Westport Fire Department History
One night in 1927 a group of men out bowling were told that the Town Shed was on fire. When they arrived they found not the shed but the woods adjacent to the shed ablaze. Collectively they determined to organize and on November 28, 1927 the Westport Volunteer Fire Company is formed. The Volunteer Organization sets out to raise funds for firefighting equipment and to lobby the Town for a fire department.
The first fire station in Town was built on land leased to the Westport Volunteer Fire Company from the Wood family in 1928 the cost of construction at the time was $3,000. The original cinder block building had only a single level until funds could be raised to add the second floor. The construction was funded by holding dinners, dances and whist parties at the Grange Hall.
Since humans first appeared on earth fire has been a boon and a burden, a tool, and a terror. Fire, throughout history, has given life, safety, and comfort and has taken the same away. The use and control of fire remains one of the single most important stages in the evolution of human civilization.
Protecting the citizenry from the ravages of uncontrolled fire is one of mankind’s most noble and honorable callings. In AD 6, for the first time in recorded history, men are organized together not to make war and conquer territory but protect and save their fellow man. Credited for organizing the first firefighting force is generally given to the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar. The force is composed of nearly 600 slaves who are stationed around the city of Rome to serve as watchmen and firefighters. A mere 80-odd years later Emperor Nero has a group of 7000 “Vigiles”, free men who were charged with firefighting, prevention, and inspection of buildings. The Corps of Vigiles used the formal rank and structure of the famed Roman Legion similar in organization to the fire service of today.
With the settlement of Old Dartmouth in 1650 and the community that would later become the Town of Westport in 1787, fire still plagued the early inhabitants; yet organized fire protection was still more than two and a half centuries away.
Prior to the formation of a fire department, fires certainly occurred in the town causing damage and destruction with the same regularity as they did after. How the citizens dealt with those early conflagrations is lost to history, but a safe bet is that neighbors arrived, buckets in hand, and made an attempt to control the fire. By all accounts, the bucket brigade of the day did little to stem the loss, and the seed of organized fire protection is planted.
The station housed 2 engines until a 3 bay addition was added in 1978. The addition was paid for by donations from citizens, civic groups and friends, amounting to $20,000. Construction labor was provided by the students of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School.
The Station served the town faithfully for 80 years until age, structural defects and crowding forced the construction of a new station in 2009. The building is now privately owned.
The Start of the Westport Fire Department
One night in 1927 a group of men out bowling were told that the Town Shed was on fire. When they arrived they found not the shed but the woods adjacent to the shed ablaze. Collectively they determined to organize and on November 28, 1927, the Westport Volunteer Fire Company is formed. The Volunteer Organization sets out to raise funds for firefighting equipment and to lobby the Town for a fire department.
The first order of business was to secure a piece of fire apparatus from the Town Meeting which met with failure. Not to be discouraged, they instead took a less direct route and determined to build a fire truck. WFD No. 1 was made up of an old Chevrolet Touring car with a 35-gallon water tank and some garden hose. What the little engine lacked in firepower it made up for in spirit and in spite of its humble beginnings proved to be successful enough to convince Town Meeting the very next year to purchase a “First Class Fire Truck”.
Housing the engine was accomplished through a lease of land from Charles R. Wood to the Volunteers and a two-bay firehouse is built on the site where it will be in operation for the next 83 years.
In 1928, Chief Hammond reported in the Annual Town Report that the fledgling Fire Department responded to a grand total of 37 fire calls in its first year of service Two years later In 1930 the department broke the 100 call mark. It will not be until 1968 that the 200 call mark is reached.
Irving C. Hammond is appointed Fire Chief by the Board of Selectmen by authority of the Town Meeting and the Westport Fire Department is organized. Members of the department are without compensation.
March 14, 1928
An additional truck is added to the fleet and is stationed in the Greenwood Park section of Westport. The North Westport Volunteer Fire Company is formed.
Westport Firefighters become Permanent and compensated. Town Meeting voted in favor of $1,350 for permanent firefighters and $750 for the remuneration of call firefighters.
March 13, 1934
Vote was unanimous at Town Meeting to insure Firemen while on duty.
