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Elkhart to celebrate firefighters' 150th year anniversary with competition

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Elkhart Fire Department and fire crews are celebrating their way. Mayor Tim Neese and Elkhart Fire Chief Chad Carey announced plans to celebrate this milestone in a way that both honors the service and incorporates the public which they serve.

"What residents see today, a Fire Department of 129 firefighters, four civilian employees and seven fire stations, began back in 1867 with just three individuals who were appointed as fire wardens and began organizing the fire department for the then-town of Elkhart. Over the past 150 years, the department has grown and adjusted to the ever-changing needs of the community,” said Neese.

To kick-off the three day celebration, the public is invited to a recognition ceremony where Mayor Neese will unveil an honorary street sign dedicated to Earl Garl, Elkhart's first firefighter to die in the line of duty in 1908. The ceremony will take place at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday near the intersection of East Street and Waterfall Drive.

After that, a temporary red stripe will be painted down the middle of East Street between Waterfall Drive and Division Street in recognition of the department's 150 years of dedicated service.

Firefighters say they have more in story, though, which includes some healthy competition. The celebration will continue Friday and Saturday as the city welcomes the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge to the streets of downtown Elkhart. This is the 26th year of the challenge, but the first time it has ever been to this region.

The firefighter combat challenge is a regional qualifier for Elkhart firefighters in the the national competition and will feature team, relay and individual events. The city anticipates a minimum of 75 competitors from the Elkhart Fire Department as well as departments from across the country. Organizers say this will attract around 5,000 spectators over the course of two days.

The Elkhart Common Council will also honor the 150th year of the Elkhart Fire Department at their May 15th meeting. Council Vice President Adam Bujalski will introduce a resolution affirming the Council's full support for the fire department and the events planned in their honor.

All celebratory events, including the combat challenge, are open to the public and free to all spectators.

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