On September 8,1895,
thirty-six men met at the Grand Hotel in Congers, to organize
a Volunteer Fire Company to be known as the Alert Hook Ladder
and Engine Company #1 of Congers, New York. From 1895 until
1898 the company was truly a "bucket brigade." The
nature of the wood framed buildings protected by the company
reduced the efficiency of the brigade to little more than a
The hill area
accessible off Massachusetts Avenue was the site of the
townís many three and four story hotels, which presented
formidable obstacles to effective fire control.
Realizing the need
for more adequate equipment, a committee was formed by members
of the company to investigate the cost of a steam pumper. In
1898 the committee visited the American La France factory at
Elmira, New York, to consider the purchase of a steam pumper.
A coal burner pumper caught their eye, and knowing the
companyís need, they obligated themselves to the purchase of
this horse drawn steam pumper at a cost of $1,000.00. This
apparatus is still the possession of the fire district and
holds great sentimental value to the company members.
According to older
members, shortly after the acquisition of the pumper, there
was a "spectacular fire" in a three story frame
house. The pumper using water from a nearby cistern brought
the fire under control in short order. The people seeing the
pumper in operation were so impressed, it is said that money
was raised during the next month to pay for the steamer.
The company did not
maintain a stable of horses for the pumper but rather used the
horses of members responding to the alarms or the first
available team of horses to arrive at the firehouse. In later
years it was not uncommon to see a Model T or a Chevy pulling
the steamer to a fire. The steam pumper was used until 1928.
Membership organization since its inception, the Alert Hook
Ladder and Engine Company until 1929, helped maintain itself
financially by donations and rentals received from letting the
firehouse. Many parties and dances were held in the wood frame
building constructed in 1899.
In 1929, the Congers
Fire District was established and shortly after, the building
and equipment was turned over to the fire district by the
company. The present firehouse at Lake Road occupies the same
site as the original building. It was constructed in 1937, and
financed by a $12,500.00 bond issue. The building was expanded
and renovated in 1990 to accommodate added equipment.
The original bell,
used for alarms, was brought by horse and buggy to congers
from York City by Robert D. Southward a charter member of the
original fire company. It was for many years located in a
wooden tower behind the Lake Road firehouse. This bell was
recently refurbished and is again part of a stone memorial
sitting in front of the building.
The alarm system in Congers at the
present time consists of one audible siren, home alerting
radios, and pagers to aid in alerting personnel. In addition,
all apparatus are radio equipped. The fire department is
mainly dispatched with the enhanced 911 system introduced to
Rockland County in 1994. The fire district has also recently
installed a sophisticated computer network to aid fire
dispatch and maintain vital records.
In 1927 an Oldsmobile
pumper and a Dodge truck were purchased. The Dodge was
equipped as a chemical truck. An Ahrens-Fox right hand drive,
750 G.P.M. pumper, was purchased in 1929 to replace the
Oldsmobile pumper. This truck served the district faithfully
Congers, like many
rural areas, lacked a water system and fire hydrants until
1957. Due to this, water had to be carried on trucks to the
alarms for use until adequate hose lines could be laid to an
available water supply. Usually a large cistern or one of the
lakes was used as a water supply. For this reason, in 1941, a
GMC 1,000 gallon fuel truck was purchased and equipped as a
tanker. An army surplus fire truck was acquired in 1947 to
replace the Dodge chemical truck. In 1950, a 2,000 gallon
White tank truck was purchased to replace the original tanker.
The Ahrens-Fox was
replaced in 1957 with a 750 G.P.M. Ward La France. This was
followed by the purchase of a 750 G.P.M. combination high
pressure John Bean pumper in 1961. Also in 1961 the company
received and equipped a Ford equipment truck. This vehicle was
donated to the fire district. In 1968 a 1,000 G.P.M. Ward La
France pumper was purchased. An 85 foot aerial with a 1,250
gallon pump was purchased from American La France in 1971. In
addition, a John Bean 1,000 gallon high pressure pumper was
delivered to the firehouse in 1976, which replaced the 1957
750 G.P.M. Ward La France.
In 1979 the company
purchased a new equipment truck to replace the 1961 Ford E.Q.
This vehicle has been equipped with portable generators,
lights and the latest ice/water rescue equipment. A new high
pressure attack truck was bought in 1981 to replace the 1961
John Bean high pressure pumper. The latest addition to the
fleet is a 1994 GMC Suburban used to take man power to the
scene of a fire, and carry personnel to neighboring fire
departments on mutual aid calls.
The fire department
presently operates a patrol, equipment truck, one ladder truck
and four pumpers, one of which is a custom 1500 G.P.M. pumper/rescue
purchased from Grumman Emergency Products in 1991. This
vehicle is equipped with state of the art fire and rescue
equipment, including the "jaws of life". The most
recent apparatus purchased was a KME 1000 gallon tanker which
was put in service in 1993. Along with other equipment this
truck is equipped with integrated foam system to efficiently
combat hazardous material fires.
The Congers Fire
District is cut in half by the West Shore Railroad tracks.
Long freight trains rumbling through the town often cut the
hamlet in half for 15 to 30 minutes. Hazy memories recall
incidents when trains cut hose lines laid across the tracks
and also caused delays to equipment responding to fires.
To combat this, an
additional firehouse was constructed on North Harrison Avenue
in 1958. Boyhood rivalries of east side against the west side
subsided due to the construction, and the efficiency of the
fire company was greatly increased.
In 1965, the members
of the fire company, using their own funds, expanded this
building to make a much larger meeting room and reception
hail. The members are justly proud of their labor which
resulted in one of the finest facilities in this area.
With the ever
increasing growth of the community more room was needed to
house the necessary equipment in order to adequately protect
the hamlet. Therefore a new truck bay was constructed on the
north side of the Harrison Avenue firehouse in 1982. This bay
presently accommodates three of the districts seven fire
fighting pieces of apparatus.
The more spectacular
fires, many will agree, were the hotel fires of the 20ís and
30ís,and the most memorable fire the Knickerbocker Ice House
fire of the mid-twenties. During the 1960ís the most
memorable fires were the fires at St. Paulís Church and the
Congers Arms Hotel. However, the most unforgettable fire to
members secured in December of 1968 when numerous fires were
discovered simultaneously at the two firehouses. A near
disaster was avoided by quick action from the members of the
fire company and the quick assistance from our neighboring
mutual aid companies. A more spectacular fire secured on June
6,1974, in the Penn Central Railroad tunnel. The fire lasted
for 4 days and many hours of service were devoted by the
volunteer firemen of Congers and many other Rockland County
We have been
fortunate in the past 10 years, despite the increase in
population, that the number of alarms in the Congers Fire
District has decreased significantly. This decrease can partly
be attributed to the continued training of the men and the
fire prevention programs which are presented throughout the
community. But more than this, it is the dedication, courage
and skill of the volunteers who faithfully serve to protect
the lives and property of the people of the Congers Fire
Currently there are
80 active members and an additional 10 members including Life
Members, Chaplains and Doctors. The entire membership remains
volunteer and they hope to continue to adequately serve the
fire district in the years to come.