Allendale Township is on the west side of the state near Grand Rapids. The township houses Grand Valley State University. We have a population of about 18,000 the population during the day raises to about 24,000 because of Grand Valley. This poses some challenges for our fire department. We have adapted well to this population spike. Allendale Fire covers thirty-two square miles bordered by the Grand River.
The history books about the Allendale Fire Department are a little vague on what really happened, but we can give you the best we have. There really is no specific date that the fire department was actually formed. 1932 is the best date we can use; this is when Allendale actually had their first fire truck. It was a 1929 Chevrolet dump truck. They equipped it with a five-hundred gallon open top tank for easy filling with pails or ten gallon milk cans. A two-hundred gallon per minute irrigation pump and one stretch of hand line where also added. At this time, it is written that Francis Wolbrink was the first fire Chief. Later Francis was succeeded by Harry Dyke.
Around 1945 or 1946 under the leadership of John Gemmen a group of young men where organized into an actual volunteer fire department. Soon after this, a 1947 Ford, with a much larger tank and pump where ordered. The original membership had eleven members. The fifties and sixties remain the area of concern with the history of Allendale Fire. In the seventies the Allendale Fire Department had many high points. In December of 1973 the new fire station was completed. The department ran approximately forty runs in 1973. Also in 1973, 8 firefighters completed the first class in Western Michigan that was offered by the Michigan Firefighters Training Council. In 1978 Allendale decided it was time they go on their own with an E-unit. They took 66 hours of training to reach back in the day called Level I, “Basic Life Support. A new pumper was scheduled to arrive sometime in 1978; Pierce Roon was the Fire Chief.
The eighties brought new technology for the department; it was the donated money to purchase the areas first defibrillator. The department mainly used the machine during the year to monitor heart rates; the real use came November of that year on a 72 year old woman. What is most amazing about this is the price tag and the size, $6,000.00 dollars and it was two foot by two foot in size. The later 80’s Allendale hired the first full time Fire Chief Fred Langeland.
The mark of the century has started new history for Allendale. With the FEMA grants Allendale fire has been able to purchase many things. In 2001 we took delivery of a new pumper, this was highlighted in many magazines because it was unique, it has a rear pump. Rear pumps are not new to the fire service but new to this area. Now several surrounding department have used this truck as a model, to design their own trucks and the firefighters here take great pride in that. We purchased a live fire simulator was also purchased and is used state wide by any fire department that wishes to use it. With the growth, this also opened another fulltime position within the department.
Allendale continues to grow and is one of the fastest growing communities on the west side of the state. Our call volume for 2008 was seven-hundred eighty calls, the vast majority of those being EMS related. Also in 2008 Chief Langeland retired after forty years of service to the community. We now have thirty members two of those positions are full time on our department, up from the eleven members that where originally on in 1945. Allendale Fire Department continues to grow each year and strives for the professionalism that all fire departments strive for, large or small. If anyone is ever around our area feel free to stop and take a look.
Allendale Fire Department