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Sun. Aug 4th 2019
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This afternoon we were dispatched with Snyder Fire Department for a poss house fire on N. Union Rd. Snyder 9-5 was on location and reported a working fire. Crews made a quick knock down in the kitchen...
Fri. May 17th 2019
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An Evans Street resident remains hospitalized after being rescued from his burning apartment by Williamsville firefighters Friday morning.Vello Puust, 87, who occupies a second-floor apartment at 327 ...
Sun. Apr 7th 2019
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Williamsville Firefighters were called to the scene of a one car MVA on April 7th, 2019 at approximately 3:30 am. Upon arrival of first arriving emergency personnel, the vehicle was engulfed in fire a...
Thu. Dec 25th 2014
Wheelchair fire forces nursing home’s evacuationby KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor, Amherst Bee An electric wheelchair caught fire on Christmas night, forcing the evacuation of about 45 resi...
Fri. Oct 24th 2014
The sound of an activated smoke detector is credited with alerting a Williamsville resident to a fire in her home on Friday evening.Williamsville Fire Chief Michael Measer said the company was alerted...
News Headlines
Wed. Aug 2nd 2017
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The Williamsville Fire Department recently purchased eight ballistic vests to protect its volunteer personnel against any threats that could possibly occur at emergency scenes.According to Williamsvil...
Tue. Jul 22nd 2014
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Dave Blank, a patient at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and a volunteer firefighter with the North Boston Fire Company, has a new way to get motivated in his fight against a disease. Blank hopes to o...
Tue. May 28th 2013
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Thomas J. McMahon, a steadying influence in the volunteer fire service for more than half a century, died Tuesday, May 28, 2013.

Mr. McMahon, 91, was an active member of the Williamsville Fire Dep...
Fri. Jan 4th 2013
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Wiliamsville firefighters were dispatched to a car fire on 1/4/13, at 02:38. WFD 9-1 got on location and reported a fire in the engine compartment. The fire was extinguished, the vehicle was listed ...
Wed. Dec 19th 2012
Members of the Williamsville Fire Department hosted a community toy collection Saturday to benefit children of members of the Island Park Fire Department on Long Island. The IPFD and area residents we...
Company History

Hutchinson Hose Company Mission Statement 

 

 

Respectfully dedicated to the memory of our Brother Firemen, who so graciously and with a lot of hard work, laid the foundation for the great organization we have today.

Submitted by Evor Williams, Irv Lorich, William Wutz and David F. Sherman for the History of the Town of Amherst Fire Service Book.

FROM
BUCKET BRIGADE
TO TODAY:
FIRE PROTECTION
IN WILLIAMSVILLE

The history of any organization is more than an accounting of names and dates. Our history is about the urgent need to provide a service to a tiny community which was no more than a stagecoach stop at the start of the 1800s. Informal at first, fire protection became more of a necessity with the arrival of 5,000 federal troops during the War of 1812 that swelled the population of "Williams Mills."

A newspaper article by Edward Hartnett, published in 1937, clearly credits Williamsville with having one of the first three formal bucket brigades in the area.

"Soon after the War of 1812, Black Rock and Buffalo villages formed their first organized fire departments. In both Black Rock and Buffalo, and a little later in Williamsville, leather bucket brigades were organized and before 1830, the nucleus of departments of volunteer fire companies had been born."

Hartnett continues that by 1825, Boards of Fire Wardens had been established in four communities, including Williamsville.

THE MYSTERIOUS
"FIRST" FIRE ENGINE

The purchase of the "first" fire engine by Williamsville residents in 1835 is well documented. But it is quite possible that this rig was actually not the "first" at all. There are at least two published references to an even older piece of fire apparatus in Williamsville.

A picnic and parade were held in the summer of 1896 by the Williamsville Hose Company. The event was documented by The Amherst Bee. An old piece of equipment, origin unknown, was dragged down Main Street by a group of boys. On it was a crude sign which read, "Born 1812, died 1896."

A second reference to this older piece of apparatus is found five years later in the March 17, 1904 edition of The Bee. Miss Bertha E. Spaulding, who witnessed the Rock Street fire in 1893, presented an historical paper to the Williamsville Study Club which covered numerous aspects of early life in the village.

Miss Spaulding can be considered a credible source, as she was the teacher in the old stone school house on Cayuga Street. Near the end of the paper, Miss Spaulding turned her attention to the fire department.

"On Jan. 15, 1834, citizens resolved to buy a fire engine...and raised $250 to buy an engine and 20 feet of hose. It was not the old engine we remember, but one the tank of which had to be filled with pails, and it worked back and forth. It was called the 'cheese box. ",

So what was this "old engine?" It could have dated from about 1812 when the army needed to protect the troops lodging along Garrison Road.

