418. Tools of the Trade

"Tools of the Trade"

Many visitors are surprised to learn Ludington’s Fire Department is not staffed by full-time career firefighters. Fire protection is provided for the City by a dedicated group of part-paid  volunteers. 

The earliest record of an organized fire department dates back to 1874, when the first lumber mill appeared on the banks of Pere Marquette Lake. The mill was soon destroyed by fire. Shortly thereafter, 26 residents volunteered to create the City’s first fire department. They were a dedicated group but began to feel unappreciated when the City Council failed to approve compensation for burned clothing. They soon began to lose interest, setting the stage for a major disaster. That disaster occurred on Saturday June 11, 1881, the day the circus came to town. Flames first appeared in a bakery on west Looms Street. Fueled by windy warm weather, the fire quickly spread to an adjacent saloon, a meat market and then a shoe store. Circus performers were parading through town, but joined firefighters to help combat the blaze, all to no avail. By the end of the day, 67 buildings, representing most of the downtown area, had been destroyed. A new determination arose to reorganize the Fire Department. A new hand-pumper was purchased and members would now be given distinctive colorful uniforms and receive modest compensation. This was the beginning of the “part-paid volunteer Fire Department”, as we still have today.

The “Tools of the Trade,” sculpture was created by Loveland, Colorado artist Austin Weishel and was donated by John Ordus, Jr. It commemorates Ludington’s beautiful new fire station and honors the men who have served the Department over its rich and colorful history.