Village Fire Department

Local History by Ron Patch. Ron Patch is a Chester native, Chester Historical Society president, and a lifelong antiques dealer. He can be reached at 802-374-0119 or email

Below is some history of the village of Chester’s School Street Fire Department. It is from Carpenter’s Store News dated April 1917. Chester used to be two entities, the village of Chester and the town of Chester.

The town of Chester had Yosemite Fire Department for protection. The village had the School Street Fire Department. The village had Trustees instead of Selectmen. It was about 1969 when both entities consolidated into what we have today.

Harry Goodell has always thought the School Street steam pumper was scrapped during World War I. You’ll read below mention of scrapping it and the high junk prices. Scrap was high because of World War I demands.

Village Fire
Martin’s Shop and mill pond. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

Martin’s Shop was located opposite Buttonwood Farm. Martin manufactured fancy wooden jewelry boxes and wooden boxes for Model-T coils. It was a very busy shop. It was lost in the 1938 hurricane.

Carp’s praise for handheld extinguishers was not well warranted. But they were the latest technology, and we always seem to fall for the latest and greatest.

Chemical engines were an upright tank mounted on a truck or wagon. They came in different sizes but some held 150 gallons. Water was stored in the tank to which bicarbonate of soda and sulfuric acid were added at the fire.

I don’t yet know what the first fire truck was for the village fire department. Thanks to Don Mitchell, we have a complete history of fire trucks used at Yosemite.


Fire Protection

  “Do we need a chemical engine in Chester? No! Hand chemical extinguishers in every house instead.

  “Last night ‘us voters’ attended the annual village meeting and among other things under discussion was the matter of disposing of our old steam fire engine (now an antiquated cripple) and buying an up-to-date chemical engine. It was voted to let our trustees do as they deemed best.

  “This morning at about 7 a.m. the alarm of fire was given from Martin’s shop and the result of that fire seems to point to the solution of our present problem.

  “Martin’s shop is without doubt the worst place for a fire in Chester. The main room, where the fire was, is full of fine dry wood, shavings and sawdust, and given much start a fire would be impossible to control without a very great loss. There are located in the shop two liquid and several dry powder extinguishers.

  “No one was in the building when the fire started. When Mr. Martin attempted to enter, the room was full of smoke and a fire was burning merrily among the shavings and wood, and it seemed impossible to go in, but necessity drove. The two tanks of chemical were used at once and before anyone could get there from as near by as the post office the fire was out.

  “As soon as the alarm was sounded the hose cart was secured as quickly as possible, but it only got as far as Hotel Fullerton when word was sent that it was not needed.

  “TIME – that is the great factor to consider. If an extinguisher could be at hand when a fire STARTS, most fires would not occur.

  “If every house had one or more of these approved copper tank liquid fire extinguishers, when a fire was discovered there would be proper aid at hand AT ONCE, a call of fire would bring more help immediately from the neighbors.

  “Before a fire department could throw water or chemical on a fire 10 to 30 minutes would elapse after giving the alarm. In that time the damage by water or chemical is large.

  “No! We do not need a chemical engine. Let every family that can provide itself with at least one of these extinguishers, then the village will sell the steamer for junk (now while junk is highest ever known) and put the hand extinguishers to be distributed at suitable places about the village. We believe this combined with our present unlimited water supply and hydrant system would put our village in the best possible position to avoid and fight fires.

  “By the way, we are not agents for fire extinguishers. We feel sure you can get the right kind of W.L. Ware & Co., A.W. Harvey or E.J. Davis. DO IT NOW!!”

This history will be included in our upcoming book, “History of Chester Fire Departments.” In Carpenter’s Store News, I found an unrelated but interesting bit of history. Carp mentions the first concrete sidewalk was installed on Main Street in 1898.

This week’s old saying: “Sometimes you’re the pigeon, and sometimes you’re the statue.”

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