Churchville Volunteer Fire Department
Churchville Fire Department is located at 24 Washington Street in the town of Churchville, NY. Our offices can be contacted at (585)293-3770.
By 1852, the Village of Churchville became incorporated within the Town of Riga. As the newly chartered village began to take hold, one element was missing. That element was the provision for fire protection. Although Fire Wardens were elected by the people under this charter, they provided little aid in organizing individuals during a fire. Ever since its settlement in 1805, the town residents relied on each other and whatever tools they had on hand to battle the raging fires. Firefighting during this period consisted of trying to remove the contents of the burning building and protect nearby exposures. Water supplies were limited using wells, cisterns, snow horse troughs and nearby streams for bucket brigades. Wet blankets were draped on the sides and roofs of nearby buildings to protect exposures. Any type of firefighting apparatus was non-existent. Early newspaper articles detail the unorganized and mostly unsuccessful efforts to save life and property of businesses and residential homeowners.
In 1867, just three years after the Civil War, the Village of Churchville re-incorporates and for the first time, provisions are made in the charter for the creation of a fire department. The new village charter described the duties of the firemen, membership rules, appointing of a chief engineer, purchasing of equipment and housing. The responsibilities of the Fire Wardens are now part of the office of the Village President (Mayor) and Village Trustees. Although provided for in the charter, the chief engineer (fire chief) will not be appointed until fifteen years later, nor will equipment be purchased until nine years later.
In1872, a committee representing the Churchville Hook, Ladder and Bucket Brigade met with village officials. This group attempted to form their own by-laws and constitution. They were rejected since the Trustees felt that their rules conflicted with the Village Charter.
Year after year the village experienced many uncontrollable fires. Realizing that future growth and development could be in jeopardy, the village officials appropriated $97.36 in 1876 to purchase its first firefighting equipment. This equipment consisted of three ladders, two fire hooks, rope and twenty-four rubber fire buckets. A wooden box to store the equipment was built for fifty dollars and situated in an alleyway on South Main Street. By 1880, the village mobilized their firefighting equipment by purchasing a wagon to put their equipment on. A shed was also acquired to store the apparatus. Still there was no real evidence of an organized fire department.
Then in April of 1882, the village experienced its first major conflagration. By the time the fire was extinguished, the whole business district located on the west side of South Main Street was in ruins including the elegant Smith Hotel, Borgortes Opera house and several other homes and barns. Estimated damage is placed at $30,000.00 and the cause of the fire is unknown. As the ruins of the April fire were being picked up, another conflagration strikes just two months later on the east side of South Main Street. This time the flames engulf seven business and several homes were destroyed. The cause is arson and the cost exceeded $30,000.00. The business section of the Village of Churchville was now in complete ruins. Sensing the pressure from the local newspapers, the village officials call for a special meeting on July 5th. It was at this meeting that the Churchville Fire Department was officially created with the appointment of the first chief engineer and twenty-six firemen. Two months later, the first and only departmental hand pumper arrived from the Rumsey Manufacturing Company of Seneca Falls, New York. Total cost was $520.00 plus $6.50 shipping. This equipment, along with a meeting room, would be located at John Scott’s barn for $80.00 per year for ten years.
By 1884, fire limits were established by the village board. These limits would set the first building codes for fire protection and define the boundaries to which the fire department could respond to. It will take another sixty-five years (1949) before the fire district extends beyond the limits of the village. Uniforms for the men were also purchased and by 1885 the members of the department elected their own chief. On Friday, December19, 1890 the Churchville Fire Department responded to a conflagration located on the east side of South Main Street. This fire was called the most destructive fire ever experienced in the village. Located in the Willard Block this fire destroyed five businesses along with five meeting rooms for local organizations at an estimated cost of $40,000.00. One of those meeting rooms was for the Churchville Fire Department. This was also the first recorded use of mutual aid. The Bergen Fire Department responded to the blaze and was compensated twenty-five dollars.
As the years pass many improvements were made to the department. In 1893, the village residents voted to appropriate $1,965.00 to build the village’s first fire hall which was located at number nine East Buffalo Street. In 1902, the department purchased a Howe Chemical Fire Engine and began construction on seven fire cisterns that were eventually located throughout the village. The hand drawn chemical engine and hand pumper served the department until 1926, when the first motorized fire apparatus was purchased used, from the Albion Fire Department.
In 1947, the Churchville Fire Department became incorporated. One year later the department purchased the Steedman auto repair garage at number 25 East Main Street, for $10,500.00, to house their apparatus. Through the years the garage was expanded, adjoining property purchased and the interior remodeled.
The 1950’s ushered in the formation of the Churchville fire department auxiliary police (1954) and the Churchville Rescue Squad was formed in 1958.
In 1981, the Churchville Fire Department officially changed its name to the Churchville Volunteer Fire Department. Today the Churchville Volunteer Fire Department, which looks forward to the construction of its new fire station, proudly consists of approximately eighty-five members including ten explorer scouts. The departmental apparatus is as follows: Pumper/Rescue/Tanker 423 which responds on all MVA’s (motor vehicle accidents), vehicle, and structure fires; Pumper/Tanker 424 which responds on all fumes, alarms, wildland, and structure fires; Tanker 427 which responds on all wildland, and structure fires; Rescue 428 which responds on all EMS, MVA’s with people trapped, fumes, structure fires and water rescue calls and Ambulance 429 which responds on rescue calls and structure fires.
This ends a brief look at the history of the Churchville Volunteer Fire Department, but it is surely not the end of its development. The department will most certainly continue to grow and develop its resources. But, the one and only resource that has never changed in all its history is “volunteerism.” Today, still, the members of the Churchville Fire Department are volunteers that provide the services necessary for the Village of Churchville and the Town of Riga to continue to grow and develop.