Two severe fires prior to the turn of the century prompted the citizens of Hellertown to realize the need for an organized fire-fighting unit. Although informal meetings had been held prior to 1896, little materialized until a blaze destroyed the Christ Lutheran Church at Saucon and Northampton Streets on April 17, 1896. This fire, along with another which consumed two barns and stables on Main Street on April 17, 1897, provided the impetus to form what is now the Dewey Fire Company No. 1.
On December 17, 1897, a preliminary meeting was held at the Cottage Hotel with about 35 men in attendance. Work began on drafting the Constitution and By-laws, and on January 18, 1898 the first officers of the Hellertown Hook & Ladder were elected. Admiral Dewey's victory in Manila Harbor on May 1, 1898 caused Milton Keller (the first Fire Chief) to suggest the name Dewey Fire Company to the volunteers. The name was formally adopted prior to the chartering of the organization.
The Company met at the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street until some time in 1900 when the Borough erected a combination Fire House, Borough Hall, Police Station, and Jail on Saucon Street at a cost of under $4000. During those first decades of the organization, the Fire House became the focal point of the social lives of the members. Numerous parades were attended by the firemen who contracted the Hellertown Band to accompany them on many occasions.
A gala clambake was first held in Rentzheimer's Grove on August 6, 1906 (cost $1.00/person) and in June of 1907, a refrigerator for the storage of beer was installed in the basement by the South Bethlehem Brewing Co.
On New Year's Eve, 1908, a pork and sauerkraut supper was held for the membership - a tradition that continued for over eight decades. The first carnival night was held on October 2 and 3 in 1915 and included an outdoor moving picture show. The carnival was expanded to two full weeks in 1917 and continues today to be a major source of revenue for the Company.
While the Fire House remained strictly a gentlemen's area, records show the addition of a Ladies Auxiliary some time in 1921. That year also saw the firemen turn out to assist at a Halloween Parade for the first time. The growth of the organization kept pace with the community and when the Borough offices moved to their present building in 1940, the Fire Company was given use of the entire building. In July 1955, the present building was dedicated. Numerous additions have occurred since then to keep pace with the growth of the community and the apparatus needed to fulfill the mission of the volunteers. Today we have over 600 members - 28 of whom have held membership for over fifty years!
The Dewey Fire Company has been host to the Four County Firemen's Association Convention and Parade in 1929, 1959, 1964, 1972, 1983 and 1998. 1998 also was the 101st anniversary of the Four County Firemen's Association Convention and Parade.
January 1899: First piece of new equipment arrives. Handsomely painted and striped hose cart. Cost: $186. This antique unit is now permanently located in the Fire Company's Memorial Room inside the current building. It and many other artifacts chronologically tell the story of the Dewey Fire Company and may be seen by appointment.
March 1905: Chemical Extinguisher purchased for putting out small fires.
October 1910: Borough Council approves the transfer of Foreign Fire Insurance receipts from the State to be given to the Fire Company.
May 1914: Demonstration of new chemical engine
July 1920: New Howe pumper with Hale rotary Pump, 10' suction hose, and electric generator delivered. Cost: $5,500. Also in July of 1920, Borough installs electric sirens to alert firemen of emergency.
November 1921: First rubber boots (18 pairs) and coats (12) delivered. Cost: $196.20.
May 1926: Dewey takes delivery of a Mack pumper with 500 gpm engine. Cost: $4400 for the chassis.
1954: The infamous Hahn pumper arrives with two engines, two transmissions, and two differentials. Due to too many mechanical issues, its life in the Borough was short-lived.
1956: Dewey takes delivery of a 750 gpm American LaFrance pumper. This was a "city" truck purchased in haste to replace Big Bertha.
1959: Dewey takes delivery of the last open cab pumper, a 750 gpm American LaFrance.
September 1974: Dewey begins using Scott self-contained breathing apparatus. These replace the "Chemox" units previously used.
September 1977: Dewey takes delivery of a 1977 LaFrance 1000 gpm engine. This is Dewey's first engine with an enclosed cab. It is also Dewey's first engine with multiple pre-connected lines. The unit replaces a 1941 Mack 500 gpm engine. (Cost: $66,570). Also in 1977, Dewey switches to the Northampton County Fire radio frequency, and begins dispatching via Plectron alerting devices. Also in 1977, Dewey adds two additional bays to the Durham Street Fire Station. The bays will house two ambulances and the aerial truck; the existing quarters are too small for these pieces of apparatus. The addition is dedicated to the memory of Paul Ruch.
May 1981: Dewey takes delivery of a 1966 Maxim 100 foot aerial truck purchased from Pearl River, NY. The unit replaces a 1940 LaFrance 85 foot aerial truck purchased from the City of Bethlehem. Cost: $66,283.
August 30, 1981: An arsonist sets five fires in the borough. Portions of Spring Hill Shopping Center, Dan's IGA grocery store, and Weirbach's Texaco Station are destroyed or damaged; other fires at the Saucon Valley Middle School and the Hellertown Democratic Association cause minor damage.
March 1983: Dewey installs a cascade system to refill breathing air tanks.
December 1983: Dewey begins using turnout gear with bunker pants. This gear replaces the long bunker coats and full length boots previously used. The gear prove its worth shortly thereafter as Dewey assists Lower Saucon Township in fighting two arson fires in subzero temperatures.
June 1989: Dewey takes delivery of a 1989 Hahn 1000 gpm engine. This is Dewey's first engine with large diameter pre-connected lines and deluge gun, and pre-piped foam lines. The unit replaces a 1956 LaFrance 750 gpm engine. Cost: $141,856.
