A History of the Clawson Fire Department
The Clawson Fire Department has a very interesting and colorful past since its inception many years ago. It has continued to grow, evolve and change as a working department within the City of Clawson. The fire department was organized in the Village of Clawson in early 1922. The department’s first piece of equipment consisted of a Deluge Chemical unit mounted on a Ford chassis. This was adequate for the needs of the small village in those days.
During 1922 action was started toward a water supply system. Bonds were issued, and a well was installed. In 1923, water mains were installed as well. In 1923 Lester Straub was appointed as the fire department’s first chief. He served the department in this capacity from 1923 through 1929 and again from 1931 through 1933.
It was the usual practice each year for the Clawson Volunteer Fire Department to send at least three of its members to the annual state fire college. With this training and the aid of regular in house training drills the department was kept up to date on the latest and best methods of fire protection.
In 1927 the old truck was replaced by a Boyer Chemical Apparatus with hose body on a Dodge Graham Chassis. The chemical apparatus consisted of two thirty-five gallon chemical tanks, and 150 feet of one inch hose line. It was also equipped with 1,000 feet of two and one half inch hose line. This hose line placed every home in the village within reach of a water main.
In 1928 a Harrington Seaborg alarm system was installed having a system of eight boxes placed at various places throughout the village. The system had a capacity of forty boxes in order to cover future demand. Any call from one of the boxes was registered on a paper punch tape in the police office and automatically turned on the fire siren.
In the nineteen thirties and early forty’s before what is now the City of Troy was organized and the Troy Fire Department had not yet been established the area was mostly farm land. The Clawson Volunteer Fire Department at that time handled fire calls as far north as South Boulevard.
In 1938 the Clawson Volunteer Fire Department was proud of its new streamlined truck that it had just placed in service for its residents. The members were proud of this truck because it represented a new high in the department’s ability to serve the citizens of Clawson in a time of need. The truck was constructed by the members of the fire department on an International chassis and cost $2,500.00 and was valued at $6,000.00.
The ideas and design suggestions for this truck were contributed by the members of the fire department. It incorporated a 425 gallon water tank and booster pump, and could shoot four streams of water from 3/4 inch and 1 1/2 inch hose lines. All of the equipment the truck carried was enclosed, and the truck could travel 60 mph fully loaded.
In 1947 the fire department placed into service a 1947 Mack pumper to work alongside there International truck. This truck had a flat head six cylinder engine and was equipped with a two stage pump that could produce 500 gallons of water per minute. It also had a 250 gallon water tank, and a preconnected 1 inch hose line reel. The 1947 Mack was also equipped with two large spot lights for night time scene lighting and a complete set of ground ladders. The Mack pumper is still owned by the Clawson Fire Department. It still runs and pumps. Although retired it is still used for parades and numerous other city events. It has won many awards and ribbons for best original condition in its class, at area antique fire apparatus musters.
In the years prior to the current City Hall building being built, the city council held there meetings on the second floor of the old fire hall on Jefferson. During those days the Justice of the Peace presided at a table in the kitchen of the fire hall. When the loud fire siren went off, court proceedings were often delayed until all was quiet again.
In 1957 the department placed into service an American LaFrance 1000 gallon per minute pumper with a 500 gallon water tank. The truck cost the city $22,300.00. American LaFrance was a top of the line unit and the department was very proud of the fact that they owned one. The department almost did not receive its new truck when it was discovered that it had been lost during shipping. The truck was shipped by rail and when it did not arrive when it was expected a search was started, the truck was located on a railroad siding somewhere between New York and Michigan and was sent on its way to Clawson.
An addition to the east side of the fire station was constructed in 1966 giving the station three useable bays, as well as being able to house the newer more modern equipment.
The city took delivery of a 1967 F.T.I. (Fire Trucks Inc.) truck built in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. It featured a Wakashaw 6 cylinder gas engine with a four speed manual transmission. It also included a Waterous 1000 gallon-per-minute two-stage pump and 500 gallon water tank.
