In August. 1968 a group of eight men banded together and formed a “Fire District Organizing Committee.” They took this action after receiving the support of a majority of the residents who lived in the North Highlands section of Cold Spring to form a Fire District. The residents of the North Highlands had the choice of continuing to receive fire protection service from an established Fire Company but at an increased cost or of forming a Fire District which in turn would permit the establishment of its own fire company. The advantages to the community of having its own fire company to provide fire protection service were particularly appealing, Thus it was the Organizing Committee which consisted of Joseph De Gelormo, Joseph Dragicevich, Edward Engelbride, William Flaherty, Harold Lynt, Edward Matthews, Roben Romano, Paul Van Valkenberg, undertook a task the completion of which would require the expenditure of many, many hours of hard work, perseverance in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles and a teacious, unyielding will to succeed. Fortunately, these eight men with the unstinting assistance of a host of other people in the community were more than equal to the task. The eventual legal establishment of the Philipstown North Highlands Fire District was, at least in the minds of these men, a foregone conclusion. A venture of these proportions is fraught with a maze of legal requirements and the Organizing Committee in September 1969 retained the firm of Van DeWater & Van DeWater of Poughkeepsie as legal counsel. This tireless group of “organizers”, with the endurance of its counsel now began their journey down a road which, unknown to them, contained so many detours that less intrepid travelers would have given up long before their destination was reached, before success was achieved.
Countless strategy meetings were held by the Organizing Committee between September and December, 1968. Finally, the strategy was translated to tactics and the next tactic to be employed was the procurement of petitions from community residents who owned property which would be at least equal to 50% of the assessed valuation of all of the real property in the proposed fire district. With an elan as yet unsurpassed in any similar endeavor and to the lasting amazement of many, the Organizing Committee, now ably assisted by a continually growing number of equally determined men, garnered valid signatures of residents in excess of 71% of the assessed valuation of all of the real property in the proposed District. This was no mean feat; however, the men involved would rather recall some of the more humorous incidents which occurred during the period from December, 1968 to May, 1969 when the petitions were being sought than recount some of the less pleasant incidents which they encountered.
In the midst of securing the needed petitions, the Organizing Committee held its first public meeting in February, l969 in a vacant building located on Route 9 just south of East Mountain Road South. The meeting date, time and place were posted on handmade signs posted throughout the proposed Fire District. Seating was provided through the courtesy of the Organizing Committee and anyone else who had picnic benches which would be transported to the building. In a sense, this meeting could well have proved to be the Organizing Committee’s Armageddon instead of the success which it was. Had the public, after being informed of what had thus far transpired and being further informed of what lie ahead, not fully endorsed the strategy and tactics of the Organizing Committee, the future of the Proposed Fire District would indeed have been in doubt. These men were not to be denied. Indeed, their presentation of what had been accomplished and of that which remained to be done was so thoroughly and professionally executed that the public not only endorsed their action but urged them on with vocal and financial support. lf ever a single element could be identified as the catalyst which sparked these men to perform perhaps even beyond their own expectations, it was this unqualified support of the community.
Armed with their petitions the Organizing Committee proceeded to the Philipstown Town Board and presented their proposal to the Board members. The Organizing Committee once again demonstrated their ability to effectively and persuasively present their “case” and promote their cause. Thus it was in May, 1969 that the proposed formation of the Fire District was formally presented to the officially constituted body which would breathe life into the embryo or smote down the unborn creature which was still a cherished goal. More meetings were to follow with the residents of the community and with the Town Board.
The Organizing Committee now considerably augmented by constantly growing interested members had traversed the calendar from August, 1968 to August, 1969 and the much cherished initial goal was within their grasp. The Philipstown Town Board on August, 1969 passed a Resolution formally establishing the Philipstown North Highlands Fire District. The task was not now finished. Rather, the first plateau of the mountain had been scaled and even more difficult tasks were ahead as they proceeded to the peak. These men, like all men of determination, would show that their reach indeed exceeded their grasp.
