**This document was prepared for the 75th anniversary of EHFD.**


This document is a short description of the history of the East Herkimer Volunteer Fire Department No. 1, Inc. This is not meant as a detailed description, but merely as an overview (for lack of a detailed account). Most of this information was compiled by the late Art Helmer Sr. who dedicated nearly 50 years of service to the Fire District, and Walt Richard who lived in East Herkimer most of his 70+ years of existence and contributed over 45 years to the Fire Department. It is presented to show the authors’ picture of how the East Herkimer Volunteer Fire Department moved from a gathering of men eager to protect their community into the well equipped, well trained organization that exists today.


Faced with the termination of fire protection in the hamlet of East Herkimer by the Village of Herkimer, a group of interested men meet at the East Herkimer School on October 6, 1931, to formulate and organize a volunteer fire department. The reality of what it truly meant to be without fire protection had been shown the week before when many of the men stood by helplessly as a house was destroyed by fire on Piper Road. The following week, a set of by-laws was drawn up and was formally approved by the group, and the East Herkimer Volunteer Fire Department became a reality on October 13, 1931. A total of 24 men signed the By-laws to become charter members of the organization, and selected as its first slate of Officers the following:

President- Seymour Legg; Vice-president- LeRoy Christman
Secretary- Clinton Bailey; Treasurer- George Richard;
Chief- Clarence Patterson; Assistant Chief- Kenneth Ray.

After its organization, the department canvassed the community for donations and held card parties, dances and other events to raise funds to equip an old Model T ford truck with a chemical pump to serve as its first fire-fighting vehicle. Chief Harry Vincent of the Herkimer fire department was of great help in finding used equipment for equipping the fire truck.

For the first 20 years of its existence, Patterson’s Garage on Main Road, which was NYS Route 5 at the time, was home to the East Herkimer VFD. The fire trucks occupied rented space in the center of the building. Monthly meetings were held in the truck bay or at the East Herkimer Grammar School on Pine Grove Road. Fund-raisers were also held in the school or at the East Herkimer Fish & Game Club off Pine Grove Road. Emergency calls were taken by telephone at the garage and in the Patterson home across the street. A siren located on the garage roof was used to summon firefighters to a fire call.

In 1938 the East Herkimer Fire District was formed to provide a steady source of tax revenue to supplement the fund raising activities of the Fire department. In 1952 the Town of Herkimer Fire Protection District was started to formalize fire protection for the rest of the township outside the Village of Herkimer.

During World War II, the Fire Department expanded its role to include Civil Defense work, providing manpower for civil defense drills and training for action in the event air bombing would be done on our area. The Fire Department also collected scrap iron, rubber and other critical materials for the war effort. The Fire Department was also instrumental in erecting a memorial at the corner of Rte 5 and Pine Grove Road to East Herkimer residents serving in the Armed Services. During the war from 1940 to 1945, 34 members of the Fire Department served in the Armed Forces.

In 1946 the department purchased over 13 acres of farmland in the middle of what then was East Herkimer from the DiChristina family. The parcel encompassed the area roughly bounded by East and West Streets and between Grace Avenue on the north and the properties facing Rte 5 (Main Road). The land was developed into a residential area, with Palisades St. being added to expanded East and West streets as north/south streets, and Carney, Downey and Grace Aves being added as east/west streets. Many one family houses were built, greatly expanding the community. The growth of young families also provided a source of manpower for the Fire Department, and the sale of building lots provided much of the money needed to build the new fire station. The Fire Department membership grew to 60 as many of the World War II veterans returned to live in the fast growing residential community.

In 1951 the Fire Department erected its own building at the corner of Palisades Street and Main Road, the only part of the farmland that fronted on the Main Road. The Fire Department and its fire station were the hub of the community for over a half-century, providing the emergency services and a social outlet for the community and its residents.

The Fire Department and its equipment and fire station have grown through the years to meet changing needs, as will be described in later sections. Membership peaked out at 60 in the 1980’s and now stands at about 45. The Fire Department currently operates with five pieces of apparatus; 2 pumpers, a tanker, a medium rescue truck and a light rescue (pickup).

During its 75 years of operations, the East Herkimer VFD has maintained a reputation for being well equipped and well trained emergency responders, and its “Hells Angels” firematics teams were always among the best.


