Volunteers and Funding for Fire Companies
Fairport's fire companies have always been volunteer organizations, depending in large part on donations for their revenue. Consequently, from the beginning they have been concerned with raising money. The company's first hose cart was purchased in 1877 with money raised from several events including a production by the N.Y. Dramatic Lyceum in Shaw's Hall on West Avenue of "Ten Nights in a Bar Room". Today, as it has done at least since the 1950's, the fire department has a yearly fund drive, usually in October, to coincide with fire prevention week. During the week, there are often demonstrations of fire equipment, open house at the fire halls, and programs to encourage fire safety. In 2001, the department raised about $75,000. However, while donations per household have increased, there are fewer households that are contributing.
Nevertheless, all the best equipment, the latest technology and large donations would serve no purpose without dedicated volunteers. The DeLand Hose Company, the Hook and Ladder Company and the Protectives, the three companies comprising the current Fairport Fire Department, has 112 members as of 2001. All members of the fire department serve on a volunteer basis. In addition to numerous hours devoted to answering calls, each member is required to attend training programs in fire suppression and safety, and all receive training on the equipment. The state and county provide training in fundamentals of fire fighting and members attend training drills each Thursday. These weekly sessions cover the state and OSHA requirements. There is also training in CPR and in specialty rescue procedures. Several members are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and there are others trained in high-angle rope rescue and water rescue. As is the case with many all-volunteer entities, there is always a need for new volunteers. Recruitment is mainly by word of mouth, and there are many in the department who have followed fathers and brothers. Recently, it is becoming more and more difficult to recruit volunteers who are willing to give the extensive commitment that the fire department demands. Fortunately, improvements in technology have in part eased the manpower shortage. There is currently a study in progress about how to best deal with the issues of volunteer numbers and the response to daytime emergencies, not only for the fire department, but also for the ambulance corps, as those times are the most difficult to cover.
The training and dedication of the members of any fire company are continually being tested. Fires are always a challenge and firefighters remember the significant ones. In 1968 the historic Cottage Hotel at North Main and State Streets burned, taking six fire companies and 125 volunteers to control the fire. The hotel was destroyed and was demolished soon thereafter. Another historic building on the corner of North Main Street and Parce Avenue, a four-story brick building that had housed McBride's store early in the century and had also been the early site of Messarino's Market, was destroyed by fire in 1958. In the 1970's, Shaw's Hall, a historic building on West Avenue, burned as did another historic building between Short's Bar and Tanglefoot's that housed, among others, the old Kirkwood Hotel and Prinzivalli's market. A storm, the 1998 windstorm, and the 1999 blizzard also demanded the time and expertise of the local fire companies. In addition to real emergencies, the department must deal with false alarms. The majority of those are caused by home alarms systems and by gas calls that are routinely referred to the fire department by RG&E.
As the Fairport Fire Department enters the new century, the need to volunteers and further services, as well as additions and updates to both village firehouses are under study. Currently buildings are not adequate for the new equipment, there are some safety considerations, and office space is no longer adequate for the new technology and the increased demand for a variety of new services
The Fairport fire companies have given the community wonderful service over their 125 years of existence, and despite inevitable change, there is no doubt that tradition will endure.