A serious effort to form a fire company did not happen until Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan moved to the Village of Suffern during the summer of 1900. Mrs. Ryan met with Village Officials and offered to purchase a fire engine as long as there was a building to maintain it in. On July 2, 1900, a formal meeting was held at the Village Clerk's Office for all residents interested in forming a fire department. Thirty-eight men were present, and were enrolled into the Company. Elections were held, Ruben G. Riggs was elected President and Edgar Whritner Foreman.
The Village Trustees were presented a petition, signed by these men, signifying their willingness to serve as active members of a fire department. A resolution was then passed by the Village Board allowing the formation of a fire department within the Village, to be named and designated as the "Suffern Fire Department". A special Village Election was held on December 18, 1900 for a proposition to raise $2,500 for the purpose of purchasing a lot and to build a fire station. The result was 70 to 5 in favor of the proposition. In September the taxpayers had also approved a proposition to allow the Village to issue bonds to pay for a Village owned water system. So the need for a fire engine became unnecessary. Mrs. Ryan was asked if she would change her offer of a fire engine to a hose carriage. Mrs. Ryan consented to do so as well as offered to provide furnishings for the building.
The members of the department considered the adoption of the name of "Ryan Hose" in honor of Mrs. Ryan. However Mrs. Ryan suggested that the name of "Volunteer Hose" would be more appropriate. So the name was therefore adopted.The first public affair held by the members of the Volunteer Hose Company No. 1 was a Fireman's Ball held at Traphagen's Hall, on February 14, 1901. A sum of $69 was added to the treasury.
"A Board of Fire Commissioners"
A proposition to create "A Board of Fire Commissioners" was passed on March 19, 1901. The Village Board appointed H. C. Wanamaker, H.R. Porter and Edgar Whritner as Fire Commissioners. The Commissioners received a favorable offer on April 12, 1901 from George W. Suffern to purchase a 40 by 120-foot lot on Wayne Avenue for the sum of $500. Plans for the firehouse were immediately decided upon, estimates secured, and a contract signed on April 25, 1901. Also during the month of April, through the efforts of Fire Commissioner H. R. Porter, a Hook and Ladder Company was formed. J. E. Hunter's low bid of $2,000 for a brick 32 X 40 foot building with a pitch roof and a single span for a second floor was accepted by the Fire Commissioners. The firehouse was designed with two bays, one for each company, and the doorway to the upstairs meeting room between the two bays.However the amount appropriated by the Village was insufficient to finish the interior of the building. The membership had to raise $600 to complete the interior. The building was accepted on October 5, 1901.
Mrs. Ryan was notified that the firehouse was ready for occupancy. Mrs. Ryan gave the Suffern Fire Department two hose carts, 1,000 feet of hose, couplings and nozzles. She also provided furniture for the upstairs meeting room.During the month of October, the two companies met and held the first department elections for Chief. Theodore Randolph was elected Chief Engineer, H. R. Porter, 1st Asst. Engineer and E. E. Dimon 2nd Asst. Engineer.32 members of Suffern Fire Department attended its first parade on Thanksgiving Day, 1901, in Ramsey, New Jersey. On April 2, 1902, the Fire Commissioners signed a contract with the Seagrave Company of Columbus, Ohio for a trussed frame hook and ladder truck. On May 9, 1902 a special department meeting was called by the chief to discuss the purchase of a hose wagon. It was estimated that $600 was needed to purchase the wagon. The membership held a fair on June 26, 27 & 28 to raise the necessary funds. The hose wagon was built for the sum of $550.00 by the Paterson Wagon Company of Paterson, NJ, and delivered on November 6, 1902.
The first department parade in the Village was held on Thanksgiving Day, 1902. Uniforms were purchased and worn for the first time during the Hudson Valley Fireman's Parade in Haverstraw on June 17, 1903. The village residents finally realized that the time for motorized fire equipment had come after the September 29, 1915 fire destroyed the downtown business section known as the "Comesky Block". The Hose Company received a Model T Ford; its first motorized piece of fire apparatus in 1916. By 1920 the need for additional motorized fire apparatus became apparent, as it was almost impossible to get horses for fire service on an on-going basis.On October 9, 1923 a second motor truck was accepted, a Packard, Peter Persch equipped triple combination 350 gallon pumper. A Packard, Peter Persch hook and ladder truck was also delivered in November 1923. In 1928, the Suffern Hook and Ladder Company moved from the shared quarters with the Volunteer Hose Company on Wayne Avenue to new quarters on Washington Avenue. In June of 1931, a Mack 750 gallon triple combination pumper was purchased to replace the Ford, Model T.