For the first 20 years of its existence, (1931 to 1951) Patterson’s Garage on Main Road, which was NYS Route 5 at the time, was home to the East Herkimer VFD. The fire trucks occupied rented space in the center of the garage space. In 1938, Patterson agreed to let the members construct partitions inside his garage to form a Fire Department area, with an overhead door entrance facing what later became West Street. Getting the two fire vehicles in and out of the building was a tricky job, as the trucks had to be manourved at angles because the door was only 12 feet wide and there was a right turn just outside the building on exiting. Monthly meetings were held in the truck bay or at the East Herkimer Grammar School on Pine Grove Road. Fund-raisers were also held in the school or at the East Herkimer Fish & Game Club off Pine Grove Road. Emergency calls were taken by telephone at the garage and in the Patterson home across the street. A siren located on the garage roof was used to summon firefighters to a fire call. It could only be sounded by a switch in the garage, hence 7-day a week, 24 hour coverage depended on the Patterson and Ray families (the Ray’s lived next door).

In 1951, the first section of the current Fire Station was erected on the part of the Fire Department land that fronted on Main Road. The 40×72-foot building provided 3 truck bays, a kitchen, boiler room, restrooms and storage space. All of the construction was done by Fire Department members working nights and weekends. The building committee under Jim Dorr completed the work at a cost of $11,350. In 1957 a second section of 32×72 feet was added to provide a meeting room and community center, making the overall building 72×72 feet. Work on this addition was done by Collis Construction Company at a cost of $6,168. Prior to this, the fire trucks had to be moved outside each time the station was used for fund-raisers or parties, since they had to be held in the truck-bays.

In 1967 the original section of the fire station was remodeled by members to include a Club Room, reducing the depth of two of the three truck bays from 60 feet to 34 feet. The Club Room provided space for members to relax and socialize. A 12-foot bar with a beer tap provided cool beverages and a small kitchen provided the opportunity for refreshments and light food to be prepared for member’s enjoyment. A TV and tables were also located in this room, making it a social center for members and their friends. The club room remains in use today much as it was built in 1967.

In 1988, Bass Concrete Co was hired to replace the concrete floor in the truck-bays with the current floor with drains. Also Bass added a side door to the station providing an entrance directly to the Club room.

In 1992 the boiler room was moved into a 12×21-foot addition at the rear of the station to comply with State fire code regulations. Scialdo Construction Company provided the construction of this addition, which included a 12×10 foot storage room off the kitchen in addition to the boiler room. This addition was paid for by a $ 12,000 grant from New York State legislature. In 1993 the kitchen in the old part of the station was remodeled and enlarged by members. It provided fire-proofed walls to meet codes, electrical outlets and a gas connection and hood for the cooking stove.

Scialdo Construction installed a concrete ramp across the front of the station in 1993. A NYS legislative grant paid for this work.

In 1995/6, a 28×44-foot addition was built, also onto the rear of the station, providing new handicap assessable restrooms, added meeting hall space and rooms for storage. As part of this project, a fourth truck bay was added at the front of the building in space that was formerly occupied by the meeting hall. The vacated truck bay in the center of the enlarged building was converted to an office. Members of the fire department did all of this work, but part of the finances was provided by a $ 25,000 grant from the New York State Legislature.

The fire station was originally of block construction with a stuccoed, painted (green) exterior and a roof that was almost flat and covered with tar and crushed stone. Ice and snow often built up on the roof causing it to leak. In 1972 the exterior of the building was renovated. A thick layer of rough surface white stucco was added to the sides and rear, and the front was finished with an imitation field stone effect. Scialdo Construction provided the work. In 1982 the fire station was covered with a new roof consisting of trusses and aluminum sheeting. Agway was the contractor for the roof. The roof covering was changed from aluminum to steel sheeting in 2004 through a contract with B&B Construction.

In 1969 a two-stall garage was erected by Shaver Construction across Palisades Street at Carney Ave. to provide additional vehicle and storage space. The garage is 30×36 ft. and is heated. Two truckbays were provided along with storage space. The cost was $7,145.

All of the construction and remodeling of buildings was paid for by the East Herkimer Volunteer Fire Department through its fund raising activities and the three grants from the State of New York. No taxpayer money has ever been used for the buildings.


