A Brief History of the Erieville Fire Department
Erieville, Town of Nelson, NY
written by Reginald S. Card
Erieville Fire Department Member
And all members of the Department & Auxiliary
(written about 1996)
 
posted July 6, 2000
 
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 If you would like to contribute to the efforts of the Volunteer Firemen of the Erieville Fire Department
in saving our homes, lives, and heritage, please contact them at Erieville, NY, 13051
 
 
A Brief History of the Erieville Fire Department
written by Reginald S. Card
Erieville Fire Department Member
And all members of the Department & Auxiliary
(written about 1996)
 

        In 1935 the Erieville Fire Department began forming by petitions circulated for signatures throughout the fire district area.  Even though no department had yet been created, a bucket brigade was used and did save one building.  History shows that firemen met in December 1935 in the Grange Hall for the purpose of forming a new district and to meet with the Town Board.  Town of Nelson minutes of January 1936 show that the petitions were presented and approved by the Board; this was the first step of truly forming the fire district.
        In 1937 the new fire truck arrived, a Chevrolet chassis, American LaFrance apparatus with a 50-gallon pump and a booster line, which at that time was referred to as a high-pressure line and able to carry 500 gallons of water.  It was a proud day for the newly-founded department and district.  The truck was immediately put into service under Chief Wesley Sternberg.
        There was still no building for the new truck to be stored in.  The men immediately started plans for a fire house.  A vacant lot, due to a previous fire on the comer of Georgetown and Eatonbrook Roads, was available.  In 1939 the men started to erect the new fire house.  In that same year, the department had its first major fire.  The Erieville Hotel, which was constructed of old and dry hemlock, was a total loss, even with mutual aid from Cazenovia.
        The first siren was put into use in 1937, which was in operation into the 1970's.  Then a water siren was donated from Morrisville and converted to electricity in 1977.
        On March 13, 1940 the Gage General Store burned; mutual aid from Cazenovia was again called.  The fire was put out, but the building was badly damaged that it was torn down.  In 1942 the department joined the Madison County Mutual Aid System, which has had very few changes throughout the years.
        In the 1950's an addition was put on the fire house.  In 1954 the first mutual alarm radio was used, in Gordon Marris' home.  Also in 1954 was the first fire number to call by telephone., which was updated in 1975, and updated again in 1986 when calls went directly to Fire Control.  In 1989 the system was updated to the one currently in use.
        In 1958 the Commissioners and the department worked on purchasing a second pumper.  It arrived in 1959, a Ford with American LaFrance apparatus, with a 500 gallons-per-minute pump and 500 gallons of water capacity.  In 1958/59 a used fire truck was purchased for a tanker, but never worked out well, due to the lack of baffles in the tank, poor brakes, plus its being too hard to handle, although it was a very good means of carrying water to a fire call.  Prior to that, aviation fuel tanks were used to carry water.  Large milk trucks owned by Frank Cook and Bill Bastian would respond to the fire house and unload all milk cans, load two empty fuel tanks per truck, respond to the nearest available water supply where the pumps were set up, fill the tanks, and respond to the fire.  This may not have been the fastest, but it was the best they had at the time.
        During that same era, a small Chevrolet panel truck was purchased for an equipment truck, but it was not used very long.
        In the early 1970's, Firematics, with old-time apparatus in competition, became a big sport throughout most of New York State.  Events such as First Water and Midnight Alarm were held.  Erieville's first truck, the 1937 Chevy with a gear pump, drew the fastest water in New York State, doing so in 56 seconds.  Also the Midnight Alarm, with a four-man team, took first place in several events.
        In 1968, plans were made for the purchase of a new tanker, which arrived in 1969, with a 1,200 gallon capacity.
        In 1972, the Erieville Rescue Squad was formed.  The first rescue truck was a converted house-to-house milk delivery truck.  In 1978, the Fire Department obtained another rescue truck to replace the older one, a 1971 used Chevrolet carpet truck, converted into a rescue truck which was in use until 1986.
        For fundraisers, the Oyster Supper was started in 1961 by Chief Gordon Marris for the purpose of giving back something to all those who supported us throughout the year, at a price low enough to make only a small profit.
        The first barbecue was held in 1967, which replaced the Firemen's Field Days.
        The tent and tent rental started in 1972. Several tents have been purchased, which are still available for rent to the public.
        The first rental of the hall to the public was made available in 1984.
        The first Open House was held in 1986, which marked the department's 50th anniversary.
        Firemen's group photos were taken in 1958, 1986, and 1996.
        Also in 1986, the first camcorder was purchased, to be used as a training aid and to preserve the history of the fire department.  This was the year that firemen's albums of old pictures was begun.  Also added to our election of officers was a historian.  The first historian was Reginald Card.
        The new second-hand rescue truck was purchased in 1986, when several firemen went to Long Island to drive the truck back.  Bill Jones and several other firemen refurbished the truck and adapted it to our first Cascade system.  Through the years, many calls have been answered with the mobile Cascade, both mutual aid and our own.
        In 1987, the air compressor was added to the fire house, due to the fact that now air brakes were on the trucks.  Without the trucks' air pressure up, the brakes would be set, and trying to even tow the vehicles from the building in case of a fire would be next to impossible.
        Also in this year, the cellular phone was put in our rescue truck.
        In 1985, a large storage room was added, as well as a room for the amphibious Duck.  In this year, an amphibious vehicle referred to as "The Duck" and "The Duckling" went into service for the purpose of water rescues on the two lakes and for lakes of neighboring departments.
