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NORTH DAKOTA FIREFIGHTER’S ASSOCIATION
[Authorized:  NDCC Chapter 18-03]

The first territorial legislation to assist cities and villages in maintaining an organized fire department was passed in 1887.  Appropriations came from a tax paid by fire insurance companies from property tax premiums. Two-percent of each premium paid to insurance companies was appropriated to local treasurers (S. L. 1887, Ch. 53). In order to qualify for a certificate a city, town, or village had to have been in existence for at least eight months prior to filing. For equipment the fire department had to have at least one steam, hand, or other fire engine, or a hook and ladder truck, or hose cart. The Territorial Legislature also required legislation on fire protection for citizens when group gatherings were held in large structures (S. L. 1887, Ch. 54). 
 
A law was passed by the North Dakota Legislature in 1893 to improve and encourage growth of the Volunteer Firemen’s Association. The purpose was to increase the usefulness of the association, and promote efficiency and growth of different departments, and to hold an annual firemen’s tournament. The tournaments were held in conjunction with the annual convention. Tournaments held by the North Dakota Firemen’s Association were a competition between fire departments and a means of training firemen. The appropriation by the Legislature was paid to the North Dakota Firemen’s Association by the State Treasurer. The president, secretary, and treasurer of the association prepared a report after the state convention and submitted it to the State Auditor (S. L. 1893, Ch. 65).

Until 1913 no law governed the office of Fire Marshal, so the Legislature created a Fire Marshal Department under the Commissioner of Insurance. The Fire Marshal and Chief Assistant Marshal were appointed by the Governor, and the clerk who acted as Deputy Assistant Fire Marshal was appointed by the Commissioner. Duties included enforcing all laws of the state with respect to fires and to encourage cities and villages to install and maintain various types of fire alarms and extinguishers. Local fire department chiefs were to report to the State Fire Marshal the cause, origin, and circumstances of every fire in excess of $25.00 by which property had been destroyed. The State Fire Marshal kept a record of all fires occurring in the state. The State Fire Marshal determined if an investigation would be necessary and if so would take testimony of the incident. Both the Fire Marshal and Chief Assistant Fire Marshal had the power in any county to “summon and compel” witnesses. They could also examine and investigate buildings or other structures to determine if repair was necessary and could issue the necessary order for removal or correction. Those who did not respond would face fines or possibly jail time. Provided they pay all costs, those who wished to appeal did so in writing to the clerk of District Court and the judge of the judicial district where the property was located. 

Reports were also written to the Fire Marshal by every fire insurance company who transacted business in the state and except for county mutual insurance companies, every mutual and domestic fire insurance company doing business in the state of North Dakota paid the commissioner of insurance a percentage from fire premiums and assessments. This tax covered the costs for duties carried out by the Fire Marshal’s office. If the amount was not sufficient, a percentage was taken from a tax paid by foreign insurance companies who did business in North Dakota. Local fire department chiefs were encouraged to report fires and were given $1.50 for each reported fire. At the end of the fiscal year the Fire Marshal paid the total sum to the local departments who had reported fires. The Commissioner of Insurance and the Fire Marshal jointly made rules for the prevention of fires. The State Treasurer collected all penalties, fees, or forfeitures into a special Fire Marshal’s Fund (S. L. 1913, Ch. 169). 

Every legislative session since 1887 has passed a law appropriating funds and directing, first the Territorial Auditor, and later the State Auditor to distribute the tax to the Firemen’s Association. A complete accounting of receipts and disbursements was required of the association. In 1887 the report was submitted to the Territorial Auditor and in 1889 after North Dakota became a state, the law required that reports be sent to the State Auditor. In 1935, legislation required the association president, secretary, and treasurer to complete a full report on the distribution of all funds. The report was submitted to the State Auditor who then paid the treasurer of the Association for training sessions (S. L. 1935, Ch. 137). Over time the Association secretary prepared a biennial report for various departments in state government including the State Auditor, the Department of Accounts and Purchases (replaced by the Office of Management and Budget) (S. L. 1887, Ch. 53; S. L. 1959, Ch. 372; S. L. 1965, Ch. 356; S. L. 1999, Ch. 210). The State Examiner was required to inspect the books of the Association annually (S. L. 1957, Ch. 163). One of the duties of the North Dakota Firemen’s Association was to submit to the Legislature a budget for the upcoming biennium (S. L. 1959, Ch. 102). In the 1960s the State Budget Director became responsible to prepare for the Legislature an estimate of the appropriation needed by the Firemen’s Association (S. L. 1965, Ch. 358). The secretary and treasurer of the Firemen’s Association submitted a biennial report to the State Auditor who was charged with examining the books. If the Auditor found unauthorized expenses a report was submitted to the Governor and all expenditures had to be replaced by the fire department or municipality (S. L. 1969, Ch. 229). The auditor, clerk or secretary of a municipality, or rural fire department was required to file with the Department of Accounts and Purchases and the Commissioner of Insurance a statement of information about the fire department including the date it was organized, the type of equipment, number of firemen, and how water for extinguishing fires was supplied (S. L. 1969, Ch. 229). 

