The following is taken from the Centennial Brochure of the Pine Plains Fire Department which celebrated their 100 years of service in 1995.
100-Year History of the Pine Plains Hose Company
The Pine Plains Hose Company was organized on November 7, 1895 in the old Bowman Block town room. This building currently houses the Pine Plains Pharmacy. There were about 15 people present at that first meeting. W.N. Sayre, Jr. was chairman of the meeting and C.A. Perkins was secretary pro tem. A committee composed of W.J. Bowman, Fred Ricketts, J.H. Bostwick, E.R. Pitcher and W.N. Sayre, Jr. was appointed to create a constitution and by-laws. A second meeting was scheduled for the following Thursday evening.
Several factors were probably responsible for community members to consider organizing a fire department. Many surrounding communities had recently formed fire companies. The village was expanding rapidly and the need for fire protection was obvious. However, the pre-eminent factor had to have been the installation of the village water works.
At that second meeting, the by-laws and constitution were read and approved. A lively election of officers followed. Several ballots had to be taken before an officer could be elected. The first president of the company was W.N. Sayre, Jr. The other officers elected were: W.J. Bowman, vice-president; E.R. Pitcher, secretary; J.H. Bostwick, treasure; W.H. Wheeler, foreman; and G.F. Ricketts, assistant foreman. The other men that joined the company on that evening 100 years ago signed the book and afreed to bind themselves to the Constitution and By-Laws were as follows: Harry E. Pulver, W.J. Bowman, E.F. Wilber, William M. Sadler, R.B. Thomas, Jr., Harrie Cole, Edward Sadler, William A. Dibble, James Simmons, Harry Mattice, Parker Simmons, Fred Barton, F. Wheeler, Walter T. Wiltsie, Frank Barton, Fred Sadler, Henery C. Wilber, Fred Bostwick, M.F. Hoctor, John Winans, I.P. Carmen, and Charles Mackey. A long list of members was added at each meeting.
The company continued to grow. With more and more interest shown by the people, a good fire fighting organization was built. On February 25, 1896, the Hose Company purchased two hose carts at a cost of $24 each. nozzles that cost $5.50, bells costing $4.75 and plenty of hose were put on each cart. When responding to a fire, these carts were each pulled by six men to a convenient hydrant, the hose attached, the hydrant turned on and the nozzle directed at the blaze.
More interest was given the Hose Company in 1898 after a bad fire in the Bowman Block. The company did a good job saving this building. On February 8, 1898, a committee was formed to make plans for a suitable Hose Company building. On this committee were Charles Proper, Edward Sadler, Fred Barton and Walter Rowe Sr. A lot was purchased near the center of the village by J.H. Bostwick from Coons and Miller for the sum of $125. The foundation for the new Hose house was completed by February 28, 1898 and the building started. The money to finance this building was loaned by Walter Rowe, Sr. at an interest rate of 5%. Much of the work constructing the building was donated by the firemen. The original Fire House was located on South Main Street, directly south of the old Peck's Market. It is still in existence and currently occupied as a residence. The two-story structure housed the apparatus on the ground floor and a meeting room upstairs. The original roll-top desk purchased in 1898 is utilized today by the Hose Company secretary.
Hose Company meetings were held every week. Boxing matches were also held in the Hose House, as well as amateur shows and other events. The fire house was the main attraction in the village.
In January 1899, the Pine Plains Hose Company No. 1 was established. The Company was incorporated and the necessary papers were signed by Judge Barnard of the Supreme Court. This was the first year the term "Chief" was used to describe the Hose Company firematic leader. The first Chief was Charles J. Proper. Mr. Proper was described as a great worker, giving much of his time in the interest of the company. In April of that year, the company purchased a Hook and Ladder Wagon for $200. This apparatus was purchased in Saugerties and shipped to Pine Plains by railroad for $15. The Hook and ladder Wagon was pulled by men when used in the village and pulled by a team of borrowed horses when taken out of town. In September 1899, Isaac Huntting hitched his team of horses to the wagon, taking it to Amenia for the annual firemen's tournament. The company won first prize for best equipped and best appearing fire company. The wagon is still in the Company's possession. It was refurbished in 1933 by members and more recently by Paul Gardner of Stanfordville.