A 1977 Ford cab and chassis with a utility work body featuring outside compartments and rear walk in area with shelving was purchased. This truck was used to carry large and extra equipment that could not fit on the regular fire trucks. Clawson’s first equipment squad was born.
In 1980 the City took delivery of its first new fire truck that featured an aerial ladder. It was a unit built by the Sutphen Corporation in Ohio . It had a Detroit Diesel engine with a four speed automatic transmission in combination with a Waterous 1500 gallon-per-minute two-stage pump and had a 500 gallon water tank. The ladder was 65 feet long.
As the time approached to begin to think about replacing the old International pumper, the members of the department, began to put together a list of the features that they thought should be included on a new truck. It was soon realized that the newer equipment being built was larger and that a new truck would not fit in the existing fire station. The old station was a two bay building with the Mack and International being parked one behind the other, and the American LaFrance in its own place on the other side.
October of 1980 the city opened its new and current fire station. The fire department was able to move into the new building and celebrate its opening during fire prevention week. The new station was dedicated that year at its annual open house. Clawson residents were able to tour and see the new building. As the Clawson firefighters settled into the new building, the old fire hall on Jefferson Street was torn down and is now a municipal parking lot.
1984 brought the purchase of the Clawson Fire Departments first Jaws of Life extraction / rescue unit. This was made possible by numerous civic minded groups, and headed by the Clawson Lions Club. The groups came together for this fund raiser when it was learned that the fire department had responded to an auto accident and was not able to do much, and was forced to request assistance from a neighboring department that owned an extraction tool. The different groups held dinners, dances, and pancake breakfasts. The total amount of money that was needed was raised and the purchase of the rescue tool was made in a very short four months.
In 1988 a Pierce Dash pumper was placed into service to replace the American LaFrance.The department’s first Pierce unit was built with a Catapiller Turbo Engine with a four speed automatic transmission and included a 1,250 gallon-per-minute two-stage pump and 500 gallon water tank. It also includes a prepiped deluge gun, for master stream operations.
In 1993 an International cab and chassis with an eight compartment body and rollup doors was purchased to replace the much smaller Ford equipment squad. The International unit carried twice the equipment as the old unit did.
In 1997 a Pierce Saber pumper was placed into service to replace the 1967 F.T.I. The department’s second Pierce truck was built with a Detroit Diesel engine with five speed push button automatic transmission, and a Waterous 1,500 gallon-per-minute two-stage pump.
In 2003 a Pierce Enforcer ladder/pumper truck was placed into service, replacing the 1980 Sutphen Ladder Truck. This was the third Pierce unit built for the City of Clawson and included a Cummings diesel engine, five-speed automatic transmission, Waterous 1,500 gallon-per-minute two-stage pump, and 300 gallon water tank. The ladder is 75 feet tall and has a breathing air connection at the tip of the ladder.
The Clawson Fire Department is currently operating four pieces of equipment in its day to day operations.
Clawson Fire Department Chiefs
Lester Straub 1923–1929
Charles Baker 1930
Lester Straub 1931–1933
Robert Allison 1934–1935
William Mancour 1936–1938
Norman Bowen 1939–1946
Charles Nugent 1947
Vernon Whiting 1948–1951
Grant Wedge 1952–1953
Albert Thomas 1954–1956
Elsworth Brown 1957–1959
Herbert Lepla 1960
Harold Plauman 1961–1963
Herbert Lepla 1964–1965
Eugene Hiler 1966–1967
James McCurry 1968–1970
Dean Sanderson 1971–1973
Harvey Malone 1974–1980
Robert Bouse 1981–1982
Richard Lepla 1983–1987
Kraig Bouse 1988–2003
Daniel Pena 2004
Douglas Ballard 2005–2010
Rick Dylewski 2011–2018
Troy Engel 2018-Present