The best hedge Williamsville had against losing all it had was acquisition of a fire engine in 1835 at a cost of $248. Jairus S. Tefft was named chief.

Fifteen years later, the Village of Williamsville was incorporated and a new larger engine and hose cart were purchased at a total cost of$875. Then in 1856, the first fire department to be established under village jurisdiction was born: "Rough and Ready Fire Engine Company No.1." The bell outside Williamsville Station 2 was the original fire alarm in Williamsville.

Records of the earliest years of Rough & Ready are almost nonexistent. We know that a tannery on the west side of Mill Street, which had been built by Jonas Williams in 1812, burned in 1872. For most of the information to follow, we turn to The Bee, which was first published in 1879.

1879
VILLAGE ALLOWS
FIREMEN TO ELECT CHIEF

The fledgling Amherst Bee published the names of the newly elected officers of "R & R Fire Company" on May 8, 1879. Under the village charter, board members had the power to select the chief engineer and the assistant. But as an act of courtesy, they passed a resolution that the members of the fire company make their choice for these offices and forward the names for approval. This policy is still in existence today.

A. W. Eggert was unanimously recommended for the post of chief engineer and John Lehn for assistant engineer. Also elected were John Pointen, foreman; John D. Long, assistant foreman; George Cox, captain of the hose; John Grove, treasurer; Charles Wright, secretary, and Ed. Gotalt, financial secretary.

1879
FIRE AT THE
FOGELSONGER LIME KILNS

Fire broke out in the Fogelsonger lime kilns about one mile west of the village on May 18, 1879. This is now the point where' the Youngmann Memorial Highway passes beneath Main Street. Although it was outside of the village limits, Rough and Ready was the only active fire company for miles around. It would be almost 40 years before the Snyder Fire Department was organized.

Fogelsonger was one of the fortunate few to have a telephone, and he used it to call the fire department for assistance.

"Mr. A.W. Eggert, chief engineer, at once responded by ordering the fire company out, and with the engine, proceeded to the fire as quickly as ..possible," reported The Bee. "A stream was soon brought to bear on the flames, which continued to burn for one hour and a half."

The Bee politely asked those who have the occasion to call Rough and Ready in the future to follow this procedure: "Parties living a distance from the village, asking for the use of the fire company and the engine, should, if possible, send a team or horses to draw the engine. This will save the boys a great deal of hard labor caused by drawing the engine by hand."

FAREWELL ADDRESS FROM
THE CHIEF ENGINEER

Firemen formed at the engine house at 6:30 p.m. on June 2, 1881 and marched to the Eagle Hotel for the annual parade, where they were reviewed by the village trustees. It would prove to be an evening to remember.

Village President Timothy A. Hopkins gave an address, thanking the firemen. Outgoing Chief A. W. Eggert then made his last speech to the company. He was about to move to Michigan, he wanted to leave something behind.

Eggert handed over to the membership his gleaming silver trumpet, engraved with the words, "Presented to the Rough and Ready Fire Company by A. W. Eggert."

Not to be outdone, Foreman John D. Long presented Eggert with a gold-headed. cane as a token of the men's regard for him. It bore the inscription, "Presented to A.W. Eggert by the members of Rough and Ready Fire Company, Williamsville, N. Y. 1881."

A former town supervisor and village president, Eggert passed away within the next year. The engraved trumpet that he left behind disappeared.

ORGANIZATION OF
THE HOOK AND LADDER
COMPANY

Williamsville even had a hook and ladder company of its own, organized on Sept. 3, 1885. "The organization of a hook and ladder company has now been completed, and following officers elected: Frank Zent, president; Frank Shuler, vice president; Wm. Nolte, foreman; Wm. Ehrman, assistant foreman; A.N. Wagner Jr., recording secretary; A. Fortkort Jr., financial secretary, and H.T. Serace, treasurer."

FIRE AT THE
EGG CASE FACTORY

Most village residents were attracted to big fires. Such was the case on June 29, 1889. "The whistle of the Herr Egg Case Factory commenced blowing about 10:30 o'clock last Saturday forenoon and its long continuance alarmed the people of the village that something was wrong. (There were) dense volumes of smoke. Soon the fire department and engine, together with hundreds of citizens, were on the spot. By the time the village engine was in operation, the entire rear (of the building) was on fire and flames were bursting through the roof on the upper story. The fire was under control about 11 :30 o'clock."

1893
CRITICISM FROM
THE LOCAL MEDIA

Although Adam Rinewalt, founding publisher of The Bee, was at one time a member of Rough & Ready, it appears the fire company later fell out of favor with the newspaper. The June 3, 1893 edition featured the screaming headline: "Fire! Fire! Fire!" At three o'clock that previous Sunday morning, Miss Spalding was first to discover a fire in hardware merchant S.A. Westland's shop on Rock Street.

