The Wallkill Engine and Hose Company was organized on November 3rd, 1860 as the first fire company to protect the Village of Montgomery. The Wallkill Engine and Hose Company’s first piece of apparatus was also purchased this same year. An 1860 Button and Blake horse-drawn, hand-pumped engine was acquired from Watertown, NY and was stored in the Fire Department’s first official Fire Station, a two story wood frame building with a bell tower and two bays. This station was located on Clinton Street on the site of the former Village Post Office, which is now a parking lot.
On a side note, the year 1860 also was the year that the Office of the Chief came into being. Prior to 1810, the Fire Department was lead by a Foreman. The Foreman was the equivalent to a modern day Captain, with a few extra duties because there was no “Chief” position. The first Chief Engineer, as the position was originally called, was Henry H. Hallet. Chief Hallet was actually the owner of a local blacksmith shop in the village that housed the village’s first fire engine, an 1817 hand-pumper that belonged to the Independent Hose Company No. 1, before the first Fire Station was erected.
The next important event, in relation to the Wallkill Engine and Hose Company, was the construction of a new Fire Station, a two story brick and frame building with three bays on the site on the original Fire Station, and of a village cistern, in 1895. This allowed for an almost guaranteed source of water from which to pump from in the event of a fire. This cistern was located at the intersection of present day Clinton Street and Union Street. A few years after this, in 1902, a hose carriage was purchased from Roanoke, Virginia for the Wallkill Engine and Hose Company to utilize for transporting extra lengths of hoses to fires around the village. Eleven years after this purchase, the Wallkill Engine and Hose Company became incorporated on September 2nd, 1913.
After all of these great advancements, the Wallkill Engine and Hose Company and the Montgomery Fire Department, as a whole, suffered a painful blow on March 7th, 1913. At 4:00 am on this cold and bitter night, the most devastating fire in Montgomery’s history occurred. A man, who had gone into the Palace Hotel Livery Stable to sleep, had forgotten to put out his tobacco pipe and subsequently ignited a stack of hay. The fire quickly spread to engulf the entire stable and hotel. From here, high winds fueled the flames and caused the fire to spread to the adjacent Fire Station and the Academy (current village library). Firefighters from Montgomery, Walden, and Goshen battled the flames all morning. Unfortunately, the Fire Station was a total loss. All records from the date of inception to the date of the fire and many more pieces of history were destroyed. However, the fire apparatus stored in the station were able to be pulled from the Fire Station before they too could be destroyed. The Independent Hose Company No. 1’s engine was badly burned in this fire, as is still evident when looking at the apparatus in the museum, while the Wallkill and Fleet apparatus made it out unscathed.
In 1914, after the devastating fire, the Montgomery firefighters rebuilt their Fire Station. The new station, which doubled as a village hall, was built just up the street from the burned out one and is currently still in use, serving as the Orange County Volunteer Firefighter’s Museum. A few years after moving into the new station, the Wallkills purchased their first motorized vehicle. A Mack fire engine was purchased in 1921 and it was already equipped and loaded with equipment to fight fires. Five years after this purchase, standardized hoses, hydrants and universal threads came about. These advances and laws greatly improved firefighting operations, allowing for quick connections and eliminating the time previously required to fumble through many different fittings and connections.
In 1936, Montgomery expanded their district with the acquisition of a Fire Protection District. This district covered parts of the Town of Montgomery outside of the village, thus increasing the Wallkill’s workload. The next Wallkill Engine and Hose apparatus purchase occurred in 1948. This apparatus was an American LaFrance pumper which replaced the Mack fire engine. In 1960, a Chevrolet tanker truck was purchased by the Fire Department to supply water to the Wallkill’s engine when operating at fires not within the hydrant district. After the tanker purchase, the Fire Department purchased another Ward LaFrance pumper in 1969 to replace the 1948 LaFrance pumper. To add even more water supply capacity for the Wallkill Engine and Hose Company, another tanker, a Brockway, was purchased by the Department in 1977. A few years after this purchase, in 1983, the current Fire Station was erected and put into service to replace the one located on Clinton Street which had become too small for the larger apparatus.
The next group of changes and purchases would occur closer to current day, with the separation of the Fire Department from the Village of Montgomery and the creation of a Fire District in 1987. Then, in 1989, another tanker was purchased to replace the 1960 Ford and three years after that an addition of three bays was added to the new Fire Station. The next Wallkill apparatus came in 1997, with the purchase of a Central States pumper to replace the 1969 Ward LaFrance. The next piece of Wallkill history comes in the year 2010, with the celebration of the Montgomery Fire Department’s 200th year in existence and the Wallkill Engine and Hose Company’s 150th year in existence. The Wallkills currently operate a 2013 Ferrara engine purchased by the District as their apparatus.
Tragedy struck Montgomery Fire Department on January 10th, 2015. That morning, MFD was dispatched under mutual aid for one engine to stand-by at the Cronomery Valley Fire Department while they operated at a multi-alarm fire in Clintondale. As Engine 219 was pulling out, Firefighter Charles V. Wallace stepped into the road to stop traffic for the engine company. A vehicle that was traveling eastbound did not see Firefighter Wallace and struck him. E-219’s crew immediately jumped into action (the crew witnessed the entire incident) as the alarm was sounded for the car vs. pedestrian infront of the fire station. Members worked feverously to save the life of one of their own. A medical helicopter was called and landed on the rear pad of the fire station as members transported Firefighter Wallace to the landing zone in their own vehicle. Firefighter Wallace was flown to Westchester Medical Center where he underwent multiple surgeries and was placed in a medically induced coma. As Firefighter wallace exited his coma, he was approved to be tranferred to Helen Hayes Hospital for rehab on February 3rd, 2015. During this transport, Firefighter Wallace developed difficulty breathing and passed away before he could reach the hospital. LODD servies for Firefighter Wallace were held on February 7th, 2015. At the time of is death, Charles had been a 42 year member of the department, Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners and had been awarded many awards such as Firefighter of the Year, MFD Live-Saver’s Award, and the Commissioners Award for Excellence.
Compiled and written by
March 17th, 2011