History

On March 20th, 1918, a group of local residents met in a room above Henry Voelker's store which resulted in the formation of the First Volunteer Chemical Fire Company of Bergholz.  At that meeting, Julius Stoelting was elected as our first Fire Chief and Henry Voelker was elected as our first President.  We purchased our first piece of apparatus from A. Pearce for a price of $412.34.  It was a two wheeled cart equipped with a double barrel soda and acid extinguisher and a hose reel with 3/4 inch hose and a nozzle.  It could be hand drawn, horse drawn or pulled by an automobile.  We then purchased a platform wagon for $20.00 from Wattengal Hardware and then converted it to a horse drawn hook and ladder.  It was equipped with ladders, pike poles, bars, axes and other tools.  The garage at the Holy Ghost Lutheran teacher's residence served as our first hall and the alarm system consisted of ringing the two church bells along with the school bells.  Our members paid dues and pledged money but that was not enough for the company's expenses so we hosted a picnic to raise funds.  It consisted primarily of a parade with food including chicken chowder and music.  It was held on July 4th, 1919.  We made a profit of $255.15 so that became a recurring event for many years to follow.

A few years later we upgraded our parade uniform which consisted of a white cap, white shirt with tie and dark trousers.  Since electricity was becoming available, a high steel windmill tower was purchased for $20.00 and installed at the northeast corner of the square at Niagara Road and Luther Street.  An electric fire alarm siren was purchased from Interstate Machine Company for $400.00 in May of 1921 and installed on the tower.  We outgrew the garage at the school so we purchased property on the north side of Niagara Road in 1923 and built a two story cinder block building which had it's grand opening in July of 1924.  The fire alarm siren was relocated to the top of the new firehouse in 1927.  Shortly before the grand opening of the fire hall, we purchased a Ford Model T chassis in June 1924 and the craftsmen of our company built a fire truck body onto it.  The double barrel soda and acid extinguishing tanks and hose reel were removed from our two wheel cart and installed onto the new truck.  We added a ladder, pike poles, bars, axes, buckets and a hand cranked siren.  We now had a motorized fire truck.  The first in the Town of Wheatfield!
 
We continued fundraising through some oyster stew suppers and of course our chicken chowder sales.  We rented the second floor of the firehouse and also received some funds from the Town of Wheatfield beginning with a $200.00 donation in 1924.  In 1925, we incorporated as the First Volunteer Fire Company of Bergholz, Inc.  Our Model T served us well but the members of the company saw a need for a fire truck that could pump water through larger hose.  In November 1928, we purchased a 1919 Pierce Arrow Touring Sedan for $150.00 in order to convert it to a fire truck.  We had a 300 gallons per minute American Barton centrifugal pump installed on the front and Wiedman Bodyworks of North Tonawanda converted the body into a pumper.  We installed 1,000 feet of 2.5 inch hose at $0.62 per foot.  The total cost of our first pumper was just under $2,800.00 and we held the dedication in March of 1929.  In November 1934, we added a garage behind the fire hall.  We also updated parade uniforms that year with white shirts and black bow ties, royal blue pants with a gold stripe and new caps.  We continued our fundraising with our July 4th field day events and had our first official fireworks display from the square in 1935.  In January 1936, we purchased the Conrad Estate property east of the fire hall and in March of that year we decided to build a new hall to be used for meetings, parties, weddings and the like but not to house apparatus.  We began construction and in October, resolved to obtain a beer and a liquor license to operate a restaurant in the basement.  Monies from the restaurant would pay for the building construction and otherwise be used to fund fire company operations.  The new building was dedicated in January 1937.  It was referred to as the "new fire hall" and the cinder block building was now the "old fire hall".  Unfortunately in August 1937, the new fire hall was the victim of an arsonist and burned down.  The person responsible was never caught.  The following month we decided to rebuild the hall on the remaining basement and to use the ground floor as the restaurant until the project was completed.  Exactly one year after the initial dedication, we dedicated the new hall (again) in January 1938 with the restaurant operation resuming in the basement.
 
