A Brief History of the SFPD - 1955 to present
December 5th, 1955 the court order was signed officially forming the Salem Fire Protection District as a separate governing body within the county and no longer a part of the City of Salem Government. The original board of trustees consisted of Omar K Squibb President, Kenneth Milam Treasurer and John Hoover Secretary. Omar Squibb, who served as the District Board President for forty years, was succeeded as president by James D Somer, who was succeeded by S. Michael Squibb who is the current President of the Board of Trustees.
Kenneth Millam, the founding Treasurerm, was eventually succeeded by Carl Pratt, Don Sasse, Roy G Woodward and Larry Clark, who is the current Treasure.
John Hoover was succeeded as Secretary by James D Somer, Michael Mullen and James T Somer who is the current Secretary of the board.
Harper Paul Sweeney Jr., who was serving as Chief of the City of Salem Fire Department when the Salem Fire Protection District was formed, was appointed the first fire chief of the Salem Fire Protection District by the board of trustees. The Fire Chiefs of Salem Fire Protection District have been Harper Paul Sweeny Jr. 1955-1977, Thayer S. “Ted” Damon 1977-1981, James L Raver 1981-1996, James T. Somer 1996-2003 and Roger A. Mann 2003 to present.
As you can see the Salem Fire Protection District has been blessed with stability in leadership since its formation in 1955. There have been a total of 11 people who have served on the three-member board of trustees and only five Fire Chiefs.
The original boundaries of the Salem Fire Protection District encompassed 104 square miles. With some adjoining property owners petitioning into the fire district and some unprotected land being added during the incorporation of enhanced 911 emergency call system, the present bounders encompass 124 square miles.
Salem Fire Protection District originally operated out of the old City of Salem Fire Department quarters in the building shared by the Salem Police Department and Salem City Hall. In 1965 the City of Salem moved to the First National Bank building on the corner of Main and Broadway moving both City Hall and the Police Department to that building. Salem Fire Protection District then purchased the old city hall building on the corner of South Broadway and West McMackin Street. They also purchased the adjourning property on the South, which housed the Salem Appliance Store, the adjourning property on the West that housed a monument company and the property adjourning the monument company on the west, which housed IDA’S Restaurant. This gave the Salem Fire Protection District the North half of the block bordered by South Broadway, South Walnut, West McMackin and West Church streets. The Fire District then moved into temporary quarters in a former machine shop in the 200 block of east Schwartz Street. It is believed that former City of Salem Fire Department Chief H.E. “Stony” Vogt Sr had owned the building. All the buildings at the newly purchased property were razed and a contract was let to L.E.Barenfanger of Salem on December 2nd, 1965 for the construction of the new building to house the Salem Fire Protection District. This would be a building with four apparatus bays, a day room, radio repair shop, kitchen, board room, workshop, wash bay, an upstairs meeting room and a combination hose/training tower. The building was placed on the property to allow for the addition of two more apparatus bays to the South if the need ever arose for more apparatus room. The new station was dedicated in August of 1966.
A longtime member of the Salem Fire Protection District who served as a Firefighter, Captain and retired as Deputy Assistant Chief was Orval Mahon. Anytime you had conservation with Orval, if the discussion involved the fire district Orval would always say, “by golly boys you need to add two bays onto the South side of the station”. No one was more adamant about the need for those two bays, in the fall of 1998 construction began on the two bays with Lipps Construction Company of Mt Vernon, Illinois as the general contractor. The new bays were dedicated September 19,1999 as the Orval E Mahon addition.
In 2004 two and one half acres were leased on a long-term lease on Selmaville road to be used as a training facility for the fire district. The following year six acres with a building incorporating two apparatus bays and a large meeting room that adjoined the leased two and one half on the South was purchased. This property has been developed into a training facility, with many different training props and is known as the Omar K Squibb Training Facility. Two pieces of apparatus are housed at this facility. The Omar K Squibb training facility serves as a regional training facility for the Illinois Fire Service Institute.
In 2007 the property on South Walnut adjoining the west side of the Salem Fire Protection District was acquired. The office building will be renovated and utilized by the District in the future.
The officers and firefighters of the Salem Fire Protection District are all very dedicated. They take great pride in our facilities, equipment and apparatus. Our Board of Trustees and Chief Officers believe in purchasing the best quality available when purchasing equipment, apparatus and facilities. We believe in maintaining everything in top condition to get long life and service. All personnel of Salem Fire Protection District spend many hours each year training to improve our efficiency in the services we provide. We are proud to serve the residents of the Salem Fire Protection District and strive to provide the best service possible.