History

HISTORY OF THE PITTSFORD FIRE DEPARTMENT

 

During the last two decades of the 19th century, the village of Pittsford had been struggling with the idea of installing a water works to provide water to its residents and to provide water for emergencies such as fire fighting.  In August 1881, the paper made note of the fact that “The air in Pittsford was black with smoke from fires burning along the railroad.”  It had been a hot and dry month, and the paper recognized Pittsford’s lack of an organized fire brigade for dealing with fires. 
 
One of the worst fires of the last century in Pittsford destroyed the Crump block at the four corners of the village in early July of 1886.  The ‘Crump Opera House’ had recently been renovated, complete with a third story stage where many social events were held.  The fire occurred during the day and volunteers removed much of the inventory, including the contents of the safe.  Not only was the store destroyed, but two houses owned by the Crump family were also lost.  There were also three other homes which had their roofs burned off and about 40 fruit and shade trees had to be cut down.  Construction of a new building was started immediately and finished in November.  It still stands on that corner as the Wiltsie & Crump (R. J. Hunter’s Village Pharmacy) building.
 
On April 5th, 1894, the west building of the Agate malt house was destroyed by fire.  Starting at about four o’clock in the morning, the fire took slightly more than two hours to destroy the structure.  Warehouses across the canal were ignited by sparks, but were extinguished.  The loss was estimated at $40,000.  On April 6th, 1894, the paper reported that the northern part of Pittsford was enveloped in thick smoke due to the heaps of barley and malt still burning and unless some heavy rain fell, it was expected to continue for five or six more days.
 
On the 23rd of February in 1897, there was a meeting in the Town Hall to discuss the advisability of establishing a water works in the village.  After much discussion, pro and con, over the next few months, a vote on May 6th, 1897 approved the proposition to build a water works by a slim margin of 44 to 39.  In today’s age, it is of notable historic interest that one of the concerns of the ladies of the Village was that, even though they had a vested interest in the outcome of the controversy, they could not vote.  The water works was to be installed at a cost not to exceed $12,000. It was originally suggested to draw the water from springs on the Lusk farm, however, a well was sunk at what is now 60 Rand Place and a pump house erected over it.  The water was then pumped to a reservoir, which was indeed located on the Lusk property approximately one mile south of the village.  There would be 43 hydrants installed, with the water pressure ranging from 60 to 90 pounds.  The system was to be completed by late summer.  That water system was eventually abandoned around 1913.  The pump house was converted to a residence by Irving Gaskin who still resides there. 
 
It was clear by now that a formal group was needed to respond for fires and other emergencies.  Having installed a system of water supply and seeing the tragic losses of fire, at a Pittsford Village Board meeting on the 21st  of November, 1898, a resolution was passed authorizing the formation of a volunteer fire brigade. 
 
On Tuesday evening, the 29th of November in 1898, about 25 men assembled for the first meeting of the Pittsford Village “Active Hose Co. No. 1” and elected its first set of officers.  G. William H. Doane was installed as the first President.  L. G. Tousey was elected the Foreman, a position we now call Chief, and C. B. Emmons was made the Assistant Foreman. 
 
A few days later, on the evening of December 7th, 1898, about 23 men assembled for the first meeting of the “Iroquois Hose Co. No. 2” and elected the following officers.  George A. Goss was to be their first President.  They chose Fred Hegendorfer as their first Foreman and, as his Assistant Foreman they selected Samuel Hooker.  The Iroquois Hose Co. No. 2 was sometimes simply referred to as Pittsford Hose Co. No. 2.
 
The dues of the organization were one dollar per year. To this day, they remain one of the all time bargains, as they are still one dollar per year.
 
The charter members of Pittsford Fire Department are:
 
Hose Co. No. 1: Wm. Agate, B. C. Eaton, John Schoen, C. B. Emmons, Chas. Spellman, John Stull, George A. Hicks, J. C. Hinterleiter, Chas. Schoen, Harry Stalter, Lewis Curtis, Geo. Stull, Geo. Smith, Elliot Crump, W. Grant Wadhams, W. H. Doane, Henry Spiegel, Wm. Slocum, Chas. Sutherland, Robert Rand, A. N. Finucane, L. G. Tousey, John Barker, L. E. Harscher, and Samuel Hutchinson.