The Spauldings lived at the comer of North Cayuga and Spring Street, where the Carriage House apartments now stand.

The fire building was attached to a carpenter shop made of brick used for storage by Westland. Attached to it was a barn and shed owned by D.Q. Minar. Miss Spalding woke her father, who alerted neighbors and then rang the fire bell around the comer at the Engine House on North Cayuga.

"A general alarm was sounded when Chief Engineer C.E. Summers blew the 'mocking-bird' whistle. The fire engine was brought to the scene of the conflagration in quick time and before many of the crowd had gathered, and what an engine! Willing hands pumped, and pumped, and pumped again! Water was also carried in pails from the Van Pelt residence and the roof of the carpenter shop kept as wet as possible. This was not sufficient however, and the intense heat caused volumes of flames to issue from the interior. The Williamsville fire apparatus did somewhat redeem itself before the break of dawn and just in time. Perhaps this blaze should serve a warning to the Williamsville Fire Department -- if there is such an organization -- to have their lamps 'trimmed and burning' and ready for use."

Then, under "Notes" penned by the editor, some painful questions: "Who is the engine inspector? Isn't it time to organize a new fire company? There were. many idle hands at the fire Sunday. Always lend a helping hand at a fire when called upon. You may at some time need assistance of the same kind."

DEATH IN THE LINE OF DUTY
HENRY W. DODGE

Tragedy struck Rough & Ready on June 15, 1894 when Henry W. Dodge, 43, died in the line of duty, attempting to extinguish a fire in his prosperous mill on the east bank of Ellicott Creek.

His body was found near a 200-barrel tank of water at the top of the mill to be used in the event of fire. He had taken the hose from its rack and partially strung it out among the thousands of bushes of fresh grain, but without success. When the engine, the chief and the assistant engineer arrived, it was no longer possible to save the mill. Dodge's brother fire fighters saved his home, just 30 feet away.

Chairman of the Village Fire Committee, Dodge had instructed the chief engineer to make repairs to the engine just five weeks before the blaze that claimed his life. He pronounced it "in good working order" on May 8.

"Williamsville Mourns Today, and Will Not be Comforted," stated The Bee.

"TO BLAZES WITH
THE VILLAGE BOARD!
TURN ON THE WATER!"

The need for a reliable water system again was made painfully clear on the Fourth of July, 1895, when a house and barn on Mill Street were destroyed by fire. The family narrowly escaped death when flames roared out of the kitchen about 4 a.m.

"It was impossible to get near the building, and there being no water for the fire engine, the could but wonder what would bum next," reported The Bee. Rough and Ready was powerless to do its job. It would be another five months before Williamsville's fire department could make use of a dependable water supply.

The new system was credited with saving a village landmark one day before it was to have been approved by the board. At about 8:30 on the night of Friday, Dec. 13, 1895, an alarm of fire was sounded from the Engine House, the bells of S S. Peter and Paul Church, and the whistle atop the power house.

The south side of Main Street, just west of Cayuga Road, was ablaze. A fire that originated in Michael Burgasser's barn had jumped to a shed adjoining the barns behind the Mansion House, a popular tavern of the times.

Rough and Ready fire fighters attempted to stop the flames with a weak stream of water from the engine. Water Works Committee Chairman Demeter Wehrle realized the gravity of the situation and cried, "To blazes with the village board. Turn on the water."

Suddenly, steady streams of water began to flow from the hose attached to a new village hydrant. "The flames were subdued in a short time and thousands of dollars in property are still standing," wrote The Bee. "Score one for the Williamsville Water Works."

A NEW NAME THE
"WILLIAMSVILLE HOSE COMPANY"

On Dec. 26, 1895, Chief Engineer S.A. Westland called a meeting to organize a new company. The name of the organization was changed to Amherst Hose Company No.2 on Jan. 4, 1896. Then just 10 days later, the membership voted to change its name again, this time to the Williamsville Hose Company. Thus the name "Rough and Ready" quietly vanished from Williamsville, primarily because of the arrival of the waterworks.

"Williamsville is to have a live hose company, composed of material which is bound to make a. company in which all citizens can take pride," wrote The Bee. "All hail the new hose company!"

James Chalmers Jr., a member of the water works committee, was elected president. It wasn't long before the Williamsville Hose Company received its first test. On Feb. 23, 1896, a barn on Mill Street caught fire. "The newly organized hose company was on hand with its apparatus. (The fire) was subdued by two powerful streams from the waterworks."

In the spring, the village advertised a used fire engine for sale, complete with hose and nozzles. It was the end of an era.

