the edinburg volunteer Fire department story

This is how it all began...

The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department.A small group of men got together in 1941 and formed a volunteer fire company, privately owned.  We met once a month in the old Edinburg School building.  We elected a fire chief, assistant chief and a Secretary and Treasurer.  Steve Rebic, then a trustee for Edinburg, was elected as chief.  Elmer J. Smolk was elected assistant chief and Paul Nestor, Secretary and Treasurer.  Although we had no fire equipment, we would go over to Rootstown and drill with them once a month in case we had a fire in our township.  We helped them out when they were called here for a fire.  We found out that Harry Stockdale, who lived in Ravenna, Ohio, worked for John Bean Company in Lansing, Michigan.  He and another fellow built a fire truck.  They were going around the area to demonstrate it.  We called him, and he agreed that  if we would get a big pile of wood and douse it with oil, he would give us a demonstration.  We did this on Paul Nestor's farm.  We doused the wood with used oil, and he brought the truck down for a demonstration.  He used fog nozzles and it put the fire out immediately.  We started the fire several times, and the results were always the same.  We were sold on his truck.  He agreed to sell it to us if we could get it out of government control.  During the war, the government froze the sale of all new trucks and equipment, so the long list of letters started.  First, letters were sent to Washington, followed by Columbus, then Cincinnati and finally Cleveland OPA.  We had Albert Caris,  attorney, write to Washington and Cleveland; but nothing seemed to work.  We maintained it was used equipment because they were using it for demonstrations, but to no avail.  They would not release it.  Then I happened to mention it to a friend of mine in Cleveland; and he told me he knew the head of the OPA and to mention his name, which I did.  A month later they released the fire truck.When it was delivered, my wife and I paid the first $500.00 down on it and asked the salesman if he could wait 30 days for the balance and he agreed.  Purchase price was $3,600.00.  We had no place to put it, so we rented a garage at the corner of Routes 14 and 18 for a while.  Then I heard that Dean Slack and Lon Pettigrew were going out of the auto repair business, which was located in the old part of the fire station.  Mr. Girder owned the property so I went to see him and took out a lease on the property for $45.00 a month.  We rented the house for $25.00 and split the garage in half.  We rented half to the trustees for $10.00 a month.  Then every night we would take the fire truck and demonstrate it to cover the township to get donations.  We got all but $800.00.  We again asked the salesman if he would give us another 30 days, and he agreed.  Then I went to see John Evans, whom I didn't know very well.  He lived across the street from the cemetery on Route 14.  I told him that I was informed that he has a lot of money that he didn't know what to do with.  I asked him if he would loan the fire company $800.00 to pay for the truck balance.  He said he would for one year without interest, but he had to have collateral.  We called a special meeting, and I asked if anyone would put up their property for collateral, and they all said “No”.  So I mortgaged my farm for collateral for the $800.00.  I didn't want to lose the fire truck and go back to not having any fire equipment.  It was a start for us and the township and gave us security.  To me, it was worth the gamble.Then in early 1943, Mr. Steve Rebic, then the township trustee and also the fire chief of the old Edinburg Fire Company, went to Columbus to the trustees' convention.  While there, he asked the attorney general if it would be a conflict of interest being fire chief and trustee at the same time.  He said that it would.  After the convention,  Mr. Rebic came back home, and told us we would have to re-organize.  He could not be fire chief and trustee because of the conflict of interest.  We called a special meeting explaining the situation to the men, and they nominated Elmer Smolk and Tom Owens.  There were 12 men there.  Elmer had 11 votes and Tom Owens got one.  Elmer immediately appointed Tom Owens assistant fire chief, a position that he held for 25 years, and we named it Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department.  I then went to the township trustees' meeting and asked them if they would like to purchase the fire truck.  They said, at that time, they would have to get bids on anything that cost over $500.00.  I said we would sell it to them for $495.00, with the stipulation that they buy the township a big  fire siren to go on top of the fire house, which they did.  Then trustee Steve Rebic told the other two trustees, Bill Weeks and Jay Gilbert, that the men favored Elmer Smolk to be the fire chief.  Steve Rebic made a motion that the trustees appoint Elmer Smolk.

This is how Elmer J. Smolk became the township Fire Chief for life, a position that I held for 35 years. 

​Elmer J. Smolk, Fire Chief 1943 - 1978