Most people think of today’s Forest Rangers as the stewards of the Forest Preserve and experts in wildland firefighting and search and rescue. The Rangers share their origins with the Forest Preserve itself. The decal on the side of a Forest Ranger vehicle states “serving since 1885.”
It was in May of that year that Governor David B. Hill signed into law Chapter 283, which authorized the appointment of a wildland fire fighting force called Fire Wardens. These men, according to their appointment, would “take charge of” and “direct the work necessary for extinguishing” fires that occurred in their assigned areas. Fire Wardens were generally only paid when involved in actual suppression but they did have some police-like powers with respect to fire and establishing a fire fighting force. Their official warrant stated, “All persons in the territory, whom you may order to render you such assistance, are required by law, to obey your order, and any person who may refuse to act in obedience to your order is, by statute, liable to a fine of not less than five nor more than twenty dollars.” » Continue Reading.