Iroquois Hose Co. No. 2: Fred Hegendorfer, C. M. W. Rand, Henry Kiel, Wm. Hetzer, A. Francis, John Steve, Mort Thomas, R. E. Gaskin, Geo. Cady, Samuel Rand, Geo. Hooker, F. Jones, A. H. Whitlock, E. McGrath, Samuel Hooker, Wm. Ford, B. N. Wiltsie, Fred Zornow, W. W. Johnson, Frank Wiltsie, G. T. Vought, and Geo. A. Goss.
 
Using donations and moneys received from the Village, the fire department was able to acquire two American LaFrance hose carts, hose, buckets, and a few basic tools such as an ax, a shovel, nozzles and etc.  The equipment was stored in different locations within the village.  When the alarm wheel was rung, the volunteers retrieved the equipment, pulled it to the emergency, and fought the fire.  The Pittsford Fire Department still has these original hose carts.
 
A ladder cart was acquired within a few years and this was also pressed into service.  Unfortunately and ironically, this piece of equipment was destroyed in a fire. 
 
A February 5, 1901 inventory listed the following: stored at the Methodist Church were a ladder cart, five poles, five ladders, one ax, and 69 pails; stored in J. M. Wiltsies shed were one hose cart, one nozzle, one ax, a bar, 16 pails, tools and hose; and kept at Dr. W. W. Johnson’s were one hose cart, hose, two nozzles, an ax, a bar and tools.  Before the water system had been installed, two hand-operated pumps of very simple design had been in use by the village.  These pumps were part of the fire department inventory after its formation.
 
Pittsford Fire Department first celebrated Memorial Day, known then as Decoration Day, by marching in the parade on May 30th, 1899.  The following month in June, the department ordered the first dress uniforms, 44 of them at $5.65 each.  The practice of decorating the firefighter’s graves for Decoration Day was started in 1907 by the department.  We still decorate our past members graves and participate annually in the Pittsford Memorial Day parade to honor our past firefighters and veterans.
 
Although the fire department has a proud history of volunteerism, even a century ago people had busy lives, which made it difficult to find the time to do all the necessary tasks associated with running a fire department.  The minutes from the 1906 election of officers shows that George Smith was nominated to run for secretary, but he declined.  Then George Hicks was nominated for the position, but he also declined.  Thomas J. Heaver was then nominated for the position, and when he respectfully declined, the department simply overruled him and elected him to the position anyway.  It was not uncommon during the infancy of the department to have to cancel a meeting due to a lack of a quorum.  This eventually led to an amendment to our by-laws requiring members to attend one half of the regularly scheduled meetings per year. 
 
The first fire hall was built in 1907 and dedicated in May of 1908 on a lot purchased from Robert Bryant.  This lot was bought for $1,000 on April 1, 1906.  The Village Board presented the fire department with a flag for the pole on top of the hose tower at the dedication ceremony.  Prior to having the fire hall, the department held their meetings in the Cole building (which is the building on the southwest corner of Main and Monroe at the four corners in the village) and later in the Masonic Hall.
 
A Ford Model T truck was purchased in 1920 using donations from the residents of the community.  It was referred to as the “chemical truck.” It carried a large, truck mounted, water type fire extinguisher, and the “chemicals” were the soda and acid, which were mixed to provide the pressure that propelled the water.  It was in service until 1937.  In 1925, a pumper truck was delivered from American LaFrance at a cost of $6507.  It boasted of a 750 gallon per minute pump and a 50 gallon booster tank.  The American LaFrance pumper was purchased in response to hydrant testing in 1924 done by the State Underwriters Association.  Those tests showed inadequate hydrant pressures putting Pittsford in an unprotected class with corresponding increases in insurance rates. Proudly, we still have “Old Betsy” as the 1925 has affectionately been called over the years, and you can still see it smoothly rolling down the street following our members in the line of march in many of the local parades.  This truck was “in service” until the mid 1950’s and was pressed into service in 1963 during local flooding.  She pumped water for a week straight, being shut down only to change the oil and clean the pump.  To this day, it will pump water right along side of the big, modern pumpers. 
 
