The St. 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.  

Parish Hall.jpg (116805 bytes) Parish Hall2.jpg (99663 bytes)

1948 TO 1949

FirstTruck.jpg (123944 bytes)On 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 (dec.).

The 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.