In this section of our website, you can learn all about the
Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company and how we serve the public.
Below you will find a history of how our Company came to be, and
how it has evolved over its lifetime to become the emergency
services provider we are
today. Use the buttons on the left to navigate throughout
the numerous sub-sections and learn more about us, our town, how
we do what we do, and the about the fire service in general.
Once again, we thank you very much for visiting and hope you
return time-and-time again.
Located in north-central
Connecticut, the Town of Simsbury straddles the Farmington
River. By nature, the area is fertile and agriculture has been
prevalent throughout the town's history. By the 1940's, farming
was still significant and there were several businesses which
supported the farming community. There were other businesses as
well, most notably
Ensign-Bickford Industries who were known world-wide for
their blasting products.
test of Ensign-Bickford's 1935 American LaFrance
Ensign-Bickford's plant consisted of many buildings for
research and production, and the company also owned numerous
Simsbury to house their employees. Such exposures raised
concerns within the company which ultimately led to the purchase
of a 1935 American LaFrance pumper to suppress fires at these
properties. A brigade was formed from their employees and once
trained, they served not only the Ensign-Bickford Company, but
the community of Simsbury as well.
The world was at war in 1944, and
Simsbury was a town of nearly 4,000 people. Ensign-Bickford
was an important supplier to the U.S. Government in the war
effort, and because of the demand for increased production,
coupled with the loss of employees due to the draft, the company
found itself with inadequate resources to maintain a fire
department. In January 1944, Ensign-Bickford Industries notified
the Simsbury Board of Selectmen that they wished to terminate
their participation in providing fire protection for the town.
attending the very first Fire Company drill with
State Board of Education Instructor Chief John Pachl.
acted quickly and organized a committee to resolve the issue. It
was decided that a group of volunteers would be formed to take
over fire fighting duties for the town. On April 12, 1944,
Robert Pringle organized a group of interested men and these
first volunteers would become the Simsbury Volunteer Fire
Company. Draft-exemption was a prerequisite so that the group
would not lose members as the Ensign-Bickford brigade had.
Training was seen as a priority and twelve of the first
were selected to attend a class in "Firefighting Techniques" sponsored by the
Connecticut State Board of Education. The remaining five members
were tasked with drafting the bylaws for the new Fire Company.
It became obvious that the new department had to be financed
in some manner. A special meeting was held on
June 5, 1944 and the
Simsbury Fire District was created to finance the fire
protection for the town. On that same evening, the newly-elected
District Officers appointed the first Fire Commissioners who in
turn named Lea Hutchinson as the first fire chief, a position he
held for many years.
Volunteer Fire Company
The volunteer ranks quickly grew to 26 members, and with
things coming together, the members elected to incorporate and
Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company on June 29, 1944.
With the Company formed and a group ready to serve, there was
a need for equipment. On
July 2, 1944, Ensign-Bickford Industries turned over their 1935 American
LaFrance pumper to the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company who was
now in the business of providing fire protection to the Town of
Simsbury. This apparatus would become known as
The Company and District would begin to grow almost
immediately, and would continue to grow along with the town. The
war not only meant shortages on manpower, but also shortages of
materials. Through the dedication and ingenuity of the Company's
members, these obstacles would be overcome.
This spirit first manifested itself when it was recognized
that there was a need to get water to outlying areas which
weren't covered by the local water system. In August 1944, a
tank truck capable of carrying 1,050 gallons of water and
was purchased from the U.S. Treasury Department. By today's
standards, this sounds more like a pumper than a tanker, but at
the time, carrying a 1,050 gallons of water to the scene was an
Engine 2 was a tank truck which was purchased from the U.S. Treasury
Department and rebuilt by Fire Company members from
whatever parts and materials they could come by
during the war.
The members of the Company went to work repairing the truck.
The pumping system was built with old steam valves from a
discarded sawmill, the bumper made from pieces of an old bridge,
and the running boards and other steel work were made from an
old brine tank donated by a farmer as a reward for doing a good
job at a fire at his place. Engine 2 was now on the line and
answered its first call just 31 days after it rolled into town.
With the war over, the town continued to grow and more
equipment was needed to cover the outlying areas. None the less,
prosperity didn't over-ride thrift. An agreement was reached
between the Company and the District, that if the District would
supply a chassis, the Company would build another tank truck.
