Aiming to foster and promote unity and harmony among volunteer fire departments throughout Indiana
Note: Most of the material used within the History section of this web site was used from the book entitled "IVFA Historical Book," which chronicles the first 50 years of the IVFA, from 1945-1996. Special thanks to Verne D. Konopasek for his hours of research and editing to make this material possible.
In 1945 a group of volunteer fire departments in Lake and Porter Counties formed the Indiana Volunteer Fireman's Association (IVFA). Those departments included Kouts, Dyer, Griffith, Cedar Lake, St. John, Independence Hill – Ross Township, Hobart, Munster, Chesterton, Lowell, Black Oak – Calumet Township,Schererville, Porter, Schneider, East Gary, Crown Point, and Highland. Meetings were held on August 23 and September 20, 1945 to elect Officers. The first Officers of the IVFA included Harold Brownell, President (Lowell Dept.), Alvin Guske – Vice President (Crown Point Dept.), Roy Kittredge – Secretary (Hobard Dept.) and C.O. Rattray – Treasurer (Cedar Lake Dept.)
In 1945 the first By-Laws Committee was elected. It included Verne Konopasek – Chairmen (Griffith Dept.), Alvin Guske – Member (Crown Point Dept.) and Harold Brownell – Member (Lowell Dept.). The By-Law Committee held several meetings, and worked many hours on drafting the original Constitution and By-Laws Book, along with the original draft of our Articles of Incorporation. Application for corporation certificate was granted by the State on December 6, 1946.
The Death-Benefit-Funeral Fund was consummated on July 25th, 1947 at a meeting held at the American Legion Hall in Hobart. Eight departments contributed the initial monies to begin this fund, a total of $133. Those departments included Kouts, Dyer, Griffith, Cedar Lake, St. John, Hobart, Muster and Chesterton. The first death-benefit payment was made due to the death of member Albert C. Eichstaedt of the Hanna Fire Department, on December 15th, 1948.
The first Annual Convention was held in Calumet Township, Lake County, on June 27th, 1948. Morning and afternoon sessions were held, with 31 Delegates representing 20 Department memberships in attendance. These 20 departments represented 316 individual memberships and 1 associate membership. Besides the two business sessions, there was a picnic-style basket lunch, and entertainment for all the children, with free pop and ice cream supplied by the Black Oak Volunteer Fire Department. The evening concluded with dancing at the Eagle's Hall. At the end of the convention, the final By-laws were approved by the delegation, ordered printed in booklet form, and dated 1949 on the cover.
In 1950 the there was discussion about a merger between the IVFA, and the Northern Indiana Industrial & Volunteer Fireman's Association (NII & V). Efforts between both associations Board of Directors to hold a joint meeting were realized on July 21, 1951, in Bremen. Prior to the meeting, the NII&V held a meeting with their delegates on June 8 & 9, at which time they concurred and authorized the merger. Additionally the IVFA held their Fourth Annual Convention on June 24, 1951, in Lowell. At that meeting the reports from the IVFA Officers, as well as the actions taken by the Northern Indiana Industrial and Volunteer Fireman's Association (NII&V) were presented to the delegates, of whom their final decision was required to approve the merger of the two groups. By unanimous vote, approval was given. At this meeting, membership roll call indicated there were 664 members representing 38 Departments.
In Hartford City on June 6 & 7, 1952 history was made when the Indiana Industrial & Volunteer Fireman's Association, and the Indiana Volunteer Fireman's Association were merged into one. This was the final step that brought together the oldest and the youngest volunteer firemen's associations in Indiana. Total membership of the IVFA was immediately increased to 70 departments and almost 1200 members, located in (7) different districts.
Membership continued to grow in 1952, posting over a 70% increase in new members alone, with total membership at about 2000. There was discussion that the organization should sponsor a newsletter, delivered to every volunteer department in the State of Indiana. Due to his experience, Robert Rose of the Cedar Lake VFD was appointed Publisher and Editor of our first quarterly newspaper. His editorial staff consisted of John Kustron, Bernie Jostes, and Emil Zula. The first issue was mailed in January 1953 and received positive reaction at that year's convention. The format of the paper provided space for all organization activities, district meeting, plus any unusual events. Space was also provided to communicate to all non-members the organizations aims and objectives.
