12_smallThe South Milwaukee Fire Department was organized in 1893. On June 8, 1893, the first organizational meeting for the department was held. At that meeting, the trustees decided to erect a building that was suitable for housing the village‚Äôs fire apparatus that had been ordered. Village President, Fred Mansfield, donated a lot on 11th Avenue, near Madison Ave. The trustees then voted to authorize the building of a temporary fire station not to exceed $100.00. In December of 1893, the Fire Department moved from its temporary quarters to the newly built City Hall on 10th Ave. At this new location the fire department occupied the first floor with a stable at the rear of the property for the department’s horses. The 2nd floor was used by village officials. This building was used until 1929 when it was replaced by a new City Hall and Fire Station that was built on the same location. This building was used until 1981, when a new fire station was built at 929 Marshall Ct.


The South Milwaukee Fire Department started the switch from horse drawn engines to gasoline motor powered apparatus in 1921. The first piece of motorized apparatus was a truck that the city purchased and was then outfitted by the firefighters to be used as an engine. The chemical tanks from a horse drawn unit were mounted on the truck along with a hose box. A new set of ladders were purchased for the truck and ladder racks were made and attached to the truck. The motor driven engines and ladder truck provided a great improvement to the firefighting capabilities of the department, although at the time a motorized engine responding to the fire was not as exciting to watch as a horse drawn engine racing down the street. Over the next few years the Department completely switched over from horse drawn apparatus to all gasoline motor powered engines and a ladder truck.

24_smallThe first fire apparatus was actually ordered before the South Milwaukee fire Department was officially organized. After a fire on March 2, 1893, that destroyed the Lakeview Club Houses on Milwaukee Ave., the growing City of South Milwaukee called for action to be taken to provide fire protection for its residents. On March 4, 1893, a temporary Board of Trustees met to address these issues and on March 21, 1893, authorized the City Clerk to advertise for bids for a “double cylinder champion chemical engine.” As the City grew, additional horse drawn engines were purchased along with a horse drawn hook and ladder unit. These horse drawn engines and hook and ladder wagons were used until the early nineteen twenties when they were eventually phased out by gas powered engines.

South Milwaukee Fire Chiefs

Joseph Knitter

2012- Present

Jay Behling

2004- 2011

Richard Omernik


Don Egner


Russell Wendt


Max Dinkelman


Raymond Gee


John O’Connell


Fred Hetzer


William Zarback


John Gramza


Peter Bahl


George Lorig


Roland Pritchard