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A Bit of Fire Department History

The first mention of an elected Fire Warden is found in the 1916 annual Town Report for the year 1915. James O. Brown holds that distinction. The next year 1916, I.E. Simpson was elected but in 1917 J.O. Brown was re-elected and held the position of Fire Warden for 10 years. Next to become warden was Phillips L. Brown with assistant wardens Foy Brown and Harry Baird. Parker Crockett was elected in 1938 and during his tenure the position’s name changed from Warden to Fire Chief.

Also in 1938 the fire alarm whistle/alert system was put onto operation and the 1937 Dodge Pumper fire truck was purchased. The Town appropriated $1600 and the summer “rusticators” donated the remainder for the total purchase price of $3797 for a brand new Standard Ward LaFrance fire engine with equipment mounted on a Dodge chassis from the Southworth Machine Company in Portland, Maine. With a 275 gallon tank, the Dodge was the town’s first real fire truck.

During the early years fires were fought from “hose houses” positioned along the village hydrant route. Info gleaned from old Town Reports revealed that portable fire extinguishers were commonly used also. In 1942 Ronald Gillis became Fire Chief, stepping down to Martin Joyce who held the position from 1944-1948. John Waterman was elected Fire Chief in 1949 and during his 24 year tenure the Town building was enlarged to house 3 trucks including a new 1970 Ford 800 Pumper. The “Red Network”, a dedicated telephone line/ fire alert system was established during this time also. Rotary phones were rewired, installed first at Wayside Service Station next door to the Fire Station and then later in department personnel’s homes and other public places. A fire call to 867-4423 rang in to all phones and the fire whistle was sounded by throwing a switch connected to the dedicated line.

Rex Crockett stepped in as Fire Chief in 1974, holding the position for 18 years before passing it along to Forrest Sprague in 1993. Forrest had been one of Rex’s assistants for those 18 years.

By the 1990’s the Department was in need of updating and upgrading which has been Chief Sprague’s focus for the years he has served as Chief. A lot has been accomplished. In 1995 the old army surplus truck was replaced with a secondhand 1965 Ford 750 Pumper/Tanker and in 1997 the long awaited meeting room addition to the station was completed with volunteer labor. An open house was held to dedicate the room in honor of former Chief John Waterman. Also in 1997, the State Forestry Service began to require written permits, issued by the Chief, for burning any kind of material. A personal pager system was set up that year to supplement the Red Network. The Chief and 3 assistants carried the pagers and were dispatched on the regular phone line by whoever answered the emergency call on the “fire phone” network. Usually an officer’s wife at home or someone at the Town Office or where ever a “red” phone was installed. If the call was deemed serious, the fire whistle was blown to alert the entire town.

In 2000 the GMC Minipumper, custom built to Chief Sprague’s specifications by Admiral Enterprises in Scarborough, was delivered and added to the fleet. The first new truck in 30 years! A Cairns Viper Thermal Imaging Camera was also purchased in 2000 after a year of fundraising.
After 40 years our Red Network was discontinued in 2002. With the introduction of the E911 service, Knox County Dispatch required all Departments to use the system. New pagers were purchased and programmed and our fire calls are now dispatched through county 911.

In 2004 a Dell laptop and Fire Program software was purchased and again updated in 2008. Turnout and SCBA gear have been updated to meet OSHA standards and necessary firefighting equipment purchased and replaced. In June of 2007 a new E-One Freightliner Pumper was purchased from Greenwood Emergency Vehicles to replace the ailing 1970 Engine #2.

The Dept now boosts 20 active members with most carrying pagers. We meet monthly on the 3rd Thursday at the station for refresher training and equipment maintenance. All volunteers have received Basic Firefighter training and SCBA personnel are certified.

Our officer roster:

CHIEF Forrest Sprague
CAPTAIN Scott Higgins Safety Officer/SCBA
LIEUTENANT Paul Waterman Engine #2
LIEUTENANT Mike Brown Tanker #3
LIEUTENANT Justin Grant Engine #4
LIEUTENANT John Waterman Engine #5

Our SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) team:

Shaun Cooper….SCBA/ Deputy Chief
Foy Brown……..SCBA/ Asst. Chief
Scott Higgins… SCBA/ Captain/Safety Officer
Roman Cooper…SCBA
Chris Stone……..SCBA
David Jermann…SCBA
Trenor Goodell…SCBA
Alicia Brown…...SCBA
Justin Grant........SCBA

Scott Higgins joined the force with a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of CA. at Berkley and recently earned certification as Incident Safety Officer from the National Fire Academy. We are fortunate to have his expertise in view of all the mandated safety requirements now dealt to municipal personnel. Our Lieutenants are responsible for monthly checks of their individual trucks and SCBA personnel are responsible for maintaining their personal apparatus. Areas of expertise among our volunteer roster include mechanics, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and boat builders. Most equipment repair and maintenance is handled in-house by capable volunteers.

Contributed by Terry Sprague

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