The following year, 1900, the Hose Company solidified its position in the community. In April, a campaign was started to purchase uniforms at a cost of $20.50 each. Later in July, a Hose Company Band was formed under the leadership of Chester D. Lasher. Much of the success of forming this band was due to the efforts of Fred A. Slingerland, a local businessman. Mr. Slingerland spent much of his time and money to outfit the band with both uniforms and instruments. Parades and fire drills were held on a nearly weekly basis.
Mr. Slingerland took a great interest in the Company. He treated the Company to a trip up and down the Hudson River on his barge, "The Harvest Queen." In 1903, he was elected Chief of the Company. During that year, one of the biggest events to ever befall the town of Pine Plains occurred. The Hose Company, as a member of the Harlem Valley Firemen's Association, hosted the Fourth Annual Labor Day Firemen's Tournament. People warned that it would be "hazardous and too large" for such a small town. Over 8,000 people, including 15 fire companies and bands, attended this event. The town was decorated and special trains were run to accommodate the visitors. The speaker at the ceremony said, "The work of the fireman is much like the work of the soldier. Both require heroism and sacrifice of self for others."
Several different types of alarms have been utilized by the Company. The first alarm was a bell purchased in 1899. In 1904, arrangements were made with the Borden's Creamery (now Schapira's Coffees & Teas) to blow their whistle when a fire or emergency occured. In 1913, a 168-pound bell was purchased from a foundry in Troy, N.Y. This bell is now mounted on a pedestal next to the current fire house. In the 1930s, a siren was mounted on top of the fire house. This siren was later connected to the phone system to improve response times for emergencies. Later, when the new fire house was built, the siren was relocated there. However, because the new fire house was at the end of the village and difficult for some to hear, a second siren was placed on top of the old Pine Plains Ford building in the center of town. Finally, in 1975, the Home Alert System was implemented by the county fire bureau and continues to be used today. This system sends a radio message to a device in each Hose Company member's possession.
The Company remains active throughout the early part of the century. in 1913, the Hose Company building was rented for a town room. This tenancy continued until the mid-1930s and was used after this as a polling place for elections. As the 1920s app roached, the adequacy of the Hose Company's equipment began to be questioned. In 1921, two pumper demonstrations attracted much attention from the community. A Mac fire engine and an American LaFrance pumper priced at $5,750 were demonstrated by representatives from their respective companies. They worked well but had some difficulty getting enough water from the small water mains in town, a situation that continues to hinder the Fire Company to this day. Unfortunately, the community could not afford either apparatus. Shortly after these demonstrations, lightning struck the Presbyterian Church. It burned to the ground because the hoses could not reach the steeple to contain the fire. The Company became relatively inactive from 1924 to 1932. A fire was fought with whatever equipment was on hand, namely the hose carts and ladder wagon but the state of the company was poor. Equipment was inadequate and morale low.
In 1932, new life came to the fire department. The Grange, under the leadership of Henry Sherwood, initiated a drive to form a fire district. Signatures were obtained from land owners of more than 51% of the assessed land valuation in Pine Plains. The town board was presented with the petition and a fire district was duly formed. Fire protection which had been limited to the village was extended to the entire town. The Hose Company was reorganized into the Pine Plains Fire Company and a board of fire commissioners formed. The first commissioners were William Peck, Edward Sadler, Henry Pitcher, Henry Sherwood and John W. Hedges. The forming of the fire district provided a means for financing new equipment through bonding. The Company's first self-propelled fire engine, a Sanford Pumper, was purchased late in 1932 at a cost of $7,000. The Sanford Pumper could pump 500 gallons of water per minute and held approximately 150 gallons of water. Henry B. Knickerbocker was elected Chief, a position he would hold for the next nine years, and was largely responsible for bringing the company up to a high standard. New members joined and new fire fighting equipment was purchased.