Sept. 8, 1934
Lynwood Potter is appointed Fire Chief
Stanley Gifford is appointed Fire Chief
Head of Westport Fire Association, INC. is formed. They begin plans to construct a fire station to be located in the Head of Westport.
December 2, 1946
Building Plans for Station 3 were accepted and construction began. The cost of the building is being paid off by the annual Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks. These events began in 1947.
August 2, 1948
Circa 1947 Head Garage with Engine 4
8 Children and 1 Adult perish in a fire on Mt. Pleasant St. This is the greatest loss of life in a single fire in the history of the Westport Fire Dept.
November 14, 1952
Lynwood Potter is re-appointed Fire Chief
Chief Potter designs and institutes the Westport Fire Department patch. The simple maroon maltrese cross with the firefighter scramble in the center will remain the department patch throughout his tenure as Chief in 1970
Westport full-time Firefighters join the International Association of Firefighters & Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. The newly formed union is known as the "Westport Permanent Firefighters Association". They are given the number 1802 from the IAFF.
September 25, 1968
Westport Fire Department apparatus and members 1969.
Harold J. Miller is appointed Fire Chief
Chief Miller modifies the department patch shifting the maroon to bright red. The patch is used until a completely new patch is designed in 1986.
Firefighters move from the Rt. 6 station into new Fire Station at 85 Briggs Rd. To this date it is the only station in the history of the department that is owned by the Town of Westport
August 25, 1970
Westport responds mutual aid to the Firestone Mill Complex in Fall River. Westport, 8 other communities responded to help battle this monstrous blaze.
March 8, 1973
George Dean is appointed Fire Chief
Chief William Tripp (then Firefighter) operating at a winter fire circa 1977
Addition to Station 1 is built. This addition gave the department the ability to house 3 more apparatus in the Central Village Fire Station. Construction was done by students of Diman High School
July 1, 1974
Ambulance service was first offered to the citizens of Westport by the police department beginning October 12, 1937. The police would continue to provide this service for the next 37 years until July 1, 1974 when the fire department officially assumed the responsibility of providing emergency medical care.
William D. Tripp is appointed Fire Chief
May 11, 1982
Westport Fire Dept. responds with mutual aid to the Notre Dame Fire in Fall River. Westport along with dozens of surrounding communities help bring the blaze under control.
Goldstien's Fire July 1988
Chief Tripp authorizes a new department patch. Designed by Captain Norman Duquette and his daughter Lisa, the new patch incorporates the Town Seal that depicts the 3 major industries of Westport, Homestead, Agriculture and fishing. Controversy with the new patch results when it is discovered that Captain Duquette’s initials ND have been incorporated patch in the water below the boat. Chief Tripp orders that the initials be removed or covered on all patches. Close inspection shows the where the initials were covered with black thread.
Town Meeting unanimously votes to staff two full-time ambulances.
April 6, 1989
The Head Fire Station (Station No.3) becomes an unmanned station due to shortages in money and manpower, a short time later the last of the firefighting equipment is removed and the doors are permanently closed.
July 1, 1989
The Westport Fire Department ambulances begin to provide Advanced Life Support in the prehospital setting.
February 6, 1995
Addition to Station 2 is built. The addition added 4 bays to the existing structure.
1967 International Chassis - circa 1999
Stephen A. Motta is appointed Fire Chief
Attacks result in the death of 363 New York City Firefighters, fundamentally changing the fire service across the nation and the world.
September 11, 2001
Work is completed on the Westport Firefighter Memorial located at Station 2, one day before the first anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The memorial will be formally dedicated on October 6th, 2002.
September 10, 2002
Westport Firefighters begin working 24 hour shifts
November 2, 2003
Brian R. Legendre is appointed Fire Chief
The Ladies Auxiliary is re-organized and begins to hold regular meetings
March 10, 2006
The new department patch debuts on the new all navy uniform. The design is the result of a collaboration of many department members. It incorporates design elements from the previous patches.
May 1, 2006
Ladder 7 goes into service. This ladder was mostly funded through a Federal Grant. This is the first ladder truck in the history of the department. Within 1 hour of being placed in service the ladder responds to a working house fire on Watuppa Road.