In 1937 the members of the Fire Department realized that their fund raising efforts were not sufficient to provide the necessary equipment for a good fire department. They began a house to house campaign to gather signatures on petitions to form a Fire District. In 1938 the East Herkimer Fire District was formed to provide a steady source of tax revenue to supplement the fund raising efforts of the department. The Fire District as formed consisted of the areas adjoining the roads as follows; NYS Route 5 (Main Road) from the West Canada Creek bridge East to Smalls Bush Road; Piper Road; Folts Road from Rte 5 to the Wheeler Farm; Pine Grove Road from Rte 5 to Burt Road; Smalls Bush Road from Rte 5 to the Beaver Brook; and the areas around East St., West St., Willard, Ward & Arthur Sts. and Zoller Ave and Laural Ave. This area formed the hamlet of East Herkimer as it existed at the time.
The residents of the Fire District elect a five member Board of Commissioners. The Commissioners are empowered with the authority to establish an annual operating budget for the District, oversee expenditure of the tax revenues collected, and to set guiding policies for the Fire Department. They also appoint the members and the Chiefs of the Fire Department, acting on recommendation of the Department members.

In 1952, the Town of Herkimer Fire Protection District was formed to formalize fire protection for rural areas of the Township, i.e. all the property outside the Village of Herkimer and the East Herkimer Fire District. The Herkimer Town Board administered the affairs of this protection district and contracted with the East Herkimer Fire District Commissioners for fire fighting. In 1991, the Town Fire Protection District was dissolved and the area incorporated into the East Herkimer Fire District. The East Herkimer Volunteer Fire Department continues to provided fire protection for all of the Town of Herkimer outside the Village of Herkimer.

Today the East Herkimer Fire Department is responsible for over 30 square miles of fire protection area with a population of about 3,500 people. There were over 950 addresses when the 911 addressing system was laid out in 1997. The 1997 assessments for the fire district totaled $ 5,641,934, which calculates out to a real property value of $ 72,147,493. Major buildings protected by the fire department include the factory complex off Gros Boulevard (formerly occupied by MDS; Curtains and Fabrics; and Herkimer Distribution) consisting of three buildings ($40M+), BOCES and Herkimer Elementary Schools (each worth $10M+), the Herkimer County Home for the Aged and the Scialdo Office complex. As we celebrate our 75th year, we see two major new developments taking shape— a shopping center on Rte 5 featuring LOWES and a housing development of country homes on Steubon and Cook Hill Roads.

The Department’s manpower level, after maintaining 60 active members for several years, had dropped to 42 members by the end of 2000.


The East Herkimer Volunteer Fire Department continues to maintain its semi-independent funding policies. As previously indicated, after the Department was formed in 1931 it relied on its own fund raising until formation of the Fire District in 1938. Card parties and dances were held in the grammar school on Pine Grove Road and in the warmer weather, the East Herkimer Fish and Game club off Pine Grove Road was used for dances, “smokers” and an annual clambake. Most of these events produced only small profits, but were looked upon by the community as great sources of entertainment and socializing. Remember, in this time period only radios in homes and movies at theaters were available for entertainment. These also were the times when fire fighters used little to no personal protection while fighting fires and fire trucks were equipped with limited amounts of hose and perhaps a ladder and an ax. The formation of a Fire District in 1938 provided a reliable source of revenue from taxes to help cover operating expenses and to buy equipment and apparatus.


As indicated earlier, the first fire truck owned by the East Herkimer Volunteer Fire Department was a Stewart equipped with a chemical tank. The pump operated much like a chemical fire extinguisher, with a small tank of acid being dumped into the water/soda mixture to generate a gas, pressurizing the tank and forcing water onto the fire.

In 1940 the Fire District purchased a Dodge chassis and the Fire Department designed and built a completely enclosed fire truck. The Truck was built under the direction of Ken Ray and Pat Patterson at a cost of $1,308. , the first of its kind for fighting rural fires. This truck provided shelter for the men riding to and from fire scenes. The truck had a 200 GPM pto driven gear pump and a 500 gallon water tank, and carried about 600 feet of hose, a 24 foot extension ladder, a portable pump and 6 sets of helmets and rubber raincoats. The fire truck was the subject of a feature article in the national publication, Fire Engineering. This fire pumper was used until 1969.

