Because the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company has been in operation for 90 years it is useful to reflect back on the history of the organization and the innovation and efforts made to keep the community of North Madison safe. In the previous issue of our newsletter, we noted that the Company was founded in 1925. The Company was established under the leadership of Rudy Schraner, who served as Chief from 1928 through 1966, and Eugene Keyarts. These two individuals were responsible for organizing a meeting of North Madison citizens to initiate a volunteer fire company. The meeting was in response to the loss of a barn on Summer Hill Road and the experience of Schraner and Keyarts who witnessed a volunteer fire company in action in the nearby community of Essex. The first meeting of the Company was held in the North Madison Congregational Church.
Although the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company was subsequently incorporated through a registered charter in the State of Connecticut, the company began with no training, equipment, or support. Through the work of its volunteer staff the Company was able to acquire 20 soda acid fire extinguishers which were distributed among firefighters. Soon after, the Company was able to purchase a used Model-T halfton chemical truck. The truck provided firefighters with access to a 100 gallon water tank which was located directly behind the driver’s seat. Although the Model-T made an excellent addition to the Company, it had no starter, making it practically impossible to rapidly access the vehicle in case of an emergency. To overcome this challenge, volunteers developed a unique starting system in which the truck was placed on a ramp. When an emergency call was reported, the truck could be started by rolling the vehicle down the ramp and popping the clutch.
This innovation was not the only pioneering effort made by the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company to support its operations. To raise money, volunteers held regular chicken dinners and ice cream socials, charging residents $0.25 admission. The events were held in the church basement and provided the Company with an opportunity to raise money while connecting with community members to emphasize the importance and role of safety as an integral part of daily life. In addition, barns owned by the church were used by the Company for training. Later, the Company repurposed an abandoned school at the corner of Opening Hill and Durham Road to establish the community’s first firehouse.
Throughout its history the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company has utilized innovative strategies and methods to build safety as a foundational component of community well being. While the Company did experience a humble beginning it has continued to grow and to maintain a commitment to the improvement of the community. As we reflect back on the history of the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company it is evident that we have come a long way. It is exciting to imagine where we will be in another 90 years.
Submitted by Past Chief, Eric Alletzhauser