The History of the Cannon Township Fire Department

by Gordon Herrington

Beginnings – An Overview

The Cannon Fire Department actually had its beginnings in a shared concern for civil defense. In 1954, the following individuals expressed interest in defense and protection issues: Tony Belke, Bill Kent, Jim Lilley, A.W. Kreuter, and Gordon Herrington. Different opinions and viewpoints led to the elimination of civil defense and to the formation of a fire department. The team of Bill Augustine, Clair Herrington, Gordon Herrington, Bill Kent, Jim Lilley, and Roy Snow then called a meeting in the old townshiphall. A large number of men came and formed the nucleus of the all volunteer fire department.

1957 - Cannon Fire Business MeetingAugustine, G. Herrington, Kent, Kreuter, and Lilley met with the township board which included Ray Alles, Clayton Davies, and Milton Norman. The board was not initially interested due to county fire trucks in Rockford, Ada, and Grattan. They questioned the need for a fire department in Cannon Township in light of these other resources. However, after a few more meetings, they became more receptive to the idea of a new fire department.

Jim Lilley drew up plans for the fire station, and the board was asked for financial help. Again, the first response was negative; the request was turned down. Several more meetings produced a compromise. The fire department leaders agreed to provide volunteers for building the station, and the board set aside approximately $3000.00 for materials. The project was communicated to those in the community, and most (if not all) the men in Cannon township responded.

Construction of Cannon Station #1 on Cannonsburg Road, 1954

The ground work and survey was done by Jim Lilley. Bill Deyo and Jim Wheeler donated cement, other materials, and equipment. Loomis Roofing & Siding donated brick for the front of the station. Luther Augustine donated wire and other materials and actually did the wiring himself. The cement block was laid by volunteers. Men who worked the night shift would come to help during the days. Those who worked the day shift would show up in the late afternoons and lay block until dark. Saturdays were extended work days for all the men, while the ladies in the township prepared incredible meals for them.

First Fire Truck - International Model K5The first truck, an International Model K5, was donated by Jim Kenney. It needed many repairs, and Roy Snow and Gordon Herrington agreed to do them. Many hours of work on the truck occurred the very same summer the station was being built. Funds were raised as volunteers sponsored pancake suppers, card parties, dances, potlucks, and sales ofbaked goods. The money was used to purchase needed equipment for the truck and to install a fire phone in the homes of the following men: Jim Harris, Gordon Herrington, Harry Morris, Jerry Phillips, and Roy Snow. The phone number was distributed in the township, along with a list of the on call firemen’s numbers. A good working relationship was established with Grattan and Ada, and Jeff Gelderma – the Kent County Fire Chief – would often provide a county fire truck.

A Journal of Meetings

October 12, 1954 — A representative committee from the township was formed to consider the need for fire fighting equipment. There was extended discussion about fire fighting and prevention and how to go about providing for it. The committee was encouraged to go ahead with initial plans with the understanding that the township board would cooperate.

February 8, 1955 — A general fund was established for the purchase of firefighting equipment.

December 8, 1958 — The meeting at the home of township supervisor, Clayton Davies, was called to order. A motion was made by Milton Norman and seconded by George Herrington Sr. to appoint Bill Kent as deputy fire chief and Bill Augustine as his assistant. The motion carried.

October 11, 1960 — A motion was made by Hazel Myers and seconded by George Herrington Sr. to relieve Bill Augustine of his position as fire chief. The motion carried. The motion to appoint Roy Snow as fire chief and Gordon Herrington as assistant fire chief was made by Hazel Myers and seconded by Ray Alles. This motion also carried.

July 24, 1963 — Cedar Springs Oil Storage Plant – tanker truck burned – Cannon responded.

May 3, 1966 — Jerry Phillips suffered a fatal heart attack on the way to a fire.

April 10, 1967 — A motion was made to put $1760.00 in the fire fund. Another motion was made to pay the firemen for each run they made. Much discussion followed. The motion was eventually tabled to let the firemen discuss it at their next meeting. They also need to verify workman’s comp coverage.

April 3, 1968 — This was the annual meeting. The suggestions to pay the firemen was again made.

April 8, 1968 — A motion was made to have the fire department buy fire monitors. It carried.

