History of Our Department

The Onalaska Fire Department has had a history full of interesting and revolutionary changes throughout time.........

On October 17th, 1894 the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Company was established. Fire Company #1 was created with W.C. Moore as the first Fire Chief along with 3 other elected fire officials and 20 members to be paid a wage of $2.00 per fire call. A fire bell, several fire phones, and word of mouth were the primary methods used to alert firefighters to respond to the fire station for emergencies. Originally the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Company responded only to fire calls, these calls varied from as low as 1 fire call in 1900 to 18 calls in1934 before soon responding to other emergency calls.

In the early years of the department fire officials were elected often (sometimes each month) and fire equipment was brought to incidents by foot or horse drawn carriage, fire pumps were hand operated until 1925. Several times a year the fire department would hold social gatherings such as ice cream socials and dances to help fund the budget; the OFD even owned and operated a public ice skating rink for the community for a brief period of time.

The first fire recorded in Onalaska was on July 19th, 1895 in a residential home which was successfully saved in a matter of minutes. In 1920 Onalaska began conducting fire prevention efforts via fire drills and business inspections. In 1922 Onalaska obtained it's first motorized fire apparatus.

By the end of 1927 the fire department began purchasing gas masks and air respirators in an effort to improve personal protective equipment. The Onalaska fire department continues to add members to it's work force and strives to keep up with technology while aiming towards improving it's rescue and prevention efforts each year.

Today Onalaska has 14 full time paid Firefighters (including 2 Chief's) and 15 paid-on-call volunteers for a total of 29 based out of 1 station at the Onalaska City Hall.