History of Fire Control
In 1873, the Somers Mutual Fire Insurance Company was organized by a group of early settlers for the purpose of financially protecting Somers’ families from fire disasters. When a fire was discovered, credit is due to the men and women of the neighborhoods for their heroic efforts in saving so many homes, barns, animals, and people. The news article below is an example of how fires were handled in the early days.
DOG SOUNDS ALARM OF FIRE
IN HOME OF SOMERS FARMER
“The barking of a dog and the work of a rural telephone operator in awakening neighbors to help fight the blaze, saved the home of Jake Fredericks, Somers Township farmer, from destruction.
The family was aroused by the dog’s barking to find the home filled with smoke. While one of the sons rushed to a neighbor’s home to telephone, the other three started moving out the furniture.
The Somers telephone operator, Mrs. Lillian Hughes, began telephoning neighbors to urge them to join the brigade. In a short time, more than 50 persons had assembled to fight the flames.”
(Source: Racine Journal Times, August 16, 1934)
1934 – Somers New Fire Department
On December 5, 1934, a meeting was called in the Town of Somers to discuss organizing a Fire Department. One week later, the volunteer firefighters were ready for action with 24 members.
Elected as Officers were:
Ernest Tabbert, Sr., Chief
Russell Fenske, Assistant Chief
Robert Thomas, Sr., Lieutenant
George Tabbert, Captain
Edward E. Tabbert, Secretary-Treasurer
Other members of the newly formed volunteers included:
Van Thiel, Charles
Somers First Fire Station
In the heart of the Town of Somers, located on Highway E, the first Fire Station made its home in a former Chevrolet Garage operated by two partners, Archie Bush and Fred Helding. The Heldings lived next door. Today the building, still standing, is used as the Somers American Legion-David Leet Post.
The First Town of Somers Fire Station, Kenosha County, Wisconsin
(Photo courtesy of Ernest “Bunky” Tabbert, Retired Fire Chief, Somers Fire Department June 1950 – December 2001)
The First Year Statistics
During its first year as an organized department, the firefighters answered 36 alarms. The first alarm was received at 9:15 p.m., December 29, 1934. The volunteers were dispatched to the home of Barney Bose whose home was located on 22nd Avenue, one quarter of a mile north of Somers Road (Highway E). It was reported to have been started by a lamp. Mr. Bose was not at home and the fire was not discovered in time, thus resulting in a 98% loss of the structure and 100% loss on the contents.
The First Town of Somers Fire Station and Volunteer Firemen, Kenosha County, Wisconsin
Left to Right: Wayne Tabbert (engine driver), Harold “Boots” Tabbert, George Tabbert, George Yunk, Archie Bush, Jim Zeluff (Somers General Store), Ernest “Bunky” Tabbert, Wendell “Windy” Rhodes, man in hat unknown, and Pete Lauer (tank driver).
(Photo courtesy of Ernest “Bunky” Tabbert Retired Fire Chief, Somers Fire Department, June 1950 – December 2001)
The First Equipment
The first engine purchased by the Somers Fire Department was a 1934 Peter Pirsch 500 GPM pumper with a 450 gal. capacity and a 1936 Chevrolet tank truck that carried 1200 gals on water. This was used as first-line equipment until 1965.
The 1934 Peter Pirsch Somers Fire Truck is on permanent display at the Kenosha History Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
©2013 Jacqueline Klapproth Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
It was March 3, 1966 that the Somers Fire Auxiliary was formed with 20 ladies present to make up the Charter membership list. Mrs. Kenneth Bohm was its first president. It was later changed to Somers Fire & Rescue Auxiliary. All wives of active, retired, or deceased members of the Fire and Rescue Departments were welcome to join.
The Auxiliary social fund-raising activities varied, such as bake sales, grocery cart raffles, spaghetti dinners, “Somers Daze” food booth and quilt raffles. The funds raised benefitted the community in ways such as the presentation of food, money or clothing to families whose homes were destroyed by fire; a food drive for needy families at Christmas time; and provide holiday favors and toys for patients at area institutions. The Auxiliary also participated and contributed to the Somers Queen Contest, Somers Civic Association, playground equipment, and service food and refreshments to our firefighters at fires.
In July1967, a new fire station, known as Somers Fire Department Station No. 1, was built adjacent with the Somers Town Hall. The original Fire Station was sold to the American Legion, now known as the David Leet Post #552. It housed 1 engine, a ladder company, 2 tankers, 2 rescue companies, and 2 grass rigs.
In November, 1975, Station No. 2 was built on Highway E near Sheridan Road (Highway 32) to provide faster service to the lakeshore residents of the Town of Somers. The Station originally housed 2 engine companies.
Town of Somers Fire Station #2, Kenosha County, Wisconsin located on Highway E just west of Highway 32/Sheridan Road
©2013 Jacqueline Klapproth Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
Somers Rescue Squad, a volunteer organization, began providing emergency medical services to Somers Township on January 1, 1978. There were 11 charter members.
This service began with the purpose of providing emergency pre-hospital medical care to patients. Before this service was offered in Somers, these patients were transported to the hospital in a Sheriff’s Department squad car, with next to no medical attention until the patient reached the hospital. By providing rescue squad service to our Township, the odds of survival and complete recovery of the patients transported to the area hospitals were greatly improved.
(Source: “50th Anniversary Somers Fire Dept. 1934-1984” Commemorative Booklet unless otherwise noted.)