September 1992: Dewey begins using individual PAL devices. These units activate if a firefighter remains motionless for an extended period; their alarm will warn others of "a firefighter down", and will guide rescuers to the firefighter.
October 1996: A major arson fire strikes the borough again. Newberry's Variety Store and Dan's IGA are completely destroyed by a fire set in the rear shopping area of Newberry's despite the efforts of firefighters and departments from the surrounding area.
January 1998: Dewey takes delivery on a series of Holmatro hydraulic rescue tools. The tools will be used for rescue and extrication activities at motor vehicle accidents. Cost: Approximately $30,000.
March 1998: Dewey takes delivery of a 1998 Marion/Freightliner rescue truck. The truck includes an onboard cascade system for filling breathing air bottles at the incident scene, as well as pre-connected electrical, hydraulic and air reels. Cost: $199,671.10.
September 4, 2000: Dewey Fire Co. takes delivery of a thermal imaging camera from the Scott Aviation Company. This device will aid in the searching of victims in a fire or search and rescue situations. The device uses infrared radiation (which everyone releases) and displays this radiation on a monitor in a way that aids rescuers in finding the patient.
December 2000: Dewey Fire Co. takes delivery of 25 pairs of Globe Turnout gear made of a PBI type fabric. They have a zipper/Velcro closure and weigh about half of the previous Nomex type turnout gear. Also with these turnout gear, the personnel with the new gear were assigned new leather Ranger boots (much lighter and more comfortable than the rubber style) and also Streamlight Survivor flashlights to complete their gear. Also in December, Dewey began using Cleamens Industry's PAS V system for firefighter accountability. This will help keep track of what apparatus a member responded on and their assignment on a fireground.
March 9, 2001: Dewey Fire Company takes delivery of, and places in service, 18 new Scott Health and Safety Scott Air Fifty air packs of the 2.2 (2200 psi) model and 2 of the 4.5 (4500 psi) models. These air packs replaced 19 2.2 Scott Air Packs which had aluminum cylinders. The new packs are made of composite material and are Kevlar wrapped for strength. The packs weigh less than 30 pounds in some cases. They also have integrated PASS devices that are turned on when the pack's air is turned on, thus eliminating the need to manually turn the PASS device on.
October 2002: Dewey Fire Company released from service the 1959 American LaFrance Engine. This apparatus was purchased by the owner of Superior Automotive of Hellertown. The apparatus still maintains many of its items from service with Dewey and is being restored to her previous glory.
October 28, 2002: Dewey Fire Company and Dewey EMS takes delivery of a 2002 custom built Horton Ambulance. This ambulance is an additional ambulance to the EMS fleet, not a replacement. The unit was purchased due to the rising number of EMS calls in Hellertown and Lower Saucon. It is a custom built Type 3 ambulance, built on a Ford F350 chasse. The unit was placed in service and responding to calls 4 days after delivery. (Cost: $127,000.00) Around the same time, Dewey Fire also takes delivery of, and places in service 2 additional Scott Air Fifty air packs in the 4.5 model.
December 12, 2005: Dewey Fire Company and the Borough of Hellertown takes delivery of a 2006 KME Predator Custom Pumper. This engine is equipped with a 1500gpm pump, 750 gallon water and 50 gallon Class "A" foam tanks. This piece is also equipped with CAFS, or Compressed Air Foam System, bringing the Dewey Fire Company into the 21st Century. This piece of apparatus was placed in service February 8th 2006 after training and placing many new pieces of equipment on board. Cost: $430,000.00 for the apparatus, nearly $70,000.00 worth of equipment on top of the truck cost.
March 16, 2006: Dewey Fire Company and Dewey EMS takes delivery of a 2006 custom built Horton Ambulance. This ambulance is a replacement for our 1995 Horton ambulance. It is a custom built Type 3 ambulance. This unit was placed in service about one week after delivery. Cost: $140,000.00
October 28, 2007: Dewey Fire Company released from service the 1977 American LaFrance Engine. This apparatus was purchased by the owner of Superior Automotive of Hellertown. The apparatus still maintains many of its items from service with Dewey and will be restored to near new condition.
March 16, 2009: Dewey Fire Company and Dewey EMS takes delivery of a 2009 coustom built PL Custom Ambulance. This ambulance is a replacement for our 1998 Horton ambulance. It is a custom built Type 3 ambulance. This unit was placed in service about one week after delivery. Cost: $150,000.00
June 2009: Dewey Fire Company and Dewey EMS take delivery of a 2005 Ford Expidition. This unit was placed in service in July as a Quick Response Vehicle (QRV) for EMS. It also functions as a command post for EMS for larger events (such as the 2009 Lehigh-Lafayette held at Lehigh).
January 9, 2010: Dewey Fire Company and Dewey EMS takes a step foward in the treatment and care of the residents of Hellertown and Lower Saucon with the start of 24 hour operations of Advance Life Support by Dewey EMS. Licenced for 2 ALS units, 1 unit is up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
August 2010: Dewey Fire Company and Dewey EMS take delievery of a 2010 remounted Horton Ambulance from VCI Emergency Vehicles. This is an additional ambulance to the EMS fleet, not a replacement. This unit was purchased due to the rising number of EMS calls in Hellertown and Lower Saucon, and to our increase in the amount of stand-by operations that Dewey EMS participates in.
February 4, 2013: Dewey Fire Company released from service the 1998 Marion/Freightliner Rescue. The unit was sold to Continental Fire Apparatus for resale. Also on this date, Dewey Fire took delivery of the 2013 Pierce Dash CF Rescue/Engine. Work started the same evening towards placing the unit in service prior to the end of February.
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