Volunteer Hose Company Building Fire
During the early morning hours of March 27, 1934 the Volunteer Hose Company Building was destroyed by fire. The membership voted to rebuild on the old site and on Friday, August 23, 1935 the members of the Hose Company moved back into its own quarters.The Hose Company Ladies Auxiliary purchase the brass sliding pole and ring for the new firehouse. This pole and ring were moved to the current Hose Company quarters in 1995, and are on display in the meeting room. In addition, some of the leather arm chairs in use today were purchase as new furniture in 1935.
A New Generation of Fire Apparatus
In 1937, the Suffern Hook & Ladder received a Seagrave 12 cylinder aerial truck. It would be ten years before the next new truck arrives. In 1947, a 1,000-gallon American Lafrance pumper, nicknamed "Number One" was delivered and replaced the 1932 Packard. In 1951 a second 1,000-gallon American Lafrance pumper was delivered, but this time with a soft-top, which replaced the 1931 Mack. In 1955 an American LaFrance EQ was received.The Hose Company purchase a used Army Jeep in 1955 to carry excess equipment. A Jeep station wagon replaced this Jeep in 1964. A Chevrolet van was bought in 1974 to replace the 1964 Jeep. This was replaced by the current 19-Patrol in 1990. An American LaFrance 90 foot snorkel (19-90) was delivered to the Suffern Hook & Ladder in 1963. In 1970, American LaFrance delivered the original "19-1500". This new 1500 diesel pumper replaced the 1947 LaFrance
In 1973 the Suffern Hook & Ladder received a new Seagrave aerial known as 19-99, along with a GMC equipment truck to replace the old EQ.The Leo P. Lydon Fire Station was built during the mid 70's and was used by both companies up until 1999, when the Village started to use it for the Department of Public Works. All fire trucks were relocated to one of the other two firehouses located on Lafayette Avenue and Washington Avenue. Members of the fire department saw Fire Chief Bob Shuart receive a used police car from the Village. This vehicle is to be used as the Department's first Chief's car. In 1977, an American LaFrance pumper was purchased for the Hose Company and known as the 19-1750. In the spring of 1982 the Suffern Hook & Ladder moved from its quarters on Washington Avenue to new quarters on Lafayette Avenue. Also during 1982, a new Sutphen Tower was received. In December of 1986, a new 1500-gallon Sutphen pumper was received by the Hose Company. In 1989, a Saulsbury Rescue was received by the Suffern Hook & Ladder to replace the 1973 GMC-EQ.The 1955, 1969 & 1977 American LaFrance pumpers were traded in for two stock 1250-gallon per minute American LaFrance pumpers in 1993.
A New Volunteer Hose Company
During the fall of 1995, the Hose Company moved into its current quarters at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Cross Street. The firehouse took two years to design and build. The cost was close to $1 million. The grand opening and dedication was held on October 14, 1995. The lead box that was placed in the cornerstone of the old fire station in 1934 was opened during the dedication. Inside was a list of officers & members, a dollar bill, a photograph of the original firehouse, an original company badge and a copy of the April 5th issue of the Ramapo Valley Independent. A new Sutphen 100 ft tower ladder was delivered to the Hook & Ladder in 2002, to replace the same style truck that was in use since 1982.In late 2004, Chief Don Schreeck presented a proposal to the Village Board to permit youths ages 16-17 to join the fire department. The line officers proposed to the FD membership, as well as the Village Board, a new document detailing guidelines to govern members under 18. Both the department and the Village voted to approve the new guidelines. Within several months, the department had 8 new members under 18. The program was refined throughout 2005, where the Village Board approved a second guideline that permitted the youth to participate in a much more active role in firefighting operations.
Today, the members of the Suffern Fire Department carry on the tradition started by their forefathers, answering alarms, serving the community, and protecting the citizens of the Village of Suffern, New York.