March 17, 2007
The Westport Fire Department hosts the first Firefighters Ball in many years. The event was held at Rachel's Lakeside in Dartmouth, MA. The following members received medals:
Deputy Chief Allen N. Manley Jr. - The Chief's Cross
Firefighter Daniel K. Baldwin- Firefighter of the Year & Meritorious Service
Firefighter Brian Souza- Meritorious Service
Principal Clerk Terry Vaillancourt- Meritorious Service
April 12, 2008
Westport Fire Department Color Guard debuts at the Memorial Day parade.
May 26, 2008
Voters approve a not to exceed 7 million dollar figure for the construction of a new south end fire station. The final vote count was 1243 in favor and 798 opposed. The article received a majority at all polling locations in town. The new south end station will be located at 54 Hixbridge Rd.
June 17, 2008
The Department purchases back the 1932 MACK after it had spent over 40 years sitting in an open field on Pine Hill Rd. It was the first 1000 gallon truck built by the MACK Company for a country fire department and served the town until 1963. Initially the company would not warranty the chassis, but the truck proved to be a prototype for future models
June 23, 2008
Westport Firefighters along with members of the Tiverton, Fall River, and Portsmouth Fire Departments respond to a call of a man overboard on Stafford Pond. Tiverton Firefighter Gerald Leduc loses his life during the rescue efforts. Brother Leduc was 52 years old, a 25-year member of the Tiverton Fire Dept, and a certified diver.
August 3, 2008
The word "SLOT" is replaced with the word "GROUP" to describe the crew shift on duty. Each group is composed of a Shift Commander and 4 firefighters.
January 2, 2009
Groundbreaking for new south end fire station.
Pictured left to right are Veronica Beaulieu, Jack DeVeuve, Chief Brian Legendre, Steve Ouellette, Paul Schmid, Elizabeth Collins, Deputy Allen Manley & Warren Messier
May 5, 2009
Firefighters respond to report of fire at the Westport Point United Methodist Church located at 1912 Main Rd. Firefighters work through the extremely warm weather to limit the damage to $100,000. Assisting Westport Firefighters in the preservation of this historical building were members of Dartmouth District 2.
August 18, 2009
Construction of the new station 1 is awarded to BARR General Contractors, Inc. BARR construction is located at 588 Pomfret St., Putnam CT. They were the lower bidders on the project at $4,350,750.00. Construction will begin in late April of 2009 and is expected to last 14 months.
April 7, 2009
Two Flags are flown over the new station 1 construction site at 54 Hixbridge Road for the first time. The American flag flown this day was the casket flag of Westport retired career firefighter George F. Mosher.
September 11, 2009
"Topping Off" Ceremony takes place at the Station 1 Construction site at 54 Hixbridge Rd. In this ceremony, individuals are given the opportunity to sign a metal beam that will be secured into the structure. This day also marked the construction project as 50% completed.
October 8, 2009
Deputy Allen Manley is demoted to Captain due to financial constraints within the Town's Budget. Lt. John Andrade retires from the ranks of Full time Firefighter as a way to save other firefighters from layoffs.
July 1, 2010
Firefighters move into the new station at 54 Hixbridge Rd. leaving the station at 911 Main Road which housed firefighters since 1927.
July 16, 2010
Firefighters finish off the busiest year on record with 2,374 calls for service. Firefighters worked a large structure fire from 2010 into the early hours of the New Year.
December 31, 2010
The new station one at 54 Hixbridge Rd. is dedicated.
July 30, 2010
12 members of the Westport Fire Department travel to New York City to retrieve an artifact from the World Trade Center to be used as a permanent memorial to those lost on September 11, 2001. The 435 pound steel I beam will be located at the new South End Fire Station.
March 10, 2011
2 hunters die when their boat capsizes in the Westport River. 1 hunter is rescued by the US Coast Guard via helicopter from Cory’s Island. The water temperature is 36 degrees and the air temperature is 8 with wind gusts to 20 knots.
January 7, 2014
A deadly fire occurs claiming the life of 4 year old Caleb Nadolillo in the same Mount Pleasant Street house that took the lives of 9 members of the Audette Family in November of 1952.
December 19, 2015
The largest fire in recent Westport history destroys the century old Ferry dairy barn. At 32,000 square feet the barn is a series of additions to the original structure. No animals were lost in the fire and assistance from throughout Bristol County and neighboring Rhode Island was brought in, to help quell the flames.