Pictured (L to R) are Roger Gelbaugh, Winona Lake Volunteer Fire Department 100-Year Celebration co-chair, and Bob Wulliman, event chair. Photo by Jennifer Peryam, Times-Union
Pictured (L to R) are Roger Gelbaugh, Winona Lake Volunteer Fire Department 100-Year Celebration co-chair, and Bob Wulliman, event chair. Photo by Jennifer Peryam, Times-Union
WINONA LAKE – Winona Lake Volunteer Fire Department will celebrate its 100-year anniversary Saturday.
Bob Wulliman is the event chairman, and Roger Gelbaugh is the event co-chair.
Wulliman served as the department’s fire chief from 1977 to 1981. Gelbaugh served as fire chief from 1991 to 2001 and 2002 to 2006. The celebration Saturday will be on East Canal Street in the Village At Winona from 1 to 4 p.m. for the department that started in 1914 and marks its 100-year celebration this month.
There will be free fire helmets for kids and pens, pencils and magnets.
A fire house will be on display as well as the department’s apparatus and photos of the department’s former fire trucks.
There will be door prize drawings. Items have been  donated by Village At Winona merchants.
In addition to the community, all current and former firemen and their families are invited to the event.
Wulliman and Gelbaugh encourage the community to attend the celebration.
“It’s the community’s fire department and we are there to serve them and we  will show them what we have to serve with,” Wulliman said.
Gelbaugh said he hopes attendees will learn the department’s history.
“The apparatus that the taxpayers have purchased for us to do our jobs efficiently will be on display,” Gelbaugh said.
In 1914 the fire department was organized by Bruce Howe, Newt Faris, Bill Cullison, Victor Hatfield, Dick Robinson and Phil Laurien.
The department started out using a hand held cart that had a hose reel on it that could pump water. The cart was stored in the basement of Westminster Hotel, Gelbaugh said.
The first big fire in the town was in April 1914 when several men were burning leaves on the park grounds east of the Winona Hotel (now the Winona Condos).
A gust of wind blew the leaves against the base of the hill and carried flames and sparks up the hill to the cottages that lined Chestnut Street.
The fire department’s hose cart was brought to the scene.
Wulliman said it was useless against the fast moving fire due to the lack of a pump to boost available water pressure.
Fort Wayne Fire Department arrived and saved the Winona Hotel.
“Dynamite was used to blow up a couple of homes in the path of the fire,” Wulliman said. A total of 23 homes and cottages were destroyed.
The first fire station in Winona Lake was built in 1929 on Park Avenue by Boathouse Restaurant.
In 1930 the town purchased its first motorized apparatus, an American Lafrance fire truck, and in 1947 they got an additional truck, an International Chassis.
In the 1950s they purchased a Jeep for emergency purposes and purchased a Ford pickup truck to replace the Jeep to assist with fire calls.
In the 1950s a fire rescue boat was donated by a local boat company to the Warsaw Fire Department, which was used by the Winona Lake Fire Department.
In 1957 the town purchased another pumper truck and retired the Lafrance. In 1961 a new pumper was purchased to replace the 1947 truck.
Today the fire department is housed in a station on Kings Highway built in 1985.
“The town purchased the shell of the station and all the volunteers built everything inside the station,” Gelbaugh said.
The station has a meeting room, fire chief’s office, assistant fire chief’s office, radio room, bunkroom, kitchen and showers and a storage area for the apparatus.
There are currently 32 volunteer firefighters. Their equipment includes two engines, one tanker, one ladder truck and two utility vehicles, one of which is a Gator equipped to be used off road and on the  trails in Winona Lake.
Mitch Titus has served as the town’s fire chief since 2007.
Other fire chiefs have been Bruce Howe, 1949 to 1973; Jim Heaton, 1974 to 1976; Ed Purrington, 1982 to 1985; Dick Haines, 1986 to 1990; Kip Shuter and Mike Cox, both in 2001.
Other fire chiefs prior to 1949 have been Link Hay, Bill Hunter, Don Gatke, Bill Cullison, Chauncey Eddington and Newt Ferris. Tom Holbrook served as the first fire chief.