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Town Line Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.


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Jennifer Broska

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After two disastrous fires in 1918, the Citizens Improvement Committee recommended that a fire company be formed in Town Line. Previous to this time, the citizens of Town Line had to rely on the Village of Lancaster or the Bowmansville Fire Company for fire equipment and protection.

1920s

In 1921, The Town Line Volunteer Fire Department was formed, consisting of 35 members. The following individuals were the first officers:

Chief - Fred Weber

Assistant Chief - Ellis Keith

Master Mechanic - Henry Ziegler

Trustees - Henry Stephan, Joseph Moritz, Edward Brisk

President - Max Merzwiller

Vice President - Robert Aldinger

Treasurer - John Kieffer

Secretary - R.L. Snyder

Public subscriptions were solicited from the citizens of Town Line during the years 1921 to 1924 to help finance the purchase of the Adam Ziegler property for our first fire hall. This property was located on the south side of Broadway, near Town Line Road, and consisted of a house and a barn used for building wagons.

With additional funds solicited from the citizens, the first truck was purchased from Buffalo Fire Appliance Company of Buffalo. It was a 1921 Model "T" Ford Chemical truck with two 35-gallon tanks. The cost was $1,600. The records show that an additional sum of $37.50 was paid for one half the cost of a self starter for the truck.

In 1924, the Town Line Volunteer Fire Department was incorporated in the State of New York and granted a charter to operate in the Towns of Lancaster and Alden.

1930s

In 1930, with funds accumulated from picnics, other fundraising activities, and a third public subscription, a new fire truck was purchased from the Buffalo Fire Appliance Company. It was a 1930 Stewart chassis, 500 gallon per minute pumper truck with a 250 gallon booster water tank and one booster hose reel. Several years later the department installed a second booster hose reel on the truck.

In 1931, looking ahead for possible future expansion, the fire department purchased the property of Edward Billar, which adjoined the present property on the west side.

Possibly the greatest step forward for the department began at a regular meeting held on February 1, 1935. The fifty members in attendance voted unanimously to build a new fire hall. The building committee consisted of William Asmus (chairman), Joseph Moritz, Henry Stephan, Louis Franztman, William Marquart, Randolph Linderman, and Benjamin Kruse. Each member pledged himself to donate twenty hours of labor or donate $10 instead to the building project. A two story building was constructed with a dance hall on the second floor, meeting room, kitchen, rest rooms, and a truck room on the first floor and the furnace room and bar in the basement.

The building was completed and dedicated in a gala three-day ceremony on October 31st to November 2nd, 1935. This building still stands and is located immediately to the right of the current fire hall.

1940s

On May 16, 1943, a relay was held with Alden, Bowmansville, Elma, Lancaster, Marilla, Millgrove, and Town Line Fire Departments. This was the longest relay held to date in New York State and was aided by the men from the Buffalo Fire Department. Fifty pounds of pressure was received on a one inch tip with a flow of 209 gallons per minute at the end of 6,700 feet of 2 1/2" hose. The water was pumped truck to truck from the Cayuga Creek bridge on Town Line Road north to Broadway the west along Broadway tot he west side of the Raymond Weil property. Movies of the event were taken by the Buffalo Fire Department and several articles were written in the Volunteer Fireman and Engineers magazines.

At the March 3, 1944 meeting, the membership voted to purchase from Clarence Gerhardt a 1936 Chevy tank truck for use as a water tank wagon. This truck was originally used to haul gasoline and was converted to carry 831 gallons of water. The cost of the truck was $550.

The fire companies in the Town of Lancaster started to prepare plans for a Fire Protection District in approximately 1940, and after many discussions and meetings, this proposition was finally presented to the voters of the Town of Lancaster on July 25, 1945 and it was approved. The contract for the Fire Protection District was signed with the Lancaster Town Board in April 1946 and the fire department received its first check in May of 1946 for a total of $500.