At the 1952 convention was also when the Ladies Auxiliary (IVFAA) was begun, thanks to the effort of Mrs. Charles Ridgeway, wife of the Chief of Hartford City Fire Department. Beginning with the 1953 convention at Rensselaer the Ladies Auxiliary held a separate meeting, at which time they elected their first set of Officers.
A significant change occurred with the 1954 convention, related to the election of our Board of Directors. Based on the change to the By-Laws, each District at their first meeting following each annual convention was to elect their District Chairmen, who would then automatically become a member of the Board of Directors. This provided a common approach to each district having equal representation, as well as making it possible for any individual member, from any individual department throughout the state, to seek the job.
At the 1957 convention held in Muster, a motion was adopted to furnish grave marker to all deceased members of the organization. These markers are to be of bronze, have the IVFA emblem in middle, and be made to withstand all weather conditions.
The IVFA continued to grow based on the report provided by Secretary Harry Fires at the 1958 annual convention held in Madison. During the past fiscal year 37 new departments were added to the membership ranks, and individual membership was 4,668, an increase of 661 members since the 1957 convention. Over 8000 copies of the quarterly newspaper were now reaching 675 volunteer fire departments.
As the decade of the 60's began, the convention moved to Clinton. IVFA President John Ford presented a trophy to Fred Smoke, from the Pittman-Moore Fire Company in Zionsville, recognizing him as the 6,000 IVFA member. Additionally, the 1960 convention saw the 1st Mr. IVFA Award presented to Robert G. Hutson of St. Joseph Township, Fort Wayne, for his zeal in membership drives and other activities throughout the past year.
The annual convention was held in Greenfield, and as the membership in the IVFA continued to increase, upwards of 8000, so did the number of attendees at the convention. 675 hungry folks lined up for the banquet at the National Guard Amory. A new district, #17, was established, and encompassed 8 departments located in Davies, Greene, Knox, and Martin Counties. The Greenfield convention was number 15 in the IVFA's short history, and the membership growth was continuing at a significant rate each year.
"The Indiana Volunteer Fireman" newspaper was shifted to Crown Point, with Bob Rose resuming responsibility as Editor. Bob was the original Editor, and the first issue under his "new" direction was published in October 1962. The previous Editor, Mr. Wiemann did an outstanding job with the newspaper, and the organization owes him a great deal of debt and gratitude.
It should also be noted that during each annual convention, memorial services are held to commemorate the memory of our deceased members. Services are usually held at a local church, and everyone takes time to remember the hard work, and sacrifices, these members have made.
During 1966, Duane Lantz, known affectionately as Father Lantz, developed a funeral home memorial service. This service is held at the funeral home, before interment, and upon request in cooperation with the deceased's home fire department and relatives. This is a special service, free for the asking, whereby the IVFA Chaplain will conduct a final tribute and service. This is in addition to our Funeral Fund contribution to beneficiaries. Father Lantz has made this special service quite popular and it is a very meaningful method of memorializing the deceased member for the relatives as well as the members own volunteer fire department.
In late 1967, Paul Becker, a ardent supporter of all volunteer firemen in the State of Indiana, passed away. Because of his support and friendliness to the IVFA during its entire history up this time period, the Officer's meeting held after his death instituted the Paul Becker Award in his honor. The first award was presented at the 1968 convention held in Jeffersonville, to Allen Blades.
Donald Buford of the Birdseye Volunteer Fire Department was honored as the 10,000th association member at the annual convention in Warsaw. It was noted at the convention that membership was now at 10,394. It was estimated that there are approximately 20,000 or more volunteer firemen for 800 or more departments, throughout the state. More and more of the small communities throughout the state are interested in new formations of their own fire protection.
As the 1970 convention was held in Shelbyville, it allowed time to summarize the progress throughout the decade of the 60's. In 1960 the membership stood at approximately 6,000 members. At the 1970 convention, the membership was at 11,000, representing a constant growth of 500 members annually throughout the 60's. The certainly has been very consistent, and places the Indiana Volunteer Firemen's Association in a very firm position for future enlargement and prestige.