In June of 1969, the North Highlands Engine Company No. 1 was organized and the following firemanic officers were elected: Chief-Earl “Tim” Hallock, lst Assistant Chief-Robert Galligan, 2nd Assistant Chief-John Knapp, Captain-John S. Rinaldo. On September 30, 1969 the Philipstown Town Board appointed the following men as the Board of Fire District Commissioners for the Philipstown North Highlands Fire District: Joseph Dragicevich, Edward Engelbride, Harold Lynt, Edward Matthews, Robert Flomano and William Stoleckiwas appointed Fire District Treasurer. The newly appointed Board of Fire Commissioners elected at their first official meeting on October 29, 1969, Joseph Dragicevich as Chairman and Edward Matthews as Co-Chairman of the Board and appointed William Stolecki as Secretary to the Board. On this date the Board of Fire Commissioners also approved the election of the Firemanic officers and the following Engine Company officers: President-William Flaherty, Vice President-Roy Pollard, Secretary-Fred Travis, Treasurer-Curt Valentine, Financial Secretarv-Frank, Keenan.
It was on Sunday, November 23, 1969 that the Fire District and the Engine Company both literally and figuratively became a reality. All that had gone before had been necessary before the joy and satisfaction of this day could ever be. All the hours, days, weeks and months of hard work were justified when late that Sunday afternoon a cacophony borne of sirens and horns announced that the “Ward” had arrived. A huge, red fire engine stood glistening in the afternoon sun in the middle of Perk’s Plaza on Route 9. The wailing siren had brought scores of cars filled with men, women and children all of whom closely inspected the gleaming and imposing piece of fire fighting apparatus. A Ward La France, a 1969 model, l000 gallon per minute pumper which carries 1000 gallons of water in its’ booster tank.
Now the District and the Company had a brand new fire engine but no firehouse. The next order of business was to secure temporary quarters for the engine. Fortunately, the Highland Service SAtion on Route 9 in the North Highland area had sufficient space in its’ garage to house a vehicle of the size of the new pumper. In addition to renting space in the Highlands Service Station, the Engine Company’s temporary firehouse was a one room building located in the Perk’s Plaza on Route 9 and when the Company assumed responsibility for rendering fire protection in the newly formed Fire District, the apparatus, the “firehouse” and the siren were all located within Perk’s Plaza.
Earlier in November the Fire District electorate had overwhelmingly approved the issuance by the District Commissioners of two bond anticipation note issues aggregating $142,000. One issue for the proposed building and the acquisition of land was for $79,000 and the other for apparatus and equipment was for $63,000.
On December 9, 1969 the District residents once again went to the polls to elect five members to the Board of Fire Commissioners for terms ranging from one to five years based on the number of voters received. At the same time, a Treasurer was elected for three year term. When the ballots were cast and counted the five originally appointed Commissioners were elected and Joseph A. Payne was the Fire District’s new Treasurer. The entire six man slate had run unopposed.
With the installation of the “fire telephones” and the siren, the Engine Company undertook responsibility for providing fire protection to the District on January 1, 1970. On January 4, the siren sounded and the Engine Company members hurried to the temporary firehouse only to learn upon arriving that the first alarm was a false alarm and had been set off accidentally by the telephone repairman. Ten days later on January 14, on a bitterly cold night, the alarm sounded and the Engine Company responded to a house fire on Lane Gate Road and despite below freezing temperatures and stiff winds, the fledgling Company very expertly contained a potentially destructive chimney fire with only minor damage resulting. This fire then was truly the Engine Company’s baptism and it has served its’ Community in a similarly highly professional manner since then.
Prior to becoming operative, more than 45 Company members had completed the New York State, Division of Fire Safety basic course for firemen. This course, “Essentials of Firemanship” was conducted over a 12 week period and the school was held in the basement of Mamma Rog’s Restaurant located on Route 9. Company members have completed other fire service schools such as pump operators courses, first aid, company officers school and fire police courses.
