There's no documented evidence of a fire department before Vermilion officially incorporated as a village in 1837. However, there was likely an organized group of volunteer fireman fighting fires long before records indicated such.
Relief Fire Company #4 was the name of the group of volunteers fighting fires through the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century the group was reorganized and renamed the Vermilion Volunteer Fire Company.
Pearl Roscoe, Editor/Publisher of the Vermilion News captured the photo below of Vermilion firefighters and their steam-fired pumper. This was a state-of-the-art machine in 1908.
Rumor has it that the horse in the picture new it was part of the crew and new his job so well that if he heard the alarm sound, he would run from the farm to the fire house.
Vermilion Volunteer Fire Company had its share of large fires to fight. Liberty and Main Street Stores and shops were destroyed by fires in 1875, 1891 and 1903. There were so many fires that one local news paper's 1903 headline read "Vermilion Burns Again".
The importance of mutual aid was even evident in 1910 when two additional steam pumpers, and hose carts, manned by Lorain firemen arrived to help fight the Vermilion Fire Company fight the fire that had 22 cottages in Linwood Park up in smoke. The equipment and Lorain fireman arrived on flatcars furnished by the Lake Shore Electric Interurban Train.
After 20 years of proving it's worth the steam pumper was replaced. The Vermilion Volunteer Fire Department under the direction of Fire Chief William "Dad" Tischer purchased its first gasoline engine powered fire truck in 1928.
It is easy to see why The Vermilion Volunteer Fire Department is the oldest public volunteer safety-services organization in the city.
Photos and information courtesy of Rich Tarrant and the Vermilion History Museum at www.vermilionhistory.org/museum