Professional firefighting in West Chester Township started when trustees ordered 50 badges in June 1963.
That and the purchase of a Sutphen fire truck at a cost of $8,000 was how the Union Township – now West Chester Township – Fire Department had its humble beginnings.
Six years later, emergency medical services were added and those first volunteer paramedics were dubbed “Squad’s Men.”
That simple start and subsequent growth, is being remembered as the department embarks on a year-long celebration of firefighting.
“The department is doing several things this year to mark (its) anniversary,’’ said Barb Wilson, spokeswoman. “It’s a year to honor those who started the fire department and reflect on how it’s grown.”
The theme for this year’s observance is “remembering our past, committed to our future.”
Dispatch and other pieces of small equipment from the early years will be on display during three open houses. Along with that, certificates earned by past firefighters will also be displayed, said Chief Anthony Goller.
The department’s Cincinnati-Dayton Road headquarters is on the same site as the original fire station, dedicated in December, 1963. It held two pieces of equipment, including just one fire engine.
Until the station was built, volunteer firefighters kept equipment at the nearby Rosselot family farm. Firefighters responded to calls from their homes.
Today, the department has 63 career firefighters and 66 part-time firefighters, Goller said. They staff five fire stations 24/7.
“It was very different from what it is now. There have been a lot of changes since 1963,’’ Wilson said.
“Old firefighting equipment was very simple. Firefighters responded in canvas and denim. Today’s (turnout gear) is (more sophisticated).”
With 33 years of service as a West Chester Township firefighter – the last six as chief – Goller knows that well. He is only the department’s second full-time chief.
Former Chief James Detherage became the department’s first full-time employee – and chief – in 1977.
Past firefighters will gather Nov. 16 at fire headquarters for their annual gathering to share memories and experiences. It will precede a 1 p.m. open house.
West Chester Integrated Multimedia is updating a DVD it produced for the department’s 35th anniversary, Goller said.
Now in the final editing stage, the program will be posted on the township’s website when it is completed. Copies of the DVD will also be made to loan to community groups for viewing.
“The video features firefighters from years ago reminiscing about the department,’’ Wilson said.
“It will have highlights of the department in 10-year increments,” Goller added.
The department has scheduled houses: Saturday, at the Beckett Road station; Tyler’s Place station, Oct. 12; and fire headquarters, Nov. 16. All three run from 1-3 p.m.
Former firefighters or their family who would like to share personal memorabilia, uniforms or anything fire related, are asked to call fire headquarters, 513-777-1133, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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