South Grove & Inver Grove
Fire protection in Inver Grove Heights has not always been what it is today. Early fire protection for Inver Grove Village was provided by South St. Paul and fire protection for Inver Grove Township was provided by Mendota Heights. In late 1956, the South Grove and Inver Grove Village fire departments were born, each with its own means of financing and its own area of fire protection. When Inver Grove Village and Inver Grove Township merged into the city of Inver Grove Heights in 1965, the two fire departments were merged into a single city department. The start date of the present Inver Grove Heights Fire Department is considered to be January 1957, the date the South Grove Fire Department was officially incorporated.
The Inver Grove Village Fire Department was organized under the direction of Chief Sid Hulse and provided protection for Inver Grove Village. With 22 volunteers at his command, Hulse converted an old Army Crash truck into the village's first pumper and built the village's first fire station at 65th Street and Concord Boulevard.
Due to the efforts of Lee Jewel, the South Grove Fire Department was organized in 1957 to provide fire protection for the South Grove development in Inver Grove Township. With much help from the Mendota Heights Fire Department, the South Grove Fire Department subsequently contracted to provide fire protection for the entire township. Fire protection was provided by older remodeled equipment purchased by the volunteers, who responded out of a two car garage on 74th Street and Concord Boulevard.
With the incorporation of the City of Inver Grove Heights in 1965, the two departments were merged into a single city department. The combined department had sixty members, two new 1000 gallons per minute (gpm) pumpers, and two fire stations.
Calling the Firefighters
Prior to 1965, civil defense sirens were sounded to call firefighters to the fire station. The original Inver Grove Village siren was located atop Station No. 2. The siren was activated via a switch inside the fire station. A second siren was subsequently added atop the hill at 7300 Clayton Avenue, to provide coverage to the South Grove area. This siren was activated via switches in selected firefighter's residences.
The first telephone calling system used was the pyramid (or relay) system. This system was used in conjunction with and as backup to the fire siren. A telephone call to the fire department would ring telephones in five firefighter's residences. The first firefighter to answer the call would get information from the caller and then initiate the pyramid calling system. All the firefighters in the department were split up onto different lists. The firefighter taking the call would call the person at the top of each list. Those people would then contact the second person on their list, and so on, until all names on all lists had been contacted. The pyramid system was disbanded when the automated calling system was installed.
The automated calling system was an improvement to the pyramid system. A telephone call to the fire department would ring telephones in five firefighter's residences. The first firefighter to answer the call would simply dial "0", which would cause telephones to ring in all the firefighter's residences. The telephones would ring constantly until answered. If a telephone was in use when one of these calls came through, a busy signal would sound on the line, interrupting the conversation. The user would have to hang up to receive the fire call.
A Plectron system was installed in the 1970's, replacing the telephone system. Phone calls to the fire department's emergency phone line were no longer answered by firefighters. Instead, calls were answered by dispatchers at the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. The dispatcher would get information from the caller and then broadcast the message to firefighters via the Plectron system. Each firefighter was issued a Plectron desktop radio receiver. The Plectron receivers monitored a specified radio frequency, listening for an alert tone. When the alert tone was received, the Plectron receiver would "wake up", activate the speaker, and play the broadcast message.
The Plectron system remained in use until the early 1980's. At that time the Plectron desktop radio receivers were replaced by portable pagers carried by firefighters. No longer did firefighters have to be at home to receive the summons to the fire station. At the same time the 911 emergency system was activated, replacing the seven-digit emergency phone number previously used by the fire department.