The next truck to be used by the department was a 1935 American LaFrance pumper on a Ford chassis, which was received in September of that year.  It was the “Little Ford”.  It carried a 500 gallon per minute pump and a 150 gallon booster tank.  In 1949, a donation of a 1933 Buick hearse from the Zornow Funeral Home in Pittsford provided a vehicle the fire department would use for first aid and similar emergency calls.  Many of the more senior members of the department today recall the 1952 American LaFrance, Ford chassis pumper as engine one-one-two.  It was the “Big Ford.”  It had a 500 GPM pump and a 500 gallon tank.  It also had high-pressure fog stream capacity.  In early photographs, it is lettered Engine 3.  In 1953, the department purchased a Chevrolet Equipment Truck and used it to transport rescue and emergency medical equipment.  In the fall of 1970, a Seagrave 100 foot aerial truck was delivered at a cost of approximately $78,000.  It replaced our first aerial device, which also had a small pump on board, making it similar to a “Quint.”  It was a 1959 American LaFrance on a Ford chassis and it had a 75 foot ladder.  It was originally purchased for around $25,000.
 
Pittsford Fire Department started as two independent hose companies.  At the request of the Village Board, on January 25, 1901, the two companies joined under one organization as the Pittsford Fire Department.  With the acquisition of ladder equipment and then a chemical truck after the turn of the century, the companies of the Department expanded to include a Ladder Company and a Chemical Company.  During the 20’s however, the four companies of the Pittsford Fire Department were combined into one, and the organization remains this way today. Since that day in 1901, the only change to the name has been to add the word volunteer to make it the Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department.  In 1917, badges were ordered which were labeled Pittsford Vol. Fire Dept.  The group of people who are the members of the department belong to the Pittsford Volunteer Firemen’s Association, Inc.
 
Pittsford was one of the first departments to enter into a mutual aid agreement with a neighboring community.  On October 5th, 1909, we agreed with the Despatch Hose Company, now the East Rochester Fire Department, that on request, each department would respond to assist the other.  Monroe County is known as the home of mutual aid with the concept being firmly entrenched here by the early 1950’s, and today mutual aid is a way of life with fire departments everywhere.  Pittsford Fire Department regularly responds to our neighboring communities including an occasional visit to the City of Rochester to help with emergencies.  We are fortunate that we can also rely on our neighbors any time we ask. 
 
The methods employed for dispatching the members of the department have evolved over the years.  In the beginning, the department had a steel wheel from a railroad car, which would be rung for an emergency.  The men would then run to where the equipment was stored, be told of the call and location, and respond.  This wheel was actually the exterior rim of the driving wheel of a steam locomotive, about five feet in diameter.  When struck with a heavy steel bar, it was said that it could be heard in all parts of the village.  When telephones became available, the local Pittsford operator would receive a report of fire, then start the fire alarm, and then call the fire hall or the Chief to report the information.  With the advent of radio technology, the firemen were issued home receivers so the call could be dispatched from a central location by radio.  Today, all members of the department are issued portable voice pagers, which they carry with them at all times.   A centralized dispatch office in the city activates the pagers when necessary, and verbally announces the location and nature of the emergency. 
 
