Village of Orland Park History Museum Celebrates Fire Prevention Month & Fire Service History

Village of Orland Park History Museum Celebrates Fire Prevention Month & Fire Service History
Posted on 10/21/2016

While firefighting in the Orland Park area dates back to the mid-1800s, the earliest record of a fire department is 1894, two years after the Village of Orland Park was incorporated as a municipality in the State of Illinois.

According to the Orland Fire Protection District, “The early volunteer department consisted of a four-man, hand-pulled pumping engine, a hose cart with 500 feet of hose, and 14 members. They used the wood-frame building on Beacon Avenue, which doubled as a village hall and firehouse, to store their equipment. The six-block farming community was guaranteed a good water supply because of a wooden water system and elevated water tower erected in 1892."

To honor the long history of Orland area firefighting and mark National Fire Prevention Month, the village’s history museum will host a local heritage exhibit and presentation on Saturday, October 22 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at 14415 South Beacon Avenue. 

“Fire service in Orland Park is a big part of the community’s history,” said Mayor Dan McLaughlin. “The Orland Park Volunteer Fire Department was part of the village until the Orland Fire Protection District was formed in 1968.”

The Orland Fire Protection District’s first paid fire chief was Art Granat, Sr. in 1973.

The building that now houses the village’s museum was built by volunteer firefighters in 1961.

“My dad was part of the crew that built the Beacon Avenue building,” said retired Orland Fire Lieutenant Gerry Klotz, Jr. who left the district on December 30, 2014. When Klotz retired, it ended 77 years of his family’s involvement with Orland Fire. 

“We lived south of the building about a half block down on Beacon,” said Klotz, a third generation Orland firefighter. “When the fire alarms went off, my dad would run up the street to the firehouse putting on his bunker gear as he ran.”

The fire service exhibit will include artifacts, documents and photos contributed by retired firefighters and their families as well as contemporary items from the Orland Fire Protection District. 

At 11 a.m., a panel including current Fire Chief Michael Schofield, Battalion Chief William Bonnar and former Volunteer Firefighter Bob LaMantia will share stories from the early days with Orland Fire. LaMantia was the last volunteer firefighter to retire in 1989.

“People may not realize that the fire department has served the Orland area, including Orland Park, since the 1890s,” Schofield, said. “We want to share our history with our community.”

Since its 1894 start and now serving more than 75,000 people in Orland Park, Orland Hills and unincorporated Orland Township, local fire service has expanded to six fire stations and a training facility.

Local lore says that the wooden clapboard village hall that once sat on the Beacon Avenue site was demolished by volunteer firefighters who used some of the timbers to build the 1961 village hall and fire department building now there. Village offices remained at the Beacon Avenue site until the 1989 debut of the Orland Park Village Center at 147th and Ravinia Avenue.

The firefighting history exhibit and presentation are free and open to the public. For more information, call the village’s museum at 708/873-1622 or email