Our field days were hosted on the grounds of the Holy Ghost school but we needed more space so in 1940 we rented the Becken property across the street from the new hall for it.  We then purchased that property in 1941 for $2,500.00 which is the site of our current hall.  For firefighting operations, we relied on cisterns, wells and the creek for water supply which was not sufficient for our fires.  In July 1942, our new truck committee resolved to purchase a new 1942 Brockway tanker with a 500 gallon per minute two stage centrifugal Hale pump, a 1,500 gallon capacity tank, two reels of one inch booster hose and other related fire equipment.  We ordered it from the Young Fire Equipment Company of Buffalo, NY for $8,055.63 and dedicated it in February 1943.  We cancelled our field days for 1943 and 1944 due to gas and food rationing associated with the war and we made the hall available to the Red Cross and War Council during those years.  In October 1943, Civil Defense loaned us a trailer with a centrifugal pump and an inch and a half hose for emergency war use.  On March 2nd, 1946, we hosted a firemen's family party in honor of our members who had returned from World War II.  Our fundraiing resumed and our July 4th, 1948 field day yielded $2,498.26 caused in part by the six kettles of chowder we served.  That year the Town of Wheatfield increased it's donation to us to $500.00.  We also spent $20.00 to have our constitution translated from German to English.  In July 1949, we resolved to build a new two story brick fire station at a cost of $32,077.00  Our members pitched in with most of the labor which was a large savings for the company.

Given the age of our apparatus, we began looking for alternatives.  Due to the cost of the new station a new fire truck was out of the question so we managed to find a used 1933 American LaFrance 600 g.p.m. pumper which we bought for $250.00.  Our members sanded it down and had it painted and gold leafed so it was up and running.  

As a result, on the North side of Niagara Road we had our old fire hall and restaurant meeting place and on the South side of Niagara Road we had our new fire station and Field Day grounds.

In 1951, we sold our Pierce Arrow Pumper that year to a farmer in Youngstown who used it for irrigation.  In 1952, we used the old fire hall as a workshop and we remodeled the Model T converting it into a parade truck.  In 1953, we remodeled the restaurant with a new bar, dining room partitions, new kitchen fixtures and equipment. 

We had a need for an emergency vehicle so in 1955 we purchased a used 1946 Buick Roadmaster ambulance which we converted.  The work was done in the old fire hall and took us fifteen months for a total cost of $972.00.  We equipped it with a portable pump, electric generator, flood lights, breathing apparatus and first aid equipment including a pneolator (combination inhalator and resuscitator). We placed it in service in April of 1956. 

It provided needed first aid equipment for calls outside of Bergholz and the portable generators and lighting were also used in the operating room at St. Mary's Hospital during a power outage and to light the banks at the disaster at the New York State Power Project.

Following our July 4th Field Day in 1959, we retired our Model T and loaned it to the FASNY (Fireman's Association of the State of New York) Museum in Hudson, New York.

On September 1, 1959 we approved the formation of a Ladies Auxiliary.  It was organized on September 28, 1959 with a membership of sixteen.  Their first President was Arlene Fuerch and we have been very fortunate to have their assistance ever since.

In December 1959, we put a committee together to purchase a new American LaFrance Pumper.  It had a five man cab, a 1,000 g.p.m. pump and a 750 gallon tank.  We had 800 feet of inch and a half hose with 200 feet pre-connected and 1,200 feet of two and a half inch hose.

To assist with the funding of the new LaFrance, for the first time we sought donations from the community  and collected $2,497.83 of its total cost of $28,027.00.  We officially resolved to purchase it in January of 1960 and we dedicated it in June that year.  Also in 1960, the Town of Wheatfield installed new waterlines and hydrants.

Tragedy struck our community on October 14, 1960 when our charter member and company restaurant caretaker William Fuerch apparently surprised some burglars.  Mr. Fuerch sustained head injuries that resulted in his passing two days later.  As a group, more than fifty of our members paid tribute to him during visitation hours.  Unfortunately his murderers were never apprehended.

Although that was a very difficult time for us, we picked up and moved forward. The restaurant eventually re-opened and we were back to running calls and fundraising.

In January 1963 we turned over restaurant operations to Mr. Shoonover on a five year contract.   Along with other companies, we received a new siren from the Town of Wheatfield, as well as a contribution of $1,000.00 later that same year.    Also in 1963, the Sanborn-Pekin Ambulance Service renamed itself to Tri-Community Ambulance Service and located an ambulance at our hall which was referred to as the Bergholz Unit.

