In March 2008, the members of the Wilmington Fire Department quietly celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Department. The Department was organized in March of 1858 when village trustees were approved a sum not to exceed $700 to purchase a pump, 200 feet of hose and to begin work on various reservoirs around the Village to provide water.
The first fire engine was a Hunneman hand pump serial number 605 which was equipped with a 6” cylinder pump and was known as “Boxer No. 3”. The apparatus was delivered to the Village on April 28, 1858 and was the main fire fighting apparatus for the Department until 1931, when the first motorized engine was purchased. Today the Department consists of 3 pumpers, a rescue truck, snowmobile, ATV, rescue sled and forest fire trailer.
The first “firehouse” was located on South Main Street (near the former Lamorder building) where the Hunneman was stored. When the first motorized engine was purchased in 1931, the firehouse moved to the lower level of the grammar school building. The building was originally located at the site of the current Pettee Memorial Library, but was relocated to Beaver Street where it stood until 1968 when it was razed to make room for the current firehouse.
The Wilmington Fire Department has a long standing reputation as a very well trained and organized Department. The Department has been meeting twice a month for training sessions since at least the early 1950’s. Whether it has been the bell ringer alerting an emergency or the current beep of the pagers, the members of the Department have long been known as very quick to respond to emergencies and to aggressively attack fires to save life and property. The Department has proudly produced at least two “Firefighters of the Year” that have been honored by the State of Vermont and a much respected Marching Unit that has won many, many awards over the years. The Department is also very proud of its Junior Firefighter Program that was started by Barker Willard in the early 1970’s. Today, two of our most respected members, Brian Johnson and Richard Covey are products of that great program.
The Members of the Department have long been fundraising for events like the senior citizen chicken barbeque, the annual ladies night dinner to thank our significant others for all of the time we are away and for our monthly meetings known as “smokers”. A formal association known as the Wilmington Firefighters Association was formed in 2001, but there has been an informal association for years.
The Wilmington Fire Department has a long list of well known members and Chiefs that have made the Department what it is today. From people like the first Chief E. Gorham, to past members O. O. Ware, H. F. Barber, C. H. Parmelee, Harold Lackey, Raymond Lavoy, Leonard Johnson, Barker Willard, Robert Maynard Sr. to current longtime members Brian Johnson, Richard Covey, Bill Spirka, and Jake White and with the support of the Town Residents we have a great Department that will continue to provide emergency services to the Town of Wilmington for many, many more years to come.
(This article was written by current member John Lazelle using the following resources. Previous newspaper articles, Department History Records and the Book Hunnemans Amazing Fire Engines, by Edward R. Tufts.)