A Packard squad (racing) car (to be discussed later) carried 12 milk cans of water (about 120 gallons) to supplement the water carried by the Dodge fire truck. This car raced back and forth between the fire scene and nearby water sources, since there were no hydrants in East Herkimer in the 40’s and tankers had not yet been thought of. As you can easily surmise, a lack of water to extinguish large fires was a fact of life for East Herkimer firefighters of the 30’s and 40’s.

In 1952, with the assumption of responsibility for protecting all of the Town of Herkimer and the building of its own Fire Station, the Department decided to upgrade its apparatus. A pumper/tanker was designed and built by department personnel. The truck had a 500 gallon per minute Darley midship pump, a 1,000 gallon elliptical tank and side compartments. The truck carried 1,500 ft. of hose, suction hose, 12 sets of boots, raincoats and helmets, a portable pump, a generator, wooden ladders, and other items normal to a fire truck. A major problem with this truck was that the 105 HP gas engine was not powerful enough for the hilly terrain of the township. This truck was in service for 20 years, 13 years as the front line pumper and for an additional 7 years as a tanker.

The continued rapid residential and industrial growth of its fire protection areas spurred the East Herkimer Fire District Commissioners and the Fire Department to undertake a modernization program for its fire apparatus in the mid-1960’s. In April of 1965 a Ward LaFrance custom pumper, was placed in service. The pumper had a Hale 1,000 gallon per minute two-stage midship pump, a 750 gallon water tank and carried a 35 ft. extension ladder, 2,000 feet of hose and a complete complement of equipment for a class A pumper. The 310 HP Waukashaw gas engine provided a large improvement in response time over the previous trucks, and power steering made the truck much easier to drive. The pumper cost about $ 27,500. This pumper was the Department’s pride and joy for over 30 years before being replaced in 1996.

The fire department members soon realized that another vehicle was needed to carry the growing amount of equipment that firefighters needed, such as gear for more than 12 firefighters, and rescue and emergency medical supplies. A community fund drive was undertaken in 1968 to raise money and in August of 1969 a custom-made rescue truck was placed in service. The truck featured a 12-foot walk-in box designed by the fire department and manufactured by SWAB Wagon Company of Elizabethville, Pa. It was mounted on a GMC tilt cab chassis purchased through Utica GMC. The truck had both interior and exterior compartments and a bench seat for five. The heated interior provided a warm spot and shelter for many cold wintertime fires. The emergency truck was purchased and equipped by the Fire Department using funds raised by door-to-door solicitation and other fund-raises. The entire community, including many Herkimer business places, contributed to the success of this venture. The truck was turned over to the East Herkimer Fire District to join the other fire apparatus under its care. The truck was refurbished in July of 1987 by Four-Guys Fire Apparatus at a cost of $10,650. The rescue was in service until replaced in 1993.

By 1969, the Mohawk Data Sciences factory complex had grown to include two large factory buildings, and the residential areas of East Herkimer had expanded considerably. In order to upgrade its fire fighting pumping capacity to meet ISO recommendations, the Fire Commission in September of 1969 purchased a used 1945 Seagraves pumper from the Village of Herkimer. The open cab custom pumper had a 750 gpm midship Seagraves pump and a 350 gallon booster tank. The pumper replaced the 1941 Dodge pumper that was in use. The Seagraves was used primarily to fight fires in the East Herkimer Fire District, which was mostly equipped with fire hydrants. This pumper served the EHVFD (mostly in a backup role) for nearly 10 years until it was replaced in 1979.

In October of 1971, the 1952 International tanker was replaced with a tanker built by Sanford Fire Equipment Company of Syracuse. The tanker was mounted on a GMC tilt cab chassis with a V-8 gas engine, power steering and a manual transmission. The tanker featured a 1500 gallon tank, a 250 gpm pto driven pump, had straight, flat sides with only one compartment on each side, but the hose bed on top carried a full complement of hose, a portable pond (tank) and a 24 foot ladder. Compartments were also located at the rear to hold a portable pump and other equipment, and a coat compartment was located on the passenger side where the pump panel normally appears. This tanker cost about $ 23,500. It was in service until replaced in 1988.