Our equipment inventory has changed significantly over the years as well.  Starting with a couple of hose carts and some buckets, we now have a new fire hall in the village, right next to the location of the original fire hall.  It was dedicated on October 4th, 1987, and it has five truck bays as well as a meeting/training room, a lounge, a physical fitness room, a kitchen area and offices upstairs.  Recently, the Fire District acquired the property behind Station I for future expansion.   We also have Station II located across from Pittsford-Mendon High School on the Pittsford-Mendon Road.  It was constructed in 1972 and has four bays for trucks as well as a meeting room and kitchen downstairs.  Station II also has a small lounge and a training room.  Of course, both fire halls are fully equipped with radio dispatch facilities including computer aided dispatch showing address locations and other significant information.  This includes data such as hydrant locations, water and gas shut off valves, alarm information and other pertinent information like family pets, invalids who may reside there, residents who may be on oxygen, and other special needs. 
 
We have a trailer used for fire prevention and education, a squad truck (387), a heavy rescue truck (388), a 105 foot ladder truck (381), a quint (pumper and 75 foot ladder truck, 380), and three full size pumpers (383, 384, and 385).  We have a very impressive inventory of hose, rescue equipment, emergency medical equipment, self contained breathing apparatus, ladders, foam application equipment, water and cold water rescue equipment, buckets and axes and shovels and tarps and saws and hand tools and, well you get the idea.  Each member of the department is issued a personal set of turnout gear.  This is the protective clothing that the firefighters wear when fighting fires or doing emergency work.
 
 Of course, the methodology of fire fighting and training have changed dramatically over the years.  A century ago, the men would respond to an emergency and do what seemed right under the direction of their officers.  Once in a while, they would gather for some training exercise.  Today, we meet regularly for training on Monday evenings.  We are constantly updating and renewing our knowledge and skills via national, state and local training courses.  We have developed specialized in-house training for those activities and procedures, which are specific to our own organization.  We now have to comply annually with mandated federal, state and local agency required training.  These would include fire hall safety, hazardous materials training, infectious materials training, SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) air pack training, nuclear radiation training, CPR and First Aid, emergency vehicle operation, as well as other specific training topics.  In addition to the classroom type of instruction, you shouldn’t be surprised to see us out in the community on a Monday evening practicing and refreshing our skills. 
 
The demographics of the department have had at least one significant change over the years as well.  Of course we still have members who are lawyers and law enforcement officers and farmers and engineers and truck drivers and any other type of person you can imagine.  But, we also have wives and moms and daughters and sisters.  Not unlike the rest of society, the volunteer fire service has progressed to include the valuable skills, resources, time and dedication that the female half of our population has to offer. 
 
Over the past century, some 565 men and women have selflessly volunteered countless hours of their time and energy in service to the residents of Pittsford and the surrounding communities.  Some forty-seven of those have served in the capacity of Chief, and fifty-three have held the position of President.  Eight of those have served in both capacities.  The department answered only a few alarms its first year of service, and now averages more than seven hundred calls annually.  From our membership of up to eighty firefighters, we annually choose six Line Officers who are responsible for all firematic aspects of the department including training, and ten Civil Officers who are charged with overseeing the business aspects of the department.  We are proud that members of Pittsford Fire Department have held positions in the county and state organizations.  Barry Sens is a Past President of the New York State Chiefs Association.  Thomas Eiswerth is the President of the Volunteer Firemen’s Association of New York during our centennial year, and James Burdett is the President of the Monroe County Past Chiefs Association this year.  We also have had other members who have held various elected county, regional and state positions over the years. In spite of today’s demands on personal time and the changing nature of the Pittsford community, we are proud of the fact that we are still a one hundred percent volunteer organization.
 
On August 20th, 1913, Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department joined the Northern Central Firemen’s Association and, in March of 1935 we joined the New York State Firemen’s Association.  The primary purpose of these organizations is to be a conduit for information relating to the emergency fire services organizations.  As the organizations matured, especially the state association, they have become very active and in tune with legislative developments in Albany and actions in the legal community which may have impact on firefighters and fire departments.
 
In early 1949, past members of the Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department organized the Exempt Firemen’s organization.  Today the Exempts are still active holding monthly dinner meetings, and many of them continue to march with the department in parades during the summer.  Recently the by-laws of the exempts were amended to allow membership by active firefighters who have satisfied the requirement of obtaining their state Exempt Certificate.  An exempt certificate is issued to a volunteer firefighter after the completion of five years of service.
 