        The Firemen's Room was made from a storage room in 1988.  This room was set aside for our firemen to use in their leisure time.  A large television set and a VCR were purchased for the room.  They were also used for training and for reviewing past fire and rescue calls that were recorded on our camcorder.  The pool table, which had originally been in the old fire house, was refurbished.  Also added were carpeting, paneling, a dropped ceiling, a trophy cabinet, and other furnishings.  In 1989, entrance ways in front of the building were all blacktopped.  Also in 1989, a computer was purchased, with an update in 1993.  The fax machine was added in 1995.  This was also the year that Erieville's first fire truck, the 1937 Chevy No. 171, was totally restored at a cost of approximately $12,000 by Gordon Randall at H&R Body Shop in Nelson.
        The 220 Part was introduced in 1984 to be a profit-maker.  The New Raffle was introduced in 1985, which replaced the old One Dollar Raffle, with a book raffle of over 200 prizes for $5.00 each.
        In 1974, the Department purchased the present fire house, which was a garage owned by Bill Magee.  This gave us much more room, but we had very little land, so the following year we purchased the house next door and tore it down for future expansion.
        In 1976, the first female to be a firefighter joined the department, Jane Magee.  She was the first or second female firefighter in Madison County.  On her first night's practice under Chief Bob Magee, our practice was to flush a cattle pass on Hatch Lake Road.  Naturally, the tanker had to haul several loads of water to flush much residue that had built up in the cattle pass.  On Jane's first night, she was assigned to drive the tanker.  While many men looked on, not realizing that she was a farm girl, Jane backed the truck in the dark to the portable pond as well as any man could have done, by using the truck's mirrors for guidance.  She paved the way for many female firefighters throughout Madison County.
        After selling the old fire house, as it was no longer needed for housing firefighting equipment, the Fire Department no longer had a meeting room.  Due to the need for a meeting room and the Auxiliary's want for a kitchen, the firemen started plans for a large expansion of the fire house.  All work was done, as usual, by volunteers.  The building construction was begun in 1980.  We framed the building and soon exhausted the Auxiliary's and Firemen's funds.  During 1981, all efforts were put into force for raising money for the new building, and again the building process continued.  With the determination of the fire department members to have a new building, a very generous donation was made by a summer resident who had enjoyed the lake and community for many years.  The new room was named the McLaughlin Meeting Room.  The building was completed in 1982, with a new kitchen and an additional truck storage room added to the building.  A new flag pole and plaque, as well as shrubbery, were placed in front of the fire house to honor all departed firemen.  New siding was also added as a facelift to the front of the fire house that year.
        Also, in 1981 new pagers were purchased; the second batch soon followed, until every active fireman had one.
        The first banquet was held in 1983 in the new McLaughlin Meeting Room.
        In 1990, the Duck Room floor was added in such a way as to meet the standards of a heavy truck room, with plans for future use of this room as a truck bay.
        In 1991 the Retirement System, for years of service as a volunteer, was adopted.  Erieville Fire Department is the only one in Madison County with a retirement program.  The retirement is not just given, but has to be earned through a points system, as points are earned for time given, such as offices held, fire practices and fire calls attended, committee work, etc.  To gather points, they must be earned.  Fifty points are required per year.
        The Computer Room was built in 1993 to regulate temperature and humidity for the computer, and the Communication Room was also refurbished.
        Also in this year, the old metal roof on the fire house and Meeting Room began leaking.  The metal was taken off and plywood and shingles were added, which was a good investment to preserve the building for many more years.
        Also in 1993, our new pumper, No. 174, arrived, very close in appearance to our 1983 pumper, and it became a replacement for our old Ford American LaFrance midship pumper.  Due to high maintenance on the Duck, plus loss of interest, the Duck was sold this year.
        In 1996, bathrooms were redone and modified to be handicapped accessible.
        Our second open house was held on July 20, 1996, celebrating over 60 years of community service on this day.
        Chiefs of the Erieville Fire Department have been: Wesley Sternberg, Ed Slocum, Harvey Omans, George Coling, Clarence Abbuhl, Gordon Marris, Bob Magee, Bill Jones, John Smith, and Patrick Massett.
        The oldest active member by age today is Carl Dilworth.  He probably has served more years as a Fire Police person than any other member, and he has been a member of the fire department for more than 50 years.  He has served as secretary for many years, as a Fire Police Captain, and has served on many committees, including cooking chicken for the barbecues.  Carl has answered many, many calls through the years, and still answers calls today.
        At the time of this writing (about 1996), only one remaining Charter Member of the Erieville Fire Department is still with us, Lester (Fid) Stauring.  Fid joined the Department in 1936 and served for many years in various offices, worked on many committees, and was president of the Department for several years.  He is still on the honorary membership roll.
        Other honorary members, not by years of service but by honorary membership, are: Clarence Abbuhl, Norman Cook, Louis Johnson, Charles Omans, William Omans, Edward Stauring, George Wafer, Dan McCarthy, and Byron Westcott.
        Over the past sixty years, the Department would not exist today if not for the community actively supporting the Department's functions and the understanding of the taxpayers and our needs.  Many thanks to present and past commissioners and to the past and present taxpayers and to various people who have made donations.

 

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