Fire Department History

In the early years of our town, people could only depend upon family and neighbors for fire protection. With no telephones and no nearby neighbors, the family fought its own battle with fire, which was usually a losing one.

Early Tallmadge Industries Lost to Fire

According to historical records, along with many homes and barns, numerous early Tallmadge industries were consumed by fire. Some of the more prominent industries effected included:

  • Baldwin's Carriage Works
  • The Circle Inn
  • The Erie Depot
  • Kramer's Hardware
  • Mauer Flouring Mill
  • Tallmadge Drain Shop
  • The central school
  • Tyron, Wright and Sperry Sewer Pipe Works
  • Wells and Gay saw mill

Founding Tallmadge Fire

In 1931, the Tallmadge trustees made an arrangement with the city of Akron for fire protection. In 1934, after a rash of fires, protection was provided by the Stow Fire Department. The Tallmadge Fire Department was born in 1944 when a group of Tallmadge volunteers built their own fire truck, purchased an old gas station, and remodeled it into a fire station. This first fire station was located on South Avenue near Tallmadge Circle.

Original Fire Truck

The original fire truck was a 1934 Ford truck chassis procured from a local junkyard. It was fitted with a homemade 500-gallon water tank, and a pump acquired from the federal Civil Defense system. Funding for other equipment was made possible by proceeds from public fish fries sponsored by the Department.

First Chief, Firefighters and First Call

Fire Chief David Bierce, Assistant Chief Harry O. King, and fifteen firemen were sworn in late in 1943. Their first call was May 28, 1944, to the Stella Sparhawk residence on East Avenue. There was no mention of damage.

Updating Equipment and Adding Stations

In 1945, the firemen built an addition on the fire station, and in 1947, the village replaced the original fire truck with a new Mack 500-gallon per minute pumper. This truck was in active service until 1988, when it was donated to the Tallmadge Historical Society, and still can be seen at parades and festivals.

Station 2 Addition

During the late 1940s, the railroad tracks which bisected the city presented a major fire protection problem. Trains came through at a rate of one every 6-7 minutes, with many of these stopping and blocking the roadway. The city was blocked from Howe Road to Southwest Avenue. In 1952, Station Number 2 was built at Six Corners to remedy the problem.

First Chief Retires

Also during 1952, Chief Bierce retired and Wilburn Crites was elected Fire Chief.

Fire Levy

By 1954, the costs involved with two fire stations and the need for new equipment caused the city to place a $1 million fire levy on the ballot. The money was used to purchase two 1956 Ford fire trucks and to pay the firemen. The five-year levy passed 1,395 to 611. The original $1 million fire levy was renewed every five years until 1977.

Chief Crites Retires

In 1976, Chief Crites retired. John Crossen, who was hired as the city's full-time fire inspector in 1970, was then appointed chief.

Emergency Medical Services Addition

Until 1977, the Fire Department's only job was to extinguish fires. During the 1970s a popular television program "Emergency" introduced the concept of fire-department-based ambulance services. The citizens requested such an Emergency Medical System, and the Fire Department met the challenge. At that time, the law required that the Fire and EMS levy be separate issues. The electorate was asked to approve a $1.5 million fire levy, and a $1.5 million EMS levy. Upon approval, the city purchased two ambulances, hired two full-time firefighter-paramedics, and increased the part-time ranks to 45.

On November 27, 1978, the Tallmadge Emergency Medical Service began operations; during that year they responded to 139 fire calls, and 40 EMS calls. The first full year for EMS in 1979, and the call tally was 157 fires, and 562 EMS. In 1982, both the fire and EMS levies were renewed, and the City purchased its third ambulance to meet the demands of the service.

1981 Fire Chief Retirement & Promotion

In July 1981, John Crossen retired and Dennis Crossen was promoted to position of Fire Chief in December 1981.

1996 Operations Overhaul

In 1996, the Fire Department, in response to the increased number of runs, completely overhauled its operations. Since 1944, whenever there was a call for the Fire Department, a call went out to all members, and usually enough people responded to handle the situation. In August 1996, we hired three additional full-time firefighter-paramedics and scheduled four people (two full-time and two part-time) to work at the fire station twenty-four hours a day. This reduced our average response time to less than five minutes.

Fire and EMS Levy Made Permanent

The city had decided to absorb the extra costs involved in this program from the general fund balance, rather than request another tax increase for Fire Department operations. In order to avoid the necessity of asking for the levy every five years, the citizens were asked to make the $3.75 million Fire and EMS levy permanent. In November of 1996, the voters overwhelmingly approved this measure, providing a stable funding base for the Fire and EMS system for many years to come.

Chiefs Gaffney & Passarelli

In June 2009, Dennis M. Crossen retired and Patrick J. Gaffney was promoted to position of Fire Chief in July 2009. Chief Gaffney served with distinction until July 2015, when Michael Passarelli, a long-time veteran with the Tallmadge Fire Department, was promoted to Chief.

2019 Safety Levy
In November 2019, a safety levy was approved by the citizens. The .25% income tax increase allows fire and safety forces to meet current needs and continue to provide outstanding emergency services. The safety levy also allowed for the rebuilding of Fire Station 2. The anticipated date of the opening of the new station is TBD.

2022 Fire Chief Retirement & Promotion

In October 2022, after serving 7 honorable years as Fire Chief and 47 years for the Tallmadge Fire Department overall, Michael Passarelli retired. Following the retirement of Chief Passarelli, John D. Underwood was promoted to Chief in November 2022. 

Tallmadge Fire Today

Increases in full-time personnel at Fire Station 1 and 2, has reduced the response time to less than five minutes throughout the city. This staffing allows a well equipped first response of emergency teams to all areas, resulting in minimum fire loss and maximum pre-hospital emergency medical treatment.

Expanded Scope

The recent expansion and growth of our city has caused the Fire Department to broaden the scope of its duties from that of just fighting fires to one that encompasses all emergency services including:
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Environmental protection
  • Fire Education
  • Fire Prevention
  • Firefighting
From very humble beginnings, we have continuously expanded our duties to provide our citizens with the best service possible at a reasonable cost, and we pledge to do so for the future.