The soil and water supply in this area of Glenville made it very profitable for farming, and house lots were only available when the large tract owners either decided to retire or sell plots from their holdings. Tunis Thomas occupied a large farm house that was located within the triangle formed by Freemans Bridge Road blending with Ballston Avenue (which continued north as Saratoga Road). His house faced north, and the intersection became known as Thomas’s Corners. In time, the name of the intersection was shortened to Thomas Corners.
The economic boom during and after World War II brought families from throughout the nation to the area for work with the General Electric and American Locomotive Companies. The noise from the railroads, and airport in this business-farm community forced home owners to bypass Thomas Corners and settle two or three miles north of here. This area grew fast, and it soon became known as the East Glenville community. As the population continued to grow, land became an asset and the Hadel, Heidenreich, Weise, and Horstman farms were soon partially or completely sold to builders and the area around Thomas Corners saw the construction of many new homes. To meet the problems presented by this population boom the taxpayers formed an association, and for want of a title, named it the Thomas Corners Civic Association. Eventually the subject of fire protection entered the discussion. It was suggested that a fire company of volunteers be formed who would somehow do something to control fires. A rally was held to recruit members, in September 1948 and there were 88 men wanting active status. Thomas Wilson, the appointed president, called the first regular meeting of the company to order on Monday, Oct. 4, 1948. On October 18, 1948, Leon LaFrance was elected as Chief of the company, and Walter Champ was selected as Assistant Chief. After some discussion, it was decided to form a politically approved fire district.
In 1949 the town board established Fire District 7 in the Town of Glenville and the first commissioners meeting was held on March 3, 1949. The newly appointed commissioner’s started to develop plans to equip the district. $29,000 in bonds was issued, with $14,000 allotted for land purchase and the building, and $15,000 allotted for the purchase of trucks and equipment. Webster Motor Sales sold a 1950 Ford cab and chassis to the district at cost. Hanson construction said they would build a 40-foot by 60-foot concrete block garage type building on the site selected on Airport Road. With the winter of 1949-1950 setting in, his men would be working between regular contract work and when weather permitted. The 1950 district budget was $2,908. The principal payment on the bond was $1,000, the interest on the bond was $50 and $1,858 was allotted for all other expenses.
The Ford cab and chassis had been taken to Syracuse where the Sanford Co. would put a fire engine body on it. The pump would be a Hale 500 gpm mid-ship pump. The winter was so severe that any schedule for constructing the building was impossible. However, the truck was delivered on schedule, so it was initially parked in Peterson’s garage. This truck was designated as No.1, and later re-numbered 271. This truck served the district from 1949 to 1978. Robert Hollenbeck, who owned Pedrick’s Florist, was active in the founding of the fire company, and he allowed his phone number (32129) to be used as the fire phone. Several women had lists of firemen’s names, and upon a call from Pedricks, would call the firemen on their list. It was important that not all of these women leave the district at the same time, to insure that there would be firefighters to respond to the call.
The fire house had become enclosed and a furnace placed in the middle of the room. There was no water installed and no sewer system. The roof was not yet insulated, so all the heat went out the roof and from the knees down the room temperature was nearly the same as the outside temperature. As spring brush fire calls mounted, it became apparent that a tanker would be more useful than the pumper for grass fires, so the pumper could be reserved for structure alarms. The commissioners purchased a small six-cylinder Ford cab and chassis, which was sent to Albany where the R. J. Ronan Co. proceeded to install an 800-gallon tank. The top was sectioned off to hold Indian tanks, brooms, and shovels. The firefighters installed a portable pump on the rear of the truck and connected it to the tank. This truck was designated No. 2, and later became 272, and eventually was renumbered 275. This truck served the district from 1950 to 1976.