 

Members of the Williamsville Hose Company, possibly at the Pan American Exposition in 1901. The sign on the ladder truck reads: "Built 1852." Front row from left: Frank Pope, Wendel Richter, Glenn Stearns, Charles Pfohl, Arthur Dodge, Charles Herr, Henry Reist, Les Britting, Matt Horey, John Miller, Joe Morgott, August Stengel, Clarence "Shorty" Weber, Second Assistant Foreman David Grove, Charles Measer, Foreman John Wehrle, and Assistant Fireman Marshall Campbell. Sitting on truck: Louis Kreitz, Joe Reisch, and George Batt. Standing on truck: Unknown, Jacob Meyer, Albert Hoak, Nicholas Dehlinger, W. Long, Albert Klute, Lawrence Dehlinger, Unknown, William Deazley, Alvin Klein, Albert Beach, John Blocher, and Tobias Shank.

 

Members of the Williamsville Hose Company prior to 1908. Kneeling from left: Frank Measer, Lawrence Dehlinger, Joe Reisch, John Blocher, August Stengel, Charles Measer, Clarence "Shorty" Weber, Wendel Long, Charles Pfohl, George Helfter, David Grove, and Tobias Shank. Standing: Foreman John Wehrle, Ben Most, Nicholas Dehlinger, --- Harn, John Miller, Albert Brown, Albert Beach, Joe Morgott, Tim Arbogast, Louis Kreitz, Alvin Klein, Jacob Meyer, Albert Klute, Harvey Ernst, William Deazley, Henry Reist, Charles Engel, and Wendel Richter.

TEAMING UP WITH
THE BUFFALO FIRE DEPT.
IN MUTUAL AIDS TO SNYDER

The Snyder Hose Company was not organized until 1916. Any big fires there required a call to Williamsville. On Sunday evening, Nov. 25, 1906, property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Michael Beck Sr. of North Harlem Road caught fire. Lost were a barn, blacksmith shop, chicken house and pig pen. Four cows were saved but a new Phaeton buggy was destroyed.

"Our boys (Williamsville) hurried to Beck's with the hose cart and did all possible to fight the fire," said The Bee. Williamsville fire fighters drew water from several wells on the property.

Snyder had another big fire on Dec. 2, 1906 when the large barn on the property of John Kabel, on the south side of the Main road, was burned to the ground. This time, mutual aid came by rail.

"Help first arrived in the Williamsville Hose Company. As soon as notification of the fire was received here, Manager L.L. Grove of the Buffalo and Williamsville Electric Railroad Company ran a car carrying the members of the hose company to Kabel's and a flat car trailer carrying the hose cart, reaching Kabel's shortly after 6 o'clock. The barn was burning fiercely and the neighboring buildings were in great danger."

"Sparks were carried great distances and...the bucket brigade was doing its best to prevent what looked like another wholesale conflagration in Snyder."

"The arrival of the Williamsville Hose Company was the signal for a gasp of relief from the crowd gathered at the scene. The hose was attached to the hydrant in front of Fischer Brothers, which at present is the only hydrant in Snyder, and streams of water were played upon the roofs of the buildings in peril. Help came a second time some thirty minutes later when the hose cart arrived from Buffalo after a fast run."

Capt. John Maloney led Engine 24 from its quarters on Leroy Avenue in the Main-Fillmore section of the city. "The Buffalo hose was attached to the Williamsville hose and attention was directed to Kabel's barn. Through the efforts of the Williamsville and Buffalo companies, the flames were soon under control but there was fire enough to keep the valiant firemen busy a number of hours." Engine 24 picked up at 1 a.m.; Williamsville at about 1:30.

A NEW NAME THE
"HUTCHINSON HOSE COMPANY"

The name Edward H. Hutchinson is synonymous with the fire service. Hutchinson was a member of Taylor Hose in the old Buffalo volunteer department and later served as a commissioner in the reorganized city department.

He described his grandfather, John Hutchinson, as "The first chief of the department in Williamsville." (His grandfather arrived in Williamsville in 1815). Edward H. Hutchinson's father, John M. Hutchinson, was one of the first commissioners of the paid department in Buffalo.

In the early years of the 20th Century, the Williamsville fire hall was not much more than a barn with a tower for a bell. Two sliding doors opened to make way for the apparatus.

Fire Company President Reist appointed a committee to "rouse the interest of the taxpayers" in a referendum in the fall of 1907 aimed at raising funds for a new fire hall. Committee members included D.P. Arbogast, G.L. Helfter and John M. Wehrle.

"The old hall on North Cayuga has done its duty," said The Bee.

On Oct. 29, 1907, a referendum was narrowly approved by voters which authorized the village to spend no more than $5,000 toward acquiring land and constructing a new Village Hall and Hose House. The vote was 45-33. Anyone with a site to offer was asked to send a sealed proposal to the village clerk by Nov. 20.

