The Lander Volunteer Fire Department has a long, rich history of neighbors helping neighbors. We aim to help the residents of Farmington Townships and the surrounding area the best possible at the lowest cost practical. We are a 100% volunteer fire department. This means that no one in the department receives payment for anything that they do with the department.
Picture Showing the Fire Hall how it looked before any additions (circa 1970’s)
Our department was founded in 1955 after a fatal fire at the Hitchcock Hotel in downtown Lander. One of the occupants was trapped in the second story and no one was able to reach them in time due to responding units having to come from Sugar Grove and Russell. After this event, a meeting was held and it was decided to form a volunteer fire department in Lander. The process of compiling a constitution, by laws, and formally forming took approximately over a year. The first chief was Frank Callan. There is a plaque with the charter members proudly displayed at the fire hall. Without the dedication and forethought of these members, there would not be a department in Lander, or at the very least, not one with the tradition and dedication of the current department.
The initial equipment and gear was all either donated from neighboring departments, or purchased by the members themselves as there were no funds for these huge purchases. Second hand (or third, fourth, etc.) was the norm until the late 70’s. At that time, the equipment consisted of 2 second hand pumpers and a used pick-up truck. Meeting typically consisted of members paying their dues 5 to 20 years in advance so that the bills could be paid.
Originally the station was not where the current hall is. It was moved there in 1968. In 1972 there was a fire at the hall. The building did not burn down, but charred rafters are still visible in the attic. The extent of the original building is evident in the social hall. The original front wall was where the current is, but the floor only extended to where the visible crack is in the flooring. Behind that was the kitchen without a concrete floor. After the fire the hall was extended to the current back wall of the kitchen. In the mid to late 70’s, the north side of the hall had an addition put on to house the brush truck, generator, chief’s office, pantry, and a meeting / trophy room.
It was decided in 1978 that the equipment on hand was not reliable enough to safeguard the residents of our area. A motion was made and approved to purchase a prototype truck (Seneca Series) being made by the Salsbury Company. This was Engine 5, a 1978 Chevy truck chassis with a 1,000 gallon per minute pump and a 1,000 gallon tank. This was the latest technology and it was the pride of the department for a long time (it was still in service until 2002). This brand new apparatus cost a steep $55,000.
Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s great strides were made in modernizing the department and training. This is due to the dedication of the members and greatly due to the ladies’ auxiliary. In this time, Thursday night bingo was a great fundraiser for us. Every Thursday we had a kitchen operating and selling food. The dedicated ladies and members working bingo enabled the department to purchase newer turnout gear, replacing the cotton-duck coats and high boots that were commonly used in the department until the late 80’s. During this time, we were also able to equip our interior firefighters with new positive pressure air packs. Before that we had “elephant trunk” demand breathing apparatus.
Unfortunately, with the bingo hall in Salamanca, and a smaller membership, bingo was cancelled in the mid 90’s. This meant that funds had to be raised through chicken BBQ’s, direct mailings, gun shows, and raffles. It was also in the 90’s that the aging ladies auxiliary disbanded. This was also the time that our Engine 4 was replaced with Engine 1. Engine 4 went to Bear Lake to serve them until they were able to replace it through a federal grant. Engine 1 was a used truck bought from Sugar Grove. This engine had a 1000 gallon tank and 1000 gpm pump like Engine 5 had. We now had 2 trucks with the same capabilities.
In 1996 it was determined that our 1970’s Dodge Power Wagon was not reliable enough to be used as a QRS anymore. A committee was formed and it was decided to purchase a Dodge 3500 with a V10 and have a contractor box put on. The parts were purchased and other than painting done at Ward’s Garage in Pittsfield, all of the work was done by members to save money.
The 2000’s brought a lot of change to the department. In 2002 our current Engine 2 was purchased at an auction from a department outside of Syracuse. We paid $42,500 for the engine, a 1986 E-One engine with a 1500 gpm pump and 1000 gallon tank and a diesel engine. We immediately sent it to Chase Car Care to have the entire apparatus repainted. When Engine 2 was put in service, Engine 5 was retired due to many engine issues, the tank was leaking slowly, and many of the newer members were not comfortable with the 5-2 split transmission.
In 2003 we used state grant funding to expand the fire hall. This addition was placed on where the current radio room and gear rooms are. This freed up a bay in the hall so that the rescue and brush truck did not have to be stacked one behind the other.
