Department History

The Burnt Hills Fire Department Is Rich With History

Many of our members joined to aid their family in building a good fire system to serve our neighbors. The ladies fire auxiliary has joined us to aid the firemen and the community. Thanks to George Kline, who compiled the history of our Burnt Hills Fire Department.
Several Burnt Hills people felt the need of fire protection for the area, so they decided to incorporate. Lt. Commander Baily of FoCastle Farm chaired the first meeting. Attending the first meeting were A.T. Sitterly (Dentist) Nathan Sitterly (store owner) Floyd Johnson (store owner) David Baylis (Barber), Martin Gilmore, Charles Fairman, Russel West, William Nessle, Arthur Phillips, Ira Abbs, R.C. Masterson, and Ashley Baker.
Charter members were A.T. Sitterly, Tom Denty, Nate Seely, A.B. Phillips, Russ West, Carl Larkin, Abe VanPatten Gil West, Fred Higgins, R.C. Masterson, Otto Frieberg, Floyd Bates, Dave Baylis, Frank Gardner, Martin Gilmore, Charles Fairman, Gilbert Seeley, Ira Abbs, A.B. Bates, Floyd Johnson, Valley Bubb, Alan Sharpley, George Bates, Lee Hammond, Ed Hammond, Ashley Baker, Lt. Commander Claude Bailey and William Nessle.
A hand drawn vehicle was purchased to fight fires for $433.37. At first the men ran pulling the apparatus. After that they sat on the back of a pick up truck and pulled the apparatus. A siren was purchased and put on the roof of the corner store. The store was situated on South and West Streets, In those days the main part of Burnt Hills was North, South, East, and West Streets. The corner is now Kingsley and Lakehill Road.
The fireman felt the need of a firehouse. Tom Denty was appointed to find land. A small lot about 30 feet by 80 feet was purchased for the firehouse from Hardy. In 1923 the fireman began construction of the firehouse. Elmar Kline aided the firemen whenever he had free time from his work at FoCastle Farm. In 1924, the firemen gave Elmar a membership in the company for his dedication and work on the construction. He was the only fireman so honored.
In 1926 fire districts boundaries were laid out. The new firehouse was constructed for $1,267 for the 18 X 26 building-the lot cost $250-00. There was no heat or plumbing in the new firehouse, so Nate Seely donated a stove and an outhouse to the company. In March 1926, a Model T Ford Pumper was purchased from Poughkeepsie for $450-00. Fireman Carl West, drove the fire truck from Poughkeepsie to Burnt Hills, a long drive in those days. Carl “Wimpy” test drove into the village sitting stiff as a poker and very proud of the truck.
Union Free School, now known as Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School was destroyed by fire. Lack of adequate water supply contributed to the school being destroyed. Local fire departments helped fight the fire. Chief Yates sent a fire truck from Schenectady to aid in fighting the fire. All local churches, halls and other properties were used for school.-classes until the central school could be rebuilt. This school is now known as Francis L. Stevens elementary school.
The Burnt Hills and Ballston Lake fire companies cooperated to save the “Hollyhock Inn” from a blazing barn in back of the Inn.
Lorence Cunningham was appointed official driver of our American La France truck. The siren on the truck was an air whistle. When the truck picked up speed, the air whistle was pulled and a screaming blast came forth. Then the truck had to regain speed again. In 1932 and for a few years after a Mr. Scott who owned a home south of the bowling- alley had several fires. The fires continued over the years until the home was completely destroyed.
The firemen purchased Mr. Tweedy’s pool table and put it in the upstairs meeting room. The firemen had a banquet at the “Green Lantern”, a popular night spot, where the Stroeman’s bread store is now located. The steak banquet paid for by the individuals cost $I.00 per person.
The firemen started the annual Roast Beef dinners at the High School cafeteria. The price then was 50 cents for all you can eat. People asked for tickets weeks ahead of time. One old timer would get a ticket for the first serving and was still eating at the last serving, The firemen purchased the beef from Earl Smith and was roasted by Markham’s Bakery in Ballston Lake. The potatoes, vegetables, and pies were cooked and donated by the ladies of the fire district. People like Art Young and Larry Cunningham would pick up the food and rush it to the school where it was kept hot until serving. Days before that, the committee would go around the village and ask each lady to cook an item. The firemen served the food, washed dishes, and other duties. We worked hard and with the cooperation received everyone had a good time.
Rescued several pigs from a flooded barnyard at Senator Seeley’s farm During World War II our fire company was pretty well depleted as many members were enlisting or being drafted to serve the country. Fire Department members in service were; Donald and Robert Flicker, Gilbert Gardner, Elwood and George Kline, Melvin and Albert Smith, William Smith, James Yates, Arthur and Russell Young, Edward Plath, Darwin Reynolds, Paul Smith and Fred Foss. All returned safely. The firemen bought an old Packard convertible car and made it into our first squad truck. In the late 40’s we saw the need for a larger firehouse. The firemen saved much of the initial cost by giving our savings to the commissioners to purchase land on Route 50.
A new firehouse was built and the cornerstone dedicated in 1950. Neighboring fire companies, scouts, school bands, and other people gave the firehouse a good start. We were famous coast to coast with articles in Los Angeles, and other papers about the cookies. The ladies of the community baked so many cookies for the dedication that they were later given to organizations all over the area. Of course the local people were stuffed with cookies and punch first. In 1957 $1500 was paid for a lot at French’s Corners so the North end firehouse could be built. The fire station # 2 was dedicated January 4, 1959. The wash bay addition was added in 1972.
Over the years the company has fought fires, made rescues, and served the community well. Equipment has been purchased to do the job well. Our Hurst tool, one of the first in the area has been used in many rescues, Good relationship with neighboring companies has provided the area with good fire protection. The phone system in a few homes provided us with a way to call in fire calls. The people would receive the calls, then run across the street, and blow the fire siren. After that, in the homes, switches were provided so the call receivers could flip a switch, sounding the alarm. People such as Helen Parker, Bill and Naomi Grams, Al and Dorothy Sarto, Veeder & Yelverton gave the Fire Company, with this system, great cooperation. The coming of our 911 system has provided us with instant calls from fire control to the fire department, and instant calls for mutual aid when the need arises. Over the years much progress has been made. Besides their fire duties the firemen have been active in community affairs to aid our youth and to make Burnt Hills a better place to live.