A Short History of the Woodmont Fire Company
The Woodmont Fire Company was officially organized on October 29th, 1896. On that date, residents of Woodmont met at what was then the Post Office for the sole purpose of organizing a fire department. A total of 35 men signed the original agreement agreeing to become volunteers. The drafted by-laws were modeled after those of the Arctic Engine company which existed since 1854 and was headquartered in downtown Milford.
At the first meeting, Mr. John L. Merwin was elected as the First Foreman. The company was formally incorporated by the State of Connecticut Secretary of State on April 29th, 1897. The company charter was issued stating that the company’s purpose was “the extinguishment of fires and the protection of life and property.”
At first, fires were fought by a “chemical machine” loaned by the then Town of Milford which was delivered on December 8th, 1896. The members met at the Woodmont Post Office, a building which still stands as a private residence across Village Road from Scribner’s restaurant. The chemical machine was stored in a shed at the rear of Edward B. Little’s barn on Center Street (now Dixon Street). The company paid $1.50 per month for storage.
After about 10 years of use, the original chemical machine was returned to the town. Thereafter, fires were fought by “force pumps” and “hose wagons” that were attached to existing fire hydrants in the borough. All early firefighting equipment was horse drawn. On January 6th, 1913, the company entered a resolution that the first person to arrive at the firehouse with a horse during an alarm would be responsible for taking the hose wagon to the fire. By 1919, it was noted that at least two members of the company had attachments affixed to their automobiles that would allow them to hook up and haul the fire apparatus.
In December 1912, the Milford telephone operators were given the names of all company members who had telephones. However, the company did not have its own phone until 1920. Electric lights were also added that year to the firehouse, keeping the company up to date.
The company’s first official firehouse was established when Edward Little’s barn, located on Center Street (now Dixon), was purchased in 1897 by the Town of Milford from Mr. Little for $250. The barn was modified for use as a firehouse at a cost of $569 and was operational, according to company records, before 1900. After the renovations were completed and fire operations commenced, the Woodmont Improvement Association immediately asked for permission to use the building for its own meetings. The request was granted and this established the long connection between the company and what would eventually become the Borough of Woodmont government.
The Woodmont volunteers did not become a full time part of the Milford Fire Department until 1920. At that point, the members voted to subject the members and officers to the rules of the Milford Board of Fire Commissioners.
The Woodmont company held many carnivals commencing in 1922 for the sole purpose of raising funds to support its operational needs. These events were week-long affairs and the last day of the carnival was renamed “Woodmont Day” in 1926.
The tradition of marking the graves of deceased members started in 1925. Each year since then, the company has participated in the June Fireman’s Memorial service. This activity is now held on the downtown Milford Green where there is a permanent monument dedicated to volunteer firemen who lost their lives while answering alarms. This service recognizes the contributions of what would eventually be six volunteer companies in Milford.
By 1935, the need for a new and larger firehouse was noted, but was held off to raise funds. It was delayed further after World War II started. The new firehouse on Kings Highway was approved on December 6th, 1945. After a long construction and fundraising effort, it officially opened on July 4th, 1949 with a large ceremony. At that point, the now City of Milford decommissioned the old Dixon Street firehouse and sold the building to the Borough of Woodmont for its continued use as a Borough Hall. The building served in this capacity until its demolition at the end of 1967, making way for the construction of the Fannie Beach school. The City of Milford most recently decommissioned the 1949 firehouse and sold the building to the Borough of Woodmont for use again as a “new” borough hall.
In the late 1970s, the City of Milford Fire Commissioners felt that the volunteer groups needed to be replaced by a paid staff of professional firemen. By 1985, the volunteers had been completely replaced by a paid, full time force. By that time, many of the volunteers in the six Milford companies joined the professional staff at the city owned firehouses.
Although the City of Milford officially does not recognize the volunteer fire companies, the Woodmont Fire Company(WFC) continues, and maintains cordial relations with the paid firefighters and the department. The WFC has relocated to two smaller buildings on the property next to what is now the new Borough hall on King’s Highway. The WFC still holds regular monthly meetings (first Thursday) and belongs to the Connecticut State Firefighters Association. The WFC participates in the local Engine 260 Muster, held every September, as a benefit fundraiser for Camp Happiness in Milford which provides services to challenged youth. The company also participates in the annual Woodmont Day parade each July sending its antique 1931 Maxim pumper truck. WFC holds semi-annual tag sales on their property.
The WFC Maxim pumper truck and company members are still going strong. Several members have received Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and could be called upon in case of a declared disaster. The Woodmont Fire Company welcomes new members who wish to serve the people of Woodmont, help preserve a piece of local history and bring civic pride to all we have in our beach community.
For more information or if you would be interested in possibly joining the Woodmont Fire Company please email the current Captain Bob Granger, Jr. email@example.com