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Where there's fire, firemen are sure to follow. And lucky for us, too—for they are the protectors of a country where fiery disasters are many, varied, and terrible. Growing up, many children learn about and consider becoming firemen, and they are almost universally considered heroes, in our culture. Braving the flames, racing to avert disaster, they are men and women the rest of us can depend upon.

The Twenty Ninth Convention of the North Dakota Firemens Association was a big event for these heroes. In 1912, Williston hosted the conference, which moved around the state from year to year. The Finance Committee of the State Firemen's Tournament had to raise $2,000 to "defray the expense of entertaining the State Firemen." Of this, $500 was needed for prize money to secure the Tournament, and the rest was to go to a litany of things: A "barbecue, band contest prizes, bronco busting, automobile, horse and other races, tents, halls, cots and sleeping accommodations, advertising, ball games, banquet and (a) Firemen's Ball."

In asking for this money, the committee reminded readers that "the firemen of Williston have given years of faithful service in fighting fires. These services have been given absolutely without pay. In 18 below zero weather, they have fought fire all night in order to save and protect the property of others." Also, they said, Williston had an opportunity in this conference to promote the city.

When the conference began, Mayor Jackson welcomed the firemen with the keys of the city, "turning the town over to them for business and pleasure."

By this day, the glittering array of blue, green and red uniforms that had "besprinkled the streets" of Williston had returned home. However, these heroes were prominent on the minds of North Dakotans for a very good reason. This conference marked the advent of conversation about a state fire marshal. "North Dakota firemen want a state fire marshal and a campaign to have such a law passed at the next session of the legislature is one of the direct results of the … convention."

The meeting itself is forgotten today, almost a century later; but the State Fire Marshal position lives on, a prominent result from those forgotten days long ago, and the excitement of a convention touted as the "biggest and best in the history of the association."

By Sarah Walker


The Finley Beacon, Thursday, June 20, 1912, p.1

The Williston Graphic, Thursday, May 23, 1912

The Williston Graphic, Thursday, June, 13, 1912