On Wednesday, December 22, 1897, a group of Bartlett citizens gathered together for the purpose of forming a volunteer fire department.  Twenty-six men, all over sixteen years of age, signed the by-law and constitution of the new fire department which were drawn up by George Struckman. 

M r. A.C. Schick was elected the first chief to the department at the first meeting on January 10, 1898.  From that time on the department functioned well according to records, even though the chief was known to report at meetings, "that the engine was in working order, but leaks worse than ever." 

The department continued its operations until the middle of 1901, when it apparently disbanded.  It was reorganized on July 11, 1910 with many of the same men as members.  This organization apparently continued until sometime in 1915, there are no records documenting this after November 7, 1911. 

A third and final reorganization of the department came on November 16, 1925.  At this time twenty-nine men became members of the department, many of them are well known in town today.  H.C. Thurnau was elected Chief of the new department. 

This group not only functioned as a firefighting unit, but soon became the center of social activity in the community.  Dances, picnics, and grand and glorious 4th of July celebrations were held.  The 4th of July celebration in 1926 had a parade that contained thirty-one floats, there were fireworks, dancing, and games of chance.  It was so successful that they quickly planned another picnic in August.  This was the forerunner of the former Firemen's Picnic. 

Sometime in 1930, the boys became movie stars.  The Atlas Educational Film Company wanted some shots of the volunteer department in action, so our boys gave a demonstration of how it should be done.  Unfortunately this film is no longer available. 

Throughout its existence, the department has always had cordial relations with the village board.  Realizing that cooperation and understanding were essential to a smoothly operating partnership, the department held a special meeting on December 6, 1936.  The minutes of this meeting read as follows: 

"Meeting called to order by President H.E. Schnadt.  Roll call showed twelve members present, none absent, and all members of the village board present.  The purpose of this meeting was to discuss with the board members the activities of the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department.  The Chief addressed the members present and also the board about the duties, requirements, and services necessary to maintain an efficient operation of the volunteer fire department.  The President of the village board gave a short talk expressing the board's appreciation for the manner in which the fire department has maintained an efficient operation and service, and assured the board's cooperation was welcomed at any time.   After adjournment, a social evening was had at the village hall, refreshments were served and a good time was had by all." 

A s a fire department, this group did their usual fine work during this period, and they also played a large part in building the community.  The department, along with other civic groups in town, was largely responsible for the formation of our present town park and field house.  On April 12, 1948, a special meeting for the fire department was called by Chief Bull.  The order of business for this meeting was to discuss purchasing six lots from Mr. H.W. Schnadt to complete the park.  Motion was made to buy this land and turn the property over to the Village.  Mayor Thurnau, who was Village President at the time, thanked the fire department for their action and said he was sure the village board and the rest of the people in town would be very thankful for what the department had done. 

Much time, work, and money went into building the present field house (Now the Park District Log Cabin).  At their meeting on July 13, 1948, the department voted to donate their share of the annual Firemen’s Picnic for the purpose of building the field house.  At this time, the Rural League also donated their share of the picnic to their worthy cause. 

By 1958 the men had decided to build a social hall attached to the fire station located at 218 S. Main Street.  This was the year that some forward looking members thought that  it was time to incorporate the volunteer fire department.  In 1959 the first party was held by the crew in the Fireman’s Hall or the Fire Barn as it has become known as.  Many residents would celebrate weddings, baptisms, birthdays and scouting events in the hall over the years.  The hall would serve as the social center of town until the late 80’s.

In the late1970’s and 80’s the role of the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department, Inc began to change.  The Bartlett Fire Protection District began to take the lead in staffing issues for the community.  This was driven in part do to new training standards that were coming from the state fire marshal’s office though and the introduction of EMS service.  The fire protection district contracted with Paramedic Services of Illinois in 1984 for 6 contract full-time employees.  The Fire District continued to rent the front portion of the building at 218 S. Main Street as a fire station.

By the 1990’s the Village of Bartlett was experiencing explosive growth and increased demand for fire and rescue services.  The Fire Protection District had taken over all aspects of recruiting, training, and equipping the firefighters.  The volunteers were now first paid-on-call employees of the district and the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department, Inc became more of a social and civic organization for the paid-on-call firefighters.  In the eyes of most residents the change was really unnoticeable.  Both organizations settled nicely into there respective roles.  This was also the time when the Fire District began to hire fulltime fire firefighters.  The Fire District continued to rent the front portion of the building at 218 S. Main Street and operated it as volunteer fire station.  The Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department began to struggle with participation in its activities.

By in the early part of this decade many changes were taking place in both the Fire Protection District and the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.  The Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department began to see a return of participation by members in its social and fundraising activities.  During this time the organization brought back the tradition of cooking at its monthly meetings, developed its award program to recognize members for outstanding participation and conducted Black Tie Balls for the community to raise money to purchase an ambulance to be donated to the Bartlett Fire Protection District.  The Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. donated countless small tools, odds and ends and even underwrote the cost of a non emergency text paging system for the fire district.  Fire District Trustee’s attended the monthly meetings and the organizations were working closer than they had in a very long time. The Ambulance was placed into service in 2004.

The Fire Protection District was also changing.  The number of fulltime firefighters employed had grown and the fulltime firefighters decided that they needed to form a union to look out for their interest. In 2005 the residents of the fire protection district passed a referendum that allowed for the doubling of the size of the fulltime force and the building of a fire station on the Westside of town.  The fire district trustees decided that they no longer were going to use paid-on-call firefighters, but instead would use part-time firefighters who would work at the fire station with the fulltime staff.  In May of 2008 the Fire Chief of the Bartlett Fire Protection District ordered the fire equipment moved out of the paid-on-call fire station citing concern of the liquor in the Fire Barn, change of district response strategy and the building of the new station. 2008 also saw the Fire Protection District cease participation in the annual Holiday Party that the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department had sponsored since the 1950’s.  The Fire Protection District also notified the Volunteer Fire department that it would no longer be able to use the Fire District e-mail, internal mailbox system or bulletin boards to communicate with District employees.

By July of 2008 the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. was rolling with the changes.  It changed its by-laws to allow for any fire service members or former members could apply for membership.  Police and dispatchers could apply to be associate members.  It expanded its charter to include supporting the volunteer fire service as whole and continued to raise money to support community projects such as the building of  a veterans memorial and hosted a community street dance in August of 2008.  August also saw the front half of the building leased to a new tenant.  Hanover Township began to lease the front to store its dial a ride buses.

Members have long since traded in responding to fires just as buckets were traded for a pumper and the horses were traded for motorized equipment.  Therefore to better represent the organization, in 2012 the name was changed to the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Association.   Members today are dedicated to serving the residents of Bartlett through supporting community projects, and supporting the volunteer fire service through a small grant program.

The Bartlett Volunteer Fire Association is a not-for-profit organization that has been placing the needs of the community first for over 110 years.