Rest rooms had been installed and a small kitchen occupied one corner. The fire house consisted of two truck bays and an area for the meeting room, rest rooms and the kitchen. The men dug a well at the rear of the fire house and it was a source of water for the fire house and the pumper. The firemen also dug cisterns on Windsor Drive and Skyway Drive for water supply. By 1954 it was apparent that the pumper needed a better water supply. The taxpayers approved the purchase of another Ford cab and chassis, which would be a larger truck. Witbeck Auto Sales was the successful bidder on this truck, which was taken to Ronans where a 1500-gallon tank was built on the chassis. Side compartments were added and the top was also decked off for hose beds. This tanker became 273. 273 served the district from 1955 to 1984 going on many mutual aid calls to areas without hydrants. The small pumper/tanker, 272 was updated with a front-end pump and a hose reel replacing the portable pump. The two fire bays were full and the furnace would be in the way of a third bay.
The building received an addition to the rear, which was divided into two rooms. The floor was still cold, and, in spite of decorations and paint, the fire house still looked like a garage. Meanwhile, the front window of the fire house was removed, and another overhead door was installed in order to provide bays for the three trucks. One room became a knotty pine kitchen and the other room housed the furnace. The well was now indoors in the center of the furnace room. In August 1955 at a garage fire on Ballston Avenue. Chief George Wilkinson, suffered a fatal heart attack, due to the effect of smoke inhalation and exhaustion. His death was the first of two line-of-duty deaths in our department.
Into the 21st Century:
By early 1997 E-272 was retired and efforts were made toward the purchase of a new pumper. The result was E-274, which cost $266,000 and was delivered in 1998. This Pierce Saber is the latest addition to Thomas Corners equipment. This new vehicle has a 750 gallon tank with a 1250gpm pump and an automatic ladder rack. Once again, this vehicle allows eight firefighters to respond in interior seats. The increasing call volume, especially in requests for medical assistance, resulted in a new R-270 which was placed in service in 2001. New Chiefs vehicles purchased in 1999 and 2002 helped to provide a quick emergency response. Additional cardiac defibrillators purchased in part with memorial donations, were placed in all Chief’s vehicles as well as all the fire vehicles to provide for fast defibrillation when required.
By 1999 it was apparent that the fire station was too small to meet our needs in the 21st Century. A committee was formed to determine whether to add on to the existing building or to build a new structure. The committee visited several new fire stations and held many meetings to define our new station. Early meetings with the selected architect, C.T. Male, revealed that the cost of an addition and bringing the existing station up to modern standards would be more than the cost of a completely new structure. Accordingly we pursued the design for a new 18,000 square foot station. The conceptual design was completed and voter approval of the 2.3 million dollar structure was obtained in 2003. After the detailed design was finished late in 2003 bids were received and a contract was awarded to Malone & Tate Builders. Construction was started in early 2004. During the construction phase, fire operations were conducted out of a “Venbro” garage on Sarnowski Drive. It was with great relief that the apparatus was moved into our partially completed building in October 2004. Final completion of the fire station and moving of administrative and social functions to our new building was achieved in December 2004.
As we complete 60 years of service, many of us recall “Old 271″ with its three stage pump, manual transmission, and mechanical brakes. There were rubber fire coats hanging on the driver’s side, and heavy wooden ladders on the passenger’s side. Our call volume was 50 or 60 calls each year. We compare this to our new E-274, automatic and electronic, and the modern rescue and medical equipment that we use to answer over 650 calls each year. Most of all, we recognize the firefighters, past and present, who gave 60 years of dedicated service to our community.
Oscar Held 1978
Ben Hertzendorf 1998, 2007
James Smith 1998, 2007
Growth & Development:
Around 1960, a drought started in the northeast that lasted for eight years. Homes started to run out of water and were extending their water points further into the ground to reach the new lower table. The town announced that a water district would be formed. This meant hydrants to work from, a possible lower fire tax rate, and a better rating for the district. The problem that presented itself was the pumping capacity of the equipment. All trucks were rated at 500 gpm, but with each supervised test it was shown that the equipment was aging, and not meeting their rated pumping capacity.
