VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
RUTLAND TOWN VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
The Rutland Town Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1968. Prior to this time, fire protection for the town had been bought front the city of Rutland on an annual basis. In the early months of 1967, the townspeople became disturbed by the extremely high price the City Board of Aldermen was asking for continued fire protection. Town selectmen Waiter Patch, Frederick Gallipo, and Robert Solari negotiated with the Board of Aldermen for several months but no mutually agreeable solution was found. The Selectmen decided it would be advantageous to try to form a fire department within the town.
Notices were posted and a special vote was made by the townspeople to decide on the formation of the fire department. The ballot count showed that the townspeople were highly in favor of a town fire department. Several weeks later, a meeting was held at the Center Rutland School for all men of the town interested in joining the department. The Selectmen met at the school and waited, somewhat nervously, to see if any men would volunteer their services. Incredibly, sixty men responded and of these men, Mr. C. John Morse was appointed Chief of the Rutland Town Volunteer Fire Department. The first action Chief Morse took was to institute a training course for the men. Every one of the men agreed to take a 45-hour training course offered by the Vermont State Firefighters Association. Following this course, many men went on to take Standard and Advanced Red Cross First Aid Courses. During this time, Chief Morse and the Board of Selectmen chose sites for two stations. Land was bought on McKinley Ave. from Mrs. Mary Baird.
The John Russell Corporation began immediate construction of the first fire station. A short while later, the second site was chosen off Route 4 in Center Rutland. The land was purchased from Mr. Robert Smith and construction of the Center Rutland station was begun by Taggart Brothers, Inc. Chief Morse searched endlessly for a pump truck. He finally found a suitable truck and Pumper 1 was purchased by the Board of Selectmen from the Ward LaFrance Corporation. The truck was received by the town November 2, 1967 and was stored in a garage owned by The Thomas Dairy until the McKinley Avenue Station was completed. The City of Rutland granted the town an extension of fire protection until October 1, 1968 and the town firemen spent many long hours preparing to meet the deadline. Two second-hand trucks were purchased by the town to be equipped as tank trucks to carry water to fires where water is not easily accessible. Two new pickup trucks were also purchased at this time. The chassis of the tank trucks have since been replaced by more powerful and maneuverable trucks. The chassis of the McKinley Ave. tanker was replaced in 1972 and the Center Rutland truck was replaced in 1975.
Though not formally active yet, the town firemen got their first taste of firefighting when, on April 16, 1968 a large barn owned by Grin Thomas of Rutland Town was destroyed by fire. Firemen were at the scene for over six hours. Following the purchase of the trucks and completion of the McKinley Avenue Station, Chief Morse submitted his resignation to the Selectmen, and Richard Spicer was appointed Chief of the Rutland Town Fire Department. The men spent countless hours preparing the stations for use; wiring and plumbing had to be done and an alarm system had to be installed. Radios were purchased for the trucks and a “base station” was established at Dolans Answering Service. The “base station” answers calls coming in on the “red phone”, a phone specially installed for townspeople to report fires. The “base” then activates the alarm system which is a horn on top of each station. The answering service then calls the Chief’s home and several other specified firemen’s homes to begin the telephone call system the department has developed. In the call system, the wives of the firemen have a list of other firemen’s phone numbers and call them to inform them where the fire is. Men who live close to the fire station Set the trucks and bring them to the fire; those men who live farther away respond directly to the fire scene.
The October 1, 1968 deadline came quickly, but the fire department was totally prepared to take control. The first “official fire” came only eleven days after the Rutland Town Fire Department was activated. The fire was in a small shed off Post Road Extension. The departments’ second fire was of major proportions and was of “suspicious” origin. It totally destroyed two large buildings at Killington Wood Products on the Cold River Road. Rutland City and Rutland Town Firemen spent nearly six hours at this blaze which caused an estimated $100,000 damage. The fire was only one of the several ”suspicious” fires which plagued town firemen during their first year of operation.
In early January, 1969, the Rutland Town Fire Department joined the Rutland County Mutual Aid Association which consists of sixteen area fire departments and offers free mutual aid fire assistance to its members. The department met only token resistance when it applied for membership. The only major question that developed was – Do the voters of each town have to accept mutual aid contracts or is it solely up to the fire departments themselves? This question was based on a somewhat vague state statute. This problem was readily settled by allowing each town Fire Chief to set up the contract for his town. The Rutland Fire Department went to the Town of Clarendon on its first mutual aid call on January 16, 1969. The fire destroyed a large barn owned by Robert Ruane. Firemen were at the scene almost twelve hours trying to douse the flames.
The years have gone by smoothly for the town lire department and it has readily gained acceptance by its neighboring towns. We have been very fortunate that we have had no terribly devastating fires in the town. The most massive and tragic fire the town department has been called to was on January 7, 1973 when the former Berwick Hotel burned. The Rutland City Fire Department called in eight towns for mutual aid assistance. Five residents of the Hotel perished in the fire which was listed as one of the worst in the history of the city of Rutland. Firefighters were greatly hampered in their efforts to control the blaze by the sub-zero temperatures that night.
One event of which the entire department is particularly proud occurred in August 1973 at the Vermont State Firefighters Convention in Bennington. Mr. Cleto DelBianco, one of the original volunteers in the Rutland Town Fire Dept. was elected Vermont State Fireman of the Year. In the resume of Cletos achievements which the department submitted to the Firefighters Assoc., it was pointed out that Cleto was fundamental in the designing, building and installation of the quick dump system on our tank trucks.
The Rutland Town Fire Department was organized at a time of great debate and with an uneasy feeling for its success. Since that time, however, the uneasiness has been relieved; the department has proven itself quick, reliable, and efficient in protecting the lives and property of the people in Rutland Town as well as in the surrounding communities. The success of the fire department would not have been possible without the encouragement of all the townspeople. We thank you for your help and look forward to your continued support in the future.
Michael R. McCarthy
Rutland Town Fire Department
From Town Historical Book 1976