At the 1972 convention in Wayne Township, Indianapolis, a motion was passed to increase the number of Public Relations Directors to (6), of which said Director is elected by member departments from within the given area. It was also resolved the Public Relation Director must reside in the given area that he is to hold office. It was also at the 1972 convention when the first Miss Flame contest was held. This addition to the convention proceedings resulted in a new tradition being established for all future conventions.
At the 1974 convention held at New Haven, the Indiana Volunteer Fireman's Association Auxiliary implemented the Lois Boaz Award, presented to an outstanding member of their organization. This award recognition continues at each IVFA annual convention.
At the 1975 convention is Warsaw the first instance of a potential name change from 'Firemen's Association' to 'Firefighter's Association' was brought up. This was in part to the current language in the IVFA By-Laws which made reference to "his", and the discussion of female members having proper recognition. Additionally, from 1968 through 1973 the association has awarded the Paul Becker Award during the annual convention. Beginning in 1974 this award will be know as the 'President's Award'.
*Note: This next area is indirectly related, but yet extremely important, to the success of the IVFA and its members.
In 1976 the volunteer fire service, comprising of about 1.7 million plus firemen, lacked an effective, unified voice in Washington, and as a result, had little or no say towards political or program decisions affecting them.
That year, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) was founded to fill this void. Its purpose was clear; to tie the loose strings of the many state volunteer associations, such as the IVFA, together into a powerful front representing the interests of volunteer firemen and volunteer fire departments on a national level.
The NVFC established itself by gaining representation on every major national committee related to the fire service and immediately involved itself on many levels. It played a role in determining a new site and direction for the National Fire Academy, which heads the training and education of the nation's fire service. Additionally it was instrumental in publicizing key programs, such as the National Fire Protection Associations "Learn not Burn" and "Project Fires" programs. It provided input and support for the Federal Death Benefit Program, which provides a substantial financial benefit to the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty. The NFVC also played a major role in sustaining the Rural Community Fire Protection Program, which allocated money to rural volunteer departments for equipment, training, communications, or other necessities.
The NVFC implemented a research survey, sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration, which focused on better understanding the needs and problems of volunteer firemen and volunteer departments. In 1979 the NVFC held its first national workshop, where delegates from all 50 states explored every aspect of the volunteer service and provided strong information that future policies would emerge from. One of the key results of the workshop was that emphasis should be directed towards comprehensive training of all volunteers, from recruits through top-level management. Other key initiatives derived from the workshop included the development of arson task forces, and fire prevention programs.
NVFC voting members are chosen from their respective state's volunteer fire organization, with one representative from each state. The Council has no real authority over its associate members; rather its strength came from its ability to pool its resources into a formidable front, and likewise, disseminate its knowledge down through the structure and back to the individual members. This generates the spreading of successful ideas and programs across the country. In just three years, the NFVC had begun to provide all the right tools the volunteer fire service needed to do the best job it could today, and a better job tomorrow.
At the 35th annual convention held in Merrillville, it was resolved that the state be divided into as many districts as may be required to ensure the holding of at least four meetings per calendar year. It was imperative that all members, both current and new, have the necessary means to attend district meetings within a reasonable distance of their department's location, and to ensure all members are effectively kept abreast of the associations' happenings.
At a special ceremony and reception in the State House rotunda, John Trimpe of the Brooklyn Volunteer Fire Department, became the 20,000th firefighter to become certified under the minimum training standards established by the Commission on Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education. This presentation was made by Governor Robert D. Orr and was attended by representatives from twenty-eight Indiana fire service organizations.
At the 1986 convention held at Terre Haute, a new award was begun, named the Ollie Sandberg Award. This award recognition continues at each IVFA annual convention.
At the 1987 convention held at Clarksville, a unique program of awarding educational scholarships, was begun. Named the Bridgeport Scholarship program, IVFA members and/or their eligible family members are encouraged to submit an application for financial assistance for continuing education needs. Completed scholarship applications are reviewed by a committee, and two individuals are selected as scholarship winners at each annual convention.
