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A BRIEF HISTORY

Before 1933 there was no organized fire protection in town. From 1933 to 1946 most of the Town of Putnam Valley had no fire coverage. Mohegan Fire Department only covered the southern part of the town, below Church Road and Cimmaron Road. The very first mention in the official record of a Putnam Valley Fire District appears in the Town Board minutes of March 16, 1946. The Putnam Valley Town Board passing a resolution asking the New York State Legislature to amend existing Town Law so that the part of the Mohegan Lake Fire District that was in Putnam Valley could be dissolved. The reason stated in the resolution was that "resident taxpayers of the said Town of Putnam valley have indicated a desire to withdraw from the Mohegan Fire District and to form a Fire District including the whole of said Town of Putnam Valley…"

Subsequently, the Putnam Valley Fire Department was incorporated on September 24, 1946, covering the entire Town. The first regular meeting was held on October 8, 1946. Returning World War II veterans, Putnam Valley men who were volunteers in the Mohegan Lake Fire Department and members of the World War II Auxiliary Police were the initial force behind the formation of a Putnam Valley Fire Department. There were 40 or 41 Charter members of the Department, depending on whether you count Howard Thomsen as a charter member. Howard Thomsen did the legal work for setting up the Department and his signature is on the charter as such. There were other men who were there at the formation of the Department but did not get to be Charter members because there was a limit of 40 signatures on the Charter. Early minutes indicate that there were 75 members of the Department by 1947. No record was kept of whether they were Active members or Associate members. Frank Rush was selected as the first President and John "Skip" Thomsen the first Chief. The first Board of Directors was apparently Howard Thomsen (Chairman), Charles Ackler and Tom Rippolon.

On April 5, 1947, the New York State Legislature passed a bill (Chapter 687 of the Laws of 1947), introduced by Assemblyman D, Mallory Stevens, permitting the Town of Putnam Valley to conduct a special town election on or before July 1, 1948, to dissolve the part of the Mohegan Fire District that was located within Putnam Valley and to form a separate fire district. Two weeks later Howard Thomsen asked the Town Board to schedule the election at the earliest possible date. The Town Board set the vote for Saturday, May 31, 1947, at the Putnam Valley Fire Department Building. There ensued several months of delays in the vote. There were several public hearings, and negotiations with the Mohegan Lake Fire District before the election was finally held on August 9, 1947. The Town Board acted as tellers for the vote. Special books were prepared with the pages captioned: "I hereby affirm that I am a property owner and elector and am duly qualified to vote on the Mohegan Fire District proposition for the dissolution from the Mohegan Fire District." The special voting books cannot be found so there is no official record of the vote, However, a short history of the Town of Putnam Valley written in the middle of the 1960's states that the vote to dissolve the Mohegan Lake Fire District passed by only two votes. That history credits Howard Thomsen for the information about the Fire Department. Even after the dissolution of the Mohegan Lake Fire District in Putnam Valley their company covered part of the Town, including all of Lake Peekskill, until January 1, 1960. On that date the Putnam Valley Volunteer Fire Department took over fire protection for the whole Town.

On November 2, 1946, Howard Thomsen appeared before the Town Board asking for permission for the newly formed Putnam Valley Fire Department to erect a firehouse on the Town Hall property, the construction cost to be borne by the Fire Department. The Town Board unanimously approved the request. The Town Board also turned over to the Fire Department a fire siren it had previously given to the Lake Peekskill Improvement District. That Siren is still in use at the Main Station. The original firehouse was built by volunteers. Some accounts say the building was completed in two weekends. However, nearly a year later, the minutes of the September 9, 1947, regular monthly meeting of the Fire Department, Held at Town Hall, indicate that the electrical wiring and cement floor had not yet been completed. The next meeting, on September 23, 1947, was apparently held at the firehouse because no mention is made of meeting at Town Hall. At that meeting Paul E. Schmittman Jr. was made chairman of the heating committee so the firehouse still had no central heat. The new firehouse was being heated by a large pot-bellied stove.

The Putnam Valley Town Board was also helpful in getting the first fire truck: an Army surplus 1943 Chevrolet chassis with fire equipment made by Darley Fire Apparatus of Chicago. The cost of the truck was $900.00. This truck was garaged at Leonard Wagner’s until the firehouse was completed. The first new piece of equipment bought by the Department was a 1949 John Bean High Pressure Fog Fire Fighter on a Ford F-7 chassis. The truck was ordered on April 2, 1949at a cost of $6,200.00, including 100 feet of ¾ inch special high pressure hose, ladders, two axes and one pike pole. The contract also included a provision for at least two members of the department to attend the Bean Fire School at no charge. The total cost of the truck, including the chassis was approximately $9,200. The high pressure Bean pump on this truck was later transferred to other equipment when the original truck was replaced. It was used in the department until 1996 when 2431 was retired.

In the Spring of 1952 a Police Fire Patrol was organized “To assist at fires in whatever capacity the Chief so designates. To be on call by the proper authorities to act as police officers if and where necessary.” On October 25, 1952, the Putnam Valley Town Board appointed ten men to the Fire Patrol, as the Fire Patrol were then called. Frank Rush was the first Captain, with Arthur Perosky and Charles Acker as Lieutenants. Then, as now, Fire Police had to be appointed and sworn in by the Town.

In December 1958, the Board of Directors discussed enlarging the area covered by the department by building an “outlying firehouse. “ By February 1959, the Wixon property at Tompkins Corners was chosen for a substation. After considerable difficulties with the Town Board, the Zoning Board and the Building Inspector the site was approved. The Tompkins Corners substation was built in four months at a cost of $9285. The station was dedicated on October 25. 1959.

In early 1972, the Fire Department decided to build the Present Main Station. Unlike the first two firehouses, which were completed in less than a year each, the new Main Station took nearly two years to complete. Bids for construction were opened on December 18, 1972. On the recommendation of the architect, the Board of Directors accepted a bid of $250,000. It was estimated that the building would be completed in 180 working days. The Estimate was wrong. A steel strike and other problems delayed completion. The current Main Station was dedicated on August 11, 1974.

1974 was an important year for the Fire Department. The new Main Station opened and a new dispatching system was instituted. From 1946 until 1974 firefighters were alerted to fires by the fire siren and fire phones. Calls came directly to the fire phones, which were installed in officers’ homes. When a call came in volunteers, like Babette Reichert, started calling an established telephone tres: officers called drivers, who then called other firefighters in an expanding network of phone calls. In June of 1974 the fire phones were removed from all but the Chiefs’ homes. Dispatching was now done by the Putnam Valley Police Department by radio. Firefighters had “instant alert” radios in there homes. The radios were bulky and not portable. Today every active firefighter carries a portable pager that directly dispatches volunteers to the site of any emergency.

Women were first admitted to the Department in 1980. Fran Tansey and Jeanne Bruno were, respectively, the first Active and Associate women members. In 1989 a Youth Corps was established for 16 to 18 year olds. The current chief Shawn Keeler was the first junior member to move up through the ranks became chief. In 2012 he was the first junior member to become Liffe active

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