Department celebrates 50 years of service
And to think it all started with the need for one fire truck.
A group of eight men went to see their Kansas representative one Sunday afternoon back in 1951 because they wanted a fire truck for the Fairmount Township area.
The trip, after several hours of pleading with the Tonganoxie delegate, turned into the Fairmount Township Fire Department.
The Fire Department will celebrate its 50th Anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23, in Basehor.
Basehor resident Wilbur Grisham, the only remaining member of the original Fire Department, remembers the afternoon and early evening spent with state of Kansas Rep. Bill Denholm.
"We had an appointment for two o'clock in the afternoon and we ended up staying for several hours trying to convince him," Grisham said. "He said 'no' all afternoon. I never heard so many different ways to say no, but he eventually said 'yes' to get us off his back."
The group had made the trip to get permission to tax themselves so they could obtain a fire truck they felt was sorely needed for the community, Grisham said.
The need for the fire truck arose when a local house caught fire and there was no way to stop it, he said.
"From there, we started trying to figure out how we could raise the money for a truck," Grisham said. "We had bake sales and socials, but we weren't making any head-way so we went to see him."
It didn't take long for the representative to take action on the proposal by the eight men. The Sunday trip to request the truck came to fruition later that week when Fairmount Township got its first fire truck.
"We talked to him on a Sunday and we were getting that truck outfitted with equipment that Thursday," Grisham said.
Grisham was an active member in the Fire Department for 30 years and was also named as an honorary lifetime member.
He said the celebration is important to him and other members of Fire Department.
"Our feeling here of the volunteer Fire department is this is where it all started, since we were the first group," Grisham said.
The former firefighter said there is another group of residents that were unsung heroes in the success of the Fire Department.
Back in the early days of the Fairmount Township Fire Department, there weren't any fire sirens so a method of signaling for a fire was needed.
Five Basehor residents were given telephones for their homes that would be used in case of a fire. Those five residents, all women and some wives of firefighters, were responsible for alerting the firefighters when they were needed.
Basehor residents Ruby Eyerly, Ruth Warden, Betty Grisham, Leola Oracke and Maxine Klamm were as instrumental in the success of the Fire Department.
"They were as much of the Fire Department as the original men that served here," Grisham said.
There are several events planned for the September celebration.
Fairmount Township Fire Department member Chuck Magaha said the events have been in the planning stage for the past several months.
"We didn't know where this was heading, but it has turned out to be quite a big ordeal," he said.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, there will be an amateur firefighter barbecue cookout from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Basehor-Linwood High School.
Following the cookout, a sweetheart dance will take place from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. in Father Quinlan Hall at the Holy Angles Church on Leavenworth Road. The cost of the dance is $10 per couple, payable at the door.
The events of the weekend will carry into Sunday with a small dedication ceremony at 12:30 p.m. at the Fire Department station house. During the ceremony, a color guard will be present and a memorial service will take place for all fallen firefighters in the United States. Magaha said the Fire Department is also trying to get Kansas Gov. Bill Graves to attend, but those plans are not final.
Following the ceremony, a parade down 155th Street will take place, featuring antique fire equipment from all across the state.
To conclude the celebratory event, there will be an open house at the fire station.
Magaha said the Fire Department hopes to have a big turnout for the event and wants to extend the invitation to the general public.
"We are going to have a nice parade and hope the public comes out for it," Magaha said. "We are not trying to make any money or anything. We are here and we just want people to come and help us celebrate."