Independence Day in Platteville always includes a patriotic program in City Park.
This year’s program dedicated the new Platteville Fire Department Memorial on the west side of City Park.
The memorial — designed by David Oswald, the Sparta designer of the Veterans Honor Roll statues — includes a firefighter in full turnout gear, so that children who encounter a firefighter during a night fire in their homes won’t be scared. It also includes the Firefighter’s Prayer.
The memorial also includes the names of retired firefighters, and the names of firefighters Austin Hale, Charles Gilmore and Len Vanderbie, who died in the Forehand Block fire in 1919. It also includes the bell that originally was placed in City Park as a fire alarm, then moved to city hall.
Rev. Jeff Petersen of Lutheran Church of Peace said he was at Ground Zero in New York one week earlier. He also recalled firefighters going out in the middle of a blizzard earlier this year, as well as immediately after the June 16 tornado.
“Whether it’s New York or Platteville, we are grateful for those who love our Lord and love our country, who are willing to lay down their lives for one another,” he said.
Ron Boldt, who has been a firefighter for 50 years, read a history of the Fire Department, beginning with a Second Street fire in April 1874 that destroyed 17 businesses and prompted Platteville businessmen to conclude that a fire department was needed in the growing city of Platteville.
Today’s Platteville Fire Department used to be two pieces — the Platteville Hook & Ladder Co. and the Mound City Engine Co., both started in 1874. The Fire Department was located in the two city hall buildings; the current Municipal Building replaced its predecessor after it burned down. The current Municipal Building is also called the Civic Memorial Building, dedicated to Platteville’s “Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Volunteer Firemen.”
The Fire Department moved to its current location on East Main Street in 1964.
The bell, which moved from the Fire Department back to City Park, was rung 12 times, for the four Dickeyville firefighters, three Platteville firefighters, three Cuba City firefighters and two Lancaster firefighters who died in the past year.