Southold Fire Department to celebrate 125th anniversary


There will be fire trucks up and down Main Road in Southold Saturday afternoon as the fire department celebrates its 125th anniversary with a parade, street dance and a display of antique firefighting equipment.

Hard as it may be to believe, the North Fork community, where the first English-speaking settlers stepped ashore in 1640, didn’t have an organized fire department until 1886. That year residents gathered on a January evening to begin the discussion on taking an organized approach to community fire protection. The next month saw the creation of Protection Engine Company No. 1 and eventually the purchase of an 1886 Rumsey hand-pumper.

According to department records of the time, there’s some debate on whether the pumper’s first use came during an emergency.

“The 1st fire for engine’s use — an ice house by the creek — supposition it was set afire to try out the new engine.”

The truth may be long gone, but the engine isn’t. The pumper, which takes eight people to work and can still throw a stream of water up 100 feet, will be on display with other period pieces at the department’s Main Road headquarters from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

About 20 departments will be displaying firefighting equipment from long ago, said Bill Witzke, former chief and co-chairman of the anniversary committee.

The department’s celebratory parade, which includes 30 departments and several bands, including two pipes and drums groups, begins on Main Road near Jockey Creek Drive at 3 p.m. heading east toward the firehouse. Main Road will be closed from Ackerly Pond Lane to Boisseau Avenue from 3 until the parade ends, sometime around 5 p.m.

With music provided by That 70s Band and a DJ, the department’s street dance takes place on the firehouse grounds from 6 to 10 p.m.

“There’s no admission charge,” Mr. Witzke said. “We’re always asking for things from the public, but this is a chance for the public to come in and have a nice evening on us.”

Hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, wine and soda can be purchased during the evening.

“This should be a good time,” Mr. Witzke added. “The more the merrier.”

Anyone with questions can call Mr. Witzke at 765-2711 or 765-3232.

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