Then came what The Bee called "A Magnificent Gift." Edward H. Hutchinson stepped forward on Nov. 14 to donate a parcel of land along the south side of Main Street measuring 55 by 140 feet. The offer was formally accepted by the village at a special meeting within the week.

Credit was given to Milton Hoffman, village president, and Lafayette L. Grove, vice president and manager of the Buffalo and Williamsville Railroad Co., for suggesting the idea to Hutchinson. He even donated $100 to the New Years Eve ball which rang in the new year 1908. The event featured a sign which read, "You'll dance in our new hall next time."

When members of the Williamsville Hose Company held their annual election of officers on Jan. 14, 1908, they voted unanimously to change the name of the organization to the Hutchinson Hose Company. President for the new year was Louis Kreutz; the foreman was N .E. Dehlinger.

Throughout the next two years, a fund drive was held while architects submitted plans.The fire company itself donated $2,000. But as construction costs topped $15,000, the village found itself almost out of money to continue. Once again, Hutchinson saved the day by donating another $2,000.

Finally, on New Years Eve, Dec. 31, 1909, the building was dedicated.

A FIRST - THE MODEL T

Williamsville has bragging rights to the first piece of motorized fire apparatus in the Town of Amherst, perhaps in all of northern Erie County. The Ford Model T was supplemented with two chemical tanks and a booster line added by American-LaFrance. The Elmira firm first made a presentation to the fire company on March 13, 1917, offering a price tag of $1,000. It was delivered in May by flatbed rail car and Chief Arbogast drove it from the Lehigh Valley station on South Long Street to the fire hall.

The chief suggested all members start the engine so they could become familiar with its operation, and every member of the company turned out on May 13 to witness a demonstration.

The new chemical truck responded to its first fire on July 1, 1917 when flames erupted beneath the stairs of the home of Mr. R. Shierer. The fire was quickly extinguished "and the new chemical proved its worth." Nine days later, the chemical responded to a fire which consumed three large barns on George Wolf s property in the Skinnerville section of Getzville. The chemical rolled to the same neighborhood again on Aug. 19 when a lightning strike started a fire which destroyed two barns, adjacent out buildings and the summer's crop of hay and wheat at the farm of Mrs. Sally Muck on Chestnut Ridge Road. The presence of the chemical was credited with saving the Muck home.

On July 2, 1918, clouds of smoke came from the house of Mrs. John Steinbrenner on Spring Street. "Mr. Matt Horey investigated and found the house to be on fire. The Hutchinson Hose Company was called and the fire was quickly extinguished in an accumulation of papers and clothing, where it originated."

A house and barn on the property of John Oehmen on the Kensington Road at Forks were entirely destroyed by fire on July 4, 1919. "The dry weather made the timber burn rapidly, so by the time the Hutchinson Hose Company arrived, nothing could be done. The firemen worked valiantly and prevented the flames from spreading across the wheat field to the next farm."

The truck's brass nameplate indicates it was the 73rd rig made that year in Elmira. Christmas baskets for the needy made their debut during this period. On Christmas Day 1914, four families were treated at a cost of $24.12. A survey was taken in March 1915 to list all insurance agents in the village from whom the fire company was receiving its 2 percent money, derived by state law from fire insurance premiums.

The first installation banquet was held Feb. 19, 1916 at Fink's Hotel, at the comer of Main and Transit.

AN ALARMING PROBLEM

Following a fire in the Chalmers residence on Ellicott Street in May 1910, The Bee sounded a call for a better alarm system.

"Right here is another instance where the need of a fire alarm system is shown. The power house whistle is shrill and piercing and is a good signal, but the sound of the fire bell in the new Village Hall could scarcely be distinguished the other night, enclosed as it is. It is sincerely hoped that a good working system will be established before a large and costly fire opens opens our eyes to the fact that one is needed." The Bee harped on the topic again after a fire in November, then was able to report the following in February 1 913. The fire company printed and distributed 300 cards among village households to explain the plan.,

"For some time there has been agitation concerning a fire alarm system in our village. To meet this demand, the following system has been worked out and will be used hereafter in our village. When the fire whistle blows, listen for the length and number of whistles and the location of the fire can be determined.

-- 1 long whistle- Main street east of Village Hall.
-- 1 long and 1 short whistle- Main street west of Village Hall.
-- 1 long and 2 short whistles- south side of East Main Street.
-- 1 long and 3 short whistles- Eagle Street.
-- 1 long and 4 short whistles- Mill Street.
-- 1 long and 5 short whistles- Cayuga Street.
-- 1 long and 6 short whistles- Glen Avenue.

