90 Years, The History of The Perry Center Fire Department
Sometime in 1927 Lloyd (Chub) Kelly of Perry Center began to encourage other fellows around the community, to participate in meetings at the Ball-Hawley-Kelly hall or the "Buzzards Nest" as it was known, to establish a fire company to serve Perry Center. The Buzzards Nest is a room upstairs over the present Kelly Motors, the original Perry Center Institute, first school in the area. Early membership records show about 16 members joined and paid 25 cents each month in dues. That was the going rate for many years. The Congregational Church minister has always been a welcomed honorary member. It is said that the records of these early meetings were lost in a house fire and this is written from the earlier histories by John Keller and Olive Collier Smith. The "Old Timers List" of early members include: Henry Barren, Lloyd Kelly, Les Wright, Ned Thurston, Arthur Bailey, Warren Kelly, Forrest Stewart, Welton Bens, Burt Tuttle, George Conrad, Glen "Ginny" Lawson, Glenn Kelly Sr., Earl Manchester, Burt Otis, Fred Benedict, Lee Slocum, Charles Watrous, Larry Smith, F.D. Hodges, Jessie and Charles Sage. Lloyd Kelly and Charles Sage were believed to be the first two fire chiefs. We don't know how many years each served.
The first equipment was a 50-gallon soda and acid chemical cart donated by the C.A. Toan Hose Company of Silver Lake. It was pulled by hand and kept at Kelly's Garage in the winter to protect it from freezing. Plans were developed for a two-story fire hall to be built on property just south of the Grange Hall. Members contributed their own skill and whatever money they could come up with to get the building built. $300 was borrowed to finish the project. Underneath a 15,000 gallon cistern was dug out with horses and a slip scraper.
By the fall of 1928 the project was completed. Uniforms were acquired about this time; blue pants and neckties were worn with a white shirt and hat. Around 1931 the chemical tank was mounted on a Hudson Super Six car that was cut down and salvaged from an auto accident. Shortly thereafter they found it difficult to carry all the equipment on the Hudson, so a trailer was fixed up to carry the equipment. This required the stairs to be removed and built on the rear of the fire hall to make room for the trailer inside. Meetings were held there until 1956.
In 1938 a 1915 American-LaFrance model 10 pumper was purchased from the Village of Perry that had been replaced, and was used here until 1952.
In 1947 the uniforms were replaced with new blue and gold uniforms which were first used at the Perry Fireman's Carnival. Later that summer they got the Genesee Valley Pipe Band to provide marching music for the Pike Fair parade. About this time plans were being made to purchase a IOOO ? gallon tanker. Until this time, fire protection was more or less limited to having a close source of water. Trucks were equipped with good pumps, but most only carried 300-500 gallons of water. A 1952 Ford truck was equipped with U shaped tank, built by the Pennsylvania Furnace and Tank Company. Two portable pumps were purchased one to be installed on the truck and one to remain portable. The cost of the truck and equipment would be $6500. lncome was raised from annual horse pulls, which were held on the Floyd Davis farm, where Emerling Farms new barns are today. They also raised peas for the Curtis Canning Company, winter grains and buckwheat on fields at West Perry, which became known as "God's Acres". Scrap Drives helped develop income and clean up many farms and junkyards. They served chicken barbecues, fish fry's, and clam bakes, earning them a reputation as good cooks. The truck was paid off in 1955 with the use of no tax dollars.
In May of 1957 voters of school district #1 decided to use the schoolhouse as a
community center. The Perry Center Fire Commissioners would over see the use of the building and would share expenses. Meetings are still held there to this day.
Sam Sherman reported that in the 1960's fund-raisers were combined with different raffles, some of which were joint ventures with the Perry Fire Company. One such raffle was the first available 1965 Ford Mustang, which was won on a ticket, purchased by Herman Beaumont.
In 1972 company officers noticed that at nearly all fire calls made there were no fire extinguishers in the home or vehicle. It was decided that a fire extinguisher sales drive would be a community service and make a good income since new trucks were being discussed.
Perry Center Truck # 1 needed to be updated and it was decided in 1974 to add another truck rather than replace it. It would still serve as a valuable tanker for many years, but members, under Chief Ernest Olin, wanted to buy a I650-gallon pumper tanker with a Hale front mounted pump.
Restricted by limited income as before, members purchased a new 1975 L-8OO Ford Chassis, which was equipped with a front mount pump and tank and cabinets built by Kaustine Furnace and Tank Company of Perry. The cost of this truck would be $28,000 and some new fund raising ideas would be required.
Through the 1960's and into the 70's the popularity of horse pulling would diminish and tractor pulling became the country boy's game of choice. Most pulls were sanctioned by the Western New York Tractor Puller's Association, and employed the use of a mechanical sled from East Eden, NY. Pulling sleds were few and difficult to schedule so in 1975 Morgan (Skip) Wolcott Jr. and a crew of volunteers undertook the project of building one. The crew used pictures of other sleds and list of each other's ideas to develop it. A trip was made to Ohio to study one there that was 'considered quite dependable. Crews worked day and night to get it finished in time for the summer season. This crew and machine became known as "The Center Sledders," it was a major income for the Fire Company for several years. Heavy crowds attended these events annually at the Wyoming County Fair in Pike, and in other areas around the state. The first two Perry Center pulls were held at Perry Raceway. Volunteers hauled in loads of clay from Rock Glen to build a proper track. Another track was built in the parking lot behind concession area at the Fireman's Park.
In 1975, The purchase of the second truck required the conversion of the West End of the Perry Highway Garage into a two bay fire hall. Remodeling was finished as work started on the new truck. Gale force winds caused a short in the electric service on the west wall, sparking a spectacular fire which consumed the entire fire hall and town highway department. Losses would have been much worse, had it not been for the efforts of highway workers, neighbors and firemen who were able to save the trucks and much of the equipment and tools.
