Two severe fires prior to the turn of the century prompted the citizens of Hellertown to realize the need for an organized fire fighting unit. Although informal meetings had been held prior to 1896, little materialized until a blaze destroyed Christ Lutheran Church on April 17, 1896. This fire, along with another which consumed two barns and stables on April 17, 1897 provided the impetus to form what is now know as Dewey Fire Company.
On December 17, 1897, a preliminary meeting was held at the Cottage Hotel with about 25 men in attendance. Work began on drafting the Constitution and By-laws and on January 18, 1898 the first officers of the Hellertown Hook & Ladder were elected. Admiral Dewey’s victory in Manila Harbor on May 1, 1898 caused Milton Keller (first Fire Chief) to suggest the name Dewey Fire Company to the volunteers and the name was formally adopted prior to the chartering of the organization.
In January 1899, the first new piece of firefighting equipment arrives. A handsomely painted and striped hose cart. Cost $186. This artifact, along with many others that chronologically tell the history of Dewey Fire Company No. 1 are on permanent display in our museum. the company met at the Old Fellows Hall until sometime in 1900 when the Borough erected a combination Fire Station, Police Station and Jail on Saucon Street at a cost of under $4000.00
March, 1905 – Dewey Fire Company purchased its first chemical fire extinguisher for putting out small fires.
August 6, 1906 – A gala clambake was held in Rentzheimer’s Grove. Cost $1.00.
June, 1907 – a refrigerator was installed in the basement of the building by South Bethlehem Brewing Company for the storage of beer and on New Year’s Eve 1908, a pork and sauerkraut supper was held for the membership, a tradition that continued for over eight decades.
October 1910, Borough Council approves the transfer of Foreign Fire insurance receipts to Dewey Fire Company No. 1
The first carnival night was held on October 2nd & 3rd 1915 and included an outdoor moving picture show. Our annual carnival continues to this day, and is still a major annual fundraiser for the Fire Company.
July 1920, Dewey Fire Company takes delivery of a new Howe pumper with a Hale rotary pump, 10′ suction hose and electric generator at the cost of $5,500. Also in July 1920, the Borough of Hellertown installs electric sirens to alert firemen of an emergency.
While the firehouse remained strictly a gentlemen’s area, records indicate the addition of a Ladies’ Auxiliary sometime in 1921. That year also saw the firemen turn out to assist at a Halloween parade for the first time. And in November of that year, the company received delivery of the first rubber boots and coats. Cost: $196.20
May 1926 – Dewey takes delivery of a Hahn pumper with a 550 gpm engine at a cost of $4,400.
June 27, 1947 Dewey Fire Company Ambulance began providing service from the fire station on Saucon Street. The first ambulance was a red, 1947, 1- ton Chevrolet panel truck. Dewey Fire Company Ambulance Squad responded to its first emergency call on June 29th 1947 at the Borough swimming pool. In the first year, Dewey Fire Company Ambulance Squad responded to 12 calls.
In 1953, Dewey Fire Co Ambulance takes delivery of a new Buick ambulance and the panel truck was converted to a rescue truck.
1954 saw the arrival of the infamous Spangler Engine. But due to numerous mechanical issues, “Big Bertha’s” life in the Borough was short lived.
In July 1955 a new building was dedicated and the Fire Company along with the Ambulance Squad moved to its current location.
The following year, Dewey took delivery of a 1956 American LaFrance 750gpm pumper. This was a “city” truck that was purchased in haste to replace “Big Bertha” and in 1959 – Dewey takes delivery of the last open cab pumper, a 750 gpm American LaFrance.
1962 – Dewey Fire Co Ambulance replaces the Buick ambulance with a Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance which was used until 1973 when Dewey Ambulance replaced the Cadillac with a Dodge “Maxi-Van” Ambulance
September, 1977 – Dewey Fire Company takes delivery of a 1977 American LaFrance 1000 gpm pumper. Cost: $66,570. This is Dewey’s first engine with an enclosed cab and pre connected lines. This unit replaces a 1941 Mack. Dewey also begins dispatching via Plectron pagers.
October, 1979 – Dewey Fire Company completes construction on a building addition that will house an aerial and 2 ambulances. Cost: $100,000.00 Also, Dewey Fire Company Ambulance takes delivery of a Horton M-R modular ambulance. This unit came fully equipped and was the first to be equipped with central oxygen and suction systems. Cost: $35,000.00
May 1981 – Dewey purchases a 1966 Maxim 100’ aerial from Pearl River NY. This unit replaces a 1940 American LaFrance 85’ aerial that was purchased from the City of Bethlehem.
“A Night to Remember”
August 31, 1981 – An arsonist sets five fires simultaneously in the Borough. Portions of Springhill shopping center, Dan’s IGA grocery store and Weirbach’s Texaco are damaged or destroyed. Two additional fires at Saucon Valley Middle School and Hellertown Democratic Association cause minor damage.
March, 1983 – Dewey installs a cascade system to refill air tanks. December of that year, Dewey begins using turnout gear with bunker pants. This gear replaced long bunker coats and full length boots previously used and proves its worth shortly thereafter as Dewey assists Lower Saucon Township Fire Companies in fighting two arson fires in subzero temperatures.
June, 1989 – Dewey takes delivery of a Hahn 1000 gpm engine. This is Dewey’s first engine with large diameter pre-connected lines, deluge gun and foam lines. This engine replaces a 1959 American LaFrance. Cost: $141, 000
October, 1996 – Another major arson fire strikes the Borough of Hellertown. Newberry’s and Dan’s IGA are completely destroyed despite the efforts of firefighters and departments from the surrounding area.
March, 1998 – Dewey takes delivery of a 1998 Marion/Freightliner rescue truck which includes an onboard Cascade system. This truck replaced a 1966 International Rescue. Cost: $199,000
Dewey Ambulance continued to operate based on the availability of volunteers until 1999 when paid day-time staffing was added Monday through Friday. In 2001, day-time staffing increased to 7 days a week. February, 2005 Dewey Ambulance implements 24 hour paid staffing. And in January, 2010, Dewey Ambulance begins providing Advanced Life Support service to residents of the Borough of Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township.
March, 2006 – Dewey takes delivery of a 2006 KME Predator 1500 gpm custom pumper. This truck replaces a 1977 American LaFrance pumper. Cost: $430,000
February, 2013 – Dewey takes delivery of a 2013 Pierce Dash CF Rescue/Engine and releases from service a 1998 Marion/Freightliner Rescue
May, 2014 Dewey takes delivery of a 2014 F-550/Knapheide Utility truck built by TRM Emergency Vehicles.
Dewey Fire Company No. 1 has been host to the Four County Firemen’s Association Convention and Parade
1929, 1959, 1964, 1972, 1983, 1998 & 2013