After many disastrous fires and futile bucket brigades, a few interested citizens in 1926 decided that Big Flats, NY needed a volunteer fire department. The 25 charter members met on January 23, 1926 to organize. This meeting was held in a meeting hall on the second floor of Wakelee's Drug Store and Post Office. The first fire alarm was the Methodist Church bell.
For many years, the meetings were held in this hall. When the Elmira, Corning and Waverly Street Car Company disbanded, a member bought the street car power building on Main Street in Big Flats and fixed a meeting place for the firemen. They met here until the adjacent property was acquired and a cinder block building was built to house the equipment. This building had a large meeting room on the second floor. This location was used until the Fire Company built the present fire station in 1980.
On March 2, 1926, the Big Flats Town Supervisor established a Fire District, and petitions were circulated for formation of the Fire District. On December 7, 1926 the first equipment purchase for this Fire District was made. Two ladders were purchased and placed on the right side of Wakelee's Drug Store. On May 10, 1927 a 500 gallon capacity 1915 Brockway soda and acid truck was purchased second hand from Penn Yan, NY for $850.
By 1929, the Fire District was approved and the fire commissioners elected. The Big Flats Town Supervisor placed Big Flats Fire District No. 1 on the assessment rolls of 1930, the tax budget being $263.50, which the Fire District received February 10, 1930.
The next major purchase of equipment was in 1937 when the Fire District bought an American LaFrance Ford Pumper at the price of $3,975. This is still in running condition and is used for parades and as a funeral truck. In 1938, the Fire District purchased a second fire engine new from the American LaFrance Company. Another American LaFrance open cab engine was purchased in 1960. This was eventually sold to Elmira College, painted purple and gold, the school colors, and is still used by the college in parades and other student functions.
In 1966, a 4-wheel drive brush truck was purchased. It was affectionately dubbed “The Grasshopper.” In 1973, the department purchased the prototype of the American LaFrance Century Series pumper, which served until it was replaced in 2001. It found a new home with a fire department in Tennessee. In 1952, the Big Flats Volunteer Fire Company was incorporated. This non-profit corporation owns and maintains the fire station and provides the truck bays to the Fire District for storage of the vehicles and other emergency equipment, and provides volunteer fire and EMS personnel to the Department.
In 1998, Big Flats Fire Department joined, with the rest of the police and fire emergency services in Chemung County, in being dispatched by a centralized Enhanced 9-1- 1 service, operated by the Chemung County Emergency Management Office.
The following have served as Fire Chief: Charles Lowe, Fred White, Israel Farr, Ray Schultz, Miles Hilton, Walter Losey, Jr., LeRoy Peterson, Leslie Frost, James Moore, Leonard Kaner, Heman Fowler, Richard Alred, Michael Ahrens, Carol Christian, Arthur A. Bentley, Daniel Schwartz and William DeGraw.
Big Flats Fire Department
Protecting the Citizens of the Town of Big Flats