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Millerton Fire Company ready to unveil Annex at Open House

Consider joining the department!

MILLERTON — A “Top Secret” will be revealed during the Millerton Fire Company/North East Fire District’s Open House set for Sunday, Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at its Annex at 29 Century Blvd.

According to Fire Chief Jason Watson, during the event, the closely held names of six  long-time and/or former fire company members will also be announced as fire department equipment is re-dedicated to them. 

With both fire company buildings open for tours, the event will be centered at the newer of the two (the firehouse is across the street at 24 Century Blvd.). It is the first time the public will be able to tour the new Annex facility, which was built in 2017, mainly through the generosity of a private donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

According to Fire Company Historian Dave Van de Bogart, the new building was needed when the firehouse, built in 1962, could no longer house the company’s equipment. The department had found its apparatus had grown in size and number over the years.  

In addition to the buildings, the equipment will be on display, including two engines, a tanker, utility vehicles, a brush truck and EMT response vehicle. 

The day will also feature fire safety and equipment demos, North East paramedics, free blood pressure screening, live music by the Fender Bender Band, food, an arson dog and a chance at “Hoseline Tip the Bucket.”

Visitors who are interested in joining the volunteer department will also have an opportunity to talk to members and learn more about the process of how to do so, which  includes extensive training paid for by the fire district. Those ages 14 to 16 are able to become junior members with older individuals eligible for full membership. 

Speakers at the event will include: Chief Watson, President Lenny Morrison, Fire District Chairman Steve Valyou, County Executive Marc Molinaro, County Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-19), State Senator Sue Serino (R-41), Millerton Mayor Jenn Najdek  and  North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan. 

Local history buff Bernie Silvernail will be on hand with his extensive scrapbook collection documenting much of the company’s history, which dates back to 1892 when the department and its old-fashioned hose truck  was first housed on Main Street next to the Presbyterian Church and firemen made their way up the street lighting gas lamps.

Van de Bogart said the fire company began when “there were some major fires around the village and it was decided that they needed to have an organized fire department. [Before that] they would basically grab buckets and sort of just go for it on their own — just people with neighbors. Anybody who saw the fire would try to help, but it wasn’t in an organized manner.” 

The resulting group was dubbed the E.H. Thompson Fire Department, named after local bank manager Edward H. Thompson, who helped obtain the funds for a new building in 1904 at 21 Dutchess Ave. at the corner of Simmons Street. 

According to Silvernail, for some 50 years, that building housed the expanding fire department, held blood drives and elections, hosted movies with popcorn during World War II and cots for air raid wardens doing their duty. 

It eventually became home to an early Millerton Library, the currently unusable Village Hall, the Police Department and the Senior Friendship Center, with the fire company moving its firehouse to its 1962 facility. 

Before all that happened, according to Van de Bogart, “shortly after becoming the Thompson Company, it was funded by the village. In 1921 it became an actual department and was renamed the Millerton Fire Department.”   

He said, “It remained that way until 2004 when we became the fire district. In those preceding years, the village would contract fire protection to the town so the town would pay accordingly. Back in the day… it was decided that 92% of the calls were in the town. The town was charged accordingly. The town  said, ‘If we’re going to pay 92% of your budget, we would like a say.’ The village said, ‘You can’t have a say because it’s our department and you’re just contracting it.’” 

Van de Bogart said that resulted in a gridlock with the department in the middle until the district was formed, the department incorporated to became the company, and there is now “equal protection for everyone.”

Van de Bogart said, “I think the rich history of the department is pretty amazing,” but noted, “a lot of people don’t realize that it’s a hundred percent volunteer.” 

The open house presents an opportunity to stop by and give a tip of a fireman’s hat to those friends and neighbors who answer an average of a call a day including structural fires, auto alarms, flooding conditions, mountain rescues, grass and brush fires, gas leaks, auto accidents and injuries including on the Rail Trail.

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