Fire Department History
Fire Protection & More
In the early years of our town, people could only depend upon family and neighbors for fire protection. With no telephones and no nearby neighbors, the family fought its own battle with fire, which was usually a losing one.
According to historical records, along with many homes and barns, numerous early Tallmadge industries were consumed by fire. Some of the more prominent industries effected included the Wells & Gay saw mill; Tyron, Wright & Sperry Sewer Pipe Works; Mauer Flouring Mill; the Tallmadge Drain Shop; Baldwin’s Carriage Works; Kramer’s Hardware; the Erie Depot; the Circle Inn; and even the central school.
In 1931, the Tallmadge trustees made an arrangement with the city of Akron for fire protection. In 1934, after a rash of fires, protection was provided by the Stow Fire Department. The Tallmadge Fire Department was born in 1944 when a group of Tallmadge volunteers built their own fire truck, purchased an old gas station, and remodeled it into a fire station. This first fire station was located on South Avenue near Tallmadge Circle.
The original fire truck was a 1934 Ford truck chassis procured from a local junkyard. It was fitted with a homemade 500-gallon water tank, and a pump acquired from the federal Civil Defense system. Funding for other equipment was made possible by proceeds from public fish fries sponsored by the Department.
Fire Chief David Bierce, Assistant Chief Harry O. King, and fifteen firemen were sworn in late in 1943. Their first call was May 28, 1944, to the Stella Sparhawk residence on East Avenue. There was no mention of damage.
In 1945, the firemen built an addition on the fire station, and in 1947, the village replaced the original fire truck with a new Chevrolet truck chassis. This truck was in active service until 1988, when it was donated to the Tallmadge Historical Society, and still can be seen at parades and festivals.
During the late 1940s, the railroad tracks which bisected the city presented a major fire protection problem. Trains came through at a rate of one every 6-7 minutes, with many of these stopping and blocking the roadway. The city was blocked from Howe Road to Southwest Avenue. In 1952, Station #2 at Six Corners was built to remedy the problem.
Also during 1952, Chief Bierce retired and Wilburn Crites was elected Fire Chief.
By 1954, the costs involved with two fire stations and the need for new equipment caused the city to place a $1 million fire levy on the ballot. The money was used to purchase two 1956 Ford fire trucks and to pay the firemen. The five-year levy passed 1,395 to 611. The original $1 million fire levy was renewed every five years until 1977.
In 1976, Chief Crites retired. John Crossen, who was hired as the city’s full-time fire inspector in 1970, was then appointed chief.
Until 1977, the Fire Department’s only job was to extinguish fires. During the 1970s a popular television program “Emergency” introduced the concept of fire-department-based ambulance services. The citizens requested such an Emergency Medical System, and the Fire Department met the challenge. At that time, the law required that the Fire and EMS levy be separate issues. The electorate was asked to approve a $1.5 million fire levy, and a $1.5 million EMS levy. Upon approval, the city purchased two ambulances, hired two full-time firefighter-paramedics, and increased the part-time ranks to 45.
On November 27, 1978, the Tallmadge Emergency Medical Service began operations; during that year they responded to 139 fire calls, and 40 EMS calls. The first full year for EMS in 1979, and the call tally was 157 fires, and 562 EMS. In 1982, both the fire and EMS levies were renewed, and the City purchased its third ambulance to meet the demands of the service.
In July 1981, John Crossen retired and Dennis Crossen was promoted to position of Fire Chief in December 1981.
In 1996, the Fire Department, in response to the increased number of runs, completely overhauled its operations. Since 1944, whenever there was a call for the Fire Department, a call went out to all members, and usually enough people responded to handle the situation. In August 1996, we hired three additional full-time firefighter-paramedics and scheduled four people (two full-time & two part-time) to work at the fire station twenty-four hours a day. This reduced our average response time to less than five minutes.
The city had decided to absorb the extra costs involved in this program from the general fund balance, rather than request another tax increase for Fire Department operations. In order to avoid the necessity of asking for the levy every five years, the citizens were asked to make the $3.75 million Fire and EMS levy permanent. In November of 1996, the voters overwhelmingly approved this measure, providing a stable funding base for the Fire and EMS system for many years to come.
The staffing of station #1 and #2, with personnel has reduced the response time to less than five minutes throughout the city. This staffing, allows a well equipped first response of emergency teams to all areas, resulting in minimum fire loss and maximum pre-hospital emergency medical treatment. The city continues to explore methods to offer the best service at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers.
In June 2009, Dennis M. Crossen retired and Patrick J. Gaffney was promoted to position of Fire Chief in July 2009. Chief Gaffney served with distinction until July 2015, when Michael Passarelli, a long-time veteran with the Tallamdge Fire Department, was promoted to Chief.
The recent expansion and growth of our city has caused the Fire Department to broaden the scope of its duties from that of just fighting fires to one that encompasses all emergency services including firefighting, EMS, prevention, education and environmental protection. From very humble beginnings, we have continuously expanded our duties to provide our citizens with the best service possible at a reasonable cost, and we pledge to do so for the future.