April 14, 1970 — April 25th was set as the date for the township firemen’s dinner to be held at Bostwick Lake Congregational Church. A motion was made by Southwick and seconded by Weller to accept the resignation of Gordon Herrington as township fire chief. The motion carried. A motion was made by Clark and seconded by Southwick to appoint Harry Morris Jr. as fire chief. This motion also carried. Donald Goodell was appointed as assistant fire chief through a carried motion by Southwick which was seconded by Weller. There was much discussion on firemen’s salaries. Clark suggested paying firemen$2.00 per meeting and$3.00 per hour at a fire. Harry Morris will take this matter to the firemen and report back to the board.

May 12, 1970 — Board members present included Clark, Morris, Southwick and Weller. It was reported that the April 25th meeting of the Kent County Fire Commission resulted in a decision for Cannon Township to receive its first new pumper truck.

July 14, 1970 — Trustee Morris asked the board to consider a request from the fire department to buy 150 feet of2 and Y2 inch hose, a water deck, and a three-way water intake nozzle. Clark made a motion to purchase these items, seconded by Weller, which was approved.

August 18, 1970 — Several proposals were made and approved on behalf of the Cannon township fire department. These included a $600.00 annual salary for the fire chief, a $300.00 annual salary for both the assistant fire chief and the fire marshall, and an hourly rate of $4.00 for the first hour and $3.00 for each additional hour to firemen responding to an alarm. This includes returning to the fire barn and preparing equipment for the next run. In addition, each fireman will receive $3.00 for each training meeting (not to exceed one meeting per month). The chief will assign two firemen to the barn on Sundays and holidays during extremely dry weather. Hours will be determined by the chief. These men shall receive $2.00 per hour for their services and regular pay in the case of a fire. A monthly report of all activity will be given to the board.

October 13, 1970 — The fire department had one car fire, a factory fire at Greenland Plating, one farm dwelling, one tavern, and a dwelling. In addition, one house was burned on a permit.

November 10, 1970 — Trustee Morris, who is also fire chief, reported that during October the fire department had one call to a smoke-filled house with a faulty furnace. 20 firemen and wives are taking a nine-week training course in first aid. Also, seven men are attending the fire school.

January 12, 1971 — Chief Morris reported two house fires and one bam fire in the month of December. He also reported that 15 out of21 firemen had completed rescue squad training. The auxiliary ofthe fire department presented splints to the rescue squad for future emergency use. The new fire truck should be delivered some time in February. Ward Hecker and Clair Herrington are in charge of traffic control on all fire calls. The new “water thief’ was demonstrated to the board.

July 13, 1971 — Fire Marshall Jim Harris reported one grass fire and one tractor-trailer fire during June. The new rescue saw was used in a fatal accident on Cannonsburg Road.

December 14, 1971 — Morris reported one grass fire and one resuscitator run involving the Osborn boy on Tiffany Avenue. Morris and Goodell had attended the November meeting of the Kent County fire commission and received four sets of hats, coats, and boots and a promise for a 2.5 inch nozzle and hose later.

April 1, 1972 — Chief Morris read the annual report. Fire Marshall Harris reported on 49 fire and rescue runs. Losses were estimated at $36,155.00. Savings were estimated at $209,500.00.

June 13, 1972 — Chief Morris reported one house fire, one grass fire, and one garage fire during May. Losses were estimated at $1550.00 and savings at over $50,000. He also communicated that the fire department now has a trained rescue unit in operation. This crew handles all emergency calls.

September 11, 1973 — Chief Morris reported four fire alarms for August. The largest fire was a barn which took 80,000 to 100,000 gallons of water and thirteen pieces of equipment to contain. The chief was authorized to purchase a chainsaw for the department.

June 10, 1974 — Morris reported three alarms for May – one grass fire and two rescues which included a heart attack and an automobile accident. The fire department is scheduled to test hydrants and equipment at Lake Bella Vista this month. The chief also mentioned that fireman Ed Priebe is hospitalized with second and third degree burns suffered in a trash fire accident. A motion was made and supported to send Ed flowers.

July 11, 1974 — Several firemen have been involved in a special fire fighting school. The following men were presented awards from the State of Michigan Fire Fighting Council: Robert Raines, Guy Lewis, Robert Jacobson, Gerald Herrington, and J.E. Jones.