1934 was a noteworthy year because two pillars of the fire company stepped down. J.H. Bostwick resigned as Treasurer, an office he had held continually for 39 years. John W. Hedges, another founding member, also resigned. He was the President since 1932, had been Chief in 1906, and held many other offices during his long tenure with the Company. Although not an undertaking of the Hose Company, it should be noted that the fire observers tower on Stissing Mountain was constructed in 1934 under a Civil Conservation Corps program. A likeness of this tower is prominently displayed on the Company's maltese. Also in 1934, the members began a campaign to raise funds to purchase a small "Auxiliary" truck to carry hose, brooms, small hand pumps and other fire fighting equipment. By 1936, the Company had raised enough money and a half-ton Chevrolet truck was purchased for $637. A pump was purchased and installed on the Auxiliary truck in 1939. The hose Company attended a field day at Millerton that year entering the hose laying, Tug-of-War, Ladder and Pumper contests. prizes of $30 were won by the Company in the Pumper contest. That year, 1936, also marked the establishment of the mutual aid system which is still in existence today.
The early 1940s continued to be active years for the Company. World War II was raging overseas and about 21 members of the Company served in the armed forces. Beginning in April of 1942 as part of the home was defense effort, two firemen slept in the fire house every night. This practice continued for several months. Probably the favorite extracurricular activity of the Hose Company in these years was softball. The Company had a very competitive team that challenged the Grange, Odd Fellows and other local organizations.
In 1945, the Company celebrated its 50th anniversary with a turkey supper and a meeting of all past and current members held in the Memorial Hall. Several members who had belonged to the Company for the entire 50 years were in attendance. At this time, the officers of the Company were: William P. Fahey, president; Henry Germond, vice-president; George Hunter, treasurer; Floyd Paarliman, secretary; Homer O. Pulver, chief; Charles Dionysius, captain; Alfred Hendricks, 1st lieutenant; Noland Germond, 2nd lieutenant; Trustees O.K. Rowe, Fred J. Fingar, Claude A. Burch.
Throughout the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the Company remained strong and drilled hard to keep up with the newest fire fighting techniques. In 1949, the Company purchased a flatbed Ford truck which was converted to a utility truck, replacing the Chevrolet truck that had been purchased in 1936. William Hutchings replaced William Fahey as president in 1950. Mr. Fahey had served as president for 15 years.
By 1953, it had become apparent that a new pumper was needed by the Company. Pine Plains was growing, many new homes were being built. The Sanford pumper was aging, its technology long since superseded. Also, because we were in a critical military defense area in case of war or bombing by a foreign nation, our best equipment would be taken by the Civil Defense Commission. By purchasing a pumper that would meet specifications determined by the Civil Defense Commission, the CDC would provide $5,845 towards the new pumper. A bond was put before the voters and approved. Late in the year, a state-of-the-art American LaFrance pumper was delivered to the Fire Company. The LaFrance could pump 500 gallons of water per minute and held 500 gallons of water. With the possibility of the LaFrance being taken during a national emergency, the Company had a pump installed on the front of the Ford utility truck.
One of the more noteworthy mutual aid activities of the Company occurred in 1955. In late March, a fire broke out at Delson's Department Store (now Millerton Antique Center) in Millerton. Pine Plains and many other companies assisted the Millerton Fire Department but were unable to save the structure. Efforts to extnguish the blaze were hampered by extremely cold temperatures.