A chicken coop on Oscar Simons' property was destroyed by fire on Nov. 13, 1915. The alarm system was still a problem.

"The fire bell, which has been conceded to be unsatisfactory, gave another proof of its inefficiency on Saturday. The alarm was turned in, the bell gave about five peals, and then, according to its usual custom, tipped on its side. Many were not aware of the fire till much later in the evening while it is safe to say if it had occurred during the night the fire bell would have disturbed no one's slumber."

THE WAR TO END ALL WARS

Hutchinson Hose members Clarence Steinbrenner and Russell L. Hoffman were among the first from Williamsville to serve in World War I. More followed. On Feb. 24, 1918, a group of Doughboys was sent off with honor.

"The Hutchinson Hose Company, who never allows any of its members depart for camp without a material remembrance of good cheer, had their "doings" Sunday afternoon at their room in honor of the members who were leaving the next day, and the guests of honor received very handsome wrist watches to time their movements in service. The list included L. Stanley Beach, Irving Shank, Martin L. Quinn, Lee Daniel, Joseph Flynn, Melvin Robinson, Arthur Stoll, John Messing, Tomaso Tedesco, and Salvatore Bretti," according to The Bee.

THE ROARING TWENTIES

Fires in the Twenties consumed prominent places. The Jefferson Gun Club, "on the hill west of Williamsville" was leveled on June 10, 1921. Hutchinson Hose responded with its chemical truck. There were two fires in the vicinity of the present intersection of Main Street and Youngs Road in December 1921. The first, a house fire, was among the first reported by a passing motorist. Then the new District 8 schoolhouse burned four days after Christmas.

In 1922, a new Building Committee submitted a proposal to purchase a 187- foot property on Main Street and a 330-foot parcel on Miller Street (now Oakgrove Drive). The company rejected the plan by secret ballot.

Because of new requirements set by fire insurance underwriters, the company began holding two hose practices a month in 1923. The system called for one half of the active roster reporting for drill on the first Monday of the month and the other half on the third Monday of the month.

Hutchinson Hose hosted its first convention of the Western New York Volunteer Firemen's Association in 1924 with John Wehrle elected its president.

"Fire Deputies" were appointed by the chief for the first time in October 1927. All properties owned by the Hutchinson Hose Company were transferred to the Williamsville Exempt Firemen's Association on Jan. 10, 1928. The annual tradition of members visiting nursing homes to sing Christmas carols began in 1928.

1923
THE OLD BREWERY FIRE

It was not yet 8 in the morning on Lincoln's birthday, 1923, when a fire destroyed a building better known for what it used to be -- the Williamsville Brewery -- than what it was -- the Davis and Bergey Garage -- at Main and Grove.

Flames originated in the workroom where 16 automobiles were stored. They bore nameplates such as Studebaker, Rickenbacker and Overland.

"It was apparent that alone Williamsville would not be able to cope with it," reported the Bee, as huge clouds of black smoke pushed into the winter sky.

In what would be one of the Buffalo Fire Department's longest mutual aid runs, Engine 34 raced to the scene from its station at Main and Mercer (near Bennett High School) in an astonishing eight minutes. With Williamsville's 1921 American-LaFrance already drawing from a six-inch water main, Engine 34 was directed down Glen Avenue and a hose was laid to Hoffman's pond for drafting. Also responding to the scene were Snyder and Clarence Center. In fact, Snyder's hose cart lost a wheel while being transported to the fire.

In addition to the garage and the 16 automobiles, the fire destroyed two apartments and a plumbing warehouse. Eight persons were left homeless. The total damage figure, including cars today considered priceless, was just $40.000.

1927
EXEMPT ASSOCIATION FORMED

The Williamsville Exempt Firemen's Association was incorporated in March 1927 under the leadership of D.P. Arbogast (its first president), John Blocher, Louis F. Lorich, Alfred F. Beiter, Albert Herman Jr., Benjamin Miller and Joseph J. Morgott. The first meeting of the Exempts was held on March 29 at the old Village Hall. "There was a splendid attendance of about 60." Records of the time showed 165 men eligible for membership.

"The officers chosen were all zealous in working for the good of the fire company when they were active members, and under their leadership, the new organization should flourish," commented The Bee. "The objects of the association are to organize the large number of exempt firemen in the village and to make proper provisions for benevolent purposes and to provide for disabled exempt volunteer firemen. It also aims to provide a home for the members."

It was decided at that first official gathering that monthly meetings of the organization would be held on the first Tuesday of each month. This tradition is still in effect.

THE THIRTIES

The fire company began to spread its influence in the 1930s. Hutchinson Hose joined the Erie County Volunteer Firemen's Association in 1928; the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Firemen in 1932; the Firemen's Association of the State of New York in 1932, and the Amherst Fire Council in 1933.

