Photo courtesy Medford Fire Department
Come celebrate Medford FD’s 95th anniversary
Ninety-five years ago, in 1922, a group of locals formed the South Medford Independent Hose Company in response to woodland fires often created by the new steam-engine trains.
Ex-chief and department historian John Masem explained that the State Conservation Department monitored the area from watchtowers along the central moraine hills in Farmingville and Selden, and offered about 50 cents an hour to those who lent a hand in putting out fires.
The hose company first began out of Westphal’s Garage, now Tom & Sons. By 1923, they joined the Suffolk County Volunteer Firemen’s Association for an initiation fee and first year’s dues of $3.50. At that time, the first minutes were created and William Hahn Sr. was elected chief to lead about a dozen men.
The first piece of fire apparatus was purchased that same year, in November, from the Bay Shore Fire Department, which was then stored at a donated lot located on the corner of Route 112 and Jamaica Avenue. In 1925, all members were required to be at least 18 years old and were fined 25 cents for every meeting not attended.
By 1929, the South Medford Independent Hose Company was led by chief Alfred Kerny, who limited members to 15. They began using fire extinguishers and a wreckers, and a whistle was purchased to alert members of an alarm. They began operating out of a garage, now known as Giordano’s Collision.
Meanwhile, a group formed in 1926 and called themselves the Medford Fire Department Company #1 under the leadership of chief George S. Mistler, and the battle over alarms began.
They proposed building a firehouse on donated property on the corner of Oregon and Peconic avenues and opened it on June 7, 1937. According to Masem, records show that the first apparatuses were a Packard and a Chevrolet. In August of that year, they purchased a Cadiallac Touring car for $25 and converted it to a fire truck with sirens, purchased for $145. Then, in June 1941, an A.B. Mack was purchased.
By 1942, troubles between the two groups erupted over distribution of insurance money and competing over fundraisers and responses to fires. In 1947, talk of forming a fire district arose, but a year later two chiefs were elected, Eugene Kiernan of the Independent Hose Company and Richard Holmes of the Medford Fire Company.
It wasn’t until 1949 when the two groups decided there was more to be had by sharing services and forming the fire district, as we know it today. Chief William Hahn Jr. soon became the first chief of the department and the first real 1942 Ford fire truck was purchased.
Since then, over 35 have served as chief before the current chief, Anthony Maneri. The new building, as it stands today, was built in 2001 to accommodate the new fire engines that no longer allowed men to ride on the back. The old building was knocked down and the parking lot was paved.
The parade, according to commissioner of the Medford Fire Department and chairman of the board Richard Piquette, began back in the ‘60s and by the ‘90s became a tradition held every five years.
All are encouraged to join and support the Medford Fire Department, which serves the community by responding to over 900 alarms a year.
This Aug. 12, the department will be celebrating their 95th anniversary with a parade down Route 112. The parade begins at 6 p.m. at Tremont Avenue and will end at the Town of Brookhaven’s Fireman’s Park for refreshments and a free concert by Drop Dead Sexy.
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