McKownville Improvement Association
- McKownville Fire Department - founding and equipment history

 McKownville Fire Department - a brief history of the equipment, and where it was housed, and the founding of the Fire District

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.
OJ Childs
      chemical fire cart c.1918
O.J. Childs Co. (Utica, NY) 2-wheeled hose and chemical fire cart (image from McKownville Fire Dept)
(see article by Fred Abele, Altamont Enterprise, 13 January 1983)
chemical fire cart at Canadian Firefighters Museum
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) reconstruction drawing.
McKownville FD Packard fire car c.1930
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 Historical Society)

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.
      fire truck of McKownville VFD 1930'sBrockway 1931 fire
      truck of McKownville Fire Dept c.1955 picture
(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)
      Firehouse and Community Center Arcadia Ave 1950's
Dodge F-170
      fire truck purchased 1951
 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
[Altamont Enterprise 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)
      American LaFrance of McKownville FD

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 Pumper
      FD E-57

2015-in service Engine 55: 2015 E-One Typhoon High Capacity/High Rise Equipped Pumper       
McKownville FD
      E-55 and E-57

picture of the service equipment in 2015 (from the old McKownville FD website)
E-56, retired E-55, S-53, E-57, new E-55 just delivered
      McKownville FD equipment

2020-in service new squad vehicle S-53 (image courtesy of Jim White)
McKownville FD
      new squad vehicle 2020

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