About this time the fire companies in the Town of Alden discussed the idea of a Fire Protection District, but the Alden Town Board was reluctant to do this on their own. The Town Line Fire Department, outlying their proposed Fire Protection District for the Town of Alden, circulated a petition among voters in the area. The proposition was voted on in 1950 but was defeated. The Fire Companies in the Town of Alden asked that this proposition be brought before the voters again and in July 1951, through the concentrated effort of all fire companies, the proposition was overwhelmingly approved.

At the October 3, 1947 meeting, the members voted to purchase a new Chevy truck chassis with the members to build a tank on it. Chief Ervin Weber was elected chairman with Ted Berig, Paul Stephan, and the Board of Directors to act as the truck committee. The truck was completed in April 1949 and consisted of a 1,100 gallon tank and a 500 gallon per minute front and mounted pump. The cost was $2,078.

At a special meeting on April 22, 1949, the membership voted to purchase 11 acres of land on Town Line Road from Fred Stoldt for $3,000 and three acres west of the school property adjoining the Stoldt property from Matthew Kwitkowski for $300 for use as a permanent picnic grounds. In October 1951, the members voted to build the first permanent buildings on the site. They were to be of rustic design according to plans submitted by Building Chairman Al Thuman. The following year, four more buildings were constructed.

1950s

In 1951, Chief Paul Stephan was appointed Chairman along with Ted Berig, John Eagan, Edward Kelly, Joseph Peters, and other Firematic Officers to act as a committee to set up specifications and recommendations for a new fire truck. On October 3, 1952, the members voted to purchase from Young Fire Equipment Company of Buffalo a GMC truck chassis with a 503 cubic inch engine, three-stage Hale pump, 1,000 gallon water tank and two high pressure hose reels.

The Clinton Willis property, consisting of approximately seven and a half acres (west of the building present at that time and the site of the present-day hall) was purchased on June 5, 1953 for $8,000.

The Ladies Auxiliary built their permanent kitchen and the firemen built permanent rest rooms at the picnic grounds in 1954.

At the February 3, 1956 meeting, President Ray Weil appointed the following Building Committee to prepare plans for an addition to the fire hall. Erwin Weber and Clayton Ziegler were Co-Chairs with committee members Paul Stephan, Jack Wild, Dan Peebles, Louis Schmitke, Lorin Luderman, George Luderman, Ray Weil, and the Board of Director.

After considerable work to prepare plans, the fire company received on August 10, 1956, two bids amounting to $73,496.00 and $66,000 respectively. The membership unanimously voted to drop plans for alterations and proceed instead with plans for a new truck room building.

At a special meeting on April 22, 1957, the membership voted to approve construction of a new apparatus room measuring 75x50 feet on the property located to the west of the current fire hall (and where the present fire hall stands today). The cost was not to exceed $33,000. On July 11, 1958, the new apparatus room was completed.

On September 5, 1958, the Board of Directors recommended that a new fire truck be purchased to replace the Stewart truck, the oldest of the trucks. At a special meeting on July 5, 1959, the membership voted to purchase a new fire truck from Young Fire Equipment of Buffalo. The new truck was a model "V" - 196, International Chassis with a 750 gallon per minute, Class A, triple combination pumper, 1000 gallon water tank, a high pressure pump with 2 hose reels, and a built in foam system with a 20 gallon foam tank. The cost of the new truck was $20,530 and the vehicle was received and dedicated in February 1960.

At the October 3, 1958 meeting, the fire company voted permission to Town Line Businessmen's Group to erect a permanent Boy Scout Building on our picnic grounds.

1960s

In February 1960, the fire department received an International 750 gallon per minute, 1000 gallon tank pumper from Young Fire Equipment Company. This pumper carried 2 200 foot booster reels, a 20 gallon foam tank with 150 foot preconnect line, 1,200 feet of 2 1/2" hose, 400 feet of 1 1/2" hose, a generator, and an electric clutch built into the shift lever. After only a few days of being in service, it was called to a major fire in the Village of Lancaster where it pumped from Cayuga Creek to feed an aerial ladder. The truck served the department until 1982..

