The Fleet Hook and Ladder Company was organized on November 4th, 1895 as the third fire company to protect the Village of Montgomery. The Fleet Hook and Ladder Company’s first piece of apparatus, a ladder truck, was purchased the next year in 1896. The ladder truck was a Gleason and Bailey horse-drawn ladder carrier, which brought wooden ladders to fire scenes 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 Fleet Hook and Ladder 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. Four years after the construction of the new fire station and village cistern, the Fleet Hook and Ladder Company became incorporated on October 7th, 1899. A few years after this, in 1902, the firm of William Crabtree and Sons donated to the department a chassis in which to motorize the Fleet Hook and Ladder Company’s previously horse-drawn 1896 Gleason and Bailey ladder truck. After the chassis was donated, the machine shop of William O. Hall donated all the necessary labor to assemble the truck while veteran firefighter John D. Haskin donated all of the iron. Thus, the department received its first motorized vehicle at no cost whatsoever.
After all of these great advancements, the Fleet Hook and Ladder 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.
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 Fleet’s workload. Also in 1936, the department purchased an American LaFrance Quadruple truck with a pump. A booster tank of water was added after the purchase for an extra source of water. This ladder truck replaced the 1896 motorized Gleason and Bailey ladder truck. The next department purchase occurred in 1958, with the purchase of a 65’ International – American LaFrance aerial ladder truck (which was the first of its kind in the area). This ladder replaced the 1936 American LaFrance ladder truck. Then, in 1981, the department purchased an 85’ Pirsch ladder truck for the Fleet Hook and Ladder Company to replace the 1958 International – American LaFrance. A few years after that, 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, an addition of three bays was added to the new Fire Station. The next, and most recent, district apparatus purchase comes in 2000, with the purchase of an Emergency One 100’ ladder truck to replace the 1981 Pirsch. The final piece of Fleet history comes in the year 2010, with the celebration of the Montgomery Fire Department’s 200th year in existence
Compiled and written by
March 17th, 2011