On September 12, 1950, a Council meeting voted to authorize the formation of a Ladies Auxiliary to the Pittsford Fire Department.  This had been requested by many of the wives of the members of the department.  The Council was the former body we now refer to as the Executive Committee.  Early documentation shows that the Ladies Auxiliary was officially started on September 21st, 1950.  For many years, the Ladies Auxiliary would have food ready for the hungry firefighters returning from an extended call, and they also prepared and served a number of dinners for the department to be enjoyed prior to a department meeting.
 
In the fall of 1974, a Pittsford Fire Explorer Post was formed, sponsored by the Fire Department as part of the Boy Scouts of America.  The Chief at that time, Charlie Cline, was instrumental in the organization of the post.  At the February 4th, 1975 department meeting, Past Chief Cline introduced the following Charter Members of the Post:  Brent Coleman, Matt Utz, Paul Schuyler, Brian Wierich, Tim Hyland, Brad Klotz, Ross Shepherd, Mark Cavanaugh, Don Schwartz, John Cavanaugh, and Rob Cline. The Explorers have been active since that time training and learning about fire fighting as well as responding to fire scenes to assist the firefighters with safe exterior functions such as lighting, changing of air packs, and clean up following a fire. 
 
The Explorers are a valued part of our organization.  During our Centennial year, it is worth noting that all three of the current Chiefs of the Department are charter members of the Pittsford Fire Department Explorers Post.  One of the leaders of our Explorer Post bears special mention.  Paul Muir, although never having been a member of Pittsford Fire Department, has devoted many years of leadership to the Pittsford Explorer Post and for his service to our youth and his contribution to our department, was voted an Honorary member of Pittsford Fire Department.
 
Over the years, many problems have had to be overcome by the officers and members of the department in order to provide service to the community.  During WWI, the department offered the use of our facilities to the Red Cross for their work.  On April 1st, 1919, the department meeting was adjourned so that members could join in the celebration of returning soldiers.  Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department marched in the Fourth of July parade at East Rochester for the first time in 1919 and invited all returning soldiers to join in the line of march.  Fire department member dues had been suspended during WWI and were reinstated on April 8th, 1921 at the old rate of $1.00 per year.
 
The minutes of a department meeting of December 1941 state that the department was under Army rules and that Fire Wardens and Special Police had been appointed.  During the Second World War, gasoline, metal, rubber for tires, and many other commodities were in short supply.  Even though gasoline rationing was in effect, the firefighters still had to be able to get to the emergency in order to be effective.  As shown in the meeting minutes dated October 6th, 1942, arrangements had to be made with the Pittsford Village Mayor and the Fire Commission to obtain vouchers, good for 100 miles per month worth of gas, for the volunteers as well as the fire trucks.  The fire department was also involved in planning for Civil Defense activities including blackouts and personal identification.  Of course, one of the problems war brings to a volunteer organization is that of manpower.  In late 1944, during World War II, The Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department listed nine members as active Army, four members as active Navy and one member as killed in action.  Listed as killed in action on August 18, 1944, was Pittsford Fire Department member, Marine Corporal Bruce A. Rylott.
 
One of the concerns of the department in 1964 was the civil unrest being experienced by our country, especially in the urban areas. Fire departments were included in the public emergency plans for dealing with major civil unrest responses.  There was also the ongoing concern regarding public responses when the fire department was involved in normal fire fighting activities.  As has always been the case, the department worked with the other emergency agencies towards mutually beneficial plans to deal with any type of situation. 
 
Fire fighting is an extremely dangerous job.  We in the Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department have been very fortunate over the years due to the availability of first rate equipment, the leadership of top rate officers, and the countless hours of training, that we have had few serious injuries and only one death as a direct result of fire fighting activities.  After being taken home from a fire scene by other firefighters because he was feeling ill, First Assistant Chief Harold F. Perkins died of an apparent heart attack on December 27, 1955.  He was 41 years old at the time of his death and had been a member of the fire department since May 1, 1933.
 