In April 1963, the Town Line Fire Department received a Dodge Power Wagon fire truck from American Fire Apparatus. This truck was an on or off-road vehicle with a 500 gallon per minute front mount pump, brooms, axes, hose, Indian Pumps, and a trailer hitch to pull a water rescue boat. It had rear seats to accommodate six firefighters and was capable of supplying water from inaccessible points which conventional trucks could not reach. It was retired in 1986 after 23 years of service.

On August 3, 1963, the Stewart that was purchased on 1930 and served the community for 33 years was retired at the Annual Town Line Fire Department Picnic. The first fire it fought was in a service station at Ransom and Broadway and the largest fire it participated in was in the Village of Alden at the Empire State Hotel on a Christmas Eve. The last fire served by the Stewart was on April 6, 1963 on Wilhelm Drive when the truck pumped water through 1,400 feet of hose for two hours of continuous pumping.

On Sunday, August 14, 1965, members joined together behind the apparatus hall at 6507 Broadway to break ground for a new meeting/social hall. Helping with the ceremonies were Chief Robert Offhaus, President and Building Chairman Al Gerhart, Director Mike Weber, President of the Lancaster Fire Council Robert Stoldt, Ladies Auxiliary President Charlotte Lung, and Building Fund Chairman Albert Lung. The new addition was completed in late spring of 1966 and dedicated with a cornerstone with the date. The addition will be used to hold fire department meetings and fundraisers - which will help raise money for the department.

In January 1966, the fire department took delivery from the Young Fire Equipment Company a 1966 International Tanker. It had a 750 gallon per minute front mount pump, carried 1,500 gallons of water, 800 feet of 2 1/2" hose, 200 feet of 1 1/2" hose, 250 gallon per minute portable pump, and miscellaneous hand tools. It was the largest tanker in the area for years and in the 1980s was requested to the U-Crest Fire Department to stand by while they had a major water main break. It was retired in 1993 after 27 years of service.

During 1967, with the completion of the new hall, the fire department put up for sale the former hall and apparatus room located at 6513 Broadway. The old hall, a solid two story structure became too small with the need for more apparatus and offices. It was sold and turned into a restaurant.

In 1969, the fire department purchased a 14 foot enclosed fan as an emergency equipment vehicle. It was outfitted by firefighters to transport miscellaneous equipment to rescue and fire calls. It was also used to get firefighters out of the elements in bad weather for rehabilitation. The same year it was equipped with first aid equipment and supplies. Town Line's first rescue unit was retired in 1987.

In the late 1960s, the Town Line Fire Department realized a growing number of requests for first aid. With the purchase of the department's first rescue vehicle, the first Emergency Medical Service was started by the department in 1969. Squads were formed, extensive training was started, and all the necessary first aid equipment was purchased. Through the years the fire department noticed first aid was the majority of calls each year. The standard Red Cross First Aid Training was replaced by EMS's, then A-EMT, and now ALS and Paramedic training.

1970s

In 1972, the Town Line Fire Department put into service its new Station #1 at 63 Cemetery Road, Lancaster. The new $25,000, two-bay firehouse would house Engine #2 and help protect the western portion of the fire department's fire protection district. Building Chairman Al Lung noted that most of the money to build the station came from split club fundraisers. The station was manned by a 20-man crew from the area.

On March 31, 1974, the department dedicated a new 1250 gallon per minute Ward LaFrance Pumper. Chief George Gallagher and President Norman Lesser received the keys from Truck Committee Chairman Lester Peters. This was the first custom diesel pumper purchased by the department and was equipped with 2 mattydale lays, 800 ft of 4" hose, generator, telescoping scene lights, 1200 feet of 2 1/2" hose, and the first 4" discharge gate developed by Hale Pump. The engine is still owned by the Town Line Fire Department and was refurbished in 2003 to be used as a parade vehicle.

