The Goodhue Fire Department was officially organized in 1898 with seventeen men who each received a salary of $5.00 per year. Paul Husting was the first fire chief who, along with the firemen, were appointed by the village council. Derek Weckerling is currently the chief of the department that now keeps a full roster of 25 men and women. Today’s crew work without salary but receive a small allotment when they retire. Each member must live within six minutes of the station.
The current fire station, built in 1995 on the corner of Second Street and Third Avenue, was the location of the 27th annual open house and fundraiser supporting the department. As a volunteer department, Goodhue Fire & Rescue depends on donations to maintain, purchase, and update equipment. The October 15th event also celebrated the 125th anniversary of the organization.
In honor of the occasion, the department roasted three hogs for a meal served by active and retired department members. They were also available to answer any questions about equipment or services. Other events of the day included fire truck rides for those interested, an auto extrication demonstration and a kids’ water activity. On display were the 1941 fire truck original to the department and the newly arrived pumper truck.
Daryl “Chip” Krueger, who served on the Department for 28 years, including as chief from 1998 to 2007, was instrumental in planning the event. Krueger has a keen interest in the history of the department. With a lot of understanding and help from his wife, Peggy, he compiled extensive information, photos and a membership roster into a book that he published in 2014. He said his resources were spread out across the dining room table while he worked on the book every day for four-and-a half months. He added material to an updated version in 2017 and another updated edition should be available before Christmas.
The book includes information on the 1895 fire that nearly destroyed the town and was the catalyst for the formation of the department in 1898. The following quote is from an account of the fire in the Red Wing Republican Eagle titled “Goodhue in Ashes”. “The prosperous village at Goodhue Station on the Duluth, Red Wing and Southern Railroad, was the scene of a conflagration on Saturday night, which very nearly wiped out the entire business portion of the town, entailing a loss at the lowest calculation of $35,000 and making five families homeless.” At this time, there was no local organization and the only way to get water to the fire was by a bucket brigade. By the time word was sent to Red Wing and aid arrived, the fire had run out of fuel and largely burned itself out.
Some firefighting equipment was purchased in 1897 and the first fire hall/jail combination building erected in 1898. A fire engine was purchased in 1900 and water mains and hydrants were installed in 1903. Hose carts and ladders that were purchased in 1903 remain in good condition and are stored in the current fire hall. The department fought several notable fires in those early years including feed mill and implement businesses and the Goodhue Creamery.
In 1940, the Goodhue Fire & Rescue Department began providing services not only to the city of Goodhue, but to the townships of Featherstone, Goodhue, Belvidere, Hay Creek and Zumbrota. Chester, Belle Creek, Vasa and the city of Bellechester were added later. The department now proudly provides firefighting, medical first responder, and motor vehicle accident response services to these communities (except Zumbrota), an area over 275 square miles! Members responded to 136 medical and 48 fire calls within that area in 2022.
In addition to the 12 monthly meetings, the department completed over 1000 training hours in 2022, and 785 hours of training so far in 2023. This keeps them up-to-date on the latest medical and firefighting practices, procedures, and protocols to provide the best possible service to the residents and communities served. “People don’t realize how much time it takes to be a firefighter and the sacrifice it takes,” stated Krueger who, although officially retired, still attends meetings and consults with the department. He may be reached at 651-212-3460 to order a copy of the newest Goodhue Fire Department History book, an excellent gift option at an expected price of just $12.