Chester Oldham Retiring After 30 Years
As Granton Fire Chief


 Donald "Chester" Oldham 

Donald “Chester” Oldham served as chief of the Granton Area Fire and Rescue Department for 30 years. 
He has stepped down from that role but will continue to serve on the department. 
Submitted photo.

By Valerie Brecht

Donald “Chester” Oldham has served his community as fire department chief for the past 30 years. Now, it’s time to pass the baton to someone else, he says.

“Last year, I told the [Granton Area Fire and Rescue] Department that this would be my last year as chief,” said Oldham. “I figured it was time for someone younger to take my place.”

On April 1, fellow longtime firefighter Gary Eibergen became the new chief. Oldham will serve as assistant chief for at least a year to help Eibergen out in his new role and will continue to respond to calls as part of the department.

Oldham joined the department in 1983.

“There was a barn fire on Granton Road. I lived right in town and could see it from my house. I thought I would go and see if I could help if they could use a hand, so I did. Then a few days later, I saw Roger Nitschke, who has been on the department longer than I have, and he asked me I wanted to join. So, I joined, and the rest is history,” said Oldham. “It’s been a way to help and support the community.”

Oldham became fire chief in 1990. The fire department has gone through many changes over the years, he said. When he started, the department had two trucks and shared the Granton town garage with the Granton Department of Public Works. Eventually, the fire department moved into the building on East Fifth Street, purchased from Bob Spry, who had an egg delivery business and had used the building to store his semis.
In 2000, the fire department moved into its new station on South Main Street. Around that time, first responders joined the department as a branch of the Neillsville Ambulance Service to cover calls in the Granton area.

Now the department has 25 people on the roster. There are seven fire vehicles plus the first responder squad. The department covers an area that includes the village of Granton; the Towns of York, Lynn and Washburn; half of the Town of Grant, and top third of the Town of Sherwood. Oldham estimates the department responds to about 35 calls a year, including vehicle accidents. Because of its Jaws of Life tool, the department travels to all vehicle accidents. Oldham has responded to some unusual calls over his time – for example, one time someone called about a horse stuck in a well.

“It was an old, abandoned well and the previous owner had put tin and dirt over the top. The owner didn’t know the old well hole was there. The tin has rusted out over time, so the horse walked over it and fell in and was three-quarters of the way in the hole. So, it’s like, ’How do you get a horse out of a hole?’” he said.

Also, over the years, the department has continually learned new incident response protocol.

The training is never-ending. Firefighting has evolved over the years. There are lots of changes. We have our monthly meetings and drills. Right now, we’re going through the driver/operator course, which the NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] requires. That will end with a 10-hour driving test for our department members through Mid-State [Technical College], Oldham said.

Additionally, as chief, Oldham’s responsibilities included performing fire inspections, completing surveys, scheduling classes for the department purchasing equipment and doing maintenance on the trucks.

“It’s quite a task and over the years the NFPA has required more and more,” he said.

But for him it’s been an honor to serve the community in this way.

“There, are so many good and bad memories,” said Oldham. “But for me, it was worth it.  I’ve enjoyed being a firemen.”

He extended his appreciation to the community and department members

“The community support over the years has been really good and really satisfying,” he said. “The community has helped us in so many ways over the years.  Also, we have great firefighters. We work as a team. We go in as a team and come out as a team and we save what we can.”


From the Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

April 29, 2020

Transcribed by Dolores Mohr Kenyon, April 30, 2020.

Web page by James W. Sternitzky PhD, May 1, 2020.

Return to Grant Townwhip Community Web Page

Return to Grant Township Home Page



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