Behind every successful man is a woman. Our Engine Company members gave ample proof to that statement when on January 21, 1970 the North Highlands Ladies Auxiliary was organized and its’ membership was comprised mostly of the wives of Engine Company members. The ladies elected Mrs. Shirley Engelbride-President, Mrs. Theres Van Tassel-Vice President, Mrs. Catherine Tompkins-Secretary, Mrs. Marie Hallock-Recording Secretary, Mrs. Betty Matthews-Treasurer, Mrs. Susan Romano-Financial Secretary. Mrs. Joan Travis later succeeded Mrs. Tompkins as secretary.
The contribution by the Ladies Auxiliary to the fine record or achievement of the Engine Company cannot be measured. The Auxiliary has become an important and integral part of the Fire District and its’ assistance to the Engine Company has and will always deserve the plaudits of both.
February 6, 1970 was another big day for the District and the Company inasmuch as on that day the District purchased its’ second piece of fire fighting apparatus. The second truck is a 1947 American La France 750 gallon per minute Pumper with a 300 gallon booster tank.
It was during this period that the Commissioners were actively seeking an appropriate site for the construction of the proposed firehouse. Their efforts were finally rewarded when on April 21, 1970 they received the deed and title to a choice parcel of one and one-quarter acres of land located on Fishkill Road just west of Route 9. The land was donated to the District by KCOR Corporation a subsidiary of New York Trap Rock Corporation.
It was also during April that the Engine Company purchased the third vehicle for fighting fires. A 1958 Mack tanker with a capacity of 2200 gallons was bought with Company funds and donated to the Fire District.
Still another significant event took place in April, 1970 as a full slate of Firemanic and Company Officers was elected to the following offices:
FIBEMANIC – Earl Hollock, Chief; Robert Galligan, 1st Assistant Chief; John Knapp,2nd Assistant Chief; John Rinaldo, Captain; George Van Tassel, 1st Lieutenant; David Merritt, 2nd Lieutenant. A 3fd Lieutenant, George Gorges was elected in September, 1970. COMPANY – William Flaherty, President; Edward Cretelli, Vice President Christopher LaCorata, Financial Secretary; Fred Travis, Secretary; Curt Valentine, Treasurer.
Construction of the Firehouse was commenced in May and in the following weeks the firemen and the district residents watched with great interest the erection of the all steelbuilding. The construction company was responsible for the exterior and the interior brick walls. The firemen would undertake the completion of the entire interior including all electrical, plumbing and heating, carpentry, masonry and painting required. The Engine Company was and is blessed by virtue of the happy fact that its members include just about every conceivable type of craftsmen who are experts in their fields. Electricians, plumbers, heating and air conditioning specialists carpenters and painters applied their knowledge and exerted their best efforts in completing the beautiful modern structure which is being dedicated today. In addition to these craftsmen, there were other specialists who similarly applied their expert talents. These were the heavy equipment operators who cleared the land and graded it and generally made it ready for construction. Not all the work was done by the experts or the craftsmen in their given specialties. A lot of Company members expert in professions or pursuits not related to building construction nevertheless became willing apprentices and contributed greatly to the successful completion of the Firehouse.
Since the completion of the “truck or engine room” was of primary concern, most attention was given to that portion of the building to assure its readiness to house the District’s three pieces of fire fighting apparatus. On the bright, sunny Sunday morning of August 30, the Engine Company vacated its temporary fire quarters in Perk’s Plaza and moved their engines, equipment and other furnishings into the new Firehouse. And so it was that the firemen, with perhaps a minute of sentimental recollection and a hearty thanks to Joseph Percacciolo & Sons for the use of the building that served as the temporary firehouse, proudly garaged their vehicles and stored their equipment and furnishings in their new quarters.
