100th Anniversary: Valley Cottage Volunteers Celebrate Founding of Fire Department

Community party planned for later in the year

BY BILL DEMAREST

Valley Cottage volunteer firefighter Kenny Dillon unveils a framed banner that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Valley Cottage Fire Department.
Valley Cottage volunteer firefighter Kenny Dillon unveils a framed banner that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Valley Cottage Fire Department.

VALLEY COTTAGE – One-hundred years ago, 17 Valley Cottage residents got together and decided the community needed protection from the dangers of fire – forming the Valley Cottage Fire Department and opening a firehouse on Lake Road.

On Monday night, the volunteers who today make up the Valley Cottage Fire Department marked the 100th anniversary of the department with a special gathering that included descendants of the original members and the reading of the minutes from the very first meeting of the fire department’s board meeting, which took place March 17, 1914.

So, what were some of issues that faced the founders of the fire department on that day 100 years ago? Minutes show they:

– Adopted the department’s bylaws and ordered 100 copies to be printed.

– Ordered 300 volunteer applications be printed, along with stationary for the department.

– Asked the telephone and electric light companies to remove trees from in front of the engine company property.

– Ira Hartwick was elected the first president of the fire department.

A copy of those original minutes is mounted on a plaque in the ready room of the current Valley Cottage Fire Department firehouse on Lake Road, which was built in 1972 on a site next door to the original firehouse. While the old firehouse is long gone, the stained glass window that proclaims “Valley Cottage Fire Company” that was part of the original firehouse is on display in the ready room of the current firehouse as a tribute to the department’s history.

A tribute to the early founders of the Valley Cottage Fire Department hangs inside the Valley Cottage firehouse.
A tribute to the early founders of the Valley Cottage Fire Department hangs inside the Valley Cottage firehouse.

Joseph DePalma, who is the current president of the Valley Cottage Fire Department, said the all-volunteer department plans on having a community celebration of the 100th anniversary in October. He said Monday’s special anniversary meeting of the fire department’s current board was a way for today’s volunteers to celebrate and recognize the efforts of many volunteers before them to create the fire department and keep it going.

“I couldn’t even imagine how hard it was 100 years ago to start this company and keep it running,” DePalma said. “But I know the future is bright for the next 100 years.

While the Valley Cottage Fire Department started with 17 members, today it has 62 active members with about 35 members who serve as the core of the department. Just about all of those core members took part in Monday night’s ceremony at the firehouse – including members of the Garrabrant family.

Five generations of Garrabrants have served as members of the fire department, dating back to founding member W.A. Garrabrant. Former Valley Cottage Fire Chief Keith Garrabrant – he has served as chief twice – and his two sons, Ryan and Kyle, are active volunteers in the department.

“Members from those original families today also serve in other fire departments nearby,” said Valley Cottage Fire Chief Howard Gerber, who is the 54th chief in the line of chiefs that dates back to Henry Hess in 1914. “The guys here tonight will carry us into the next 100 years.”

Former Valley Cottage Fire Chief Chris Reynolds (2003-2005), who today is an assistant chief with the all-volunteer West Nyack Fire Department, attended Monday’s celebration to congratulate members of his former department on the 100th anniversary. As part of the ceremony, Valley Cottage firefighter Kenny Dillon unveiled a tribute to the department’s anniversary: A framed banner, just like the banners put up in Valley Cottage by the Town of Clarkstown to celebrate the anniversary. The framed banner will find a place of honor among the collection of memorabilia on the walls of the firehouse

Republished with permission