In 2006 we were able to get a federal grant to renovate our brush truck. Our tried and true 1967 1-1/4 ton military Jeep was replaced with the a 1985 Chevy with a flat bed and brush fire skid unit. The additional features of a heater, padded seats, and functioning windshield wipers were greatly appreciated.
The following year, we again were awarded a federal grant. This was for a new tanker. Our current tanker 564 was purchased through this program. Without this grant there is no way we would have been able to afford this truck as the sticker price was $265,000.00. 564 is a 2000 gallon tanker that has full capabilities as an engine. Our pumps are once again matched and each truck carries over 1000 feet of 5” LDH, 4 – 200’ pre-connected hand lines, portable ponds for water supply, portable pumps, and a full complement of tools.
We purchased a hydraulic rescue tool, air bag system, and air packs from Sheffield in the end of 2008. This greatly increased our rescue capabilities. The floor in the truck room was also replaced late in 2008 with heat lines put in the floor. Not only did this make the area much more comfortable, it also saved on our gas bill.
The air packs were never put into service for us though. Although they were much newer than what we had, we received another federal grant in 2009 to get all new air packs. We then were able to give the Sheffield packs to other departments that needed them. The new air packs are more than 10 pounds lighter than our old ones, include a voice amplifier to hear one another, display in the face piece showing us how much air remains in the cylinder, and an alarm to warn others if there is an emergency.
2010 saw us utilize the state grant program again to purchase the materials for the new roof, north and west walls, east and south additions. Through the help of over 80 Amish, all of the posts were put in, rafters made, furring strips put on, and all of the metal put on in less than 8 hours. For all of those around that day, it was an amazing thing to watch.
2012 saw the new bathrooms finished greatly expanding the capacity and improving the condition of these facilities. We were also awarded a federal grant in 2012 to supply new addressing signs for all of the residences in Farmington Township. As part of this grant, members are physically going to every address and collecting information so that we can better respond to emergencies. This includes things such as where the closest water supplies are, how long the driveways are, and of course, posting the address so that they can be easily identified when responding.
In the end of 2012, it was found that the body of the rescue truck was rotting away. This created a push to replace the unit. Throughout 2013 meetings were held and research done to determine what would best fit the needs of the department now and in the future. In November, a used unit was found on an online auction website. As we had a member visiting family near the truck, he was able to give it a good inspection and it was decided to buy the unit. the new rescue cost under $40,000 to purchase and get to Lander. Some work on the lights was needed and the unit showed that it greatly increased our capabilities, while being much better organized and efficient than the contractor box. Again, through the hard work of the members, this unit was worked on and put in service. With an aluminum body, this unit should last us a long time.
This meant that the Dodge which was our rescue was moved over to be our brush truck / utility. At the time of the move it had just over 10,000 (yes, only ten thousand) miles on it and we felt it could last longer and serve our needs in this new capacity.
2014 saw the award of a federal training grant. Through this grant we have been able to provide essential training in basics, structural firefighting, pumps, and even more to come. This grant was a joint application with Russell, Busti, Kiantone, and Frewsburg.
2015 saw the award of 3 more federal grants. Lander received an award for a new washer and dryer for our gear. This is not a home model. The pair costs about $17,000. Through the grant we are able to purchase these units that will extend the life of our PPE through proper care. The other grants were joint applications with Sugar Grove. In one, we are received new rescue tools, cribbing and struts. The other allowed us to replace all of our handlines and nozzles.
In 2018, we have been awarded a grant to update our emergency warning lighting on our apparatus. This will involve the replacement of lightbars and warning lights to new, brighter LED’s. This will not only increase our visibility, it will also reduce the load on the alternators, reducing stress on them and increasing the life of the apparatus. The scene lighting is also being upgraded. Now we will be able to work more efficiently in dark emergencies due to better lighting.
We also just bought a “new” engine. This is a 1997 Pierce Quantum pumper with a 2,000 gpm two-stage pump and a 750 water tank. This vehicle comes to us from just outside Pittsburgh. We will be looking to update the lighting on the apparatus as we get it in service.
Throughout our long, proud history, we have done everything that we possibly can to help our neighbors. We have not, and do not charge for any of our responses. We are here to help out our friends and neighbors. Our fire hall has been used to host benefits for families in need and we all do whatever we can to help. We are always looking for new members and try to find a way for anyone that wants to help. This may be through fighting a fire, auditing financial books, cooking chickens, or helping in many other ways.
We currently have a great group of dedicated members that are well trained and highly skilled. We look forward to continuing our service to the residents of Farmington Township and those of the surrounding areas for a long time to come in any way that we can.