Fire Department History

Lunenburg Fire DepartmentThe forerunners of our fire department must have been those chosen in the early years "to take care of fire and to burn the woods." The first men appointed in 1742 were Nathan Heywood and William Jones. In the beginning, firefighting in this town was by a bucket brigade manned by volunteers, and the fire losses must have been quite high. The first record of the purchase of fire equipment is in 1869 when F. Mclntyre was paid $106 for the purchase of two fire extinguishers. Stillman Stone and Sons were paid $4 for labor in suppressing a forest fire at the foot of Turner (Townsend) Hill in 1887.

In 1889, the town paid the Fitchburg Fire Department $50 for services at the Carter Brothers and Billings fire and also paid C.A. Goodrich $3 for services in reporting and acting as fire warden for three fires. Voters approved $100 to be paid for future services of the Fitchburg Fire Department in 1894. Fifteen deputy fire wardens were appointed in 1899. In 1908, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law requiring towns the size of Lunenburg to have forest fire wardens. In May of that year, the Board of Selectmen asked Clayton E Stone to be fire warden. Six, sixteen-quart soda-acid hand fire extinguishers were bought and kept at the town hall. Later more equipment was kept at the houses of various men, named as deputy wardens.

The Town Report of 1908 contains the first report written by Mr. Stone and he comments, "In no previous year has there been so much damage to forest land as this season." Mr. Stone, on hearing of a fire, would telephone the man nearest to it who had an extinguisher. This man would attend to the fire alone, or with several other men if available. If all the extinguishers were needed, the town bell was rung. If general aid was needed, a second ringing signaled the town to come and help. Loren Brown provided a horse and surrey for himself and Mr. Stone to ride to the fire. With his light, fast horse arriving 20 minutes after the alarm was a good time. Brown and Stone were the main fire department for two years. The expense of covering fires in 1910 was $159.16. The rate of pay was 35 cents an hour for Mr. Stone, 30 cents an hour for the helpers and Mr. Brown received more, for providing the horse.

Lunenburg Fire Department 1In 1914, Mr. Stone retired as fire warden after several years of service, as a result of a controversy following a fire in "The Clearing" in Whalom. The timber had been cut leaving a slash that was dry and in danger of burning. A fire did start and to save nearby cottages, Mr. Stone ordered his men to start a backfire at the rear. This saved the houses, but the owner of the property claimed that the backfire was started without his permission, and tried to summon Mr. Stone to court to collect damages for the timber lost. While this course of action was not successful, he continued to agitate the selectmen, who finally dismissed Mr. Stone. Stone had recommended that the town purchase a fire wagon, which could carry twelve to fifteen extinguishers, hoses, shovels, etc. but the town felt this would be too expensive. After Stone retired though, the town did purchase a wagon, which proved to be too heavy to be drawn by one horse. Therefore the shafts were removed and replaced with a pole.

Unfortunately, no one could be found willing to let his team draw the wagon, so it was little used. The Whalom section, on its own account, bought a hand-drawn chemical apparatus, with a 50-60 gallon tank, containing only a simple soda-acid solution. This two-wheeled vehicle was kept in a fire station located near the site of the first roller coaster. The first fire station was the Number 2 school house which had been moved from the corner of Goodrich St. and Lancaster Avenue to School Street in the Town's center.

Clayton Stone was succeeded as fire warden by Sherman Sanderson, Myron E Harvey, and James Gilchrest.

Arthur Q. Emerson became fire warden in 1926 and was followed by George S Winchester in 1927. About 1930, $2,000 was spent on a fire truck, which was a Model A Ford, with the body built by the firefighters themselves. At this time, firefighters were alerted about a fire by having the local telephone operator plug all of their lines in, causing all the phones to ring at once and then the message was delivered. For a time, the town fluctuated between having a fire chief appointed by the selectmen or elected by the voters, or appointed by a Board of Fire Engineers. There was some controversy about this, if one reads between the lines of newspaper accounts, or listens to some of the stories told by those around at the time.

