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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fillmore Fire Department up and running for over 50 years

Friday, October 16, 2009

Joe Giddings is surrounded by his daughters Joan Corns and Jenni Artis and Jenni's husband Ernie during a recent meeting with the Banner Graphic. Giddings was explaining the start of the Fillmore Volunteer Fire Department in the late 1950s.
FILLMORE -- Joe Giddings at 89 years young still remembers the start of the Fillmore Volunteer Fire Department over 50 years ago. At the time, he lived with his family in Fillmore after moving to the area from Hancock County in 1936.

He arrived in Putnam County on the Interurban Railway; his father L.B. Giddings ran the train. L.B. was a World War II veteran who joined the Greencastle Police Department and eventually retired from it. At the same time, he farmed land near Fillmore.

Joe watched his father work in the community and learned from him to do the same. He recognized the need for a fire department in Fillmore and joined a group of citizens determined to provide fire protection. The year was 1957.

That group consisted of Amos Hunter, Tom Evans, John Roach, Ren Meek, Charlie Shaw, Bob Picket, Jim Giddings, John Davies, Tom Tharp, Joe Miller, Dick Sheese and eventually Harry Smith.

The men broke into committees looking at equipment, land and building acquisition, and the legalities of setting up the department, cost and organization.

"On March 31, 1958, Articles of Incorporation were signed, forming a not-for-profit corporation to be known as the Fillmore Community Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.," said Charles Martin in his history of the fire department.

They located their fire department in a black building that belonged to Amos and Jim Hunter. It was an old Blacksmith shop. The group arranged to pay for the building in installments.

"It was like a two-car garage," observed Giddings. "We didn't have too many volunteers in the beginning and no equipment. We first carried water by hand. Eventually we raised some money and got a little help from the township."

He noted that members of the volunteer group use to visit suppliers who had firefighter equipment for sale.

"We didn't have any money so we would ask them to donate whatever they had to us. Most of them were nice people," said Giddings. "

One year after the inception of the fire department, the first annual Firemen's Chicken Barbecue was held to help fund the fire department and purchase needed equipment.

"Two days worth of food was gone in about two hours. We went looking for food. We took it from people's gardens and kitchens. Everyone pitched in something," smiled Giddings.

The barbecue has been held every year since that very first one in Sept. 1959.

The first piece of equipment purchased was a 1949 International KB-6 from a man in Coatesville. It was originally a gas truck. Clyde Hunter from Manhattan took it to Amo and had it made into a fire engine and we housed it in the new station," commented Giddings.

Getting the word out to the firemen of any blazes in the township was pretty easy in those early days.

"We had a party line telephone. As soon as a call came in reporting a fire, everybody knew about it right away from that party line," laughed Giddings.

Most of the fires the young volunteer fire department had to put out were grass fires.

"Sometimes sparks along the railroad bed would light up the dry grass and occasionally someone cleaning out a fence row had a fire get away from them," reflected Giddings.

According to Martin's history, the 1960s and 1970s saw the expansion of the fire department. They were able to purchase the adjoining property to the blacksmith's shop in the early 60s and eventually a new station was built on that land.

In the early 70s, an addition was built to this station.

Firehouse equipment grew with the times. Martin reports, "Since the beginning there have been many different pieces of apparatus--a 1937 Chevy engine, 1945 Dodge truck, 1954 GMC tanker, 1968 GMC tanker, 1969 Ford grass/rescue truck, 1970 Ford engine, 1972 Buick ambulance, 1977 Dodge grass/rescue, 1978 Mercedes tanker, 1988 GMC tanker, 1990 Ford engine and a 2006 Ford rescue/grass truck."

Although many of the men who organized the fire department have moved away or passed away, several of the men who formed that first group still stay in touch over 50 years later.

"It was a good bunch. We worked hard. Fillmore was a good place to live," reflected Giddings.

Both his daughters Joan Corn and Jenni Artis fondly remember the time they spent in the fire department building and at the community fundraisers.

"We were young, but we remember going to that garage and seeing the fire truck. We loved going to the barbecues. Everybody enjoyed visiting with each other and the food was so good. We were always really proud of our dad," said Corn and Artis.

The Fillmore Volunteer Fire Department is located at 10 Hendricks Street in Fillmore. Their Phone number is 246-6270.

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Congratulations to Fillmore Fire Department and to Joe Giddings! I have lots of fond memories attending training sessions there with my Dad. It's a very special group of people who truly care about their community.

-- Posted by northput on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 3:38 AM

My family lived near Fillmore when the Fire Department was created and I remember how my mother would always make pies and other food to donate to the cause. I remember the Giddings family, but I always knew of the father as "Jim Giddings" instead of "Joe Giddings". Sincere thanks and appreciation to anyone who has ever served as a volunteer fire fighter with the Fillmore Fire Department, as well as any other fire department. They put their lives on the line for the sake of others every time they put on those suits and go to a fire. May God bless them and keep them safe!

-- Posted by howsthishappen on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 8:40 AM

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