In February of 1979 a GMC four-wheel drive pickup was purchased by the Fire Department from proceeds of fund raising activities and donated to the Fire District. The pickup met the need for a run-around vehicle for the fire department as well as providing a pick up capability after fires. In March of 1980 the EHVFD accepted responsibility for housing and responding with the Hurst rescue tools (Jaws of Life) which were purchased by Herkimer County. In 1981 the fire department replaced the standard pickup box on the truck with a commercial utility body. This provided storage compartments for the rescue tools and auxiliary equipment. For several years the County jaws was the only rescue tool available, and the EHVFD responded to auto accidents from Poland to West Winfield and from Salisbury to Schuyler (about 14 per year). In 1990 a 3-tank cascade system was installed on the pickup to provide additional breathing air at fire scenes. This was removed in 1992 with the arrival of the Central States built rescue truck which contained a cascade system.

In July of 1979 the Department received delivery of its second custom-made Ward LaFrance pumper. This pumper was the last piece of apparatus made by the Ward LaFrance Corporation, which closed its doors one week after the truck was delivered to East Herkimer. In fact, many items on the pumper were not quite up to specified working level when delivered, and were corrected by Sanford Fire Apparatus of Syracuse under a separate agreement with the EH Fire District. The pumper featured a 1,000 gpm Hale two-stage midship pump and 750 gallon tank. The chassis was powered with a Detroit 315 HP 8V92 diesel motor and had an Allison automatic transmission. It also had a full-width coat compartment next to the pump, and a full complement of compartments, a hosebed capable of carrying 2400 feet of hose and two Mattydale preconnected hosebeds over the pump. The final cost of the pumper was about $ 79,000. The pumper was rebuilt/refurbished in 2001. Kuhlman Industries of Rome replaced rusted body sections and rebuilt the mattydale hosebeds. The pumper was repainted and equipped with new warning lights, and the pump was rebuilt by Fire Equipment Corporation of Fort Herkimer. The 1979 was in service until 2005 when it was replaced.

The EHVFD received a Christmas present in 1987 because two days later a new tanker was delivered. The tanker was on a 1988 Mack tilt cab MC chassis and had a stainless steel body built by Four-Guys Fire Apparatus of Meyersdale, Pa. The Mack has a 275 HP maxidyne diesel engine with an Allison automatic transmission. The body features a 450 gpm pto driven pump, an elliptical 1650-gallon stainless steel tank, and compartments along each side of the body. Hose is carried in 3 Mattydale compartments and in a tray on the side of the body. A 10-inch dump valve allows the water tank to be dumped in less than 90 seconds. A portable pond (tank) is carried in a rack on the passenger side of the body. The tanker also carries a 350 gpm portable pump and a generator for lighting. This truck cost about $ 105,000 and is still in service in 2006.

Five years later, in December of 1992 the EHVFD received delivery of a new rescue truck mounted on a 1992 International conventional chassis. The 15-foot rescue body was designed and built by Central States Fire Apparatus of Lyons, SD. The walk-in body style features outside compartments to a height of seven feet and an assortment of interior compartments to hold EMS supplies. A bench seat for four firefighters is provided with built-in airpack storage seats. A three-tank cascade system and a 21,000 watt pto driven generator are also mounted in the truck. The chassis is powered with a 185 HP diesel and has an Allison automatic transmission. The truck cost about $ 101,000 and is still in service in 2006.

In June of 1996 the EHVFD took delivery of a custom pumper built by Saulsbury Fire Equipment of Tully, NY. The pumper was purchased as a result of a cooperative bid with the Little Falls Fire Department in which each department bought a pumper from the same company and specifications, resulting in a cost savings. The pumper is mounted on a Spartan custom made chassis powered by a Detroit 330 HP diesel engine with an Allison automatic transmission. The completely enclosed aluminum cab seats five firefighters in seats that also contain air packs. The pump is a Hale 1500 gpm single-stage midship pump and the pumper has a 750-gallon poly tank. The pumper body is completely stainless steel with a full set of compartments on both sides and the rear, and a hosebed to hold over 2400 feet of hose. This truck cost about $ 230,000.

The Fire Department received a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters grant at the end of December 2003 to partially pay for a new Urban Interface pumper. The EHVFD purchased a pumper mounted on a all-wheel drive International model 7400 chassis, with the body manufactured by Crimson Fire Equipment of Brandon, SD. The chassis is powered by a 330 HP International DT 570 engine with an Allison automatic transmission. The cab seats 3 persons. The body is made of stainless steel with a full set of compartments on both sides. A booster reel with 500 feet of forestry hose is located in a rear compartment. The pump is a Hale QSM 1250 gpm single-stage midship pump, with a Class-A foam injection system. The pumper has a 500 gallon poly tank and is equipped to meet class-A pumper requirements. The pumper cost about $229,000 and provides a much needed off-road and foul-weather capability.. .


