved to Delaware in 1890 and served as a police- man for 5 years. He was appointed as the driver of the hook and ladder truck in May 1898 and served in this capacity until being appointed Chief.
Charles Keiser served as Fire Chief from October 1906 until his death on September 9, 1928, a period of almost 22 years. He was born in 1860 and had been a police officer from May 1900 until his appointment as Fire Chief.
Clive K. Dall served as Fire Chief from November 1, 1928 until Jan. 1, 1941. Chief Dall was appointed to the Fire Department in 1908 and served as the hose cart driver until the department was motorized in 1913.
Fred Bills served as Fire Chief from Jan. l, 1941 until Oct. 1, 1950. He was appointed Captain in 1924. He was the first chief to be appointed under a civil service examination. He was born May 9, 1890 and appointed to the fire department December 14, 1914. He served as driver of the horse drawn ladder/chemical wagon at the east side fire station until its closing in 1924. He was the father of Wilbur Bills who was later to become Fire Chief
Jerome (Jerry) Pliickebaum served as Fire Chief from Jan.1, 1951 until his retirement on disability on Dec. 1, 1956. Chief Pliickebaum was born in 1910 and was first appointed to the police department in Sept. 1936 until his transfer to the fire department December 1, 1939. He was the father of James Pliickebaum who was later to become Fire Chief.
Wilbur Bills served as Fire Chief from Feb. 9, 1957 until April 22, 1980 a period of 23 years, 2 months and 13 days, longer than any other service as Chief. He was born Sept. 25, 1926 and was appointed to the Fire Department June 1, 1948 and served until his retirement April 22,1980. Upon his retirement the present fire station on S. Liberty Street was named in his honor. Chief Bills was the son of former Fire Chief Fred Bills.
James Pliickebaum served as Fire Chief from April 23, 1980 until his retirement April 15, 1986. He was appointed to the Fire Department Jan. 1, 1960 and to Captain in 1969. He was the son of the former Fire Chief Jerry Pliickebaum.
Stephen G. Robinson served as Fire Chief from April 16, 1986 until his retirement in 1991. Chief Robinson was appointed to the Fire Department April 1966, was promoted to Lieutenant April 28, 1971 and Captain January 4, 1978. He retired on disability in 1991 after more than 25 years of service.
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