a brief history…
The Guilderland Center Fire District was established on April 27, 1918. A fire company, with twenty new members and the appointment of John H. York as the first Chief, was formally organized on November 25, 1918 and was incorporated as the Guilderland Center Fire Department, Inc. on June 18, 1919. The first Constitution and By-Laws was adopted June 25, 1925, with revisions adopted and printed in 1938, 1950, 1961, 1980, 1985, 1997 and the current revision adopted in 2002.
Once the district was organized, a hand drawn chemical cart was obtained as the first piece of fire fighting apparatus. At a special election on March 1, 1924, the taxpayers approved the purchase of a motorized Ford fire truck at a cost of $675. In the same year, an American-LaFrance rotary gear pump, driven by a Model T Ford engine, mounted on a four-wheel trailer was presented to the District. The latter unit, affectionately named “The Village Queen”, is one of twenty-one original models made and was last used at a fire in 1952. This unit has been maintained by the Fire Department as a parade piece ever since.
At a special election on March 1, 1933, the voters approved trading in the 1924 Ford Truck against the purchase of a new custom-build Sanford pumper equipped with a rotary gear pump of 350 GPM capacity at a new cost of $3,500. In 1950 the members of the Fire Department purchased and equipped a Ford Utility Truck to carry a portable pump, hose and other equipment. This unit was presented to the District and remained in service until 1958.
At about that time, it became apparent that the old Town Hall and garage on Main Street was no longer suitable, and the present Fire Station on School Road was erected in 1952. During 1959, an addition to the rear was built by the Firemen and presented to the District. Also in 1952, the Fireman erected a Community Hall directly south of the new Fire Station. This was operated and maintained by the Fire Department until 1972, when title to the land was turned over to the District.
In 1956, the District purchased a 1,500-gallon capacity stainless steel milk tank on a 1946 Brockway chassis, and converted it to a fire tanker. This unit remained in service until 1963. During 1957, the voters again approved the purchase of a new apparatus, which resulted in delivery in February 1958, of a Howe pumper on an International truck chassis. This unit, costing $18,000 was equipped with a centrifugal pump of 750 GPM capacity, and a 500-gallon tank. Just prior to this time, the Albany County fire radio system became operative, and the 1933 Sanford was assigned the radio call E45 for identification. The 1958 Howe then became E46, with the Brockway Tanker was assigned TA21. The “old E46” as she was known remained in service until February of 1986, after which she served as a reserve pumper, and was used for parades and jumping grass fire along the railroad tracks. Finally, she was returned from active fire duty and sold to the highest bidder in the late 90’s.
The next addition to the departments firefighting strength came in 1963, when a voter approved Howe Custom 1,000 GPM pumper was delivered at a cost of approximately $30,000. This unit replaced the 1933 Sanford and became E45, and remained in service until the mid 90’s. The truck was retrofitted with a Cummins diesel engine. However, the years of service, and the truck, over-laden with equipment eventually took its toll and also was retired and sold. This pumper was used to assist the Altamont Orchard Golf Course Irrigation system, after its many years of firefighting duties.
Also around 1963, at a cost of $2,500, a used 1,000-gallon tanker was purchased from the East Greenbush Fire District. This became TA21, replacing the 1946 Brockway, which was sold. By 1970, it became apparent that the Albany County Radio net was no longer providing adequate service. The Guilderland Town Chiefs’ Association undertook a study of alternatives. As a result of this stuffy the Town of Guilderland radio system base station ktk773 went on the air at midnight the morning of April 14, 1972. The new Town Police radio was activated concurrently. Under the new radio system, certain apparatus was renumbered to coincide with a new Town wide numbering system. Under that system, call numbers E45 and E45 were retained, but the former tanker became TA44.
In 1976, it was again necessary to ask voter approval of new apparatus. Following a favorable vote, a Pierce Pumper on a Ford tilt cab chassis was delivered in the spring of 1977. This unit was equipped with a 1,000 GPM pump and 1, 000 gallon tank, and cost approximately $50,000. Although this unit replaced the 1947 Mack tanker, it was designated E47.
In 1984, the membership agreed by vote to approve a junior firefighter program. This program was eventually phased out, as all firefighting operations had to be performed by Active duty class firemen. This was resolved, however, by a revision of the by-laws, allowing for membership to be attained at the age of sixteen.
The early 80’s also brought about a need for more space in the Fire Station. An addition was put on the east side of the station, creating a recreation room, men’s and women’s lavatories, a District Office and far much less clutter in the apparatus room. The District provided the bulk of the construction, while the fireman volunteered extra time to provide the finishing touches.
In 1985, the voters again showed their approval of the departments’ fire fighting capabilities when the district replaced the “old E45” with a new 1250 GPM pump with a 750 gallon tank on a pierce tilt crew cab. This initial attack pumper was ideally suited for its role as it had a larger pump capacity and more available space for tools and equipment. Although the new pump had just been delivered, it was not yet in service when the Helderberg Reformed Church burnt to the ground as the result of an arsonists work. The arsonist was brought to justice.
The Department also moved forward light years, no longer being a small volunteer fire department only providing community service, putting out small grass and brush fires, SOMETHIONG ELSE. The department suffered a rude awakening, realizing its need for modernization. The budget process was overhauled; the training classes were updated and membership drive came to the forefront.
The next investment by the District was in large diameter hose. 1,000 feet of 5” hose was purchased and placed into service. This allowed for greater water flow, with less supply lines. A new influx of younger members came along, as well as many training classes and new safety equipment. Some members achieved New York State qualification in specialty fields.
From the late 80’s to early 90’s the Fire District continued to mature. A study was done by the officers, projecting the Department and District needs for the near and distant future. Many an argument too place as to what these perceived needs actually would be. Despite the debates, the officers did, however, develop a plan for the future. The plan included a new pierce pumper, designated E48, being designed from the ground up. When the Matulewicz property, adjoining the Fire station to the south, became available for purchase in 1993, it was acquired by the District. The property provided much needed real estate for the Department to expand. The long standing Community Hall was torn down and a new larger Apparatus Room was constructed. The Addition allowed for 5 bays, with room for the firefighters gear and some general storage. As part of the re-modeling project, the original apparatus room was converted into use as the Community Hall and meeting rooms, while the last addition was redesigned to create much needed office space for the Officers, and a new kitchen facility. During the construction phase, the house on the Matulewicz property was utilized first as additional storage and office space. When the new building construction was complete, the house was rented to a member who acted as caretaker of the property and was avaible to respond to fire calls.
The newly rebuilt Fire Station was dedicated shortly after the Department celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1993.
As the millennium approached, so too did rough times. The firefighting service as a whole suffered a terrible recruitment and retention drought. The District and voters approved a Service Awards program, crediting volunteer firefighters with a retirement stipend. This program slowly brought the firefighting strength back up, however, not unlike the national trend, so too was the average age for the firefighter.