When replacing the building, the Perry Town Board made the necessary plans to house the Perry Center Equipment. The west end of the town building once again serves as a fire hall. Also that year an Army 6X6 was obtained through the civil defense and a 1700-gallon tank and storage cabinet was installed by the Kaustine Furnace and Tank Co. of Perry. Repairs and modifications were carried out under the direction of Gary Huff who fondly named this truck "The Water buffalo", a name that would stick and attach itself to other trucks later.
In 1978 a complete facelift was made on Truck 1. A new 1300-gallon tank and cabinets were installed by Kaustine, new paint, pump and other updates were made and in July the truck won first place in its class at the Perry Parade.
In 1979 our spirits were dampened somewhat when we hosted the Wyoming County Fireman's Convention for the first time. It rained for four consecutive days.
In May of 1980, a barn fire on the Olin Farm destroyed the Clam Trailer and that brought to an end the clam bake business. We also took delivery of our new Mini-Pumper in 1980. It had been in service for one week when a call came in for a large fire on Main Street. The first time out we worked it 14 hours pumping from the creek behind the old town hall.
In 1981 Perry Center Heavy Rescue was started. Later that year the two Perry departments were presented with a new Hurst Rescue Tool by the Perry Rotary Club. New marching uniforms were purchased that year and a Ladies Auxiliary was formed. We also purchased two air bags for use where lifting heavy objects was required. The mini-pumper, which had been used as a rescue truck, became to small for the job.
In 1983 an Equipment Truck was purchased from the Penn Yan Fire Department. We spent many hours rebuilding this truck in the fire hall.
In January of 1994 the fire department responded to a house fire on Route 20A. This turned out to be our chiefs house. The temperature outside was -17 degrees, which made fire fighting very difficult. Tankers were called from as far away as York and Caledonia. They could only dump their load of warm water and then return home. Despite our best efforts the home was a total loss.
In 2000 our original equipment truck from Penn Yan was sold to the Village of Perry. We had our 1975 Ford refurbished and installed a New Lexington rescue body, which would provide us with a rescue pumper. The 2300 gallon tank off the 1975 was installed on 1989 Freightliner "Hard Hat" chassis to be our tanker. This was the third truck that the milk tank had been on in our fire department.
This fire and the retirement of old truck # 1 set in motion the process of updating some of the other equipment. It was decided to replace the 1975 Ford with a 2002 Freightliner. We installed our New Lexington rescue body which was modified for a new mid-ship pump. The result is a beautiful mid-ship rescue truck that will serve the community for years to come. It was designated Perry Center #1 "The Phoenix" after the mythical bird that arose from the ashes and flames of its ancestors. 2007 also produced the drive thru barbeque. Tickets are sold on the south side of town highway garage and the dinners picked up on the the other side. One of these barbeques produced sales of 500 dinners in 55 minutes.
In 2008 after many years servicing and recharging fire extinguishers, this
activity was abandoned and the equipment and supplies sold to Tom Page. We have
instead updated our tent rental service to include tables and chairs. An
enclosed trailer was purchased to haul and store them.
In 2009 we received a 2000 Chevy Tahoe which was placed with us by the
generosity of the Terry Farrell Foundation. This organization is a
9/11/2001 charity honoring firefighter Terry Farrell who was killed in
that tragedy. This vehicle answers many light transportation needs and pulls
the trailer to
In recent past, the department has gotten involved is other activities such as holiday parades in which members decorate the truck for winter parades. Over the years this has become more popular.
The department also put together a winter festival tug of war team.
In 2014 the department published its official website. It would advertise fundraisers, share photos and offers an event calendar.
This addition in technology developed the planning of a response and alert upgrade.
A year later, in 2015 the department subscribed to a new program which sent emergency calls to responders phones with information. The system has evolved and is still in use and growing.
Back in the earlier years there were no radios, pagers or alert systems. They depended on the siren on the fire hall and a telephone system to alert members. Fire calls were usually placed either to Kelly Motors or Davis' store.
2014 marked a year and era that brought many new changes and upgrades. Early in 2014, the department addressed replacing truck 3, our pumper tanker. The cost to replace it with a new and comparable model would cost $200, 000 - 300,000. In the best interest of the department, the committee planned to build a brand new pumper for under $200,000 and fill current needs such as quick response. A new Ford F-550 chassis was purchased locally from Kelly Ford Motors within a stone's throw of our hall. Together with Gorman/KME a new mini-pumper was designed and built. Carrying 300 gallons of water, this fast attack pumper comes equipped with a 1500 GPM pump tested at over 2100 GPM. The smaller chassis allows safer and faster response as well as all terrain applications.
Prior to the build a couple members discussed creating a new identity to our department. This idea would change the color scheme of our apparatus moving forward.
Later in 2017, a new Ford F-150 Sport Utility was purchased to replace the Tahoe that was involved in an unfortunate fender bender. In the end, we refreshed truck # 4's ability to pull tents, supply tools, manpower and help with traffic control. This truck was also purchased from Kelly Ford and features a matching paint scheme as our newer truck #3.
Today we have the following motorized equipment. (See the "Our Apparatus" page for details).
Truck #1 - 2002 Freightliner - 500 gallon rescue truck - 1250 GPM pump
Truck #2 - 1989 Freightliner - 2300 gallon quick dump tanker
Truck #3 - 2015 Ford F-550 4x4 - 300 gallons of water - 1500 GPM pumpTruck #4 - 2017 Ford F-150 4x4 Sport Utility