Beginning. . .
It was one cold Tuesday evening at 8:30 p.m. on January 23, 1917 when the first official meeting of the “Nichols Fire Department” came to order. A small group of concerned neighbors gathered in a building on Center Road in the village of Nichols, Connecticut. The purpose of this meeting was to establish a fire protection organization and to select leaders for the new group. Lewis D. Christie was named to be the Department’s first Fire Chief. The Assistant Chief’s position was to be filled by E.P. Curtiss. George McClellan, Jr. and Stanley Linley were named the first Captain and the Lieutenant, respectively. The secretary and treasurer’s duties were to be performed by Clarence Cooper.
At the time, Woodrow Wilson was in the White House and folks were singing the popular song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. In January, the famous “SOS” soap pad was introduced. “A Tale of Two Cities” was number one at the box office and the Chicago White Sox were victorious over the New York Yankees in the World Series. Can you believe a loaf of bread cost nine cents and three bedroom homes sold for thirty-two hundred dollars!
It was not until August 1917 that the Department received delivery of its first piece of fire apparatus; a Ford Model “T” chemical truck. Minutes from the December 1917 monthly meeting state the new truck’s first fire call was at “Ransom’s House”. Member Lewis Shelton responded with the truck and extinguished the fire, preventing any serious damage.
In 1919, Nichols Fire Department sought to establish boundaries for its fire protection jurisdiction. On November 24 of that year, the Connecticut Legislature recognized the “Nichols Fire District” and granted it the authority to levy a fire tax.
In December 1920, the fire district secured a loan of five hundred dollars to renovate and lease a former school, coincidentally named Nichols School, on Shelton Road and convert it into a firehouse. In 1935, the town of Trumbull deeded that property to the fire district for the amount of one dollar.
In 1937, plans were well underway to construct a new firehouse. Members wanted a building more modern, larger and more up-to-date; the kind of building that could house newer and more sophisticated fire trucks. Fire trucks that were considered sophisticated in the 1930’s were those that had the ir own water pump, hoses, ladders and carried their own tank of water! In April 1938, ground was broken directly in front of what once was the Nichols school. In 1938, at a cost of twenty one thousand dollars, construction was complete. That sum included the building itself, sidewalks, driveway, and landscaping. Upon moving into the new firehouse, now deemed Station 1, the District’s first true pumping engine was placed in service.
To keep pace with the demands of a growing community, in 1973, a second firehouse, at the intersection of Booth Hill and MacDonald Roads, was built. This station was named in honor of Past Fire Chief Arthur J. Kennedy, who proudly served the Department from 1959 to 1969. This station, respectively called “Station 2” is now the home of one quint, one engine and the fire apparatus maintenance facility.
The last 91 years have brought many changes and challenges to the Nichols fire Department including many more commercial buildings and homes, new apparatus, more technologically advanced equipment, changing fire fighting tactics and the need for increased leadership and administrative attention. During that period, one thing has always remained the same; dedication and commitment to serve and protect our community.
During the early days of World War II, it was decided that the firehouse was to be staffed each evening and night in order to enhance the fire department’s readiness during such troubled times. This was the inception of what is now referred to as, “sleeping on” (sleeping at the firehouse). Personnel volunteered shifts and slept at the firehouse every night of the year. When an alarm hit, it was only a matter of seconds before the sound of apparatus sirens were heard throughout the community. Nearly sixty years later, a practice similar to this continues as our current firehouse still contains sleeping quarters which are utilized on a regular basis.
The night crew consists senior members who agree to “Sleep On” (as explained above). With members at the station during overnight hours, it takes only a minute, if that, to get apparatus rolling.
Each member of the night crew is assigned a bunk, a locker, and a riding position on specific apparatus. In addition, Station 1 boasts a full kitchen and shower facilities to provide night crew members amenities just as if at home. The night crew often drills together which builds confidence adding to the tightly woven group.
The Nichols Fire Department night crew is one of the longest running and unique groups of volunteer firefighters anywhere in the nation. Their dedication allows for fire protection during the communities most vulnerable hours.