The History of Getzville Fire Co.
Fires, floods, chowder and Surprise Storms highlight first 90 years
Farmers like George Wolf realized by the fall of 1917 that something had to be done about the need for organized fire protection in Getzville. That's because Wolf's barn burned at Millersport Highway and Skinnersville Road burned to the ground one day and his loss was the catalyst which united neighborhood leaders to form the Getzville Fire Company 90 years ago. The organization's first fire apparatus was a chemical truck housed in an 18 by 12-foot shed. Wolf was elected president the following year. With spiraling membership and more emergencies to handle, attention soon turned to building a new larger fire hall. After several offers for land were entertained, the directors finally agreed to buy a parcel measuring 300 feet square at Dodge and Campbell for $1,500. A bid to build the hall was accepted at just under $9,900 late in 1924. The dedication of the hall occurred in September 1925, with members adding the skill and muscle to finish the interior. The lifeblood of the Getzville Fire Company during these early years were community dances and the annual picnic. The latter was supported mainly by the "Chicken Committee." This committee grew from nine to 30 men as the need for chicken chowder grew with its reputation. Committee members went door-to-door seeking donations of chickens, vegetables, beef and money. The tradition lasted 56 years.Frugal directors held off on the purchase of a new fire truck, but a 1926 Larabee became Getzville's next rig at a cost of $6,300. It was manufactured by the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corp. A Ford Model "A" chassis was fitted with the body of the existing Model "T" to form a new safer truck. Then in 1937, another pumper was purchased from Ford dealer Fred Muck for $692, and the Cayasler Corp. was paid $2,378 for building the apparatus on top of it. In 1950, a Ford/Ward LaFrance pumper was purchased for $75,000, while firemen constructed new truck bay with their own hands.
UB creates need
Other apparatus was added as years went by, but one of the biggest additions came in the fall of 1983. Built by Grumman, a 95-foot aerial ladder was made necessary by construction of the State University system's new campus smack in the middle of Getzville's district. When ground was broken in 1972, it was determined that the volunteer fire company would have charge of all fire protection duties at UB. Yet the district and the town had surrendered 1,400 acres of land from the tax rolls for the tax-exempt university campus. A committee of Arthur Wight, Daniel Miller, Richard Dentinger and Richard Eichlberger started the long process in 1975 of securing a $350,000 grant for a ladder truck.
Blizzard of '77
Buffalo's infamous "Blizzard of '77" had major effect on Getzville. On January 28th, 1977, roads throughout the town were blocked by 10-foot drifts. Getzville's Engine 5 followed a snowplow on its route to pull it out of drifts when the going got tough. Two days later, one of the blizzard's biggest emergencies struck at the Arbordale Nursery on Dodge Road. A nine-hour fire-fighting ordeal during one of the worst storms on record took it toll on Getzville volunteers and others involved in the second alarm response. "No man could stand the cold for more than minutes at a time," one observer recalled. "North Bailey fireman assisted by shuttling Getzville's men back and forth to warmth and by taking their turn at freezing nozzles." Another natural disaster, this time a flood, hit the community in February 1985. That month's alarms included 20 fire calls, 23 first aid calls and an astounding 296 requests for utility shutoffs as rising water drove residents from their homes. One of the biggest commercial building fires ever to hit Amherst took place in December 1980 at the Harlem-Genesee Nursery at Hopkins and Klien. Getzville fire fighters trine and interior attack, but the fire was fueled by a dangerous combination of artificial trees, aerosol products, pine wreaths and plastic decorations. By day's end almost every fire company in town had been pressed into service.
Flood of 1985
February 1985, brought with it a flood unseen before to the men and women of Getzville. In a short time frame over 300 calls for assistance came in. Getzville Firemen responded in a fleet of boats and three quarter boots, wading through waist deep water to make it to residents, and utilities.
Missions Beyond Our Boarders
The love of our brotherhood knows no bounds as evidenced in the past few years. Sept. 11th 2001, is a date that needs nothing more to be said about it. It is in our minds and body on a daily basis now. In the days following, a crew from Getzville responded to provide first aid to workers at the site of the towers. Then again last year, as the flooding in Broome County occurred a group of members stepped up on a few hours notice to make the trip across the state to help our brothers in need. One can be assured that when we are called upon in the future that we will come!
The October Storm
Friday October 13th, 2006 lived up to its name. Our predicted one inch of snow from the night before turned out to be over a foot and one to remember for this generation of firefighters from Getzville. Over the course of the next 10 days, along with the help from mutual aid companies from around town and the rest of the state the members of Getzville responded to over 400 calls. Included in this were 6 structure fires, and unfortunately the death of one of our residence as a large tree limb struck him as it fell.
A Revitalized Fleet
2007 brought with it a time of change as members said goodbye to many of our trucks; Three new engines came in and replaced trucks from the early 90's. A new dive truck has replaced a 1976 ford rescue, and as we speak, a new light rescue is being put in service to replace one of our ambulances.
In the line of duty
The only Getzville fire fighter to die in the line of duty was Micheal Zbieski. A polish immigrant, he was 18 when he came to America and served with the Marine Corps in World War 1. It was June 28th, 1934 when a mutual aid drill was staged at the George F. Lamm American Legion Post on Wehrle Drive. The purpose was to ascertain response times from various town fire companies to what was considered an "isolated" area. But as a pumper from the North Amherst Chemical Company approached the scene, Zbieski darted into its path from a lane of cars parked along the shoulder of the road and was critically injured. He died on July 1st and was buried on a national holiday - the Fourth of July.
Lastly, to all of our brothers and sisters that have lost their lives in the last year both in the line of duty and from other means, we bow our heads and acknowledge all you have done for us, and your communities.
Excerpts from this were from by DAVID F. SHERMAN
originally published in the Amherst Bee September 23, 1992