The long and tragic series of events which set the stage of action to form a Fire Department was a very real part of the early history of Paw Paw. Beginning with the destruction by fire of a saw mill on the river at the west end of Main Street in 1839, the newly platted village was to experience the ordeal of uncontrolled fire often during the next thirty years.
Numerous individual residential and commercial fires occurred, and on three occasions large sections of the business district, between Gremps and Niles Streets were totally destroyed. In 1859, the Exchange Hotel, on which site the Dyckman Restaurant now stands, was destroyed. A bucket brigade composed mostly of women and children, drew water from the river in two small cisterns for the men who fought the blaze in vain.
At the next town meeting the need for an organized Fire Department and equipment was discussed. The only action taken was a request that all local businesses shall "provide and keep a number of pails, available and suitable for fire and on the alarm of fire, residents were requested to hasten to the scene and present themselves for services as needed."
1866 saw both sides of Main St.west of Kalamazoo St. partially destroyed. One of the Businesses destroyed was the Smith Clothing Store. In the same year 2 others businesses were destroyed in the spot where the Warner’s supply building currently stands.
In the spring of 1868 the north side of Main Street between the Dyckman Hotel and the Post Office was swept by a fire that lasted for 2 days. Once again the matter of an organized Fire Department was discussed by the village trustees. A special meeting was set to be held on September 6th 1868 to discuss the matter of a fire department. At this meeting a board was appointed to draft an ordinance for the organization of a fire company and to investigate the cost and availability of fire equipment.
On September 28, 1868 22 persons were appointed as firemen with the Paw Paw Fire Company. The next night the newly appointed firemen met and organized the Paw Paw Fire Company No.1 with the following members being elected by the members as the first officers of the Fire Company:
- Chief Engineer of Dept. – W.L. Eggleston
- 1st Asst. Chief of Dept. – T.W. Melchor
- Foreman of Fire Company – James M. Servoss
- 1st Asst Foreman of Fire Company – John Rousseau
- 2nd Asst Foreman of Fire Company – S.S. Hatt
- 1st Pipesman – B.K. Tuttle
- 2nd Pipesman – Wm. Hodemaker
- Secretary – O.D. Martin
On Oct. 28th, 1868 the board of trustees gave the approval to purchase the first fire apparatus. A hand drawn Engine costing $1050.00, a hand drawn Hose Cart costing $200.00 and 306 feet of hose costing $369.00. The engine was hand lever operated and was supplied with water by dumping water into a small tank using either buckets or a suction hose.
At the current date the Department has 40 active members and numerous honorary members. All of the members including the Officers are totally volunteer, receiving no compensation for the work that they do. Paw Paw is one of the very few departments left in the state that are totally volunteer and they are very proud of that tradition. The Department services all of Paw Paw Township, the Village of Paw Paw and portions of Antwerp, Almena and Waverly Townships covering a total of 88 square miles. The Department responds to all fire emergencies as well as calls for extrication (Jaws of Life). In 2004 the department responded to 246 calls for service.