In 2018, the Kirtland Fire Department celebrated its 85th anniversary. During the last 85 years, we have responded to fires, medical emergencies, accidents, and animal rescues. We have also assisted at fundraising dances, parades, and even presidential visits!
The history of the fire department, formerly an all volunteer fire department, began in the early 1930’s. In 1931, then the Kirtland Township Fire Department, one of their first priorities was to procure a fire siren. In addition to fires, this siren was set off at Noon every day to signal to the farmers that it was lunch time. This practice continued until the 1960’s.
The first Fire Chief was John Burnett. William (“Bill”) Dyke served as the first Assistant Fire Chief. In 1931, the fire department, at the cost of $5,800, obtained its first fire truck, affectionately known as the Buffalo (see Picture Gallery). The truck was originally stored at the Halle Farm, on Kirtland-Chardon Road, where Lake Metropark’s Penitentiary Glen now stands.
As a volunteer in the 1930’s, each man was paid $1.00 per meeting. There were two meetings per month, which they used for training. They were also paid $1.00 per hour for fighting fires. To help pay for fire equipment and training, the firemen held a spring and fall dance at the SNPJ Recreation Hall on Heath Road; SNPJ remains a well-known Kirtland landmark today.
In 1946, a disagreement between the Fire Department and the Kirtland Trustees developed and the Kirtland Trustees disbanded the Fire Department. After they disbanded the department, the Kirtland Trustees asked Ralph Dyke and Bill Thorne to start a new department with World War II veterans. The new group of volunteers was formed, Ralph Dyke was elected Fire Chief and Bill Thorne was elected as Assistant Fire Chief. In 1946, the Fire Department agreed to provide fire protection services to the Village of Waite Hill.
Not only were the early firemen volunteers, but so were many of their wives. In the early years, certain firemen’s homes contained “fire phones.” The wives would answer the phone and tell the firemen the location of the emergency, so time was not wasted going to the fire station. Little did these women know that they were doing the job of a Dispatcher.
One fire of significance occurred on May 31, 1978. The Fire Department was credited for saving Old South Church on that day, including the 1,200 pound bell in the steeple. Old South Church was built circa 1859 and is one of the oldest churches in Lake County.
While Kirtland has remained a small town, the Fire Department has grown to be a source of pride in Kirtland. After Chief Ralph Dyke retired in 1988, Rick Martincic became Fire Chief. Mr. Martincic was instrumental in transitioning the Kirtland Fire Department from a volunteer to a combination full and part-time department, in 1989. Chief Martincic was also responsible for increasing the full-time staff to 9 (10 including the Fire Chief). Staffing remains at this level today.
In 1997, Rich Harvey became Fire Chief and worked to develop the Fire Department into one of the best in Lake County. Former Councilman-at-Large, and then Mayor for the City of Kirtland, Mark Tyler, described the Fire Department as follows:
“The Kirtland Fire Department is a progressive department with very dedicated and highly trained personnel. The Fire Department, with outstanding leadership provided by Chief Tony Hutton, [appointed as Fire Chief in 2002], is well respected by other departments within the county.”
Currently, the Fire Department serves the residents of Kirtland and Kirtland Hills, as well as Lakeland Community College.
In addition to fire protection and emergency services, the fire department conducts various community programs, such as visiting local schools to teach the “stop, drop, and roll” rules; fire extinguisher training and CPR classes; fire protection and education; fire inspections; employee safety training; fire code and enforcement; fire prevention information; hazardous material response; ice and rope rescue. The Fire Department responds to over 1,200 fire and EMS calls each year.