Lunenburg Fire Department 2The Selectmen appointed George S Winchester as chief in 1933, but in 1934 he was elected. In 1935, William Harley was appointed as a fire warden. Harley later resigned and was replaced by Aubrey K. Wornham. The Board of Fire Engineers was appointed in March 1935. The board was organized with William Harley as Fire Chief, George H. Wakefield, Assistant Chief, and Henry Hebert, Secretary. A fire company was organized by sending out questionnaires for volunteers. A power siren was purchased, which could be activated either from the fire station or the telephone office. A 1935 Mack 500-gallon-per-minute pumper was purchased for a total cost of $8,000. This was the first true fire truck purchased by the town and apparently heralded the beginning of an organized fire department. * In 1937, Lunenburg approved the provision of the Massachusetts General Laws which empowered the selectmen to establish a Fire Department, thus abolishing the Board of Engineers.

This was the beginning of the Lunenburg Fire Department as we know it today. Wakefield continued as chief until 1938, he was then followed by Otis W Elliot in 1938 and 1939; Charles G. Hutchinson, from 1940 to 1947; Sherwood G. Winchester, from 1947 to 1949; and Roger G. Bigelow, from 1949 to 1964. In 1947, a 1938 Ford truck with a High-Pressure Pump and 450-gallon wooden water tank was purchased from the City of Fitchburg to be used as a fire engine. This vehicle was also used as the Moth Department Spray truck. Legend has it that the spray that was used by the Moth Department was white in color, and caused red-painted trucks to look pink. To eliminate this problem, the truck was painted white so the moth spray would not show. Ever since then, all Lunenburg Apparatus has been painted white.

This engine was the third fire truck in Lunenburg and was designated Engine 1. The fire station was remodeled in 1951, at a cost of $16,000, with the second floor to house the Police Department and Civil Defense Department. A full-time man was first named to man the station in 1950, and Roger Bigelow assumed this position in 1952. In 1952, the body from Engine 1 was placed on a new Ford Chassis. The Fireman's Benefit Association donated over $1,892 toward a communication system in 1953, with the town providing funds for two-way radios for the apparatus. In 1955, a fourth engine was bought by the firefighters and equipped by the town for a cost of $3,150. This truck had a 500-gallon per minute pump and a 1200-gallon tank built on a 1948 Ford chassis. A local government frequency was introduced in 1959 covering all town departments. Lunenburg became a member of the newly formed Mid-State Mutual Aid System in 1958. Also in 1958, the 1929 Model A was replaced by a 1958 International/Moody and Sons Brush Truck at a cost of $6,600.

This person would respond to emergency calls, maintain the station, and assist with the day-to-day operations of the department. The Selectmen approved, and in July 1986, Scott F. Glenny was appointed as Permanent Firefighter. In 1988, the Ambulance was replaced with a Frontline Type III Ambulance which was specially constructed to act as a Light Duty Rescue Truck as well as an Ambulance. In 1989, a GMC/Emergency One Mini-Pumper was purchased to replace a 1958 International Brush Truck. In 1990, several members of the Rescue Squad were certified in the use of Life Pak 250 Semi-Automatic Defibrillator, and a unit was purchased through donations for the ambulance. This device allows the EMTs to administer an electrical shock to a person whose heart has stopped beating regularly and restore it to a normal rhythm. In 1991, an Emergency One Protector Type Class A pumper was delivered. This engine replaced the 1977 Ford/Farrar, which had been rendered nearly useless by rust decay and mechanical failures. This new engine is also the first engine in Lunenburg to be equipped with a 4-door, fully enclosed cab for crew safety. The Department was forced to retire Engine 5 (1961 Farrar) in 1992. The truck's motor failed while pumping at McMillan's barn fire in November. The cost to repair the 31-year-old truck was too prohibitive and it was auctioned for scrap. Engine 4 was replaced in 1994 with an Emergency One pumper with a 1250-gallon water tank. The career staff of the fire department was increased to a total of four, including the Chief, between the appointment of the first career firefighter in 1986 and 1999. Chief Carrier retired in June of 2002 and Scott F. Glenny was appointed as Chief by the Selectmen in July 2002. In 2002 the Town was awarded an Assistance to Firefighters grant from the United States Fire Administration for the purchase of an Urban/Interface Pumper. This vehicle was placed in service in December of 2003 as Engine 5.

The Department moved into new quarters in December 2004. The new Public Safety Building at 655 Massachusetts Avenue replaced the fire and police station at 7 School Street that served the Town since the early 1900s. The modern facility provides ample space for fire department apparatus, a state-of-the-art police station and lock-up, and a 911 dispatch center with two operator positions.