With the purchase of the new LaFrance pumper, a dilemma confronted the Company. The new pumper would not fit in the fire house! It had to be stored in an other location. Efforts were undertaken to resolve this situation and four locations were proposed as possible sites for the new fire house. The first location was the town parking lot. Plans for this site included a separate room which could be rented as a town room. Two sites were on the Kilmer property, one near the current entrance to Stissing Mountain High School, and the other across from the Evergreen Cemetery. The final site, the one chosen, was a property on the southern outskirts of the village occupied by an old railroad station. In November, a $32,000 bond issue was passed to build the new fire house. Construction began in August of 1956 and the building was completed by December 1956 at a final cost of $28,000. On August 17, 1957, the new fire house was dedicated. Events started with a chicken barbecue and ended with a square dance. The old fire house was sold in October for $3,600.
Throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s, the Hose Company remained active under the direction of Chief Jim Byrnes. At the same time, the community was rapidly growing. By 1963 with the development of the Birch Drive area, an area not served by the water company, the need to provide this area with fire protection became evident. Engineering studies were undertaken to determine the feasibility of unilizing a stand pipe between Twin Island Lake and Birch Drive, but the engineering report indicated that it would be nearly impossible to pump water due to the 30-foot drop between Birch Drive and the lake. It was therefore decided to supplement the Hose Company apparatus with a new tanker. In March of 1964, an 1,150-gallon tanker was purchased from Central Fire Truck Company of St. Louis, Missouri. The new tanker was on an International chassis with a front-mounted 750-gallon per minute pump. The truck was delivered in September 1964, but did not receive its "baptism" until the next September when it ran continuously for 24 hours at the Suburban Propane fire in Millerton. This fire was one of the worst ever in our area. Over 20 companies fought this blaze for three days and nights. It was reported to have been the largest Mutual Aid operation the county had ever seen.
In 1965, another significant technological development was introduced to the Company. The fire district purchased Scott Paks, self-contained breathing apparatus, allowing firefighters to enter fires and smoky areas. These Scott paks added a new dimension to fire fighting. members were trained to use the equipment and it was deployed on the trucks.
In 1970, a bond issue passed to purchase a new truck to replace the 1948 Ford pumper. A new 1500-gallon pumper/tanker was purchased from the Stanford Fire Apparatus Co. in East Syracuse, N.Y. The truck arrived late in the fall, shortly after the Company held a 75th anniversary celebration. Fred Fingar received a plaque for serving the Comapny for 38 years. The following year, another icon of the Hose Company, Jim Byrnes, retired. Mr. Byrnes was a 25-year member, having served 18 years as Chief.
In 1973, the Hose Company hosted the Sesquicentennial parade for the Town of Pine Plains. This parade, honoring Pine Plains' 175th year, was one of the longest parades ever held in the town. Also in 1973, the Company reformed the fire police (there were fire police in the 1930s). Members sworn in were Jim Fillipini, Al Lamphere, Mike Dam, William Schewchesin, Web Thurst, and Floyd Hill. The fire police are responsible for directing traffic, handling crowds, and, in general, maintaining order so fire and emergency personnel can perform their tasks without interference.
Several noteworthy fires occurred in 1975. In April, the Company assisted Stanfordville with a major barn fire at the Culver farm, 50 cows were lost. Only hours after the firemen finished cleaning equipment, having fought the Culver fire for five hours, a fire broke out across the street from the fire house at the Plich farm. The Hose Company fought that fire from 10:15 that night until 5:30 the next morning. The barn was destroyed but only a few calves were injured. Six days later, a fire of suspicious origin gutted much of the main house at the Roe Jan Farms. On June 9 at the Pine Plains Lumberyard, a fire started late in the afternoon. The blaze gutted one building and destroyed several dozen pallets of hrdwoods. One hundred fire fighters from five companies were on the scene. Pine Plains and Millerton companies fought the fire while Stanfordville, West Copake and Ancram brought water to the fire from the Mt. Ross bridge. A nearby pond was pumped dry. Relays were set up to bring water from another pond nearly one-half mile away. The main effort was over by 8 p.m. but several volunteers stayed past midnight and returned the next day to extinguish rekindling fires.
The Bicentennial year of 1976 found the Hose Company once again the host of the parade. Held on June 19, the parade was another successful event attended by many neighboring fire companies.
