#Lookback: Early History of the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department

    A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

    Fire’s transformative properties have given humanity the ability to do amazing things, but has also forced us to reckon with its awesome destructive power when we lose control of it. The threat of, or sometimes reality, of an uncontrolled blaze necessitated the creation of fire departments. Dubois is no exception and officially established the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. in 1956.

    The origin of the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department started in 1955 after the burning of the community center and the school in late fall. According to Arden and Hazel Coad, “Then Councilman Pete Chimenti told the Council Dubois needs an organized Fire Dept. Pete was raised in Brooklyn NY and had seen the fine New York City Fire Dept. in action many times.” 

    The Mayor Shorty Meckem gave approval to Pete to continue with the project. Arden Coad estimated that at the time 99 men (out of a total population of 270 people) in Dubois volunteered. Unfortunately, the department was short on experience and equipment (with a converted Willys-Overland CJ-2A Jeep serving as the first fire engine) but that didn’t stop the men from trying. A few stories of the early volunteer fire department that can be found in Mary Allison’s Dubois Area History included a false alarm that scattered a 1,000 head cattle drive and a near fist fight over who got to operate the nozzle. 

    The first meeting of the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department took place in January of 1956. The first elected officers included Secretary/Treasurer Ward Keevert, Assistant Chief Wayne Lewis, and Chief Arden Coad. The town agreed to pay the firemen $1.50/hr while on a call and 75¢/hr for training. Chief Coad received $1.50/hr for calls and training. The men agreed to put that money toward an equipment fund. 

    With the fund started, the men still needed to raise a considerable amount of money to buy vital equipment. The idea was pitched to host a fireman’s ball on the same weekend as the Swedish Smorgasbord. Letters were sent out and tickets sold all over the county. Dubois filled to the brim. So much so that the fire department decided to also host a “Buffalo Feed”, which has since become an annual event.

    The Dubois Volunteer Fire Department was created to help fill a void in the community and has easily achieved that goal. The impact that they have had on the region has been felt since their creation and will continue to be felt for generations to come.

    Author: Braeden Kluver

    The Dubois museum is starting the process of refurbishing the Willys-Overland Jeep. If you would like to donate to this project call the Dubois Museum at (307) 455-2284 or email us at [email protected] for more information.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    April 13, 10-4pm at the Riverton Museum, “Riverton Museum Open House”

    April 20, 9-2pm “Pioneer Museum Garden Expo-Historic Plant Booth” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    April 25, 7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Lander in 1924” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    April 27, 1-3pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Sheep Shearing Day” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

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