Like many other small-town fire departments, the history of The Geneva Volunteer Fire Department is an interesting one. Beginning in October, 1901, the “Geneva Fire Department” was a group of citizens who simply worked as night watchmen. These citizens patrolled the streets and watched for fires when the rest of the town slept. Their firefighting equipment consisted of nothing more than 36 iron buckets, a 73-gallon water cart, and some chemical extinguishers. These were stored in the pump house located on the Northeast corner of High and Line Street.
In 1904, The Geneva Volunteer Fire Department (G.V.F.D.), consisting of 24 men, was officially born. The fire department at that time was located at the corner of Decatur and Line Street, on the opposite side of the street where the current station is located. During that time, their firefighting equipment was updated to one 45 gallon Obenchain-Boyer Company Double Cylinder Hand Chemical Engine, manufactured in Logansport, Indiana (now known as Boyer Fire Apparatus Co.), a “hook and ladder truck”, 300 feet of ¾” hose, and 36 iron buckets. The fire department was alerted to fires by a bell.
Throughout its history, the G.V.F.D. has had its fair share of important contributions to the fire services. In 1946, the Indiana Volunteer Fire Association (I.V.F.A.) was formed. This organization represents Indiana volunteer firefighters in State legislature, as well as provide benefits to firefighter and their families. The I.V.F.A. is headed and directed by a president. The Geneva Volunteer Fire Department is one of only two other departments in the State who has had a member from the same department hold that position more than once. The first was Waldo “Bud” Neal in 1951, and then Ivan Nevil in 1991. Most recently, Sam Bisel has held the position of I.V.F.A. District 7 Chairman, which represents firefighters from 22 fire stations, in 4 Counties.
The G.V.F.D. has also been well represented in the Indiana State Fire Marshalls Office (a division of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security). This office is headed by the Fire Marshall and is responsible for fire code enforcement, fire investigations, building inspections, and public health information. Ivan Nevil from the Geneva Volunteer Fire Department was appointed the Indiana Fire Marshall in the 1990’s.
Over the years, the responsibilities and training of firefighters have increased greatly from the time of the night watchmen. Today, our department responds to various emergencies such as fire, medical, vehicle accidents, weather spotting and water rescue. Each emergency requires specialized and continuous training. Due to this, the department has members who are trained as Emergency Medical Responders, Swift Water Rescue, Rescue Task Force, Rapid Intervention Team, Fire Investigators, Fire Instructors, and many other areas.
The G.V.F.D. roster can consist of up to 30 firemen at any given time. This roster consists of fire officers, such as a Fire Chief, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief, Safety Officers, Captains and Lieutenants. In addition, the department also has business officers which consist of a President, Vice-President, Public Relations Officer, Secretary and Treasurer, who are responsible for all non-fire business and community events. Our annual Pancake Breakfast, Geneva Summers End Festival, Chili Supper which includes the Geneva Halloween Parade & Costume Contest are just some of these community events.
Fire equipment and apparatus have also changed dramatically since our inception. From the departments first water hand pump and iron buckets, the department now consists of two fire engines, a 3,000-gallon water tanker, a Grass truck for fighting field fires, a medical First Responder truck, an equipment/utility van and a rescue boat. All this stored in a 6 bay Fire House constructed of adjoining buildings, which includes a full kitchen, meeting, training and workout rooms, SCBA confidence course, and a lounge area.
So, who are we and why do we do what we do? We are first and foremost citizens who volunteers from the community. We are family members, neighbors, parishioners, class mates, co-workers and friends. So, why do we do it? We do it simply because we love serving our community, and we love being firefighters! Proudly doing so since 1904.