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Fire Company celebrates Annex, its history, members and their service

MILLERTON — It was a long time coming to unveil their new Annex, but the Millerton Fire Company finally did so, inviting the community to tour the structure and learn more about the company’s history and need for volunteers at its Open House on Sunday, Sept. 12.

Running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the road to the Annex and firehouse, located at 29 and 24 Century Blvd., respectively, was closed off to motorists. The volunteer members of the Millerton Fire Company were busy greeting residents and  local and county leaders, sharing the fire district’s history. 

Members also educated those who stopped by about the company’s history thanks to various memorabilia and an impressive scrapbook collection compiled by longtime member Bernie Silvernail. 

Popcorn was popped, T-shirts were sold to support the fire company and children wore red plastic fire helmets, perhaps dreaming of one day volunteering themselves.

Following a prayer honoring the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Millerton Fire Company President Lenny Morrison shared what they’ve done over the years in terms of funding, equipment and apparatus. He said that from 1942 to 2019, the Millerton Fire Company had spent $277,661.40 on equipment.

Looking at another layer of history, Fire Chief Jason Watson said the Millerton Fire Company became North East Fire District in 2004 with a starting budget of $151,000. Today, he said they’re up to $422,000.

“It’s not been easy,” he said, “but with hard work and dedication we’ve been able to do many things around here to keep the community members safe.”

Watson detailed the various purchases of firetrucks and other essential equipment as well as the change in membership and other milestones, like the start of the junior firefighter program. All of this, he said, couldn’t have been done without the cooperation of the company and the fire district working together to accomplish goals. Today, Watson said there are 460 active  members.

Fire District Chairman Stephen Valyou talked about the challenges that have been overcome throughout the years, noting their biggest challenge has been keeping up with changing times. 

Nevertheless, he said it was the district’s aim to provide the best equipment to keep members safe so they could protect the community.

“We try to work together to get the best that we can with the means that we have,” Valyou said. “I think overall we’ve been able to stay ahead.”

Offering a commemoration and appreciation to the company on behalf of the town, North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan said one of his goals as supervisor is to help keep the community unified, and he praised the fire company and fire district for being a unifying force. Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-19) explained it was incumbent on every fire company member to recruit volunteers, “because we need it, ladies and gentlemen, we need that service in our community… It’s the most gratifying thing you can do for your community.”

Taking the microphone in hand, Morrison announced the dedication of plaques that would be hung on the company’s equipment in honor of members past and present. Truck 51-13 was dedicated to the company’s Truck Committee (which included Morrison and nine other members) while Truck 51-11 was dedicated to past members Bob McGhee and Gary Fenn, both of whom have passed away. The tanker was dedicated to Dick DeWitt, Willie Oles, Russell Palmer, H. Lee Miller and Howard Brusie Jr., and the rescue truck was dedicated to John and Lou Schultz and Dave VanDebogart. The brush truck was dedicated to Tony Piscitello while the Tahoe was dedicated to former Rescue Squad Captain Walter Bernitt.

The utility truck used for traffic control and pulling the company’s ATVs was dedicated to Silvernail, whom Morrison said has 71 years of active service in the company. The ceremony’s audience gave Silvernail a standing ovation.

Surprising the company, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced the county’s 2022 budget will now allow fire companies to apply to the Municipal Investment Grant Program and that he and Pulver worked to add $1 million to the pool to help volunteer companies county wide. On behalf of all those who call Dutchess County home, Molinaro thanked company members past and present.

At the ceremony’s end, the community was invited to take a tour of the new Annex, enjoy live music and other activities, and learn more about volunteering.

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