South Creek VFD marks 50 years
Following is the 50-year history of the South Creek Volunteer Fire Department. The fire department thanked Rev. Charlie Root for providing much of the history covered in the article.
In 1962, three South Creek Township residents were discussing the fire hazards created by a long, dry summer. These people saw the need for a local fire company. Expressing this need to others, a movement developed to do something about the lack of local fire protection. Several exploratory meetings were held and on Oct. 7, 1962, a group of about 15 men met at the Fassett Grange Hall to listen to several invited guests speak about their experiences in firefighting.
After considerable discussion, it was decided to organize a local fire company. The name chosen was South Creek Volunteer Fire Company. Officers were elected and action taken to check on the legal formalities necessary to form such a fire company.
The next day, Bailey & Hassen Oil Distributors of Fassett and Elmira, N.Y. donated a 600-gallon Chevy tank truck to the newly-formed company. The truck was then equipped with 50 feet of 2-inch and 500 feet of 1½-inch hose and a 275 GPM Gorman-Roupp portable pump.
William Jones of Fassett donated the use of his garage to house the truck, as well as equipment gathered from many sources.
A Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1962 and supported and carried out many fund raising activities for many, many years before becoming inactive in 2001.
In preparation for fighting fires, 15 members attended a basic fire school in Canton.
In February 1963, a 1938 Diamond T pumper was purchased from the Erin, N.Y. Fire Company for $250.
The new company was officially chartered March 8, 1963, as the South Creek Volunteer Fire Department Inc., with 41 charter members. The new department, which was to be officially activated on April 1, 1963, first saw action on Feb. 5, when their business meeting was interrupted by a chimney fire across the highway at the Lyman Shaw residence. Under the direction of the first fire chief, Cleon Mickley, the fire was quickly put out.
Shortly after midnight on a cold February night in 1964, the fire station in the Jones' garage and some equipment was destroyed in a fire. Dismayed, but undaunted, members salvaged what they could and the Department President Charles Miller said, "We aren't licked. This may prove to be all for the good." Four days later the department was back in business. In 1964 a used Chevy truck was purchased and they placed an 1,100 gallon tank on it, again donated by Bailey and Hassen Oil. They also purchase a 1935 Ford 500 GPM pumper from the Ulster Fire Department.
Attention was then directed toward finding a place to house the equipment. A lot was purchased from Alex Yoemans just off Route 14 on the Roaring Run Road. Volunteers cleared the land for a building near the place where the old Excelsior plant had stood.
Ground was broken on July 20, 1964 for a new $14,000 fire station. The new station was built by the volunteers and was dedicated on Dec. 6, 1964 and contained a 30-foot by 40-foot truck bay to hold three trucks and equipment and a 30-foot by 70-foot room for assemblies which included kitchen, dining room, and toilet facilities.
Steady growth characterized the South Creek Volunteer Fire Department during its first 25 years of existence. By 1973 they had 76 members, two tanker trucks, two pumpers and the 1938 Diamond T. The Department hosted the NY-Penn Firemen's Convention in 1973 and again in 1982.
Parades, fairs, fireworks, old home days, public dinners and a host of other activities were engaged in as the department grew. In the 1980s, a group of Junior Firemen won three trophies at the NY-Penn Firematics, including their "Super Bowl."
During the next 15 years, the department was constantly upgrading their equipment and training. "Go To Blazes, 8 South Creek FireWomen Will" was a newspaper article that graphically summed up the action taken in June 1975 when eight local women were accepted into full membership. South Creek was one of the first area fire departments to fully integrate women into the volunteer firefighting system. In 1976, the department was able to purchase its first piece of brand new equipment, a 1976 Saulsbury 1500 gallon tanker on a Chevy chassis. In 1978 a second fire station was erected on township property in Gillett to house a pumper and tanker, thereby shortening response time to more residents of South Creek Township. In the 1980s a communications room was renovated, an additional wing was added to the Fassett Station, and an additional piece of land was purchased to enlarge the parking area and provide more recreational area at the Fassett Station, and a 50-foot by 44-foot truck bay was added to the front of the Fassett station and the old truck room was renovated to provide more Bingo seating.
Bingo was started in the 1980s and provided the major portion of the department's funding. Bingo was manned completely by volunteers, many of whom were social members of the department. The Bingo Kitchen has been run by volunteers from the fire department, the Ladies Auxiliary, the South Creek and Wells-Jackson Lions Clubs, and the South Creek Little League thus providing extra funds for those associations. Currently, the department is funded through a 1.5 mill fire tax, bingo, meat shows, gun raffles and a winter rabbit hunt.
Apparatus acquired over the years has included a brush truck with skid unit, two 2,500 gallon tankers, and a medium duty rescue complete with a large variety of rescue equipment, a quick attack truck, and a Class A Pumper. Recently through a grant from Talisman and a bequest from Dick and Joan Shedden, a gator has been purchased and equipped for use on brush fires, and for search and rescue operations.
In the more recent years, a 192-foot radio tower on Thompson Hill was erected, a cascade system for filling air cylinders, the department now has several floating pumps, a fuel cell was built for the safe storage of fuel and the safe fueling of vehicles, a large quantity of 5-inch hose was acquired through a inter-department bid, and rescue equipment, communications equipment and firefighting gear was upgraded to meet current standards.
In 2001 a new station was built in Gillett on land on Route 14 in Gillett that was obtained through the South Creek Township Board of Supervisors. The station is 100-foot by 40-foot and meets current building codes. It houses three pieces of equipment and has a separate bay for the South Creek Volunteer Ambulance to have their ambulance. Old Station No. 2 reverted back to the township for storage of township road equipment.
The South Creek Volunteer Fire Department Inc. has progressed from one donated tanker in 1962 to one of the most modern and well-equipped small volunteer departments in the area. These accomplishments have been achieved because of the volunteers. A tribute is paid to all volunteers who have sacrificed so much of their time, talents, and resources over the past 50 years.