The district now started a giant improvement program. The original firehouse would become the new meeting room when modernized. The kitchen would remain, with modern appliances, while the furnace room would become the “back room”. A new gas furnace in the new storeroom would heat the firehouse. The rest rooms would be relocated, and any space left over would become a cloakroom. The apparatus room would be in the new addition which would also have a commissioners room and a radio room. A bid was let to the Howe Co. for a custom built 1250gpm pumper with heavy equipment to cope with the growing district. The 1967 Howe pumper had a 750 gallon tank, three rear pre-connected attack lines and a fixed deck gun. This vehicle was designated as 274 and was in service from 1967 to February 1990.
In 1967, the new fire station was dedicated, with United States Congressman Daniel Button as the principal speaker. There was a dinner dance, the first of many social functions held in the new station. The alarm and alerting system had progressed with the technology advances, and by the late 1960s we had several fire radios. The emergency phone calls, were answered by the Scotia firemen who activated the home “Plectron” alerting system, which called the firefighters to duty. The trucks had been designated as 271 for the pumper, 272 for the small tanker, 273 for the large tanker, and 274 for the new Howe.
The commissioners wanted to assure the district of proper pumping capacity so specifications for a new pumper, similar to the Howe, were prepared. The Hahn Co. succeeded in getting this contract for $39,000, and in January 1973 Thomas Corners had two new custom pumpers each rated at 1250gpm with 750-gallon tanks. The new Hahn was designated 272, and the small pumper/tanker renumbered as 275.
In 1973 we celebrated our 25th anniversary. The district owned a new fire station and five trucks, two of which were custom pumpers. At the dinner dance held in October 1973, all members especially the charter members looked back with feelings of pride and accomplishment.
In 1976 as the number of medical calls increased, and theories of firefighting changed, a Saulsbury minipumper was ordered. This 1977 Dodge pickup truck had a 250-gallon tank and a 250 gpm pump. The “mini” was designated as 275 and the old 275 was taken out of service. 275 served as a medical/first response vehicle from 1977 to August 1994. On Thanksgiving Day in 1978 the district had its second line-of-duty fatality. Past Chief Edward Pawlowski was operating the pump on the initial attack truck, (274) at a working structure fire at the Shady Lane Inn when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
In the late 1970s and the early 1980s the district continued to grow in population. Apartment complexes were built and the fire service started to answer an increasing number of medical calls. CPR and first aid training became a yearly drill item. By the early 1980s Thomas Corners was responding to approximately 120 calls each year.
In 1983 the district took delivery of a new Pierce-Arrow pumper, which was designated as E- 271. The original 271 had been removed from the rolls in 1978. This new pumper served as our first response pumper from 1983 to mid 1998. Its’ features include a 1250gpm pump, a 1000 gallon tank, and was our first diesel engine automatic transmission vehicle. Its cost of $137,000 might have seemed expensive at the time, but seems cheap by 1998 prices.
In 1983 the property next to the fire station became available and was purchased by the district. A pole barn for firefighter’s social activities was erected (1992) at the back of the property while the front of the new property is used for firematic training. A large storage shed was erected at the rear of the station to reduce the clutter in the apparatus room.
As Thomas Corners celebrated its fortieth anniversary, a major effort was underway to
provide new and more sophisticated equipment to cope with the increasing alarm volume. A new Chevrolet Suburban, R-270, was purchased in 1987 to answer the increasing number of medical alarms. 274 was sold in 1990 and a new vehicle was ordered in 1989 and delivered in 1990. This Pierce Lance, was designated as E-273 and is configured as a dual purpose vehicle. It is used for water supply at structure fires and as the first response for motor vehicle accidents. It has a 1250gpm pump and a 500 gallon tank with large storage compartments. For water supply, 4” diameter hose was purchased, and for rescue, a Holmatro Rescue tool was installed. Additionally the crew cab allows four firefighters to ride in comfort, protected from the elements. The day of the back step firefighter was coming to an end. Since the prohibition to rear step riding by firefighters limited the people that E-271 and E-272 could carry, a Ford Pickup, U-276 was purchased in late 1994 to carry manpower to the scene of an alarm.