Fire Department operations have changed considerably over the 75 years of operation. As discussed above, in the early days of the department calls were dispatched by sounding a siren located on top of Patterson’s Garage. Firemen rushed to the garage to be told the location of the fire and then drove to the scene. The early fire trucks transported only two or three men. Fires were fought wearing rubber raincoats, helmets and boots, for those lucky enough to get them. About 8 sets were carried on the 1941 pumper. Other firemen wore street clothes. From the start of the Department until the 1950’s fires were fought with 10 to 12 men, and very limited water supplies. As a consequence, heavy losses were not unusual.

After it received the 1941 Dodge pumper, the EHVFD began to build a reputation for excellence in saving properties. The Fire Department operations were not constrained by political area boundaries, and the members were always eager to help others in need. The Fire Department often responded to phone calls for fires in the rural areas of the Towns of Herkimer, Little Falls and Fairfield. Calls for help to the Fire Department from the 30’s to the 50’s were mostly for fires, with an occasional bad traffic accident thrown in.

In the early 1950’s, the Fire Service became more organized with the formation of the Herkimer County Mutual Aid plan, and the push to organize fire districts throughout the county. These actions also provided the first Countywide radio communication system, with a control center located in the County Jail on north Main Street in Herkimer. Jailers manned the radio along with their regular duties. The radio system could be used to sound the sirens in individual stations, but the audio sirens were still the only means of alerting fire fighters. However, the radio dispatched mutual aid system made it possible for all fire departments to quickly summon assistance from other fire departments to help fight large fires.

The early 1960’s saw the introduction of the currently used bottled air systems much like we know today. Air compressed to about 2,200 pounds per square inch in a small steel bottle is carried on a harness, with a pressure reducing regulator and a face mask creating a closed system. The first systems were much cruder than the automatic systems of today, but they were much easier and more reliable than the Chemox systems. Modern air packs have greatly reduced the weight factor by using smaller regulators and aluminum or composite air bottles.

Alerting of East Herkimer firemen also taken several steps out of the past. As earlier discussed, from 1931 to 1951, telephone calls were taken at Patterson’s garage or in the Chief’s home across the street from the garage. A manual switch sounded the fire siren on top of the garage. This required a constant 24-hour manning of the phones at Patterson’s. When the Fire Station was built at Main and Palisades Streets in 1951, a multi-party emergency phone system was installed. Five phones on a party line arrangement were provided, with one in each of the: Fire Station, Legg’s Farm Equipment store, Art Helmer’s house and 2 others that were passed around to homes of various Chiefs. Any one of the phones could take the call, and by pushing a lever, the person could sound the fire siren from their answering location. The person taking the call sounded the siren until a fireman answered on the phone at the Fire Station and took the information. This system worked fairly well, with some confusion being introduced by the fact that Mutual Aid was also able to sound the siren by radio. This left it to responding firemen at the Fire Station to determine the source of the alarm.

When the new fire station was built at Main and Palisades St., the fire siren was relocated to the Fire Station. As the membership expanded to include new residencts living farther from the Fire Station, it was decided in 1960 to replace the old audio siren with a 10-hp siren on a tower behind the station. The reliable range for hearing inside houses was about one mile. In the late 1960’s a second smaller siren was installed on the south side of Rte 5, across from the current intersection of Gros Blvd, to improve coverage to the east end of East Herkimer.
A major improvement in calling firemen came about in 1974 — radio alert. A radio transmitter was installed in the Fire Station and nearly all firemen were issued special radio receivers. East Herkimer obtained its own frequency of operation on 154.205 MHz, the frequency that is now used Countywide for dispatch of 911 calls. The radio system overcame the distance limitations of the audio siren system, greatly increasing the number of firemen responding to each call, and allowed each fireman to know where to report and what the emergency was before leaving home. East Herkimer was the second fire department in Herkimer County to install such a system. The party-line phone system was continued for several years after the radio dispatch system was installed. The call taker, regardless of location, was tied to the radio transmitter for about 30 seconds through the phone system, allowing him to broadcast the emergency message to all firemen’s homes.