Another tragic fire occurred at the Pine Plains Lumber Company in January 1980. The fire was reported at 9:15 in the evening. Six fire companies and 155 men endured sub-zero temperatures fighting this inferno. The Fire destroyed a shed and much lumber before it was extinguished. Damages were estimated at $250,000. Three days later at 11:15 p.m., the Fire Company responded to a barn fire at Stockbriar Farms. Assisted by Stanfordville, about 30 Pine Plains firemen fought the blaze until 2:30 a.m. but were unable to save the barn. An arsonist was suspected in both fires.
In 1981, the building that housed the Pine Plains Post Office and the Country Store caught fire. Under the direction of Chief Robert Cahill, Pine Plains members and firemen from as far away as Hyde Park and Rhinecliff, the fire was contained. However, damage was so severe that the building had to be razed several months later.
In 1982, two important acquisitions were made by the Hose Company. The LaFrance pumper, nearly 30 years old, had become increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain. It was replace with a new pumper/tanker. This struck was the Company's first diesel-powered vehicle. The truck cost $88,487. The other significant acquisition was the purchase of the Hurst Jaws of Life. The Fire Company's Ladies Auxiliary created a fund and were instrumental in raising $8,500 for the Jaws purchase. The jaws were first put to use for Florence Kistner, 77, of Gallatin who lost control of her car and hit a tree early on New Year's Eve 1982.
In 1985, trustee Floyd Parliman wrote the local newspaper concerning the inadequate facilities being used to store the Company's equipment. The town was growing, new equipment was getting larger-the doors in the present building were barely wide enough for the newest pumper, were cited as reasons for needing more space. The Company made plans for a three-bay addition to the fire house. A $210,000 bond was approved by the voters and construction began in December. Much of the work finishing this addition was done by members of the Hose Company. Also in 1985, the Company purchased a "new" utility vehicle from the Stanfordville Fire Company. This vehicle, utilized for grass, forest and other small fires, is a 1964 Fored four-wheel-drive pickup.
The Company continued to respond to fires and emergencies, and train throughout the mid-1980s under the direction of Chief Jim Coons. In October of 1987, one of the worst natural disasters to strike the area hit. A freak snowstorm hit the area while all the foliage was still intact. The "Snowleaf" stormed downed trees, limbs and electrical lines, cutting off power to many residences for up to five days. Hose Company members worked around the clock, assisting town highway crews in clearing roads for emergency vehicles and traffic in general. The fire house wa used as an emergency shelter after the storm.
Late in 1988, the Doyle & Coons Oil Company donated an oil tanker which was converted to a water tanker by the company. This vehicle was later upgraded with a new chassis in 1991 and is the largest tanker in the Company's fleet.
The 1990s began with thee arrival of another new fire engine. This pumper/tanker replaced the 1964 International pumper. The new diesel-powered engine has a 1,000-gallon tank, 750-gallon per minute pump mounted midship on an International chassis. Designed and built in Wisconsin, the pumper cost $104,000.
In 1992, a Centennial Committee was formed by the members. Plans for a celebration of 100 years in existence were begun.
While many technological advancements have changed the way in which our duties are carried out, the role of the fire company remains the same, protecting lives and property. Many of the non-firefighting activities pursued by the Company have changed little over the years. Fire Prevention education is still a most important activity for the Hose Company. In the fall of 1994, we were joined by members of the Stanfordville Fire Company at the annual FFA Fair in providing the younger members of the community with a simulated smoke experience. Many social events have been put on by the Company as fund-raisers. In the early years, the Company had clambakes, dinners and dances. A ball in 1898 cost $1 to attend and included dinner. In the 1930s through the 1950s, the pancake suppers were popular. In 1934, a pancake dinner could be had for 35 cents. Raffles continue to be a major means of raising funds. Some of the items raffled in the past were a washing machine, lawn mowers, and more recently, money.