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Always in our prayers, forever in our hearts
Our First 100 Years
A Short history of the Plainville Fire Co.
Three years after Plainville was incorporated as a town, Burwell Carter, H. Seymour Potter, and William L. Cowles were empowered to form and equip a volunteer fire department. The department thus formed the “Hose and Ladder Company”. Its equipment were a few wooden buckets. Twelve years later, the town decided to adopt a more modern method of firefighting. The town purchased a hose carriage, 1000 feet of hose and installed 23 fire hydrants. On January 12th, 1885, the “Plainville Hose Company” was organized.
After the Fire Company was formed, quietness reigned for almost two years before the first fire occurred. The Company made a favorable impression and in a short time, old barns, sheds and other old buildings began to burn about every Saturday night, weather permitting of course. For some time it could be expected that an alarm would sound on a Saturday evening and usually there was quite a crowd gathered along the way to the fire. Of course, only buildings within the limits of the 23 hydrants became mysteriously ignited.
In 1910, a light express wagon was purchased in Southington and remodeled for a horse drawn hose wagon. The first horses available to the department were owned by the Adams Express Company and was driven by Horseman Michael Sullivan. Later, another horse owned by Myron Rogers was made available to the department. The express wagon and the original horse carriage were used until the first piece of motorized equipment was obtained. Both pieces had a bell which firemen rang with pride while “making a run” to the alarm.
In 1909, the town paid the Bristol Manufacturing Company $55.00 for a fire whistle to be mounted on their building. The steam whistle at the Trumbull Electric Company was also used in conjunction with the Bristol Manufacturing whistle so that all firemen might hear the alarm. In 1917 the steam whistle was converted to an air powered whistle and moved to the Town Hall on Pierce Street. At this time, the telephone operators would take the location of the alarm and in turn would sound the alarm from their office located on West Main Street.
Plans for the acquisition of the first piece of motorized equipment were set in motion in 1913. A 1911 touring car was purchased for $600.00 and work began immediately on converting it into a piece of fire apparatus. Gearing had to be reduced and heavier springs installed to take the heavy load of hose and related equipment. Shows, fairs and direct soliciting produced the necessary funds to purchase said vehicle. The local remodeling took place at Cooke’s Garage and in December of 1914, Chief Norton presented the truck to the town.
The first social quarters of the Company was in a small building on Whiting Street. It was here that early members used to hold their meetings and gather on other evenings to sit around the stove, smoke, play cards, and swap yarns. The Company moved into the Town Hall in 1890 and found it was able to not only have its social quarters enlarged, but also was able to keep its equipment in the same building. The fire in 1917 and the acquisition of additional pieces of equipment made it apparent that the Company had once again outgrown its quarters.
Argument for a new firehouse spread over a period of years, but it was not until 1934 that definite action was taken. A committee was formed and plans drawn up for a new station to be built on town owned property on Whiting Street next to the Post Office. Construction began on July 18, 1936. The cornerstone was laid in ceremonies headed up by Senator Matthew Daly, administrator of the W.P.A. Documents contained in the stone consisted of a list of the membership and the building committee.
With the opening of the new firehouse in 1937, the fire whistle was once again moved, this time to the roof of the new station. The telephone operators continued the past practice of sounding the alarm. In 1952, Plainville was converted to the “Dial Telephone System” and calls for fires now went directly into Fire Headquarters where the alarm attendant would take the information and sound the alarm. The alarm was coded as to the area of town in which the fire was located. Thus, the firemen had to count the blasts to determine the location.
In May of 1937, The Chief reported to the Company that the Board of Fire Commissioners had purchased a new modern fire pumper. This “Buffalo” pumper would serve the town until 1957.
In August of the following year, the Company voted to establish Bingo in the firehouse basement as a means of raising funds. With the exception of the summer months, this activity continued for many years. With these funds, many pieces of equipment were purchased.
In 1940, the Company established a tradition that has been continued ever since, namely the Annual Ladies Night. On this evening, each year, the wives of the firefighters are honored and thanked for their patience, love and understanding of their firefighter.
In 1947, a “hose gig” was purchased for the purpose of competition in firemen’s musters. Unk Seymour was elected Captain of the Hose Team and for many years, this team competed throughout the state and region. Numerous trophies became the prized possessions of this team. Many of the records that were established by the team in Pittsfield, MA, still stand today.
In November of 1948, a committee was formed to look into the feasibility of obtaining an emergency truck to carry various types of equipment. Specifications were drawn up and a price quote of $3,500.00 was given. Now the problem of raising the money had to be dealt with. Through monies raised by bingo, and direct donations, the goal was met and on October 7th, 1949, the Company donated the Dodge Emergency Van to the town for this use.
Also in 1949, the town purchased a Diamond T service ladder truck. This piece of apparatus was kept in service until 1968.
Better communications became the goal of a committee set up in April, 1952. Once the apparatus left the station, there were no means to keep the firefighters informed of what was happening at the scene. Finally in October, it was voted to install 2-way radios in the apparatus, thus eliminating this problem. To further boost communications and save valuable time, the Company voted to purchase “home receivers”. Each firefighter would be alerted of the alarm and the exact location was given before he left his home. Thus the coding of the fire whistle was eliminated.
At a Company meeting in September, 1960, it was voted that a core of volunteers would man the town ambulance. The Police Department would be responsible for the hours of 6a.m. until 6p.m. and the Fire Department would be responsible for 6p.m. until 6a.m. Each “crew” would be on duty for a 7 night shift.
The Plainville Fire Company has hosted the Connecticut State Firemen’s Convention on three separate occasions. The first was August of 1953, the second was August of 1964, and the third was for Plainville’s Centennial in 1969.
Two committees were formed in 1966 and 1967. One to draw up specifications for a new Rescue Truck and the other to replace the Service Ladder. The Rescue Truck was ordered in January for a price of $10,597. The Company members donated $5,600 of their money raised through monthly donations of $4.00 per man. The remainder of the bill would be raised through donations by the townspeople. The town accepted a final bid of $74,800 for a “Snorkel” Elevating Platform Truck. This piece of equipment took over two years to design and build and was one of the first of its kind delivered in the state.
At the April meeting in 1972, it was voted to establish a committee to draw up guidelines governing the newly formed Plainville Fire Company Memorial Scholarship Fund. Initial donations in the memory of Ed Prior and Fred Callen were responsible for starting this fund. It has grown through the years mainly through donations from caring individuals to a point where it will self perpetuate.
Two major events took place in 1977 in the life of the Fire Company. In June, The Company voted to take membership in the Hundred Club of Connecticut, which it has held ever since and in September, a committee was formed to raise funds to purchase a “Hurst” rescue tool. Over $8,000 was raised and the tool was soon purchased. In 1984, through a donation from Mr. Elmo Aiudi, a valuable accessory to the tool was purchased, namely a “Ram”. Both of these tools have been used countless times and should be credited with saving many lives.
George “Unk” Seymour willed the Fire Company his estate in 1983 to be used for an additional scholarship for the youth of Plainville. The first awarding of this scholarship took place in June of the Fire Company’s Centennial Year.
Dominic N. Moschini, Sr.
LODD: 25, May 1975
Herbert R. Ewald
LODD: 22, Dec. 1943
PLAINVILLE FIRE CO.