In the early 1980’s, the phone system had become very expensive, and in an effort to assure continuous coverage of the emergency phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Fire District contracted with the City of Little Falls in June 1983 to take our emergency calls and to dispatch the EHVFD. This agreement was in effect until the E-911 system came into use in 2000. Also, faced with a growing scarcity of available daytime firemen the Fire Department in July of 1988 issued 12 pocket pagers for firemen available to respond to daytime calls. These radios allowed firemen to get emergency calls almost everywhere in the Herkimer area, and today every firefighter is issued a pager.

Training is another area of major change for East Herkimer firemen through the years. Up to 1962, local training consisted mostly of a one-hour session that occurred before the monthly meeting. Training was mostly voluntary, with the individual determining how much he wanted to know. In addition to the monthly sessions, an occasional special session was held. Members were asked to take the NYS course “Essentials of Firemanship” when they had the time. Also, any member could drive the fire trucks regardless of his training level.

Chief Gerney Butler was the first EHVFD Chief to recognize the need for mandatory training. He organized a series of 6 sessions that were “mandatory” training for all firemen to take. The sessions were conducted in warm weather, and covered all aspects of firefighting. The general monthly session were also conducted In 1965, the Fire Commission asked that drivers be limited to those fireman with special training in driving and operating the trucks. Minimum training standards for all firefighters were adopted in the late 1960’s, including mandatory attendance at NYS training courses. The OSHA dictated minimum training for interior fire fighters was adopted by the EHVFD in the mid-80’s. As we entered the 21st Century, New York State Office of Fire Protection began setting minimum training standards for various levels of fire fighting. Also, EMS training is now asked of most firemen, adding considerable to the training commitment.

The acceptance of responsibility for Herkimer County’s Hurst rescue tools in 1979 added a new area of training for EHVFD members. All firefighters who chose to be on the Rescue Squad were required to take vehicle extrication training from both the Hurst Company and NYS courses. This, coupled with our special training classes and the fact that we running 12 to 15 calls a year where the tools were needed for extrication created a highly skilled extrication team during the 1980’s and early 1990’s.


In 1936 the department organized the Hells Angels Racing Team. A squad car was designed and built by members of the Fire Department under the leadership of Assistant Chief Ken Ray. Its performance and looks soon became the envy of fire department racing teams throughout New York State. The squad car also served the Fire Department in fighting fires, being used to haul water from streams and ponds to the scene of fires in the days before tankers were used. For years the Hells Angels Racing Team was among the finest in firematics competitions throughout New York State. An amazing thing was the fact that the firematic’s team practiced in front of the Grammar School on Pine Grove Road without water.. There were no hydrants in East Herkimer before 1955. They perfomed very well in actual races.

In 1946 the original Packard chassis was replaced with a newer Packard chassis. By 1964 the races began to emphasize faster race cars as the means to dominate races. The Fire Department built a new race car under the guidance of Bill Christman and John Richer. It featured a 425 hp cadillac engine and specially picked drive-line components. The emergence of this car completely changed the sport. It then became a contest to see who could provide the fastest sprint car, instead of being a test of firefighter skills. The tradition for winning “Hells Angels” race teams was keep alive by the EHVFD throughout Central and Northern New York State until the early 1970’s. The cost of maintaining the high power cars and the injuries came with dismounting the fast moving vehicle became too much for the limited resources of the EHVFD.

In the 1970’s, softball became the sports supplement to firefighting. Two teams were formed by the EHVFD, one playing in the over-30 league in Herkimer and the other played in the Herkimer-Fulton County Firemen’s league, where we had the championship teams for all of the five years of league play. The team also competed in many tournaments sponsored by fire departments in Herkimer, Fulton and Oneida counties.

In the mid-1980’s, firematics competitions featuring foot races came into vogue. Five Herkimer County fire departments formed teams for competition, then joined Oneida county fire departments to form a fourteen team Herkimer-Oneida County Racing Association. Once again, the Hells Angels team rose to the top of the crop, soon becoming the best of the racing teams. The races were held until 1995 when the weekly events became too time consuming for most departments. The East Herkimer Fire Station is adorned with dozens of trophies won by the softball and racing teams.

