A leading accomplishment of the postwar years was the founding of the Goshen Fire Department. Anthony Thomas, as well as some old-timers who are now gone – Stewart Mollison, Sidney Sears and Gordon Newell – should be credited for much of the pre-organizational work. These people held dances to earn money four or five years prior to the formal beginning of the Firefighter’s Association. Tom Barrus wrote the following account of its developing years in 1956 for the town’s 175th anniversary.
“The Goshen Fire Department of today is a comparatively new addition to the community. As recently as ten years ago in case of fire all help was summoned by telephone and ringing the church bell. All available equipment consisted of soda-acid fire extinguishers and whatever tools the neighbors had at hand. Today, an emergency call of almost any kind can be answered in minutes with a large variety of modern equipment. In ten years, the town has acquired an underwriters-approved pumper and two 1,000-gallon tank trucks. A portable pump, electric generator, several hand extinguishers of the latest types, protective clothing, numerous small tools and 2,300 feet of hose make up the bulk of the inventory available to fight fire. For rescue work there is an ambulance, a resuscitator and breathing apparatus for use in smoke, poison gas or underwater. A capable corps of trained volunteers, without which the equipment would be useless, stands ready to answer every call.”
“A fire station which seemed almost too big when built, and which five years ago was ample, is now inadequate to house all the vehicles. The meeting room and other facilities upstairs provide suitable quarters for various activities of the firefighters and will be convenient for part-time or constant manning of the department if desired. Topped by a siren audible in nearly all parts of the town, the whole department offers protection to all and reduced insurance premiums to nearly every resident.”
“How did we do it in less than ten years and with comparatively few dollars from the town treasury? It is the result of much hard work and individual abilities freely given by a group whose single-minded purpose has been to set up and then constantly to improve our Fire Department. Voluntary donations of every description range all the way from land and building materials use of tools and equipment, to countless hours of labor for raising money and construction, and knowledge and talents contributed whenever the need appeared. We have tried to keep it strictly voluntary; no one is expected to do more than his interest and abilities direct him. No one received pay for firefighting or other emergency service. “Countless hours of labor” means exactly that. Everyone has always been so busy that no timekeeper kept records; even our financial records are sketchy, especially in the early days, and we are not sure just how many thousands of dollars the volunteers have raised for the department. Credit for a big job well done is not given by citation but only by the visible results. We haven’t worked entirely without compensation, however; some fun or pleasure automatically appears in nearly every task. We welcome new member who wants to join the fun by working. There will still be plenty for everyone. In September 1949 the house and barn owned by Henry Richardson burned to the ground. Two days later our first fire truck was driven into town. Since that day, any fire, if discovered in time, has been stopped. We know that all our efforts to make and continue such a record must be worthwhile”
Listed below is a chronology of the Goshen Fire Department. Our thanks go to Paul Webb for its creation.
1945 – Several men informally form an association to start a fire department for Goshen. Among them were Tony Thomas, Stewart Mollison and Gordon Newell.
1946 – Thomas Barrus appointed Forest Warden. Water holes constructed.
1947 – First truck purchased – a 1937 Dodge 500 GPM Pumper. It was kept at Brooks Garage on Main Street.
1948 – Construction of the firehouse started.
1949 – The Goshen Firefighters Association was formally organized. The firehouse was completed. The first tanker – a 1,000-gallon GMC was built by the firefighters association. The first annual report was made to the Town – total costs to the town up to now were $6,241.06.
1950 – The I.S.O. rates Goshen and the Fire Department passes. The Town Fire Department is set at $916. The Fire Department spent just under $1,500.
1951 – Francis Dresser appointed Fire Chief and Forest Warden. The first fund raising show “The Big Baby Review” was staged.
1952 – The Firefighters Association purchased a 1,200-watt generator. The first request for a hydrant at Highland Lake was submitted to the State.
1955 – The Firefighters Association adds a second 1,000-gallon tanker – a new 1954 Chevrolet. A resuscitator was also purchased.
1956 – The first Ambulance was purchased second hand from Shelburne Falls for under $300. The “Green Beetle”, a 1947 Packard started us on the EMS road. To put it in the firehouse, the center posts were removed and a steel carrying beam inserted. Hilltown Mutual Aid was formed. The Firefighters Association sponsored a Little League baseball team.
1957 – The Firefighters Association begins construction of an addition to the firehouse. Hampshire County Mutual Aid was formed with its main goal to improve radio communications.
1958 – The firehouse addition is completed. The Blackhawk Rescue Tool was purchased.
1959 – The Town purchases its first new pumper – an American LaFrance 1,000-GPM custom for $19,000. The firefighters add $1,000 of extra equipment to the truck. County radio system begins taking shape.
1960 – Civil Defense funds used to add radios to the Pumper and Chevy tanker and to add the 10-kilowatt emergency power generator to the station.
1961 – The “Green Beetle” replaced with a second hand Packard from Newell Funeral and Ambulance Service of Northampton. It was called the “Tan Packard”.
1962 – The Last Minstrel Show was held ending over a decade of hard work and fun fundraising.
1963 – The GMC tanker was replaced with a 1960 Ford cab over. Foam equipment was added to the pumper and the ambulance received its first radio.