The Plectron alerting system was gradually replaced by personal pagers for the firemen, allowing fewer firefighters to respond to the increasing number of calls. Surplus police cars 278 and 279 were obtained in 1990 and 1991. In addition to the new fire pumpers, the commissioners purchased other major pieces of fire equipment. This equipment included new personal protective gear for all firefighters, seventeen new 4.5psi lightweight Scott SCBA units (1995) and a cardiac defibrillator (1994). The defibrillator was purchased, in part, by memorial donations to the fire department. A new Chevrolet Blazer was purchased as a chiefs car in 1998 replacing one of the aging, surplus police patrol cars.
The increasing number of alarms and the changing economic situation requiring two wage earners in a family has put a strain on fire service membership. A partial answer is the Service Award Program, which the district initiated in 1992. This program allows active firefighters to earn credits towards a small pension when they reach sixty years of age.
In 1995, after considerable discussion, the Town of Glenville went to a central dispatch for fire, medical and police services. The universal 911 emergency number replaced our old seven digit number, and career dispatchers replaced Scotia fire control.
With the retirement of E-272 in 1997, a new Pierce Saber Pumper was delivered in1998. This latest addition to Thomas Corners apparatus has a 750 gallon tank with a 1250gpm pump and an automatic ladder rack. Once again, this vehicle allows eight firefighters to respond in interior seats. This truck was designated as E-274.
The increasing call volume especially in medical calls resulted in R-270 being placed into service. It was a Ford Expedition and carried a crew of 5 along with all the necessary medical equipment. New Chief’s vehicle purchased in 1999 and 2001 helped provide a quick emergency response.Additional cardiac defibrillators purchased in part from Memorial Donations were placed in all Chief’ as well as all fire vehicles to provide for quick defibrillation when required.
By 1999 it was apparent that the fire station was too small to meet the needs of the community. A committee was formed and visited a number of other fire station and held many meetings. Our architect C.T. Male designed a new 18,000 square foot station. The conceptual design was completed and voter approval of the a 2.3 millon dollar structure was obtained in 2003. Malone and Tate Builders started construction in early 2004, During the construction phase, fire operations were conducted out of a garage on Sarnowski Drive. It was with great relief that the apparatus was moved into our partially completed building in October 2004. Final completion of the fire station was achieved in December 2004.
In 1998 we bought out first Chief’s car, it was a former police car .In 1992 we purchased a new Ford Explorer for the Chief. We currently have vehicles for our Chief and his two assistants. All our Ford SUV’s. We have 2016, 2015 and a 2008. Our utility truck is a Ford F250. Our medical vehicle is a 2012 Ford Explorer.
In 2010 we purchased our first ladder truck for the previously unheard of price of $750,000. 275 is a Pierce Impel ladder truck with a single rear axle and a 75 foot rear mounted ladder with two ground stabilizers. The ladder has a master stream nozzle which is operated remotely from the ladder turntable. The truck also carries a compliment of ground ladders, a 400 gallon tank, a Husky Foam System on pre-connected lines and a 6.5KW on board generator. 275 runs first out on all fire alarms.
In 2012 the department implemented IAR (I Am Responding). The nature and location of all alarms appears on a firefighter’s smart phone as well as messages from the officers. A large screen at the firehouse informs firefighters who is responding, their qualifications (EMT, Interior) and whether they are responding to the scene or the station.
After many years a county wide dispatch system was implemented. This system handles all fire and medical calls in the county. The dispatchers are EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatchers) trained so medical calls are prioritized from A to E according to their severity, E being the most serious.
The aging population and the increased number of senior living facilities in our district has resulted in a sharp increase in our call volume. Our call volume has TRIPLED from 350 alarms in1999 to 1067 in 2016. Thomas Corners has been either the first or second busiest all volunteer department in Schenectady County for the past several years.