Bowling was another sport enjoyed by EHVFD members. Teams from our Department participated in the New York State Volunteer Fireman’s Bowling Tournament from its inception in 1956 until 1997. At least one EHVFD team participated each year, with as many as 5 teams bowling during the 1970’s. The tournament moved about the state from year to year, with departments located from Long Island to Plattsburg and Albany to Buffalo taking turns. The EHVFD hosted 4 tournaments in 1969, 1979, 1984 and 1993 using the Pin-O-Rama Lanes in Utica as our location.

With the construction of the fire station in 1951, the firemen had a building of their own to use in fund raising events. Bingo was introduced on a weekly basis. The games drew crowds of 100 to 175 people on Saturday nights and proved to be a good source of revenue for many years. Bingo was held from 1952 until the mid-1970’s when it no longer produced profits because of competition from Churches and veterans organizations. Dinners, dances, raffles and other events have been used through the years to raise money and to provide social entertainment. Chicken barbecues were started in 1968 and have been a fairly consistent success since then, thanks to the fine barbecued chicken produced by our pit crews. Thirty years later, our winter BBQ held at the end of February was still a sellout nearly every year. Also, since 1967 the Fire Department has conducted a yearly fund drive, soliciting contributions by letter from residents of our fire protection districts. This money is used primarily to buy new equipment for emergency services.

Smokers were a form of male entertainment in a period of time when moral customs and the law outlawed gambling and sexually oriented movies. Men would gather to drink beer, play cards and bet on dice and to watch movies (or on occasion live strippers). The most infamous Fire Department fund-raiser was an ill-advised smoker in the Spring of 1969. Led by BCI, state police raided the party, seizing the featured movies and arresting two Fire Department members. Several other members were later interviewed by a Herkimer County Grand Jury. This raid was part of a countywide crackdown on pornographic movie rentals and resulted in the Department being placed on probation for five years. Little did anyone know that 10 years later the same movies could be seen at X-rated movie houses.

Field days have been only moderately successful as fund-raisers for the East Herkimer VFD. The first venture was a joint sponsorship of the Herkimer County Firemen’s Convention with the Herkimer Volunteer Firemen in June of 1969. The rides and concessions were set up on Harmon Field in Herkimer. Races were conducted on South Washington Street between Eureka and Smith Streets. A large parade was held down Main Street and over Park Ave. to the field. Before field days became popular in the early 1980’s, the County Conventions were big deals and nearly all County fire departments (and firefighters) felt obligated to march, accompanied by the local high school band (the Herkimer County Convention was always held in early June).

In 1981, the East Herkimer VFD hosted its first Herkimer County Convention in conjunction with the celebration of its Fiftieth Anniversary. The parade formed off Edgar St. — Main St., Pine Grove Rd and Gross Blvd. were lined by thousands of people watching the hour and a half long parade. MDS’s Johnson Park off East Street was used for the carnival rides and concessions, and the large pavilion was packed each night with people dancing. The races were held in the north parking lot of MDS. The Convention closed with fireworks on Saturday night.

Based on the success of the convention, field days were then held yearly for 10 years, with a much smaller celebration marking our Sixtieth Anniversary. Field days were halted after the 1991 celebration because it was no longer profitable. The crowds disappeared as changes in State liquor laws raised the drinking age from 18 to 21 and also made DWI a major issue.

Another important contribution to the financial well-being of the Fire Department was our very successful hosting of four New York State Volunteer Fireman’s Bowling tournaments. The tournament has been held yearly since the mid-1950’s. We served as the host fire department in 1969, 1979 and 1984, and co-hosted the tournament with Mohawk VFD in 1993, thanks in large part to the efforts of Robert Shaver and John C. Richard who were serving on the organization’s Board of Directors.. During these years the tournament attracted over 250 teams from all sections of the state. The bowling was held the Pin-O-Rama Lanes in Utica. The profits obtained from selling souvenirs and raffles helped fund many of the major improvement to our Fire Station.

The financial arrangements remain much the same today, with the Fire Department responsible for costs of maintaining and operating the Fire Station, and the Fire District responsible for purchasing emergency equipment and apparatus. The Fire Department does obtain a monthly rental fee from the Fire District for storage of the apparatus to help offset costs of heating, lighting and maintaining the building.