Under the direction of member Carl Banks, and at his garage in
Weatogue, a 600 gallon tank truck was constructed from new
materials and Engine 4 was placed into service in 1948 after
having passed an Underwriter's Test.
the Main Station was built, Engine 1 was stored for
a period in a garage owned by member Fred Bourgeois.
The Simsbury Bottle Shop now occupies this building.
Housing the rapidly-growing apparatus fleet was challenging
too. The original
Station was a hay barn located in the center of
village. It was utilized for many years until members of the
Company built a new West Simsbury Station in 1962, and the barn
subsequently returned to its original use. Another barn was
utilized to house apparatus for some time on the east side of
the Farmington River because of the weight restrictions placed
on the bridges of the day. Then in 1952, Company members once
again came together to build another fire station, Bushy Hill.
More can be learned about the history of our apparatus fleet
and fire stations in their respective sections.
Until 1983, the Tariffville Volunteer Fire Company provided
fire protection for the
village of Tariffville, located in the northeast section of
The Company was formed in 1939 because the citizens of
Tariffville felt that it took Ensign-Bickford too long to
respond to fires in their section of town. On
June 30, 1983,
the Tariffville Volunteer Fire Company was dissolved, the
members who wished to join the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company
did so, and the Simsbury Fire District took possession of the
Tariffville Station and their apparatus, and assumed
responsibility for providing fire protection in the Village of
Boston Clock at town hall.
The Simsbury Volunteer Fire
Company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1994. Wanting to mark
the occasion, the anniversary committee elected to present the
town and citizens of Simsbury with a cast iron clock as a token
of appreciation for all the support the Fire company had
received through the years.
The anniversary committee went
about the task of seeking funding for the project. In a generous
gesture of support and appreciation for the Fire Company, the
Ensign-Bickford Foundation offered to completely fund the
project. The Boston Clock graces the front lawn of Simsbury's
town hall and was dedicated on December 13, 1994.
While the Fire District provides the financial support for
the fire protection within our town, the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company
provides the operational support. The Simsbury Volunteer Fire
Company and the Simsbury Fire District are two institutions who
have served the community very well through the years, which is
why both have survived since their inception, evolving into the
first-class fire department which serves the citizens of
Company photograph taken July 2009.
From our humble beginning as a department with one engine
stored in a borrowed garage, the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company
has grown steadily through the years, always rising to meet new
challenges and keep pace with the needs of the community. The
Fire Company and town have always been fortunate in that there
has always been an abundance of people ready to step forward and
volunteer. Even though the Fire Company losses members from time
to time, we have enjoyed a steady roster of ninety active firefighters and
a dozen junior firefighters on average, for several
years. Some of our members continue the commitment to service
which began in early generations, as the Company contains
several second and third-generation firefighters.
Second-generation members Retired Lutenant Dave Driscoll
and Retired Captain Rich Driscoll.
Additionally, the town and Fire Company have also been
fortunate regarding the resources provided to them by the
Simsbury Fire District. This is a result of the District's
vision and sound fiscal policies, and is an equally important
ingredient as to the level of protection in which we are able to
offer the citizens of
Currently there are seven engines, two aerials, two rescues,
one tanker, one brush unit, two marine units, and several other
support pieces quartered in six stations throughout the Town of
Simsbury. Most of the original stations have been replaced and
now offer amenities such as apparatus exhaust venting and
drive-through bays. Apparatus are kept in good mechanical
condition and are well-equipped. The department is fortunate to
have three thermal imagers, and several automatic defibrillators
onboard for firefighter safety.
The Fire Company typically responds to approximately 500
emergency and non-emergency incidents per year. Many of our firefighters are trained to the first responder
medical level, and there are
EMT's in the department. However, first responder duty is
handled by the police department and EMS is handled by the
Simsbury Volunteer Ambulance Association, a separate entity
within the Town of Simsbury.