Lew Sigl was chairman of a fire company building committee formed at the beginning of 1939. At a special meeting held in March, a "Mr. Jackson" who owned the Hershey Property at 5570 Main St. asked $7,500 for the property with a small down payment and a 5 percent mortgage. The Hutchinson Hose Company countered with a $7,000 cash offer. Jackson accepted with $500 down and the balance due by July 1. Attorney Allan Christman handled the transaction, with the fire company taking title on July 24.

 

THE FORTIES

History repeated itself on Feb. 4, 1946 as fire fighters from Williamsville and Buffalo worked together at a mutual aid to Snyder when the gymnasium at the Park School burned. Engines 23 and 34 responded from the city, as did Eggertsville. In a classic example of the American volunteer fire fighter, "Town Supervisor Albert J. Herman, who had just left a council meeting in the village hall, assisted in fighting the stubborn blaze."

A Williamsville fire fighter was seriously injured responded to an alarm on Jan. 22, 1949. Dick Clode, a new member of the company, jumped on the driver's side of the Ford pumper inside its quarters in the basement of the village hall. (This vehicle is now known as Truck 10). Space around the rig was very narrow, and when it ascended the ramp and passed through the doorway, Clode's leg was broken in four places. Chief Stanley Jones said Clode never heard 90mmands from other fire fighters to climb aboard at the rear of the truck.

The fire, in a barn at the rear of the Eagle House, caused $600 damage.

1949
A NEW STATION ONE

The Village Hall, built in 1908, was vastly outdated after World War II. For several years, the company sought funding and support for a new facility. Finally, a new two-story hall was constructed at a cost of $90,000. It was dedicated on the Fourth of July.

 

1949
LADIES AUXILIARY FORMED

The Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1949 "to render assistance to the members of the Hutchinson Hose Company and cultivate a spirit of harmony and promote sociability between the two organizations." The first president was Floride Brockway.

 

THE FIFTIES

The Williamsville Fire Department hosted the 53rd annual convention of the Western New York Volunteer Firemen's Association from July 21-23, 1952. General chairman was Lew Sigl.

Three families were driven to the street on Feb. 1, 1955 when fire erupted in a home at 35 North Ellicott Street. One resident and nine firemen were injured in the exhausting six-hour effort. The Red Cross served hot coffee and doughnuts to the chilled firemen in the nearby St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

1956 FIRE AT
"DREAM ISLAND"

A village landmark was gutted by a mysterious fire on July 2, 1956. The castle on "Dream Island" off Oakgrove Drive was left a stone shell after the blaze, which was reported at 2:40 a.m. The building was well involved when fire fighters arrived, with flames soon bursting through the thick slate roof. Burning embers landed as far away as Park Drive.

For the first time in company history, a deluge gun was utilized as pumpers drafted from the waters of Ellicott Creek which surrounded the island. Trucks could not be driven across the narrow bridge and Chief Harold Stisser feared a collapse might occur.

German native Ignaz Oechsner began construction of the castle in 1919 but it was not completed until 1942, the year before he died. Marble floors and mahogany paneling from England made the castle resemble a home from another time.

TWO FIRES AT "THE GLEN"

The area currently known as Glen Park was the scene of two of the most spectacular fires in local history. The Inferno, a popular nightspot, burned on Sept. 23, 1968. Another nightclub, the Glen Casino, was destroyed on Sept.8, 1973.

In a blaze the Buffalo News called "A fire in the best show business tradition," the Inferno was destroyed despite an unprecedented mutual aid response. Club manager David Goldstein, who lived just around the corner on Mill Street, called in the alarm at 2: 40 a.m. after porters came to his home to say they smelled smoke. The last patrons who would ever grace its dance floor had left just 20 minutes earlier.

The first Williamsville fire fighters to gain entry to the building said flames were raging inside the office area. But as fresh air met the fire, it flashed over and drove them out. Within 25 minutes of the initial alarm, Williamsville Chief Irvin Lorich started a call for mutual aid which would last for more than two hours. All told, help was provided by crews from Main- Transit, Snyder, Cleveland Hill, Getzville, Transit (now East Amherst), Eggertsville, Harris Hill, Swormville, Kenilworth, North Bailey, Clarence, Clarence Center and U-Crest.

"The fire skipped out of control, sending sheets of flame through and along the roof into the pleasantly-cool night sky," wrote Bob Beyer of the News.

 

Problems were not contained to the inferno within the Inferno. Lorich set up apparatus and manpower to protect the Williamsville Water Mill (built in 1811) and the 12-unit Glenside apartment building, both perched above the fire on the escarpment along East Spring Street. By 5 a.m., most of the fire was under contro1

The Inferno remains number one in Amherst in terms of equipment used at the scene; an estimated 200 fire fighters manned 25 trucks before it was allover.

