1994 Town of Knox Comprehensive Plan: Fires and Fire Protection

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Fires and Fire Protection

Fire prot ection was a long - standing problem in Knox. Early inhabitants of the Town were concerned with providing aid and helping fire victims to reestablish themselves; to this end, they organized the Knox Mutual Insurance Company in 1858 (the final dissolution of the Company occurred in the late 1930s due to dwindling membership and Westerlo took the remaining few members).

An 1893 issue of the Altamont Enterprise states that at 4 o'clock during the afternoon of August 25, the Academy bell tolled its warning and a ll the neighbors turned out to help as E.P. Barckley's farm, located in the Hamlet, was on fire. It was apparently caused by two small boys playing in the barn. Over 70 tons of hay, a quantity of rye, and 500 bushels of oats were destroyed. The article als o states "had there been a high wind, the whole village would have been burned out".

In 1932, a fire that simultaneously destroyed the Methodist Episcopal Church and the barns of Mr. Austin Saddlemire Sr., clearly demonstrated the need for local fire protection. The fire started shortly after evening chores began on January 4, 1932, and spread rapidly. Residents who responded found the milkhouse and barn fully involved; when the Berne Fire Company arrived, the water supply was found to be short, and additi onal fire companies were called from the surrounding areas. The headlines in the next day's afternoon edition of the Albany Times Union read, "$35,000 Fire Sweeps Village of Knox".

On July 28, 1936, the Town Boards of Berne and Knox met at the Schoolhous e located in the Hamlet to consider the annexation of certain properties of the Town of Knox to the Berne Fire District. At the meetings' end, the petitioners of the territories of School District Nos. 1 and 3 were granted their request to receive fire pr otection from the Berne Fire District. The area comprising School District No. 6 was struck from the petition.

Approximately two months later the residents of Knox initiated a movement to have a fire company of their own. They started with an amateur sh ow, which realized a profit of $20 to be saved toward the purchase of a fire truck.

During the early 1940s, a committee was formed to discuss the possibilities of establishment of local fire protection. In 1945, a document was formulated to petition the t axpayers of the Town to form a fire district. Many residents signed immediately but some objected to the plans. After two years of canvassing the Town, the committee members finally persuaded a majority that the Town needed its own fire protection. Fifty - one percent of the assessed evaluation of the Town signed the agreement to establish a fire district. The petition was presented to the Knox Town Board for review in October, 1948.

On February 23, 1949, the Town Board held a public meeting to consider an d take action on the proposed fire districting, but the meeting was adjourned without the Board reaching a decision.

The fire district as proposed would have the following boundaries: All that property in the Town of Knox, County of Albany, State of New Y ork described as follows: Bounded on the North by the Town of Duanesburg, County of Schenectady; on the East by the Town of Guilder land County of Albany; on the South by the Berne Fire District as enlarged in 1936 and on the West by the Town of Wright, Co unty of Schoharie.

The Town Board met again on April 23, 1949. They resolved and approved acceptance of the fire districting petition with the boundaries as stated above and allowed an estimated amount of $1500 to be spent for fire apparatus and fire hose . The volunteer firemen held their organizational meeting on November 1, 1948 and founded the Knox Volunteer Fire Company. There were forty men present. A Ladies Auxiliary to the newly organized Company was formed in 1949. On February 1, 1950, the Comptrol ler of the State of New York established the Knox Fire District and in December, the first Board of Fire Commissioners was elected.

On May 5, 1950, the Fire Company purchased the one - room school building in the Hamlet of Knox from School District No. 6 fo r the said sum of one dollar. The interior was completely remodeled, with work being done by the firemen. Remodeling money was borrowed from various citizens of the Town who waived interest charges and set date of repayment. The remodeled fire house was dedicated on December 1, 1950 with a capacity crowd in attendance.

In the summer of 1951, the Fire Commissioners purchased the first piece of fire apparatus from the Scotia Fire Department for the sum of $595. The Fire Company incorporated and became know n as the Knox Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. on August 19, 1953.

The Knox Volunteer Fire Company membership has provided not only fire protection for the residents of the Town but also vital services in emergencies, such as searches for lost persons, cave r escues, and recovery from floods, sleet and ice storms. The fire company even pumped water into the Altamont Reservoir from Thompsons Lake during a prolonged drought in 1956.

A large second addition to the firehouse was constructed by the membership in 1959. A telephone warning system for reporting fires was installed in 1964 by the Board of Fire Commissioners. In 1966, the School District No. 2 property at Township was repaired and converted into a firehouse; once again, the majority of the work was d one by the firemen. A house numbering system was established in 1968, with the assistance of Niagara Mohawk Power Company.

In 1988, the old firehouse/schoolhouse was replaced with a larger building which had more facilities for community events.