Some of the more memorable emergencies that the Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department has had to cope with are the fire that gutted the Lincoln Avenue School (now the Spiegel Community Center) on March 4th, 1916. On the 18th of October, 1930, Pittsford responded mutual aid with Brighton to a fire at the Irondequoit Country Club.  It was a total loss.  At 1:30 A.M.., two days before Christmas in 1936, Locust Hill Golf Club suffered a total loss due to fire.  The Pittsford Lumber Co. fire was at 3 A.M. on February 16th, 1941.  The lumberyard, located in Schoen Place, was completely destroyed in the blaze, and the estimated loss was $20,000.  In 1962 there was a small airport and landing strip located on Marsh Road near the current White Haven Cemetery.  The department was called for an airplane crash and upon arrival found that a small yellow plane had actually landed in a tree and was still in the tree about twenty feet off the ground.  A crane had to be brought in to remove the airplane from the tree.  One relatively recent fire that many local residents can still recall is the fire that wreaked havoc on the Pittsford Dairy Farms on North Main Street in the village in October, 1970.  One of our firefighters suffered a fractured neck from a fall during that fire.  He went on to a full recovery and eventually became Chief of the department, and after retirement from the department, became a Fire District Commissioner.  Another memorable event was the Blizzard of 1966.  Photographs show that the fire department had members’ snowmobiles parked in the fire hall for emergency responses. 
 
Of course, more recently we have experienced the ice storm of 1991 and the blizzard of 1993.  During the 1991 ice storm, Pittsford Fire Department responded to some 750 calls in one week.  It was mentioned before that we have a strong mutual aid program in the fire service and, during the ice storm of 1991, firefighters from Verona Fire Department, near Rome, N.Y. showed up to help us with the disaster.  The calls were mostly for water problems, dangerous conditions and emergency generator use, but we also had a few fires and medical emergencies during that week which had to be handled.  Two years later, a blizzard hit our area, which caused a state of emergency to be declared and, once again, the department went into action.  More recently, in January of this year, we were able to return the favor shown us during our ice storm in 1991.  A group from Pittsford Fire Department responded to St. Lawrence County to assist with relief efforts required due to a major ice storm, which had caused disaster conditions in five upstate New York counties. 
 
It is easy to understand that the fire department is today much more active responding to emergencies than it has ever been.  Not all of the data exists, and even that which does is not always readily accessible, but a few data points will highlight why you are more likely to see us responding lights and siren today than you might have in years past.  In 1929, Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department had 9 emergency calls.  By 1937, the number of responses had grown to 37.  During the 1950’s, the fire department would answer around 70 calls for help each year.  Around 1980, we would respond to about 350 calls a year, and today we are on the road to service the citizens of Pittsford and the surrounding communities around 750 times a year.  Although the number of serious fires have actually decreased over the years, due in large part to our fire prevention activities, the number of other types of calls have dramatically increased.  As a result of population increases and other reasons, a large part of our responses are for automatic alarms, water problems, auto accidents, emergency medical, and other smaller scale emergencies.
 
All of the members today know the fire department band.  Some of our members can recall when the band was first formed.  The Pittsford Fire Department Band has had a long history with the department.  The first mention of the band in any of the department records occurred in the minutes of August 6, 1946.  The department was in need of a musical organization for marching, so a band was organized a couple of years later under the direction of William Melville.  Other than during the Korean War, this band managed to maintain itself for many years until around 1971 when August “Tito” D’Aurizio became involved in the management of the band.  Since then, Tito has lead the band to multiple State championships and the fire department has continued to proudly parade behind one of the finest marching bands in the state.  Tito is one of our family and, as such, was voted an Honorary Member of the Pittsford Fire Department.
 