The theater-restaurant had been built in the early 1940s by Harry Altman as the proud Glen Casino. After the war, Altman made it a showcase for big name entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr. and the Mills Brothers. Some of the adjacent recreational buildings were also lost in the fire, but the children's amusement park was not touched. One fire fighter required hospital treatment for smoke inhalation and several others were treated at the scene.

The second Glen conflagration came on the early evening of Sept. 8, 1973 at the Inferno when the club building known as "The Barn" and several other structures were leveled in another mutual aid fire.

About 7 that Saturday evening, Chief Evor Williams found himself faced with flames sweeping through a complex of abandoned buildings. A refreshment stand, pavilion, penny arcade and wood frame stands were among the casualties.

"It was a scary place, a real 'hot spot' for us," Williams said. "We had 12 or 15 men inside and the situation was getting worse. We had to get them to safety but they didn't back out right away. Then the flames started to jump through the buildings. They dropped the hose and ran like hell."

Mike Wutz, Bill Grady and Williams were burned in the narrow escape. "The Barn" was history.

Also endangered in those frantic few minutes was Williamsville's Aerial Scope. It had been spotted on the Glen Avenue bridge in order to attack the fire from above.

"N0 one heard my message not to spot the Scope there," said Williams. "'The Barn' was a fire storm in itself. The side warning lights and the dome light melted. The men in the bucket were fried like fish in a pan."

In all, eight fire fighters were injured that night.

Williams ordered a second alarm, bringing Main-Transit and Snyder fire fighters to the scene in a replay of the 1968 fire. Getzville filled Williamsville's hall but was working the fire within seven minutes as part of the third alarm assignment. Transit and Cleveland Hill responded as standby companies. To guard against burning embers igniting rooftops on Mill Street, Clarence Center's tanker was pressed into duty. "We had enough men at the hall in case we had something in our own district, but we were all surprised we were going so far for a mutual aid," recalled Roy Davis of Clarence Center.

Harris Hill fire fighters were also called, first to fill Main-Transit's hall, then to draft from Ellicott Creek. Stephen Bucki, chief of Harris Hill, remembers seeing a glow on the western horizon after hearing the first reports of the fire.

"I think a few of us went to the hall even before we were called because we figured we'd be going," said Bucki. "It was an old building, one of those places where you either put it out or let it burn down to the point where you could." Harris Hill drafted from the south side of Main Street near the Amherst Municipal Building, feeding a pumper connected to an aerial ladder.

"There may have been more apparatus at the Casino fire, but the Inferno was tougher to fight," Williams said.

DEATH IN THE LINE OF DUTY
FRANK WILKINSON

The second line of duty death in Williamsville's history occurred on Nov. 22, 1970 when 38-year-old Frank Wilkinson collapsed during a call at the Harlem-Genesee Nursery building in the plaza at Main and Mill. He was using a back-mounted water vacuum during operations to remove water from the store. Wilkinson died at short time later at St. Joseph Hospital.

1972
STATION TWO BUILT

The needs of a growing fire protection district convinced the company to erect a substation. A site was eventually picked at 5005 Sheridan Drive, across from The Village Green. It features bays for an engine and a rescue truck in addition to a large banquet hall.

JANUARY 1981
THREE IN A ROW

Members fought three challenging fires on three successive Sundays in January 1981. A house fire on Hunters Lane was followed the next week by a mutual aid apartment house fire at 333 Evans Street. Frozen hydrants were a significant problem. Seven days later, another fire on Hunters Lane required the use of foam to quell flames in the basement.

1987
A NEW STATION ONE

The move to a new main fire station took many years for our Building Committee to achieve, but the goal was realized on Sept. 11, 1987. The old hall, across the street at 5570 Main St., was built in 1949 to house three smaller pieces of apparatus on the first floor with meeting and club rooms upstairs.

Construction of the new hall was stalled until the Village of Williamsville took steps to acquire the vacated Amherst police headquarters building and the idea of uniting village and fire department functions at one site began to take hold. A spacious truck bay was erected at the west side of the existing building and the basement of the police station was converted into offices and a conference room, meeting room and club room. A hose tower was added at the rear.

EXTRICATION TEAM
"BEST IN THE WORLD"

 

One of the highlights of the history of the department came in September 1991 when its auto extrication team won the overall title at the international extrication competition held in Mississauga, Onto Members were Mark Kardamann, Mike Meldrum, Rick Meldrum, Chris Petrie, Tony Schueckler and Peter Strobel. Williamsville defeated 20 other fire department teams from England, Canada and the United States to take the top prize.

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