History of the Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department

The Early Years

There has always been fire in Pawlet, but there has not always been a fire department. Many significant structures of 19th-century Pawlet were lost to fire over the years. The towns first firefighting equipment took the form of a horse-drawn, gasoline-powered fire pump, seen at right. In this photo the pump is being tested on what is today Rt. 30, opposite the church parsonage. This apparatus was housed in a shed beside the Mill Pond. There was still no organized fire dispatch at this time. Townspeople would yell from house to house for help fighting a fire.

The Postwar Years: The Beginnings of the Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department

The organization that is today's Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department began in the early 1950's when several young men in town took it upon themselves to organize an independent fire brigade. After much debate as to whether the outfit should be called the Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department or the Pawlet Volunteer Fire Company, the name Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department was settled upon, and so the department is known today. In the earliest days of the department, a single tanker truck, a 1947 ex-Army 2.5-ton, was housed in the barn of a private residence which once stood near the site of the current firehouse, opposite the church. This structure was destroyed by fire in the early 1970's, though the town's apparatus was saved.

1967 - Present: Building a Modern Fire Department

The Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department was formally incorperated in 1967. The company hosted their first game supper as a fundraiser in the autumn of 1968, a tradition that persists to this day. The firehouse that stands today was built as a permanent home for the PVFD circa 1973. At that time, it housed the Army "deuce-and-a-half" tanker and a 1958 Chevy panel truck, which carried equiptment. The department obtained its first purpose-built firefighting apparatus in 1981, an American LaFrance pumper which was painstakingly refurbished in-house. This apparatus fleet can be seen in the October 1981 Neil Rappaport photo at right. The ALF served Pawlet until 1998, when it was replaced by ETA 542, which serves the comunity today.

Dispatch was conducted using a system of fire phones, which would ring in an emergency. Ten phones were distributed throughout town, one in Mach's Store and the others in firefighter's homes. Firefighters would field the emergency calls themselves, and then call other members to alert them. A whistle mounted in the cupola of the Town Hall would alert firefighters in the village when their help was needed. This system remained in use until the early 1990's, when it was replaced by the radio pagers and 911 call center used by the department today.

Throughout the last 25 years, the Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department has invested in newer, more modern equiptment, while members invested their time in fomal training in modern firefighting techniques. The result is the department we have in town today.

Do you know more about the history of the PVFD, or have photographs of the department's past to share? Please contact Jon Weiss.