In 1965 we decided to replace the emergency car with a new Ford Emergency Truck which we took delivery of in December from Young Fire Equipment.  It cost $15,775.00 and we then sold the Buick for $50.00.  

In 1969, our 1933 LaFrance was thirty six years old so we set up a committee to arrange for its replacement.  We purchased a 1970 Ford tilt cab pumper with a 1,000 g.p.m. single stage centrifugal pump, a 500 gallon tank, and a top mounted deluge gun and dedicated it in May 1970. We paid $30,000.00 and acquired it from Sanford Fire Apparatus.

Our company has always had a connection with various forms of a brass band from Bergholz.  At one point we even had our own.  In 1971, the Bergholz German Band was formed and we hired it for parades.  In 1972, the Band hosted a Sommerfest event in August which the fire company then began co-hosting in 1973.

Sadly in 1973, Past Chief and charter member John A. Heuer passed away after a lengthy illness.  He did a lot of work for our company, as well as the community.  One thing he was noted for was his surprise fire drills at school.  To honor his service, we created the John A. Heuer Memorial Award which has been presented annually since 1974 to the student with the best essay during fire prevention week.

The Town of Wheatfield increased its financial support to us to $12,000.00 in 1973 via contract. 

Because of the amount of funds we were spending each year for tents for our Field Days and then Sommerfest events, in 1975 we decided to construct a 40 x 100 foot pavilion with a corrugated metal roof behind the fire hall.  Later we added a blacktop floor to it and used the space until the roof collapsed under the weight of snow in 2015.

We needed more space so we constructed an addition to our hall in 1975 which was finished and dedicated in the Spring of 1976.  The additional three front bays and one side bay afforded us needed room to house our equipment, as well as Tri-Community Ambulance.  We also added a kitchen, lounge/meeting room and additional spaces which are all in use today.

In 1979, we sold our old fire hall, restaurant and large hall on the North side of Niagara Road.  We had operated the restaurant since 1936 and it played a large role in our early fundraising efforts.

In 1981, the first joint installation dinner of the Bergholz Fire Company and the Ladies Auxiliary occurred on April 25th at the American Legion Hall.

Our fundraising continued annually with our July 4th Field Days, Sommerfests and chowder sales.  By 1987, our funding from the Town of Wheatfield had increased to $31,000.00 per year.  Also in 1987, the Niagara County 911 system used to report fires, accidents and other emergencies was implemented.

In 1988 we appointed a truck committee and ordered a 1,500 g.p.m. pumper from Young Fire Equipment for a cost of $213,000.00.  It had a 1,000 gallon tank, a 4,000 watt generator, 1,000 feet of five inch hose, three cross lays of hose and a portable hydrant. 

In 1989, we began to be dispatched automatically for motor vehicle accidents.  Prior to that we would be dispatched if requested by ambulance personnel or law enforcement.  In 1991, we sold our 1933 LaFrance and we resolved to restore our 1942 Brockway Tanker (3T3) to be used for parades.

That same year we hosted Operation American Pride for the Town of Wheatfield to honor all service men and women serving in Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East.  American flags lined the route down Niagara Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard from the American Legion to the airport - it was referred to as the Avenue of Flags.

There were Yellow Ribbon Salute festivites at the end of June that year which included a large parade from the Bell Aerospace parking lot to the airport.  Proudly, our July 4th Field day was the highlight of Operation American Pride. We hosted the largest parade in Bergholz from the American Legion down the Avenue of Flags to our grounds.  The Grand Marshall for our parade was a son of Bergholz - U.S. Army Major General Joseph Howard Brooks who was also the speaker at the events at the airport.

Due to our aging apparatus, in December 1992 we ordered a new custom Rescue Pumper from 4-Guy's Inc. of Pennsylvania.  It had a 1,250 g.p.m. pump, a 750 gallon tank, six man short four door cab, large compartments for rescue tools, nine SCBA's and fifteen spare bottles.  It also had a generator and telescoping lights.  Including the tools, hose and other equipment the project cost slightly in excess of $200,000.  We dedicated it in September of 1993 - our 75th year of service!

During our 75th Anniversary year, we brought back our Model T from the FASNY Museum and did some restoration work which included getting her back on the road.  It was great to have the Model T back with our Brockway Tanker 3T3!

