The year 1918 marked an important step in the growth and development of the little Hamlet known as McKownville. In that year it assumed its first legal status as a political subdivision, that of a Fire District. It also acquired its first nucleus of fire protection, the McKownville Fire Department, Inc.
The District, as originally set up, extended from the Albany City Line westward to Gipp Road in the area now known as Westmere. Later it was shortened when the Westmere Fire District was organized. On March 18, 1918 the McKownville Fire Department, Inc. was organized and 23 members signed the charter. John J. Haggerty was elected as the first Captain.
On March 25, 1918 a constitution and by-laws were adopted. Limits were set at 60 active and 25 associate members. In 1933 Shell Oil Co. offered a plot of land to the Fire District for $1.00 adjacent to its gas station on Western and Arcadia Avenues. The land was accepted and in early 1934 August Lux, Architect, was authorized to prepare plans.
On July 14, 1934, voters approved a bond issue of $12,000 by a vote of 87 to 30 and plans for the building were approved. The building was built without a General Contractor for $10,850 and held a formal open house on April 6, 1935 at 8pm. The orignal firehouse still stands on Arcadia Avenue, across from Starbucks. The Fire District extended to its present boundaries in 1951 and a new telephone alarm system was installed.
With two large fire trucks in the Department, it soon became apparent that the outmoded firehouse would have to be replaced with larger quarters.
In May of 1961 the Commissioners began exploration for a new site, a search that almost ended in frustration as site after site was found to be unavailable. In January 1965 efforts to purchase the site at 1248-1250 Western Avenue began after one-by-one of the other 15 parcels had proved fruitless. Condemnation proceedings on this parcel were instituted in March of 1965.
On June 15, 1965 voters approved 357 to 64 the acquisition of this site and construction of the new firehouse. In March of 1966 Architect August Lux was authorized to prepare plans for the building.
On January 26, 1967 voters approved an unprecedented bond issue of $285,000 to cover the additional cost of land, build the building and acquire a new fire truck, by a vote of 232 to 17.
On April 8, 1967 ground was broken for the new fire house and the new truck was ordered from the American LaFrance Co. The trucks were moved into the new house in December 1967 and in January 1968 the Fire Department held its first monthly meeting there.
On March 9, 1968 truck #3 arrived from American LaFrance to fill the third stall and on March 18, 1968 a referendum was held to give permission to dispose of the old firehouse building in use since 1935. However, the building was never sold and is still in use by the department. In 1968 the department celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The new firehouse hosted a dinner-dance. The Board of Fire Commissioners purchased a Chevrolet Box Van in 1974 and sent it to Medi Coach Companyin Oneonta, NY where it was customized to Squad 53 which remained in service until the early 90’s. The finished truck was delivered and placed in service on January 3, 1975.
On January 7, 1984 E-57 was delivered to McKownville. This is a 1983 American LaFrance pumper with a 1250 gpm pump and a 500 gallon tank. With the arrival of this truck E-56 was moved to the Arcadia Street Station, but kept in service. E-56 was later repainted and equipped with a fifty gallon foam tank pre-connected to the deck. This truck, although now an antique, is still in service and used as the Department parade vehicle.
In 1986 the town of Guilderland constructed a park on Strawberry Lane off of Schoolhouse Road. In June of that year it was named the Fred B. Abele Park in memory of Fred B. Abele who served as Secretary and President of the department before passing away in 1985. The park has since served as a recreational and training area for the department. In early 1990 we learned that Engine 55, which had been in service since March of 1968, was having serious engine problems. Bids were sent out and in September of 1990 received a 1500 gpm, center mount pump panel, American LaFrance Pumper, the current E-55. The old pumper was traded in to American LaFrance who used it for its parts.
In August of 1990 the department ordered a flat bed trailer which has been used primarily for parade floats, which due to the participation of the firefighters, ladies auxiliary members and their families have won numerous awards.
In 1993 the department celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. In the winter of 2001 the department began to expand its firehouse with a huge renovation project.
The above history was compiled and adapted from the program of the 75th Anniversary by Jennifer and Andrew Rickert. The program would not have been made possible without the help of historians Fred B. Abele and Leo Dugan.
The image (left) hangs in the firehouse and honors those residents of McKownville that served our country during World War II, including members of the fire department.