All volunteer firemen of any city, town, or village having an organized fire department and who were members of the North Dakota Firemen’s Association were exempt from paying the poll tax. During an annual convention the time and location of the fire schools was determined. Schools replaced tournaments in 1935, legislation provided for regional fire schools. There were no fewer than four regional fire schools held in the state. The Legislature set a specific appropriation of $4,000 for the purpose of promoting the efficiency and growth of the local fire departments and for holding regional fire schools (S. L. 1935, Ch. 137). This amount was reduced to $3,000 in 1941 (S. L. 1941, Ch. 39). Also in 1941 the tax on fire insurance premiums was increased and the laws updated (S. L. 1941, Ch. 37).

In 1949 cities, towns, and villages were given a two-percent premium from insurance monies for the benefit of the local fire departments. The Commissioner of Insurance calculated the amount each city would receive, certified all taxes and appropriations, and then submitted the report to the State Auditor. Appropriations were then paid by the State Treasurer to the association (S. L. 1949, Ch. 168). As participation by cities or villages grew the premium tax increased (S. L. 1953 Ch. 149). In 1953 legislation added the amendment for the service pension program for firemen. It spelled out who received benefits from the Association. A Firemen’s Relief Association was set up within the North Dakota Firemen’s Association for the purpose of distributing payments to a fireman who met the qualifications of service, age, and Association membership (S. L. 1953, Ch. 150).  

Legislation in 1969 addressed benefits and membership for an alternate Firemen’s Relief Association plan called the Association State Fund (S. L. 1969, Ch. 228). The state, cities, and employees salaries contributed to the plan. Funds were set aside for pensions, wife and child benefits, disability, funeral payments, costs of a state audit, essential postage, and studies. Legislation allowed the fund to be used for investment contract fees, legal and accounting fees, indemnification of members of the board of trustees, or other uses as were needed. Legislation required the State Auditor to examine the Firemen’s Relief Association records (S. L. 1969, Ch. 229). 

Association members, fire departments, and members of the Rural Firemen’s Association paid dues. Legislation in 1969 allowed rural fire protection districts to consolidate with each other by entering into a contract and sharing fire protection services. Departments organized outside the city limits that were eligible for membership included rural fire departments, fire districts, and the consolidated fire departments (S. L. 1969, Ch. 227). Statewide there were four divisions of fire districts including a region in the northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.   

The name of the Relief Association was changed to Firefighter’s Relief Association in 1991, and legislation also addressed receipts and expenditures of the association and qualifications for disbursement from the Relief Association (S. L. 1991, Ch. 222). A change in the 1990s allowed the executive board to determine the time and place of the schools. The stated mission of the North Dakota Firefighter’s Association was to promote the safety and welfare of Association members through uniform and established training (S. L. 1999, Ch. 210). In 1999 the list of fire-fighting equipment was updated and the city auditors and secretaries of rural fire departments submitted an annual report to the Firemen’s Association.  Another major change came in 1999 that allowed firefighters to receive training by teleconferencing, videos, and other alternative means. Language changes replaced “firemen” with “firefighters” in 1999 and also in the 2001 legislative sessions (S. L. 2001, Ch. 210). In 2001 the North Dakota Firemen’s Association was renamed the North Dakota Firefighter’s Association (S. L. 2001, Ch. 210). Rural fire departments could form a Firefighter’s Relief Association and receive appropriated insurance under the same regulations as municipal and fire protection districts (S. L. 2009, Ch. 194).  