In 1994 we began responding to Emergency Medical Service (EMS) calls in addition to alarms of fire and accidents.  That year, the Town of Wheatfield voted to establish a Length of Service Awards program to assist town companies with recruitment and retention of members due to an ever increasing call volume.

Due to the pumping capacities our 3E5 and 3E2, we sold our 1970 Ford Pumper in 1995.  Given the fact that we did not need to respond with a large truck for EMS calls, we purchased a GMC Rescue van for a cost of $25,000.00.  It could hold five members and our increasing cadre of first aid equipment.

With some grant assistance from Prudential Insurance in 1996, we purchased a defibrillator for 3M1 which is a critical tool for medical emergencies.  That same year we decided to sell our reserve pumper, the 1960 LaFrance.

In 1998, we demolished a garage that was behind our hall and constructed a pole barn where we cook our Chowder and store extra supplies.

In March 1999, our crews put our defibrillator to very good use.  A call that initially came in as a seizure had turned into a cardiac arrest.  Along with Tri-Community Ambulance, we were successful in bringing our friend and neighbor back.  There were a lot of factors that contributed to this successful outcome, including Mr. Flessel's wife, a nurse, recognizing the need and immediately beginning CPR.

Our Field Days for 1999 had a special addition - the Firecracker 50 Lawnmower Race which raised funds for our brother firefighter from Adams, Mike DiPasquale, who had lost both legs  after being struck by a car.

In 2001, we decided to replace our 1965 Ford Rescue Truck (3M4) so we donated it to the Mahaffey Volunteer Fire Company of Pennsylvania.

To replace it, we acquired a refurbished 1988 Mack Rescue from Eggertsville Fire Company later that year.

Tragedy struck the fire service in Wheatfield on August 13, 2001.  That day a lighting strike set off a fire at Sawyer Gardens.  Several companies responded to this call including Frontier Volunteer Fire Company, one of our primary mutual aid partners for that complex.  After assisting with the evacuation of several residents and assisting with fire operations, Frontier Firefighter Ronald T. Kreamer collapsed and ultimately passed away despite immediate efforts to revive him.  He was 34 years old and had been a member for 16 years.  He is the first and only Line of Duty Death in the Town of Wheatfield.

Of course September 11, 2001 had a big impact on our country.  We had crews on standby which was requested county-wide that horrible day.

In 2002, we had a total of 223 calls due to the growing population in the Town and the addition of EMS responses.  2003 was the last year we hosted our July 4th Field Days as the cost of the event and time spent by our members combined with our increased call volume was simply too much.  We continued our fundraising with monthly chowder sales and other events.

On May 1, 2003,  three of our members were recognized by the Fireman's Association of the State of New York for a combined 175 years of service.  Members like Roland Camann, Nathan Ferchen & Harold Wienke have played an important role in building our company so we were very pleased they received this well deserved recognition.

In 2004, we were awarded a federal grant in excess of $100,000.00 to purchase Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for our trucks.  This was a huge help to our budget and highlights the expenses associated with new equipment.

In 2005 we purchased a 2005 Ford F350 pick up to use as a miscellaneous vehicle and that year we began extra fundraising to replace our 1989 Young (3E5). In August of that year we also received a Federal Grant that we applied for in excess of $40,000.00 for fire prevention and firefighter safety.

In 2005 and 2006 our call volume exceeded 500 per year and by 2007 we were in the 600's.  In 2007, our neighbors at Adams Fire Company were involved in a lawsuit (that ultimately was discontinued) regarding their siren being too loud.  It stirred some controversy in the Town and, to no surprise, Adams had a lot of support from the fire service stressing the need for multiple ways to alert firefighters to an emergency.

In 2009 we received and dedicated our new 3E5 which is currently in service as our primary engine.  It is a Pierce with a 1,000 gallon tank, 1,500 g.p.m. pump, 2 one inch and three quarter and 1  two and a half inch pre-connected cross lays and 1,000 feet of large diameter hose.

In 2009, we were proud to have our first female firefighter be recognized by the Fireman's Association of the State of New York as FASNY's Teacher of the Year!

We reconvened a truck committee in 2010 to replace our rescue pumper 3E2 since it was 17 years old.  Our call volume in 2009 and 2010 was 732 and 734 respectively.

Also in 2009, we purchased a new Ford E250 Superduty van for our EMS calls.

