Call goes out for photos, stories to celebrate Eastpointe Fire Department’s 100th anniversary

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 17, 2021

 The massive Chesterfield Inn fire that occurred in June 1956 required more than 100 firefighters to extinguish. It was this fire that precipitated the Macomb County Multiple Alarm assignments that fire departments use today. Eastpointe was the first to ratify this change.

The massive Chesterfield Inn fire that occurred in June 1956 required more than 100 firefighters to extinguish. It was this fire that precipitated the Macomb County Multiple Alarm assignments that fire departments use today. Eastpointe was the first to ratify this change.

Photo provided by Nick Sage

 Lady was a station Dalmatian who lived at the firehouse during the late 1950s. She sits on the 1928 American LaFrance Pumper used by the department on countless calls.

Lady was a station Dalmatian who lived at the firehouse during the late 1950s. She sits on the 1928 American LaFrance Pumper used by the department on countless calls.

Photo provided by Nick Sage

 Fire Department personnel in 1940 inspect the first two-wheeled fire cart that was used in the community.

Fire Department personnel in 1940 inspect the first two-wheeled fire cart that was used in the community.

Photo provided by Nick Sage

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EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe Fire Department is one of the city’s oldest and most esteemed organizations. This year, it is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and two local leaders are putting out a book to celebrate it.

Deputy Fire Chief Nick Sage and East Detroit Historical Society member and former Mayor Suzanne Pixley are asking residents to help them put the finishing touches on the book by contributing photos, relics and stories from the department’s century-long history.

“We wanted to put something together to outline the last 100 years,” said Sage. “We wanted to put a focus on the historic photos we have and the people who have served the community of Eastpointe. We want it to be a fun thing to celebrate the last 100 years.”

The book, which has not yet been titled, began when the pair worked together to donate the department’s original Model-T firetruck to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum in 2019.

“(The book) will show the department the way it used to be and the way it is now,” said Pixley. “It shows the department with the old fire wagons and the original Model-T firetruck that we donated to the (Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum), and it shows the new truck they’re getting this year and talks about being part of  (the South East Regional Emergency Services Authority). It covers a lot of ground.”

Pixley went on to say that preserving and sharing this history is very important.

“I think there are a lot of young people with no idea what it was like living in the area in the 1920s,” she said. “I think it also shows how the Fire Department has always been there, always worked with the community and always has provided excellent service. This includes in the Great Depression and the recent recession. Also, when you see a lot of pictures to go with the stories, it shows how the department has grown and progressed over the course of a century.”

The hope is the book can be made more personal with the addition of more photos and stories from residents, especially with regard to former department members.

“We’re interested in old photos, any kind of information — especially the early years,” Sage said. “I think sometimes we will come in contact with a family of a firefighter who is no longer with us, and I think there are stories which can be shared or things like old helmets or badges. … One of our original firefighters — from when the department started — his family came forward with a photo of his old Halfway badge. It was really cool.”

When the village that would eventually become East Detroit and then Eastpointe was incorporated, it was known as “Halfway.” It was approximately halfway between Detroit and Mount Clemens.

Pixley said that such artifacts can help bind a community together.

“We’re always looking for more photos. I’ll bet all of our old-timers have a photo of the Chesterfield Hall fire,” she said. “A lot of people will remember the fire that took place at Precision Plating Co. that took place across from City Hall. We all remember fires where there was a loss of life. Every community has some of these fires that people all remember.”

Those wishing to contribute to the book can contact Sage at (586) 445-4464 or email him at nsage@eastpointecity.org.

“We want to put the book out in the fall,” he said. “We’re still working on how to get it published and distribute it. We’re talking to a company in Eastpointe who will be able to put it out there.”

Both think the book, and the history of the Eastpointe Fire Department in general, is something that members of the community should have a hand in, since for many of them it is a core part of their own history.

“Many residents grew up in Eastpointe, and it is great to be able to go back and see how the department functioned back when they were kids — showing the department the way they remember it,” remarked Pixley. “I like the early history the best. It was the residents who raised the money to purchase the first ambulance, for instance. It’s neat that as you look through the history, that you pick up on that.”

“It’s quite the milestone,” added Sage. “There are a few that are older in Macomb County, but in southern Macomb County, we are the oldest department. We covered other communities back in the old days, too. I think it’s really cool to see how the services evolved and grew over time and some of the contributions we’ve made to the county over the years.”

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