Early pioneers were always living with the threat of fires. They heated cabins/ homes and food with open or fireplace fires. Getting water to put out fires was very difficult. Small settlements often organized fire departments as well as the larger towns. Many were staffed in a voluntary manner. With only the aid of neighbors, Alpine Township and surrounding areas lost homes, businesses, and even lives.
Consider Englishville on the border of Sparta and Alpine Townships at 10 mi and the railroad tracks. In 1917 a grain explosion in the feed mill destroyed 3 buildings. Later, in 1924, the Englishville store and Post Office were destroyed by a fire at the Pere Marquette RR Station. Sparks from the trains started a fire in the dry grasses bordering the tracks. Dry spells were a frequent fire hazard time.
Lightning strikes were also a threat of fires to barns. Lightning rods were developed over time, and they helped curb the course of lighting on tall places like barns and silos . Former Alpine Historical Commission member, Francis Alberts recalled a severe storm in 1913 that destroyed 3 barns in the township in the same night. These were the Hilton barn on 4-mile Rd., the Watson/ Coffee barn on 6-mile Rd., and the Hill barn on Peach Ridge Ave.
In the 1920’s moves were made by the local governments in the area to establish taxation for equipment and volunteer staff to a fire department for safety and protection. Early help for Alpine Township came from Comstock Park and Grand Rapids.
Finally, in 1941 the township organized a more permanent group. The volunteers were under the first Fire Chief, Adolph “Stub” Schindler. County equipment at this time was housed at Sparta and at the west side of Grand Rapids on Scribner Ave. In 1954, at a regular township meeting, the board adopted a motion to fund a quarter share for a new truck with Plainfield Township. Six days later a huge fire destroyed the Creveling barn on Vinton Ave.
All of this stimulated men to sign up to help in the fire service by being trained in handling the equipment and materials of fire. Alpine supervisor, Charles Momber organized the new department with “Stub” Schindler continuing as chief, and Fred Homrich as deputy chief. Each of these men had businesses on Alpine Ave. They organized a phone line chain to alert the men of a fire happening. Many times it was Mrs. Florence Schindler who manned the phone while Stub got the trucks out and equipment ready. An interesting side story is from Roger Schindler, son of Stub, who would go to the trucks in the 1960’s at Station No. 1 and get those diesel motors going. As a teen, the sound of a motor was a thrill.
Today Alpine Township has 3 fire stations in different parts of the area. The newest Fire Station is the replacement of No. 1 which is located at 1100 Henze Drive between Alpine Ave. and Cordes Ave. This will service the higher populated area as well as the very frequent vehicle accidents in these highly-traveled areas. Emergency calls for accidents count for far more calls than fire or chemical problems.
An Open House Celebration will be held on July 22, 2022, from 4-8 PM at the new facility. Come and enjoy tours as well as social time and a new video on the Alpine Fire Department.