In 2012, we joined a statewide recruitment program and hosted a large open house.  This gave our community a chance to try on gear, look closely at trucks and talk with our firefighters while also enjoying some refreshments and the Bergholz German Band.

On his way into work on June 5, 2012, our, at the time, Assistant Chief Mark Stevens witnessed a man on a bicycle get hit by an automobile.  Being an EMT, he had a bag full of supplies so he immediately made his way to the bicyclist where it was discovered he was in cardiac arrest.  CPR was initiated immediately by Assistant Chief Stevens and some other Good Samaritans and fortunately a successful outcome was achieved for which all were recognized.

In 2013, we added a lot to our recruitment open house event including a landing of a Mercy Flight helicopter!

Given need for our Chief officers to quickly size up and establish command at scenes, we purchased a 2003 Ford Expedition and a 2009 Chevy Tahoe in December 2013 from the Clarence Fire Department. 

In 2014, we hosted another successful recruitment open house where we did a demonstration of the jaws of life and the public could experience an escape from a simulated smoke filled trailer we borrowed from the Wendelville Fire Company.

In 2014, Niagara County received a grant to provide funding for the iamresponding program that we implemented in early 2015.  It allows members to receive dispatch and mapping information on their personal phones and to indicate that they are responding to a call and to see who else is responding.

In 2015, we purchased a 2007 Ford F550 light rescue with an American LaFrance box from the Getzville Fire Company and equipped it for EMS, traffic control, CO calls and pump outs.

The Fireman's Association for the State of New York (FASNY), rebranded the "Volunteer NY" program and labeled it "Recruit NY" instead.  As part of the program they provided a number of customizable resources to use for the Recruit NY weekend.

In July 2015, we received in excess of $60,000.00 as part of a federal grant we had applied for to assist us in updating turnout gear (bunker pants, coats, helmets, gloves and boots) for our firefighters.

In October 2015 we received a new 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe to become our Chief's Truck, it had custom cabinetry and more efficient LED lighting.

In 2016 we received approval to carry, and for our EMT's to administer, certain medications for EMS calls: nebulized albuterol for asthmatics, naloxone (nasal Narcan) for opiate overdoses, aspirin for cardiac issues, and syringe injected epinephrine for anaphylaxis.  We also became authorized to check blood glucose levels for diabetic and other emergencies as each of these skills had been relatively recently classified as BLS (Basic Life Support) skills.  These tools were added to a truck full of other equipment including our AED (automatic electrical defibrillator), powered and manual suction units, tools for airway and breathing management, splints and bandages, and pulse oximetry units.  We really have come a long way from just carrying a basic first aid kit!

In April 2016, we had a beautiful day for our Recruit NY Open House event which featured an opportunity to go up in Sanborn Fire Company's ladder, a chance to look through the Niagara County Tactical Rescue Trailer and a visit from a USAF Crash Truck.

Our membership has grown significantly over the past few years as has our members' attendance at trainings.  On May 25, 2017 we hosted a Hazardous Materials drill at St. Gobain which gave us the chance to practice with Niagara County Haz-Mat team, US Air Force Fire and Tri-Community Ambulance.  This was one of several large scale multiple company drills we've hosted in recent years.

Our Recruit NY Open House event in April 2017 was co-hosted with Tri-Community Ambulance.  We had a crash truck from the USAF Fire Department, a driving simulator from the Niagara County Sheriffs and a visit from Mercy Flight!

In July 2017, St. Johnsburg and Frontier Volunteer Fire Companies hosted the Western New York Volunteer Fireman's Association Convention which featured a large parade.

In December 2017, we hosted our first Santa Run bringing Santa out to the community.

In January 2018, we took delivery of a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe for our new Chief's truck.  In celebration of our 100th Anniversary, we made sure the new patch logo was part of the graphics. 

We planned a lot for to celebrate this important Anniversary.  We created an Anniversary patch, obtained class A uniforms, and lined up a special guest for our Installation Dinner.  Our history was proudly displayed at the dinner, upcoming open house and on the internet.  In July we celebrated further with concerts and a parade. We're very proud of the efforts and accomplishments of those who have helped to build the company up to what it is today & we're looking forward to continuing to grow and improve!

 

© 2021 First Volunteer Fire Company of Bergholz, Inc.