WARRENVILLE – In late 1936, four homes burned to the ground in the small, 1,200-person community of Warrenville.
At that time, the town was isolated by farmland, so it was already too late when nearby fire departments arrived to the homes.
From those ashes came the dedication needed for community members to pull together and become the town’s first firefighters in 1936. In 1939, the Warrenville Fire Protection District was officially founded.
Now 75 years later, the district is celebrating its diamond anniversary with various events year-round.
“They started as an entirely volunteer operation, and they’ve come a long way,” Warrenville Mayor David Brummel said. “Their tradition is part of the tradition of our community of volunteers.”
The Fire Protection District will be the focus of Warrenville’s annual July 3 parade. The hope is to have 75 antique fire vehicles from Warrenville and neighboring towns drive in the procession.
In the beginning, the district’s jurisdiction was vast, spanning to the Kane County line. Although it doesn’t cover as much land as it once did, the firefighters still protect unincorporated Wheaton, Winfield and Naperville, in addition to fighting fires in Warrenville.
While land has decreased, the population has gone up, and the district has grown from including 3,700 people in 1959 to more than 20,000 currently, Fire Chief Dennis Rogers said.
A growing population has meant a greater need for firefighters. While the district had about 12 in the beginning, it now boasts 60. Over the years, 300 firefighters have been part of the district, he said.
“Warrenville still has that small town type of atmosphere. We have multiple generations of family members that are firemen here,” said Rogers, who is in the process of writing a book detailing the history of the Fire Protection District.
The fire district was originally based out of Behr’s garage, a quasi-car dealership and service garage located down the street from where the current station sits at 3S472 Batavia Road.
The fire station was built in 1947 and expanded in 1988.
The district’s anniversary was commemorated earlier this month by Two Brothers Brewing Co. in Warrenville, who created a specialty beer called Engine No. 1.
The beer’s label features a photograph of an antique Warrenville fire engine. Sales benefit the 100 Club of DuPage County, a nonprofit that supports the families of injured or killed firefighters and police officers.
On Aug. 30, an Antique Fire Muster will be held at the VFW on Warrenville Road. The muster will feature a pancake breakfast, craft fair, live music and food vendors, as well as water fights between firefighters that involve using a fire hose to push a hanging barrel onto an opposing team’s side.
A Fire Prevention Open House will take place at 10 a.m. Oct. 4 at the Warrenville Fire Station. The event will feature various demonstrations.
The Fire Protection District’s 75th anniversary year may feature other events as well. With plenty of fun in store, the celebration is far from over.
“There’s just an enormous amount of pride in the community for the fact that these people serve us so well,” Brummel said.