The sum total of all of the many hours of hard work by so many men, and women too, produced an espirit de corps that will not be surpassed, indeed, could not even be rivaled. It was in this frame of mind then that the Engine Company and its Ladies Auxiliary participated in their first major parade on Saturday, September 26 at the Brewster Fire Departments’ Centennial Celebration. While wewere determined to be at our best, we knew we were also marching with the best of many surrounding Fire Companies and their Auxiliaries and desired only that we acquit ourselves with distinction as the newest, the youngest contingent in that huge gathering of organizations. Our determination, our pride and our espirit de corps stood us in good stead and was justified and rewarded. The Engine Company was awarded a trophy as the “Best Non-Regulation Uniform Unit” and the Ladies Auxiliary won a trophy as the “Best Ladies Auxiliary.” There is no way in which the unrestrained joy and happiness of that day can be described. Suffice it to say it was absolutely complete and without reservation. It will be a day long remembered by all.
A new Company in even a newer Firehouse should probably think twice about an extensive program for Fire Prevention Week Activities. We did think about it twice and unanimously agreed we should provide a program of fire prevention activities to our District residents. A Fire Prevention Week Committee was organized and a program formulated and on October 7, more than 15 teams of two or more firemen spread throughout assigned areas of the Fire District and distributed on a house to house basis more than 500 Fire Prevention “kits” including appropriate literature and a District and Company Newsletter. The Week’s activities were concluded with a program for the District children and the efforts of the firemen and the Ladies Auxiliary were rewarded with an overflow crowd of more than 145 children. The youngsters were shown fire prevention films, received a fire prevention comic book and were served lots of refreshments. Another public service to the District residents and another job well done by all.
Furnishing a firehouse with such items as chairs for the meeting room, desks and chairs for the various offices, filing cabinets for Company and District records, files and documents and the need of other miscellaneous equipment can be a considerable expense and if the necessary funds are not available then you either improvise or do without. Once again the good fortune of the District and the Company prevailed when through one of the Company member’s employers, a goodly amount of all of the above items of furniture was donated and today the new Firehouse is comfortably furnished and adequately supplied with all of the essential furniture and office equipment required.
On October 17 the Engine Company held its first dance in the new Firehouse. The Company’s record of successes, with the capable assistance of its Ladies Auxiliary, was maintained. A packed house dined and danced and thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite the fact that the evening of social activity was interrupted by an alarm which required all of the Company’s apparatus to roll and a goodly number of the firemen present to respond.
The record to date brings us to today’s ceremony and festivities. All of the words which have gone before do not and cannot really relate the history of this Fire District or of this Engine Company or of the Ladies Auxiliary. You do not and cannot translate dreams, even the realized, into words. Nor do you ever adequately describe the labor, the sweat, the time, the disappointments, the successes, the victories the joys, the sorrows and the pathos which must accumulate over a period of time when a group of men set out to reach a goal, record an accomplishment and achieve what to many others would be an elusive success. The only “real” record of all that has gone before can be expressed only by those who were a part of it; those who gave and gave and then gave some more.
The history is designed to set forth a chronological sequence of events. It is also designed and intended as a tribute to the men who made it all possible; the original “eight”; the men who teamed up to solicit the signatures of the proposed fire district residents; the men who, as true artisans and craftsmen, contributed so much to the construction of this beautiful building; the men who became apprentices; the men, who behind the scenes contributed their time and their talents to among other things, finances, public relations and other administration matters; and of course to all of the men as firemen and who have performed so professionally in the execution of their primary function and responsibility. Recognition must be extended to our female counterparts upon whom we have come to depend so much. They have supported us in every endeavor, they have shared in our successes. they are indeed a vital necessary part of the function of the District and of the Company.
Lastly but in no way the least, we desire to very strongly voice our gratitude and appreciation to the many, many organizations and individuals to which and to whom we owe so much. It is a debt which we know can never be repaid but we also know that each of us will, indeed has, dedicated himself to the protection of life and property in any emergency and to the furtherance of community spirit, assistance and development. We have today a group of men molded into an organization which, augmented by the cooperation and assistance of its Ladies Auxiliary, will endure for many years in the performance of a significant and vital service to the Community.