Stephen Volunteer Fire Department had its beginnings sometime in early 1948,
when Joe Trobec approached his friend W. F. (Bill) Vouk Sr., who was the Village
Clerk, proposing to start a Fire Department in the Village. On May 12th of that
year, the Village council first discussed the purchase of a pump for the purpose
of fighting fires; and on June 7th, the council voted to purchase a portable
Hale 300-gallon-per minute fire pump and 200 feet of fire hose at a cost of
$648.30. When the St Stephen's Parish Hall was struck by lightning and burned in
August of that year, this pump was used to pump water from nearby cisterns to
help in the firefighting effort.
1948 TO 1949
August 12, 1948 the Village council discussed the purchase of a fire truck and
agreed to purchase a truck for $125 and a siren for $25. This truck was a 1929
Model AA Ford Ton truck, purchased from Midway Auto Wrecking in St. Cloud. The
cab was badly deteriorated, so it was removed, as well as the flatbed rack. The
engine was rebuilt and a body with a 300-gallon water tank and compartments was
built in the Vouk Garage by Bill Vouk and his brother John. The Hale portable
pump was mounted on the tailboard. The construction of this truck was completed
in the late summer of 1949. When asked years later why they started out with a
20 year old truck, John Vouk replied that first of all, they had little money
and they wanted a truck that would be sure to start and Model A Fords we known
for always starting. This truck was housed in a partitioned-off section, heated
by a household old heater in a shed, (now no longer in existence), on the
property of the Rose Gustansek home, now 106 Main Street, West. On April 13,
1949, the Village council decided to build a reservoir to store water for use in
firefighting. This reservoir, made of poured concrete, built by Megarry Bros.
Construction of St. Cloud, and holding 12,600 gallons of water, was completed in
the summer of that year and is located beneath the alley next to the St.
Stephen's Parish Hall. It was initially filled by borrowing the Rice Fire
Department's tanker truck to haul water.
On August 30,
1949, Fred Fiedler of Rice, MN, upon invitation by the Village council, appeared
at their meeting to advise them on organizing the Fire Department. Mr. Fiedler
recommended having 10 or 20 men on the Department and to appoint a Chief and
Secretary-Treasurer. He stressed the need for insurance for the men and urged
joining the State Firemen's Association, saying the Fire Department should have
its own fund. The council then went about forming the Fire Department. A list of
names was drawn up and each member of the Council was to contact three men from
this list and ask them if they wanted to be on the Department. The
organizational meeting of the Fire Department was set for September 8th.
At this meeting,
Joe Trobec was elected Chief and served in this office until his death in May
1974. John Vouk was elected Assistant Chief, and served in that office until his
resignation in 1969. Bill Vouk was elected Secretary-Treasurer and served in
this office until his retirement in 1983. The other men on the original
membership roster were: Wilfred Blenkush, Alex Hlebain, Eddie Hlebain, Val
Hlebain, Peter Justin, Math Kosel, Claude Legatt, Frank Mensinger, Ben Omann,
Joe M. Omann, Victor Omann, Joe Peternell, Leo Rausch, John Schumer, Peter
Schumer, James Slamnick and Ben Supan.
As of this
writing (1999), six of these men are still living: Wilfred Blenkush
(dec.), Claude Legatt (dec.), Joe
Peternell (dec.), Ben Supan, Bill Vouk (dec.) and John Vouk
wages for the men were set at $1 for the first hour of a call and 50 cents per
hour for each successive hour. It was agreed to join the State Firemen's
Association and the Volunteer Firemen's Benefit Association for insurance
purposes. It was further agreed that the department would respond anywhere if
called, and come back if a fire occurred within the Village.