At the 44th annual convention held in Fort Wayne, the second official discussion (the first presented during the 1975 convention) about changing the name from "Firemen's" to "Firefighters" Association was presented. District 12 brought the motion before the assembly with the following considerations: the first being that the membership has been, and is in the process of change during the past twenty-one years, and secondly, the IVFA member departments are recruiting a recognizable percentage of women as active members. Based on these known facts, District 12 asked that the officers of the IVFA take the necessary steps needed to change the name of the organization to the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association, with a target date for completion of January 1, 1992.
After the resolution was submitted, District 12 then asked that it be removed based on the following information. It was noted that the current method of how the IVFA was registered in Washington, DC was based on what was described as "principal". While all the particulars were not known, it was apparent that the only way a change in our organization name could occur, was for the current association to totally disband, start up again under the new name, and then work under that new name for one year before it could be legally registered. Until all of the facts were accurately known, it was best of no name change, or resolution, occurs as of this date.
At the 45th annual convention held in Vincennes, the following resolution was heard and passed. All members of regular volunteer fire department, task units, or ambulance providers organized in county, township, city, town communities, or industrial plants in the state of Indiana, may become active members and thereafter continue as retired active members of this Association.
The passing of this resolution reinforced the working relationships between many fire departments, and the EMS service, who up until now, had no statewide organization.
Membership continues to grow in the organization. As of January 24, 1993 membership stood at 18,346, with 744 departments paid. Membership was expected to climb over 18,500 by the end of the year.
At the annual convention held in Columbus, discussion on changing the name of the organization from "Fireman" to "Firefighter" again was on the agenda. First discussed at the 1975 convention in Warsaw, and then again at the 1990 convention in Fort Wayne, the old saying, "third time is a charm" proved to be correct, when the decision was officially made to begin the name change process.
After 54 years as the Indiana Volunteer Fireman's Association, on February 7th the organization name was officially changed to the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association. This name change reflects the diversity of the organization with the increasing number of female members.
At the convention held in Michigan City, it was decided by President Kerney to make a change in how the convention committees are assigned. Beginning with this convention, as a one year trial period, only Public Relations Representatives and Past Presidents would be places on convention committees. Previously, District Chairmen were also assigned, however President Kerney felt the District Chairmen's time could be best served working on issues within their districts.
After several years of decline, membership in the IVFA is on the upswing, with current membership at around 16,500. Additionally, the trial period of not using the District Chairmen on the Convention Committees has shown good results, and will continue on for another year. If this shows favorable results then it may be adopted permanently.
The convention in Evansville had a more serious atmosphere, based on the tragic events of 9/11/01. The State Fire Marshal is usually a regular at the IVFA Convention. However this year he was in attendance at a large terrorism meeting being held at the same time. In his place Deputy Fire Marshall Mike Bigler addressed the attendees. He presented a program on changes in the Fire Service and how we, the fire service, now have an even greater responsibility for responding to potential terrorist attacks or threats. One main concern that is actively being addressed is the ability for fire department to effectively respond to Hazardous Material threats. Plans are being devised to provide all fire department with proper hazardous materials response equipment, and effective training. Other speakers during the convention also commented on how "everything" has changed because of 9/11.
With 9 years service as the IVFA Chaplain, and more then 50 years in the fire service, Charlie Baker chose not to seek re-election this year. Charlie was praised by President Kerney for his service and dedication to the IVFA and its members.
Membership numbers continue to increase, with current membership at 17, 688 as of April 1st. The goal of 18,000 is still obtainable. This year the IVFA began offering another well received benefit to its members with the introduction of "IVFA On-Line", the IVFA Web Site. This site offers many different avenues of information for our members, as well as access to forms, calendars of events, and other useful information. The site is continuing to grow, and there are several other areas that will be added to the site during the coming month's.
The IVFA continues to take a pro-active role in shaping the laws and regulations that impact our membership, and the residents of Indiana. Through the use of a lobbyist the IVFA has increased its presence and voice within each years legislative session. Within the association additional benefits are identified and implemented for our members.