In the mid 1970s, the fire department embarked upon its greatest fundraising event - Bingo. It turned out to be the most profitable fundraising event to that date. Teams were set up to work each required date and, along with the Ladies Auxiliary and Explorer Post, raised money for each organization. People would travel from near and far because of the time of the day the fire department chose. Sunday afternoons returned great results for this fundraiser.

In February 1977, the fire department purchased a new 1977 Chevy Suburban vehicle for first aid and motor vehicle accidents. The first call the unit went on was during the height of the Blizzard of 1977. It was retired in 1994.

1980s

On September 11, 1982, the Town Line Fire Department dedicated a new Engine #2. This 1250 gallon per minute Crusader II was built by Young Fire Equipment on Cemetery Road in Lancaster. This new engine had many new innovative ideas - 4" fiberglass piping, 4 - 4" discharges, 4 - 4" inlets, a pump where the engine normally was placed and an engine where the pump should be. This engine was also featured in Fire Chief Magazine and even made the cover of the April 1983 edition. Engine #2 responded from Station #2 was in service until 2001 when it was replaced by the new Engine #2 still in service today.

In 1985, a committee was formed to draw up specifications for a new rescue truck. Chairman David Szczudlik Sr. along with five other members researched what vehicle would best suit the needs of the fire department. An increasing number of motor vehicle accidents along with first aid requests made the department turn toward a medium-size rescue truck. Young Fire Equipment was awarded the project for a 1986 diesel Chevy Crew Cab all wheel drive vehicle. It carried six firefighters with a nine foot fully enclosed box for heavy rescue equipment and first aid supplies. The vehicle, Rescue #7, remained in service until 2001.

1990s

In the early 1990s, Bingo was dropped due to the fact greater time was required of firefighters for firematic and first aid training - along with the increase in contract monies from the towns of Lancaster and Alden.

Also in the early 1990s, the fire department took a giant step in its efforts to give better pre-hospital care by sending members for further training in the EMS field. Five EMT members passed their tests to become ALS (Advanced Life Support) qualified. It was the first time in this area the of the state that ALS was to be supplied by a fire department that did not have an ambulance.

In 1991, the fire department embarked upon employing a truck company operation into the policy of the department. Instead, as before, having an engine perform all the duties, the department purchased a used 100' Seagrave Ladder Truck. The ladder carried the required ground ladders and equipment required by NFPA and also had an enclosed 7 man cab. The truck, Ladder #6, was put in service on January 1, 1993 and remained in service responding from Station #1 until June of 2004.

In December 1993, the fire department received delivery and put into service a new pumper from American Fire Apparatus Company The 1250 gallon per minute diesel powered Spartan Cab engine was laid out the same as the previous two engines and now gave Town Line three fire engines. This also was the first fully enclosed cab pumper for the department. Some new ideas built into the apparatus were flow meters on all discharges and a push button automatic transmission. Engine #1 responded out of Station #1 until 2001 when it was renamed Engine #3 and used as a reserve piece until 2008 when the apparatus was sold to the Sheldon Fire Department.

In 1994, the department received a new light rescue unit. The 1994 diesel Chevy Suburban was an all-wheel drive with a conversion package supplied by Odyssey of New Jersey. The vehicle was equipped with first aid supplies, an ALS (advanced life support) kit, and other equipment for both motor vehicle accidents and house calls. Rescue 7-1 responded from Station #2 until 2002.

On Saturday, April 27, 1996, the Town Line Fire Department celebrated its 75th anniversary at Salvatore's Italian Garden Restaurant. The program stressed the past, present, and future history and firefighters who have made the department what it is. At that time, the fire department was proud to have a roster of 64 members, two stations, three engines, one ladder truck, and two rescue units. The department answered over 400 alarms in 1995 and looked forward to serving and protecting the community for the next 75 years.

2000 - present

Coming soon!

History