- McKownville Fire Department - founding and
McKownville Fire Department - a brief history of the
equipment, and where it was housed, and the founding of the Fire
The Fire Department was founded in 1918. Fred Abele wrote a document
for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Department, summarizing the
process and the main people involved in the foundation. He
does not include the event that punctuated this process, but which
must have provided a strong incentive to the action, the destruction
by fire of the old McKown/Witbeck Hotel on 4 October 1917.
There is also the original petition to the Albany
County Board of Supervisors containing a list of residents who
signed the petition.
Articles by Fred Abele in the Altamont Enterprise [13 January
1983] [27 January
1983] are the main sources of this material on the old
equipment, and for some of the people most involved in the Fire
Department in the 1920-50 interval [10
February 1983]. An expanded history is included in the Fire Department 75th
anniversary brochure (1993). The history page in the old
McKownville Fire Department website [perhaps
accessible in the Wayback Machine] provided more detail
especially for the equipment obtained after 1967, and for vehicles
other than the engines.
1918-1925 - the first equipment was a two-wheeled hose cart with a
chemical tank, purchased for $199, made by O.J. Childs Co. of Utica, and a Paige touring car to tow this cart, the car
provided by the Witbecks, who sold this brand of auto at their Central Avenue
dealership. These were kept first in a garage at 1423 Western
Avenue rented from the owner, Mrs Lydia Koons. In 1923 a garage for
the fire cart and the car was built on land provided by William H
Witbeck, probably near the site of the McKown/Witbeck Hotel,
as the alarm, consisting of a steel railroad engine tire and a
sledgehammer, was located there according to Fred Abele. Newton Ronan
said this railroad tire was put outside the Arcadia Avenue
Fire House when it opened in 1935, as a back-up alarm.
O.J. Childs Co. (Utica, NY) 2-wheeled hose and chemical fire cart
(image from McKownville Fire Dept)
by Fred Abele, Altamont Enterprise, 13 January 1983)
a similar chemical fire cart from a website page at the Canadian Fire Museum which contains
a clear explanation of how these worked
1926-1930 - A Packard touring car was obtained, and the hose cart
chemical tank mounted on the chassis of this car by the Country Club
Garage owner, Oliver Wendell Holmes; the total cost was $150. This
modified car was kept in a stall on the lower level of the Country Club Garage,
accessed from Hillcrest Avenue. There is a newspaper photo of this
racy-looking vehicle taken about 1930 (pdf of
news clipping). Fred Abele mentioned this vehicle in an Enterprise
article 24 February 1983, which contains a (much less racy)
photo was titled: No Danger of Fire in McKownville With This
Alert Crew on Hand
caption : Grass fires in the neighborhood have kept the
McKownville fire force busy lately. The group includes Byron
Snowden, Anthony Keller, Thomas Helme, acting chief, George
Gebhardt, Hadley Rasmussen and Kenneth Wade. (from Guilderland
The water supply system
originally installed by the Pitkin-Witbeck partnership soon
after 1912 had no hydrants, because most of the pipes were small
diameter and the system pressure was low. Some improvements about
1930 allowed six hydrants to be provided along Western Avenue
opposite the end of most of the existing side streets, except for
Elmwood St, and Arcadia and Hillcrest Avenues.
1931-1957 - Purchased new for $1850, a Brockway fire truck was
placed in service in 1931. This vehicle also was housed in the back
of the Country Club Garage
until the opening in 1935 of the purpose-built Fire House
and Community Hall at 1 Arcadia Avenue.
Here it is, parked on Glenwood Street by the house of John F
Feldman, one of the Fire Commissioners, and Fire Chief 1930-34; the
picture probably taken in the early 1930's (photo from Guilderland
Historical Society files). Mr Newton Ronan
wrote that the body was built by A.J. Ronan Truck Body
Builders of Albany, and that the truck was modified (in 1938) to a
pumper, with the pump mounted on the front. It was sold in 1957 for
$150 to a New England amusement park.
(above) The Brockway truck shortly before it was sold
(McKownville Fire Dept photo)
Improvements to the water system followed the formation of the
McKownville Water District in 1949, with the installation of
new mains, and a large high-standing water storage tank, and was
accompanied by the installation of fire hydrants on all the side
streets on both sides of Western Avenue, as well as additional
hydrants on Western Avenue.
1951-1975 - Dodge Fire Truck, purchased from the Albany Garage for
$8600. The nose of this vehicle is visible in the photo of the
Arcadia Avenue Fire House, probably taken in the early 1950's.
(photo from Guilderland Historical Society files)
Dodge F-170 fire truck outside the Arcadia Avenue fire house
(McKownville Fire Dept photo)
1957-1984; in limited service after - American LaFrance pumper Fire
Truck, numbered E-56. Purchased for $20,000.
Refurbished in 1984-5 in time for the 50th anniversary of the
opening of the Arcadia Avenue Fire House
April 25, and May 2, 1985).
Photo of this classic fire truck in the Arcadia Avenue Fire House
(photo from the old McKownville Fire Department website)
1968-1990 Fire Truck E-55:
American LaFrance pumper.
Purchased when the new Fire
House at 1250 Western Avenue was opened. Traded on its
replacement in 1990 to American LaFrance.
1984-2009 Fire Truck E-57: 1983 American LaFrance pumper with a 1250
gpm pump and a 500 gallon tank.
1990-2015 Fire Truck E-55 (1st replacement): American LaFrance
Pumper, 1500 gpm, center mount pump panel.
2009-in service Engine 57: 2009 American LaFrance Eagle Rescue
2015-in service Engine 55: 2015 E-One Typhoon High Capacity/High
Rise Equipped Pumper
picture of the service equipment in 2015 (from the old McKownville
E-56, retired E-55, S-53, E-57, new E-55 just delivered
2020-in service new squad vehicle S-53 (image courtesy of Jim White)
return to history page