The Fire Department has a history of involvement in various sporting activities.  As early as the 1920’s, Pittsford had a team that competed in a bowling league.  We still have an active bowling team in the local fire department league, and they compete in the state tournament annually.  We have had water ball teams over the years.  The Explorer post continues to play water ball regularly and occasionally will challenge the department to a game, often ‘showing us how it’s done’.  Softball has also been an activity supported by the department. In addition, we are proud to sponsor the Babe Nash Trophy for sports excellence to a local fire department annually.  We also participate in a number of golf outings every year including the Richard Spiegel Memorial Golf Tournament.
 
Every department has its characters, and Pittsford is no exception.  Certainly, one of the best remembered of these through several decades was Fred (Fritz) Milliman, a bluff, good natured man who seemed to invite practical jokes and appeared to relish being the victim.  Possibly the best known story about Fritz took place at a monthly meeting in the 1930’s, when the upcoming banquet was the principal subject of discussion.  One of the wags made the suggestion that Fritz be appointed Toastmaster of the affair.  Fritz leapt to his feet.  “If you think,” he loudly proclaimed, “that I’m going to make toast for all that bunch, you’re crazy!”  The meeting broke into a gale of laughter. 
 
He was a good, hard working fireman and, despite the constant ribbing he took, the Department honored him by burying him in a Chief’s uniform complete with gold badge, this normally being allowed only for Past Chiefs.
 
Before WW II, few suburban departments found it necessary to have an emergency truck.  As previously stated, the Zornow Funeral Home donated an ambulance type vehicle to the department in the late 1940’s.  Carl Zornow was a member at the time.  It was painted red and used to transport smaller pieces of equipment. 
 
After the war, many departments bought small, delivery type vehicles to serve in that capacity. Pittsford was no exception and, at a relatively small cost, we obtained a Chevrolet step van.  The county’s first vehicle numbering scheme assigned the letter M to such vehicles and ours became M-20.  However, because these types of vans were commonly used for the delivery of things like laundry services, the truck was most often referred to as “The Diaper Wagon”.
Depending on who you talk to, be they a member of the department or the exempts, the memories are different.  At various times in the fire hall, you can hear conversations that begin with, “Do you remember when _____,” or “Back when my dad was a member _____,” or “When I was a little boy, there was ______.”  Each of us has our own special memories and we all remember it in our own special way.  We remember calls, places, people, events, parades, carnivals, Fourth of July celebrations, and so on.  We recall heartbreak and tragedy as well as triumph and success.  They are all part of the volunteer fire service. 
 
As the history of the Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department has been researched and written, we have tried to be as accurate and as clear as possible in the details.  Much of the information is taken from written records, but it would not be complete without the contributions from the memories of those who have lived it, and the creative writings, which have preceded this one.  It would be naive of us to think that this work is error free.  If you see deviations from your recollection or from any documentation you may have, please make that information available to us.  We continue to have a goal of historical accuracy and anyone who may repeat this task in the future will surely thank you for the input.
 
As we look forward to the next millennium and look back on a century of dedicated volunteer service, it’s difficult not to think about what the future will bring to the volunteer fire service.  The demands on a person’s time are ever increasing and usually leave little room for those activities that are not necessary.  Most families now have both spouses working outside of the home.  Where does volunteering fit in? 
 
If you elect to join the family of volunteers, you quickly learn that it’s not a small commitment.  Responding to emergencies takes time, but there are lots of other demands as well.  There are monthly department meetings and committee work as well as OSHA, PESH, NFPA, District Requirements, and Department Requirements which all consume your time.  And there are many other demands.  If it seems like a bleak picture has been painted, then you don’t understand the satisfaction that comes from helping your neighbors.  The rewards of seeing that little girl’s face whose dog you’ve just rescued.  The enjoyment of being cold, tired and hungry, but knowing that someone’s life is better for it.  These are the intangible benefits of belonging to the extended family we call the volunteer fire service.
We have proudly served for the last 100 years, and we stand ready to serve for the next 100 years!
 
 
By Barry G. Rickett  
 
 (Written Originally For the Pittsford Fire Department 100th Anniversary Book)
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