By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN - The Cokato Volunteer Fire Department has seen many changes, not only in the types of fires, but also in the number of fires the population of its response area increases.
A new proposed public safety building
Plans are in the works for a new proposed 13,000-square-foot public safety building.
The current building, which is 5,000 square feet, is said to have an “undersized truck bay that barely holds five emergency vehicles . . . one small meeting room, and minimal office and storage space,” according to literature from the Public Safety Building Committee.
The new building will have “sufficient space to adequately park, load and unload, clean, and maintain [the department’s] existing vehicles. The larger truck bay will provide space for additional rescue vehicles.”
A new location would also be needed since the current site would not support a larger building.
Currently, there are two top sites, one favored by the fire department along Highway 12, and another that was offered later in the process by the Keskeys, after the department made its choice:
The two top site choices are:
• a site along Highway 12 and Third St. East. This location is now the site of Excel Concrete, and the parcel is owned by Reed and Emily Carlson.
• The Keskey property located at First Street and Century Avenue. The land is owned by Design and Fabricating, Sue Keskey said.
The project is estimated to cost about $2 million including the purchase of land, building design, engineering, testing, site preparation, construction, and landscaping. Cost-saving measures will be considered, according to the committee.
In the 1800s, the Cokato Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was first organized after a terrible fire burned downtown Cokato in July 1883.
From there, firefighters purchased their first fire engine in 1888, and built a wood water tower soon after in order to have plenty of water to fight future fires.
The Cokato Fire Department formally organized in 1896. They’ve fought numerous fires since then, including a fire at Cokato High School in 1917, a garage fire in 1919 that destroyed 15 motor vehicles, and another downtown fire that burned First National Bank, a drug store, and a doctor’s office.
There were also three suspicious fires the occurred in the Cokato school December, 1937. The Cokato Hotel burned down in 1977.
Now, the Cokato Fire Department responds to a lot more than fires. The range of calls in 2008 included car accidents, fires, gas leaks, even a helicopter crash.
The department’s response area includes Stockholm Township, Cokato Township, the City of Cokato, and half of French Lake Township. The department responded to more than 100 calls last year.
It has a roster of 24 active members, with Mike Holmquist as fire chief, and Ken Bakke as assistant chief.
The City of Cokato also operates an ambulance service, with director Jim Erickson.
The number for the fire barn is (320) 286-2452, although if there is an emergency, call 911.
The current fire hall is located on Jenks Avenue in Cokato. Correspondence should be sent to PO Box 1030, Cokato, MN 55321.