A fire department was one of the first organizations formed when the original plat for the town of Wahpeton was filed on February 13, 1877. But few records exist relating to the original organization.
In the early stages of the department, several companies were commanded by one Chief and a Chairman. Each Company had its own Foreman and Assistant Foreman, they acted as Chiefs for each of the Companies.
The three Companies serving the city in 1891 included the Reliance Hose Company, Ger-mania Hose Company, and the Mazzeppa Hook and Ladder Company. Each company had between 20 and 25 members.
Fire department competitions were common in the early days with contests staged in all parts of the state. In addition firemen were required to appear in uniform on all occasions calling for a parade. The “esprit de corps” that produced a company with its own band in 1886 still exists in the Wahpeton Fire Department today.
A 1921 American LaFrance Pumper was Wahpeton’s first motorized fire apparatus. The American La-France which was in service until 1952 was fully restored in 1982 and now serves as a showpiece parade pumper.
The three fire companies were combined into one department called the Fligelmann Fire Company and then became the Wahpeton Volunteer Fire Department in 1944.
The Wahpeton Fire Department proudly protects upwards of 8,500 city residents plus 2000 students attending the North Dakota State College of Science living in an area of approximately 6 square miles and has mutual aid agreements with neighboring Dwight, ND and Breckenridge MN Fire Departments.
The Department operates out of two stations that protect a primarily residential area. Originally housed in the old City Hall at 120 4th Street North for many years, a new location for the Department at 204 South 5th Street was developed after the city purchased a former implement building in 1967. Department members contributed 5,000 man hours of volunteer labor and $8,000 in cash funds was raised by the department to remodel the building. In December 1972 the city acquired an adjacent lot and a 50x80 addition was constructed to blend with the original building. A new radio communications system was then added. Due to the railroad tracks that divide the City, a Station #2 at 4th Street & 2nd Avenue North was added. Then in 1999 due to the growth of the city and relocation of City Hall at 1900 North 4th Street, Station #2 was relocated.
The Department has an active training program with Fire Schools held usually on the second Tuesday of each month. They are often conducted outside the Fire Hall involving real or simulated fire conditions and guest training instructors are sometimes invited at the monthly meetings.
The modern equipment, training program and adequate water supply has given the City a Class 4 fire insurance rating. The department is pager controlled through the Richland-Wahpeton Law Enforcement Center 911 Dispatch. They respond to all types of fires, assist at accident scenes where extrication is needed, and also aid area departments with search and rescue and Haz-Mat scenes.
The Wahpeton Fire Department is a member of the North Dakota Firefighters Association (NDFA), North Dakota Fire Prevention Association (NDFPA), National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), and the North Dakota Southeast Fireman’s Association.
Full membership for today’s fire department is 45 members and lead by a membership elected Chief, 1st Assistant Chief, 2nd Assistant Chief, and Secretary, as well as an appointed Training Officer. Each truck has a truck captain who is in charge of the upkeep and care of the trucks.
There are no full-time employees on the department. All the members of the department at the minimum are trained in CPR/First Aid, Firefighter 1 and/or Essentials of firefighting, some have training as first responders at EMT level.
Our roots run deep as in many volunteer fire departments with sons following in their fathers footsteps, or in this case daughter, Kris McGovern who became our first female member in August 1999.
Proud of its past heritage, the Department continues its progressive growth and professional competence and looks eagerly in meeting the challenge of future fire protection for the City of Wahpeton.