Mattawan Fire District

Fire Department History

In the beginning, the fire department was started by a bunch of guys that were members of the Mattawan Commercial Club. The first truck was a Hudson Touring Car. The truck was stored in the basement of the Mattawan garage and the owner paid $3 per month to help with the heat. Heat was supplied by a coal fired boiler which had come from an old trashing machine.

The truck had two forty gallon tanks on the back end. Soda was added to the tanks and a glass bottle of acid, a little larger than a pint was lowered into the tank. A hammer was mounted in the tank, which was used at the scene to break the bottle of acid. The reaction from the soda and acid gave the pressure needed for fighting fires. The biggest problem with this system was the fireman often ended up with many holes in their clothes due to splashing from the tank or hoses.

Originally, financing for the department was from donations only, but, eventually, Antwerp Township provided $150 a year. The department covered the countryside all the way to Texas Corners. After spending most of a day fighting grass and brush fires in Texas Corners, a meeting was held with the Township. Texas Township declined to provide any financial support for fire protection. Mattawan informed them they would no longer respond to fires in Kalamazoo County. After an appeal from some of the residents, the department agreed to cover a person’s farm and buildings for a donation of $7.50 per year. A number of families started making donations.

While fighting a large fire, the soda and acid mixture damaged a large amount of fireman’s clothing. A suggestion was made to try and find a better way to help fight the fires. At this time it was brought to the department’s attention that another department was buying a newer pump and the old one might be available. A few of the firemen traveled to the department and managed to return with a pump, hose, and fittings. The cost was $35 which left $1.76 in the treasury. The department now needed a truck to put the pump, hose, and fittings on. Matt Klobucher, a fireman, had a friend who was selling a truck. Johnny Henwood, Matt’s friend, asked how much the department would pay for the truck. The men agreed on $150 for the truck, which Matt Klobucher provided the money because the department didn’t have enough. At this point, Matt approached Leon Wise, who was looking for a truck bed. The truck that the fire department had purchased had a good hardwood bed on it that the department didn’t need. They sold the truck bed to Leon Wise for $150. The department now had a truck and a pump but needed a tank. A tank was offered by George Murch as a donation. The tank was in a basement of a funeral home which was built around and over it. The tank was 14 ft long and 4 ft wide and made of quarter inch steel. Matt Klobucher and a few others help cut the ends off the tank and winched it up the stairs of the funeral home basement. The pieces of the tank were welded back together to make a proper size tank for the Fire Department truck. The rest of the tank was cut of for scrap metal and was sold.

The fire department was officially formed on April 5, 1948, creating a special assessment district for the purpose of paying the expenses of such fire protection. The first fire station was built on land which was donated by Matt Klobucher and Frank Ryan. The station was built using Matt’s implement building wall and Frank’s barber shop wall as the sides. A back wall was added, a roof and a front door, and Mattawan had a fire station. This station was used for about 20 years, at which time, a new station was built.