Our History

A serious effort to form a fire company did not happen until Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan moved to the Village of Suffern during the summer of 1900. Mrs. Ryan met with Village Officials and offered to purchase a fire engine as long as there was a building to maintain it in.

On July 2, 1900, a formal meeting was held at the Village Clerk’s Office for all residents interested in forming a fire department. Thirty-eight men were present and were enrolled into the Company. Elections were held and Ruben G. Riggs was elected President and Edgar Whritner to the position of Foreman.

The Village Trustees were presented a petition, signed by these men, signifying their willingness to serve as active members of a fire department. A resolution was then passed by the Village Board of Trustee’s allowing the formation of a fire department within the Village, to be named and designated as the “Suffern Fire Department”.

In September of 1900, the Village of Suffern taxpayers approved a proposition to allow the Village to issue bonds to pay for a Village owned water system. As a result, the need for a fire engine became unnecessary, and Mrs. Ryan was asked if she would change her offer of a fire engine to a hose carriage. Mrs. Ryan consented to do so, as well as, offered to provide furnishings for a building when one was built.

A special Village Election was held on December 18, 1900, for a proposition to raise $2,500 for the purpose of purchasing land and to build a fire station. The result was 70 to 5 in favor of the proposition.

The members of the fire department considered adopting the name “Ryan Hose” in honor of Mrs. Ryan, however, she suggested the name “Volunteer Hose” would be more appropriate. Following a vote of the membership, the name “Volunteer Hose Company No. 1” was formally adopted.

The first public affair held by the members of the Volunteer Hose Company No. 1 was a Fireman’s Ball, held at Traphagen’s Hall, on February 14, 1901. A sum of $69 was added to the company’s treasury.

A proposition to create “A Board of Fire Commissioners” was passed on March 19, 1901. The Village of Suffern Board of Trustees appointed H. C. Wanamaker, H.R. Porter and Edgar Whritner as Fire Commissioners.

In April of the same year, through the efforts of Fire Commissioner H. R. Porter, a Hook and Ladder Company was formed.

The Commissioners received a favorable offer on April 12, 1901 from George W. Suffern. The offer included the purchase of a 40-by-120-foot lot on Wayne Avenue for the sum of $500 to construct a new firehouse. Plans for the firehouse were immediately decided upon, estimates secured, and a contract was signed on April 25, 1901.

J. E. Hunter’s low bid of $2,000 for a brick 32-by-40-foot building with a pitched roof and a single span for a second floor was accepted by the Fire Commissioners. The firehouse was designed with two bays, one for each company, and a doorway to the upstairs meeting room. The amount appropriated by the Village, however, was insufficient to finish the interior of the building. As a result, the membership raised $600 to complete the building’s interior.  The new firehouse was accepted on October 5, 1901.

The firehouse was ready for occupancy, and Mrs. Ryan, true to her word, presented the Suffern Fire Department with two hose carts, 1,000 feet of hose, couplings, and nozzles. She also provided the furniture for the upstairs meeting room.

Later that same month, the two companies met and held the first department election for Chief. Theodore Randolph was elected Chief Engineer, H. R. Porter, 1st Asst. Engineer and E. E. Dimon, 2nd Asst. Engineer. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, 32 members of the department attended their first parade, hosted by the Ramsey Fire Department in New Jersey.

On April 2, 1902, the Fire Commissioners signed a contract with the Seagrave Company of Columbus, Ohio for a trussed frame hook and ladder truck.  The following month, on May 9, 1902, a special department meeting was called by the Chief to discuss the purchase of an additional hose wagon. It was estimated that $600 was needed to purchase the wagon so the membership held a fair on June 26th, 27th, and 28th to raise the necessary funds. The hose wagon was built for the sum of $550.00 by the Paterson Wagon Company of Paterson, New Jersey, and delivered on November 6, 1902.

The first fire department parade held in the Village of Suffern was on Thanksgiving Day, in the year 1902. Following that parade, uniforms were purchased and worn for the first time during the Hudson Valley Fireman’s Parade in Haverstraw, New York on June 17, 1903.

Following a fire on September 29th, 1915, that destroyed the downtown business section known as the “Comesky Block”, village residents realized that the time for motorized fire equipment had come.  The Hose Company received a Ford Model T in 1916, it’s first motorized piece of fire apparatus.