Simsbury is a wonderful community in which to live and raise
a family, as witnessed by its growth. When the Simsbury
Volunteer Fire Company was formed in 1944, approximately 4,000
people called the town's 34.5 square miles home. Today, the
population has swelled to over 23,000 people, and there are
6,500 families in 8,500 households. Not only has the population
grown larger because of the town's prosperity, but the size of
new homes are growing larger too. It is not uncommon for new
homes to be constructed in excess of 4,000 square feet, nor to
be built some distance from the closest hydrant.
equipment being evaluated as a portable water main during a drill in 1950.
Members of Fire Company today still face some of the same
challenges that the original members confronted, and more.
Structure fires remain a primary concern for
the department, and there still is the need to bring water to
the fire in areas without hydrants.
To prepare for scenarios as these, the department holds
several live burn drills each year accompanied by evolutions
associated with fire suppression such as search and rescue,
ventilation and ladder skills. The department also hones their
skills in the arts of drafting and water shuttling, to ensure
that we can bring water from a source to the fire when
The Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company is ready to handle more than just fires, as
the nature of the town offers an array of scenarios which we
must be prepared to content with. Simsbury may lack major routes
of transportation and heavy industry, but it is not devoid of
manufacturing or commercial businesses. Because of the
associated hazards, the department created a HazMat Response Team with
two-dozen members certified to the Technician level, and
certified the majority of the remaining members to the
Although the Fire Company doesn't officially have a technical
rescue team, it does have many members trained in several
disciplines. The majority of members are trained in confined
space rescue, with several members trained in trench rescue,
cold-water and ice rescue, and high-angle rescue.
Firefighter Chris Lilley ascends Talcott Mountain
with a mock victim in a Stokes basket.
The Fire Company is very proud of its rope-handling skills,
as we have had to rescue the wayward adventurer on more than one
occasion. The trail on Talcott Mountain leading to the
Hueblein Tower is popular with hikers and hang gliders. The
Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company has put their high-angle rescue
skills to work on many occasions because of misadventures on the
The Company's rope skills also come in handy on the
Farmington River where it plunges through the Tariffville Gorge;
a stretch of the river popular with kayakers and swimmers. We
commonly assist the police dive teams in search, rescue and
recovery incidents by rigging a tension line across the river
with a system of haul lines and pulleys. By tethering their dive
boat with this system, we can hold them in a stationary position
anywhere in the turbulent river so they can have a stable
platform from which to commence dive operations from.
fire training at the Weatogue drill grounds.
Training is the key to not only possessing these skills, but
keeping them sharp for when they are most needed. Each year the
Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company holds on average, 48 Monday
night drills, and several drills on other weeknights and on the
weekends. In addition, members attend training courses locally
Connecticut Fire Academy, and nationwide such as the Fire
Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), the National Fire
Academy and the Center for Domestic Preparedness.
The Fire Company also retrains and recertifies its members
annually in accordance with several National Fire Protection
Association, Occupational Health and Safety, and state
guidelines. SCBA air masks are fit-tested, personal protective
clothing is inspected, seminars regarding sexual harassment and
universal precautions against bodily fluids are held, just to
name a few.
Junior Firefighter Challenge Championship Team
Proud of our history and accomplishments in the past,
complacency is not an option as the Simsbury Volunteer Fire
Company is always preparing for the future. Our Company has
always been quick to adopt new concepts and technology such as the incident
command system, fire-ground personnel accountability, rapid intervention teams
and thermal imagers.
Program was started in 1978 as a way of recruiting young adults and
solidifying our ranks by generating interest in our vocation.
Our Junior Firefighters Program was recognized with a 3rd place
Junior Emergency Service Excellence Award given by Volunteer
Fireman's Insurance Services, Inc. in 2002, and our Juniors have
won the 2001 through 2005 state Junior Firefighter Challenges.
The current Executive Committee of the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company consist of Jay Dixon- President, Kellan Boudreau- Vice President, Jim Vangunten - Treasurer and Tim Zeilman - Secretary.
See photograph below.
Firefighter Tim Zeilman, Lt. Jim Vangunten, Lt. Jay Dixon and Firefighter Kellan Boudreau
Building on the lessons from yesterday, we continue to work
towards the future, always striving to fulfill our mission
"To minimize deaths, injuries, and property loss from fire,
hazardous conditions, rescue situations, and other disasters, by
providing excellent, state of the art, life and property
preservation, emergency and educational services, while
recognizing our people as our most important resource and the
key to our success!"