DeKalb Fire Department celebrates 150th anniversary

By Najla Edwards

DeKALB — Saturday, DeKalb Firefighters celebrated 150 years of serving the city.

The five hour event was held in the Barsema Alumni Center from 5 to 10 p.m. Firefighters, friends and family gathered to commemorate past and current firefighters.

Attendees stepped into a cocktail hour as soon as they entered the foyer. Guests and firefighters milled about the foyer with plenty of beer, cocktails and laughs.

Cocktail hour preceded speeches and a PowerPoint presentation. Fire Chief Jeff McMasters, police captain and DeKalb mayor Jerry Smith were among those who spoke on behalf of the fire department.

The presentations took place in a dining area with a dance floor, a DJ booth and a station where food would be served to guests. In this room, a slideshow was shown showcasing DeKalb firefighters’ many accomplishments and great improvements, in addition to speeches from current members.

McMasters has been a DeKalb firefighter for 24 years. He worked in Blue Island, a suburb of Chicago, for two years prior to moving to DeKalb.

“When you think of a big anniversary, 150 years, what are DeKalb firefighters 100 years from now going to look at us and say?” McMasters said. “That is just mesmerizing.”

History played a major role in the celebration. DeKalb’s fire department began as a volunteer-only operation in 1869. During that time, DeKalb was a growing community that needed protection from fire.

The event was sponsored by the DeKalb Firefighters Historical Foundation, which was founded in 2012.

“This celebration to me means thanking all the fine men and women for the sacrifices they’ve made over the past 150 years prior to us,” Todd Stoffa, chairman of the foundation, said. “We try to carry on those traditions and history for them. They’ve laid the groundwork for us, and now it is our job to carry it out.”

The slideshow gave details about DeKalb’s fire department, the men that served and major fires during that time. The presentation ended with the mission for the department’s future endeavors.

“We want to bring back in artifacts, history, treasures that have been lost over the last 150 years,” Stoffa said. “We also have a goal of opening a fire museum to teach the youth of this community. It would give us a place to host and do fire prevention for schools.”