A few years later, in 1920, the need for additional motorized fire apparatus became apparent, as it was almost impossible to get horses for fire service on an on-going basis.  On October 9th, 1923, a second motorized firetruck was accepted, a Packard/Pirsch, triple combination, 350-gallon pumper. Additionally, a Peter Pirsch hook and ladder truck was also delivered in November of 1923.

In 1928, the Suffern Hook and Ladder Company moved from the shared quarters with the Volunteer Hose Company on Wayne Avenue to their new quarters on Washington Avenue.  The Hook and Ladder Company occupied the first floor of the building, with the offices for the Village of Suffern on the second floor.

In June of 1931, a Mack 750-gallon, triple combination pumper was purchased to replace the Ford Model T. This apparatus would be designated as 19-1000 on the Rockland County fire radio.

Sadly, during the early morning hours of March 27th, 1934, the Volunteer Hose Company Building was destroyed by fire. The membership voted to rebuild on the old site and on Friday, August 23rd, 1935, the Volunteer Hose Company moved into their newly rebuilt quarters.  The Ladies Auxiliary of the Volunteer Hose Company purchased the brass sliding pole and ring for the new firehouse. This pole and ring were moved to the current Hose Company quarters in 1995 and are on display in the meeting room.

In 1937, the Suffern Hook & Ladder received a Seagrave 12-cylinder, 75-foot, tractor-drawn aerial truck, designated 19-75. The truck would be given the name “Snow White” because of its appearance.

It would be ten years before the next new truck arrived. In 1947, a 1,000-gallon American Lafrance pumper, 19-1001, nicknamed “Number One” was delivered and replaced the 1932 Packard/Pirsch.  A few years later, in 1951, a second 1,000-gallon American Lafrance pumper was delivered to replace the 1931 Mack.  It would take the same radio call sign as its predecessor, 19-1000.  The only distinguishing difference between the two American LaFrance pumpers was that the 1951 was delivered with a soft, cloth top.

Then, in 1955, the Hook and Ladder Company received their first equipment truck, an American LaFrance, designated on the Rockland County fire radio as 19-EM.  That same year the Hose Company purchased a used Army Jeep.  Known as 19-Patrol, the purpose of this vehicle was to carry excess equipment. A Jeep station wagon replaced this Jeep in 1964, and a Chevrolet van was purchased in 1974 as its replacement. This was replaced by the current 19-Patrol in 1990.

In 1958, Smoky, the Hose Company Dalmatian mascot was struck and killed by a truck. The dog was a present to the Hose company by Mrs. Charles Mapes of Mile Road. A special stone was engraved in memory of the dog, which can be found as part of one of the walls in the Washington Avenue firehouse that was erected in 1995.

As the village continued to grow, which included the addition of larger commercial and residential properties, the need for a second aerial truck was realized.  An American LaFrance Aero Chief 90-foot snorkel, 19-90, was delivered to the Suffern Hook & Ladder in 1965.

In 1970, American LaFrance delivered a 1500-gpm, diesel powered pumper to replace the 1947 American LaFrance. This engine, remembered as the original “19-1500”, was the first piece of apparatus to sport the white over red paint scheme.

With the addition of a large housing complex, known today as Bon Aire Park, the fire department sought the addition of a third firehouse.  The Leo P. Lydon Fire Station was built during the mid-1970’s and was used by both companies.  In addition, this new station included an office for the Fire Chief and a meeting area larger enough to accommodate the memberships of both companies.

The Suffern Hook & Ladder Company and the Volunteer Hose Company both received new pieces of apparatus in 1973.  A new Seagrave tractor-drawn aerial, known as 19-99, along with a GMC/Welch equipment truck to replace 19-EM were delivered.  In addition, the Volunteer Hose Company received another American LaFrance 1500-gpm engine, designated 19-1501.  This apparatus was stationed at the Leo P. Lydon firehouse.

Members of the Suffern Fire Department saw Chief Bob Shuart receive a used police car from the Suffern Police Department. This vehicle was used as the department’s first Fire Chief’s vehicle.

In 1977, an American LaFrance 1750-gpm pumper was purchased for the Volunteer Hose Company.  The apparatus became known as 19-1750 on the radio.

In the spring of 1982, the Suffern Hook & Ladder moved from its quarters on Washington Avenue to its newly constructed quarters on Lafayette Avenue. A few months thereafter, a new Sutphen Telescoping Platform Aerial was delivered to replace the 1965 American LaFrance platform.  The new aerial would be known as 19-Tower.