All organized fire departments across the state belong to the North Dakota Firefighter's Association. At least four regional fire schools are annually conducted by the association to promote efficiency and growth in the fire departments across the state. The Association hosts an annual fire school and offers regional fire schools giving firefighters an opportunity to practice old skills and learn new skills that are required for the ever-changing demands placed on fire departments. The North Dakota Firefighter’s Association has affiliations with a number of national organizations.

In 2011 the legislature issued a proclamation relating to North Dakota firefighters who have died in the line of duty. A North Dakota memorial weekend is scheduled whenever the National Firefighter’s Association memorial weekend is held.  At the request of the Governor flags at state buildings are to be flown at half staff for this memorial (S. L. 2011, Ch. 56).

CHRONOLOGY
1884       A Firemen’s Association was first organized in Dakota Territory on June 4, 1884. 

1887       Fire departments provided information to the Territorial Auditor of their existence, their organizational date, and other information. A percentage of the insurance premium was given to the departments for help with fire protection (T. L. 1887, Ch. 53).

1893       The North Dakota Legislature appropriated funds to promote the improvement and growth for an Association of Volunteer Firemen (S. L. 1893, Ch.65).

1901       The North Dakota Firemen’s Association was incorporated on January 20, 1901.
 
1913       Legislation created a Fire Marshal Department under the Insurance Commissioner (S. L. 1913, Ch. 169)

1935       Regional fire schools began with a minimum of four schools (S. L. 1935, Ch. 137).

1941       Appropriations were approved by the Legislature for various fire departments across the state (S. L. 1941, Ch. 37) and for the North Dakota Firemen’s Association (S. L. 1941, Ch. 39).

1949       The Commissioner of Insurance calculated the amount due cities from the insurance tax (S. L. 1949, Ch. 170).

1953       An amendment to the insurance policy tax provided an increase in the percentage given to cities (S. L. 1953, Ch. 149).  A Firemen’s Relief Association was organized and qualifications to receive disbursements from the fund were defined (S. L. 1953, Ch. 150).

1957       The president, secretary, and treasurer of the association annually submitted a complete report to the state auditor for moneys received and disbursed (S. L. 1957, Ch. 163).

1959       Cities, villages, and rural fire departments filed a complete report with the department of accounts and purchases (S. L. 1959, Ch. 102), and the report by the secretary of the Firemen’s Association was also filed with the Department of Accounts and Purchases. A budget for the biennium had to be submitted in August prior to the Legislative Session (S. L. 1959, Ch. 372).

1965       The director of the Office of Budget was required to prepare an estimate of an appropriation for the Firemen’s Association to promote efficiency and growth for fire departments throughout the state (S. L. 1965, Ch. 358).

1967       The State Fire Marshal became a part of the office of Attorney General.

1969       Rural fire protection districts could enter into contract and consolidate with each other for mutual fire protection (S. L. 1969, Ch. 227). An alternative benefit program to the Firemen’s Relief Association was offered by the Legislature and called the Association State Fund (S. L. 1969, Ch. 228). The State Auditor was required to audit books of the Firemen’s Relief Association (S. L. 1969, Ch. 229).

1979       The president, secretary, and treasurer of the Firemen’s Association were required to prepare a full and complete report on the disbursement of all monies received. The Association had to schedule an annual audit with a certified public accountant or licensed public accountant and submit the report to the State Auditor (S. L. 1979, Ch. 102).

1991       The Firemen’s Relief Association name was changed to the Firefighter’s Relief Association. Legislative issues dealt with the receipts and expenditures of the association and qualifications for disbursement from the Relief Association (S. L. 1991, Ch. 222).

1999       Fire school trainings included teleconference meetings, videos, or other alternative means. The four regional fire schools were held at a time selected by the Firefighter’s Association executive board. Certification requirements for fire departments were submitted to the State Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner. The Office of Management Budget receives the Association reports (S. L. 1999, Ch. 210).

2001       North Dakota Firemen’s Association was renamed North Dakota Firefighter’s Association (S. L. 2001, Ch. 210).

2009       Rural firefighters could organize relief associations if the requirements of the Firefighter’s Relief Association by-laws were met (S. L. 2009, Ch. 194). Legislation added a new section to the Century Code regarding alternate relief association benefits (S. L. 2009, Ch. 195).              

2011       Annually the Governor issues a proclamation designating the requirements for the fallen firefighter’s memorial weekend (S. L. 2011, Ch. 56).                     

SOURCES
Laws of Dakota Territory.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Firefighters Association website.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.

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