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The History of the Gaylordsville Fire Department
by Ex-Chief and Charter Member, Alan Dodd, and Charter Member John Flynn.
Edited by Fireman Richard Kosier

Gaylordsville didn't have a lot of fires but what we did have were total losses because we were just too far from New Milford. One fire that started people wishing for a fire department was at the old Hall house in 1940, built by the first Gaylord in Gaylordsville, where George Washington dined with Deacon Gaylord when his army stopped under the Washington Oak. A chimney fire started which could have been controlled by a local fire department.

After World War II talk became serious and a meeting was called at the Grange Hall. About 53 men signed in as willing to join a fire department and the following officers were chosen: Chief: Harry Furnside, Captain: Charlie Jones, First Engineer: Henry Grisell, Second Engineer: Roy Booth, 1st Lieutenant: Emanuel Williamson, Second Lieutenant: James Hastings, Treasurer: Richard Gebhardt, Financial Secretary: Alan Dodd, Recording Secretary: John Flynn. (John held this office for thirty-three years). Chief Furnside was the only one who had belonged to a fire department before and was a big help in getting the department started. Now we had a fire department and officers but no equipment or money.

Charlie Jones, Al Trautman and Alan Dodd were named as an Equipment Committee and Frank Beach as Chairman of a Finance Committee to try to find equipment we could buy and money to pay for it. We got our first break when Lou Maas, a friend of the Joneses and Chief of the Bay Shore, Long Island Fire Department, told us of a 1921 LaFrance fire truck, old but still serviceable. They would let us have it for $240.00. It was a big boost to our morale when we had a fire truck.

Chief Furnside, while visiting Schenectady, discovered at Army Surplus, a new Chevrolet fire truck, completely equipped and ready to ship overseas when the war ended. He came home and got the equipment committee together. We looked at the truck, called home to have a special meeting of the department that night. They wanted to buy the truck. Frank Beach collected $800.00 and the next morning we started back for the truck. We got there at noon, expecting to give them the money, take the truck and start home. We didn't know about the Army. After many telephone calls and much paperwork, we started home at five o'clock in a raging snow storm. By using chains and four-wheel drive on the hills, we got home at two o'clock (a.m.). Alan Dodd had the honor of bringing the first fire truck into Gaylordsville. After years of service the truck was rebuilt with a new motor and transmission and is still used as a brush fire truck. The next week we went to Bay Shore and brought home the LaFrance fire truck with no problems except a hub cap came off on the Triborough Bridge and we had to walk back and get it.

Both trucks were stored in Williamson's barn, but the barn had no heat and cold weather was coming. A lady who would be away all winter let us use her garage. We put in a stove and kept one truck there. The other truck was drained and left in the barn. In the spring, the 1942 Chevy would be painted red and put in service. A promotional flyer was produced and distributed in the community to help raise funds for equipment and supplies.

The Finance Committee had done quite well raising money, so we started plans for a fire house. Clarence Evans gave us a building lot and James Hastings was Chairman of the Building Committee. A 30 x 40 foot building was planned, with the first story of cement blocks and the second story frame and clapboard. It was built entirely by volunteer labor. Willard Thorp got us a furnace at cost and installed if free. When cold weather came we had a warm place for our trucks.

The building still had a dirt floor and it took several years before we could afford to finish the second story. We held our meetings between the trucks and sat on seats made of planks and cement blocks. The next year John Pol said he was tired of walking in the dirt and would pay for cement for a floor, so the first story was finished. The building has been added onto twice and now houses six trucks.

As we could not afford to have the Answering Service handle our fire calls, we listed three telephone numbers to call in case of fire: Farnham, Beach and Dodd. Siren switches were installed at the three places. The system worked well as the women did a good job of making sure one was always there to answer the calls. In case one might fall or be injured in the hurry of getting up in the middle of the night to answer the phone and blow the siren, we made them members of the Fire Department so they were covered by our insurance. Gaylordsville was the first Fire Department to have women members.

In 1996 a 50th anniversary celebration was held where the community and other fire departments participated in a very memorable event. When the Fire Department started, Gaylordsville was a small farming community of about 400 population. It is now a much larger place with many people who work outside the village. Currently, the Gaylordsville Volunteer Fire Department proudly protects 2500 people living in an area of 15 square miles. We operate out of 1 station that protects a primarily rural area. Our department is a public department whose members are on a volunteer status. Our facility now houses 9 pieces of fire apparatus. We are on pager call 24/7 with 46 active members including Junior Firefighters and Fire Police. The department also has an active Ladies Auxiliary. The GVFD provides mutual aid assistance to all neighboring fire departments in Connecticut and New York State. The fire department has grown as Gaylordsville has grown and is now as well equipped as any fire department around.

The GVFD also has EMT's and MRT's who are certified first responders working in cooperation with the New Milford Community Ambulance Corps with medical control through Western Connecticut Healthcare Systems. This provides another level of rescue and support for the communities we serve and provide mutual aid to.

 

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