Throughout the decade, additional trucks were purchased for the Suffern Fire Department.  In December of 1986, a new 1500-gallon Sutphen pumper was delivered to the Volunteer Hose Company. The new apparatus replaced the then current 19-1501, a 1973 American LaFrance.  In 1989, a Spartan/Saulsbury Heavy Rescue was received by the Suffern Hook & Ladder Company to replace the 1973 GMC/Welch equipment truck.  The new apparatus would be known as 19-EQ.  Lastly, the Volunteer Hose Company would receive their new 19-Patrol, a 1990 GMC/Reading/Gowans Knight equipment truck to replace the 1974 Jeep station wagon.

The 1955, 1969 & 1977 American LaFrance pumpers were traded in for two stock HME/American LaFrance pumpers in 1993.  These two engines were identical to each other, both equipped with 1,250-gpm pumps and a 1,000-gallon tank.  They stood out against the traditional white over red paint scheme because of their black over red design.

During the fall of 1995, the Volunteer Hose Company moved into its current quarters at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Cross Street. The firehouse took two years to design and build, with a cost close to $1 million. The grand opening and dedication were held on October 14, 1995. The lead box that was placed in the cornerstone of the old fire station in 1934 was opened during the dedication. Inside was a list of officers & members, a dollar bill, a photograph of the original firehouse, an original company badge and a copy of the April 5th issue of the Ramapo Valley Independent.

With the addition of this new firehouse, the Village of Suffern decided in 1999 that the Leo P. Lydon firehouse would be repurposed for use by the Department of Public Works. All fire trucks were relocated to one of the other two firehouses located on Lafayette and Washington Avenues.  In addition, the office for the Fire Chief was moved to the Volunteer Hose Company on Washington Avenue.

A new Sutphen 95-ft telescoping platform was delivered to the Hook & Ladder Company in December of 2002 to replace the 1982 Sutphen.  This vehicle remains in service as the primary response aerial to commercial properties within the village.

In late 2004, then Chief Don Schreeck presented a proposal to the Village of Suffern Board of Trustees to permit youths ages 16-17 to join the fire department. A document detailing the guidelines to govern these members was provided to the department membership and the board, both of which voted to accept them.  Within several months, the department had 8 new members under the age of 18. The program was refined throughout 2005, where the Village Board approved an updated guideline that permitted the youth members to play a more active role in firefighting operations.

A Ford F-350 pick-up truck, which was purchased through a grant from the late State Senator Thomas Morahan, was placed into service in September of 2005. At the time, its primary objective was to transport the department’s boat and decontamination trailer to the scene of related alarms. The vehicle has room for five firefighters and equipment, such as portable pumps, brush fire tools and portable generators.

In October of 2005, a new Seagrave 2000-gpm pumper was delivered to replace the 1986 Sutphen pumper.  This decade also saw the delivery of two other replacement apparatus and a new fire chief’s vehicle.  In 2008, the Volunteer Hose Company received a Ford F450 with a Stahl body to replace the 1990 GMC known as 19-Patrol.  Then, a year later, in 2009, the Volunteer Hose Company received a Seagrave 1500-gpm engine to replace one of the “twin” American LaFrance engines, 19-1250.  This new apparatus would be known as 19-1500.

Just a year later, in 2010, the Hook and Ladder Company received a 2010 Seagrave tractor drawn aerial to replace the then in-service 1973 Seagrave.  This vehicle remains in service today as the primary response apparatus to residential addresses.

In 2012, following the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irene in the summer of 2011, the fire department received a donation from AB Inflatables of a 12-foot inflatable boat with outboard engine.  The boat is maintained by the members of the Hook and Ladder Company.

The 1989 Spartan/Saulsbury Heavy Rescue, 19-EQ, was replaced in 2015 with a Spartan ERV Walk-Around Heavy Rescue.  This truck features a rear lift-up staircase with upper coffin-compartment storage.

Most recently, in December of 2021, the Volunteer Hose Company accepted the delivery of 2021 Seagrave 1500-gpm engine.  This apparatus replaced the 1993 HME/American LaFrance, 19-Tanker.

Today, the members of the Suffern Fire Department carry on the tradition started by their forefathers, answering alarms, serving the community, and protecting the citizens of the Village of Suffern, New York.