1964 – Oxygen bank was purchased. Ambulance coverage was extended to Williamsburg and Chesterfield.
1968 – A radio was installed in the second hand tanker.
1971 – With Highway Safety matching funds, the Goshen Fire Department purchases its first new ambulance – a 1972 GMC Suburban that cost $7,000.
1972 – The hydrant at Highland Lake dam (initially requested of the State in 1953) was installed.
1973 – A portable pump was purchased. The State mandates Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and ambulance specifications making our brand new ambulance obsolete. The Town switches our budgets to Federal Revenue Sharing Funds.
1974 – The firehouse was broken into and the ambulance was ransacked. The radio was stolen along with some minor equipment. This predicated the official start of subsidy budgets from Williamsburg and Chesterfield making ours a truly regional service.
1975 – Hampshire County Fire Defense was formed – a reorganization of the old Mutual Aid group.
1976 – The old firehouse is deteriorating and is getting cramped for space. Applied for Federal Grant for new facility (first try)
1977 – Hampshire County Fire School was started. Purchased a 1978 Yankee Coach – Lexington Class I rescue ambulance with donated funds at a cost of $35,000. The first Ambulance dinner dance was held.
1978 – Fundraising drives the purchase of a Lukas “Jaws of Life” unit for the Ambulance – another $10,000. Purchased Nomex turnout gear for firefighters. Firehouse Study Committee formed. Acquired a 1969 5/4 ton 4WD Kaiser Jeep from military surplus which will be converted to a brush truck.
1979 – Hampshire County Medical Radio in service providing direct ambulance to hospital communications. Six-inch quick dumps were added to both tankers. Purchased 2 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units. Town appoints a Fire Truck committee.
1980 – Goshen Bicentennial Celebration – the Fire Department coordinates emergency services for all events including the parade that drew a crowd of 25,000 spectators. Hampshire County EMS was formed. Most personnel equipped with tone alert pagers.
1981 – EMT-Intermediate training started. Replaced radios in the Pumper and Ford Tanker. The Firefighters Association purchased a smoke ejector and a chain saw for ventilation of buildings.
1982 – The Firefighters Association purchases a 1975 Ford cab over to be converted to a tanker. This will replace the 1954 Chevy.
1983 – The Town votes $100,000 to purchase a new pumper. The second floor of the firehouse is condemned. Arlene Harry and Lois Cross, the Department’s first two intermediate Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT-I) are certified. This allows our service to receive an Advanced Life Support – Intermediate (ALS-I) license. New 75’ antenna erected for the Goshen Base radio to improve communications with EMT’s in Williamsburg and Chesterfield.
1984 – Chief Dresser serves on a steering committee that successfully returns the use of MAST trousers to the Basic EMT level. We start an EMT continuing education series with Dr. George Deering conducting six lectures a year. A “Pack-RT” portable repeater radio was added to the Ambulance. The new pumper was delivered – a 1985 Ford Pierce 1,250 GPM with a 1,000-gallon tank. The Firefighters Association added a station air compressor to keep the brakes charged on the new truck. Wood columns were installed to bolster the steel beams in the station. The County replaced the 75’ radio tower with a 140’ tower. We also responded as Mutual Aid to Northampton for the Hampshire Lumber Company fire.
1985 – Ambulance service is 30 years old.
1986 – A computer was added to help keep up with the increasing amounts of paperwork needed to keep the State happy both for ambulance and fire. Site work was finally started for the new firehouse.
1987 – Due to red tape, the new building was not ready to be occupied before winter requiring both stations to be heated throughout the season. New ambulance was ordered.
1988 – Funds for the new fire station have run out. The Firefighter’s Association will complete the interior as funds allow. Hampshire County Fire Defense Association (HCFDA) is using our station to work on a Mobile Air Supply truck for the County. When completed, it will be housed here. We take delivery of a 1989 Ford / Yankee Coach Lexington. Once again, this ambulance was purchased for $72,000 with donated and raised funds. We start work to refurbish the 1978 ambulance. Also purchased 3 semi-automatic defibrillators and 10 multi-channel portable radios ($25,000). Southern New England Telephone (SNET) begins construction of a cellular phone tower on our site. Northampton Ambulance starts the Critical Response Intervention Team (CRIT) giving us access to Paramedics when needed.
1989 – The refurbishment of the 1978 ambulance is completed which allows for the retirement of the 1972 GMC ambulance that the State said was obsolete in 1973. SNET erects a 180’ tower and removes the old 140’ tower. The Fire Department answers 42 calls – the most ever to date. The new station is used by the town as a polling place for the first time. Upgrades of equipment and gear started in order to comply with NFPA 1500 standards. The Firefighters Association in conjunction with the Goshen Police Association sponsors the first “Pig-nic” fundraiser. This event occurs again in 1991 and 1992.
1990 – Added cellular phones to both ambulances. Purchased a camcorder to record training and lectures. Fire Department takes over street numbering project.
1991 – Hepatitis-B vaccine given to all personnel per mandate of OSHA. Old firehouse demolished courtesy of the Army National Guard. H.A. George & Sons Fuel donates a portable deluge set, which has been mounted on 56-E1. The Firefighters Association purchased electric door openers of the truck bays of the firehouse.
1992 – Enhanced 911 (E911) house numbering project completed.