Early History of BFD

At a public meeting of the Town Board of Bristol on Friday, January 17, 1947, a resolution was offered to form a fire protection district. The new district would cover the entire town of Bristol. The East Bloomfield, Honeoye, and Canandaigua Fire Companies had proposed to contract with Bristol to provide fire protection for the sum of one dollar per M for each one thousand dollars assessed valuation.

The earliest recollection of discussion leading to the formation of a fire department was January 7, 1952. At this time, the Men’s Club of the Congregational Church discussed methods of fire warnings. The ringing of the Church bell or blowing a car horn while driving through the village was among the methods discussed.

Records of a meeting at the Church on February 4, 1952, show the formation of the “Bristol Bucket Brigade.” In a history dated February 25 1970, BVFD Charter Member Burt Legg wrote, “Jim Thompson and myself started to get a group of men together in case of a fire because when Schenk’s Garage burned a few weeks before, equipment and even the building could have been saved if there were some men around when it started. For kicks, we called ourselves the Bristol Bucket Brigade but the interest was so great we immediately formalized an organization under the name Bristol Valley Volunteer Fire Dept.”

Interest spread rapidly throughout the town, so shortly the “Valley” was dropped and the name “Bristol Volunteer Fire Department” was adopted. Dues were set at $5.00 per year and meetings were held at the Town Hall. By August, 79 people had contributed funds as a member or an honorary member.

Burt Legg wrote, “[In the Spring of 1952,] Mendon Fire Company gave us their Peerless Squad car, through the efforts of Bud Sauer. We fitted it with a tank, pump, and hose.” The truck was parked in Burt’s barn until the construction of a fire station in Bristol Center.

Apparently the Sterling Sirenlite fire truck siren on the Peerless was not included in the Mendon transaction and was rented to the BVFD for the sum of $5.00 per year. This fact was brought to light in a spirited exchange of letters between the Bristol and Mendon company Presidents a year or so later. At some point Mendon wanted the siren back, and BVFD members were reluctant to give it up. Finally, after Mendon proposed that the BVFD buy them a new siren, the BVFD sent the original siren back along with a definitive, well worded letter of defiance from BVFD President Legg.

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The first structure fire was at the Double Diamond. There were about 20 men who responded, and damage was held to about $500.00. This fire, plus a few other calls, gave the men justification to apply for a reduction in insurance rates through the National Board of Underwriters. A reduction of approximately 20% in insurance rates was granted to all homeowners who lived within a 3 mile radius of Burt Legg’s barn, which at that time was the fire house.

In September 1952 the first Field Day was held. According to a letter from President Burton Legg to attorney Earl Case (9/22/52): “…Saturday we held our first Annual Field Day and although the weather was on the chilly side we still netted about $550.00 As a result, we now can purchase hose for our truck and can begin making plans for adequate housing for our equipment.”

In November 1952 we purchased a 1929 Sanford from the Village of Fair Haven for $500.00. This truck had been previously owned by East Williamson. A letter from Lytle VanPatten of Fair Haven describes the truck: “The truck is in A Number one shape. 125 gallon booster tank; 2 booster hose reels of about 400’ of 1” hose on them; 1 electric lantern; 2 oil lanterns; 1 crow bar; 2 axes; 3 lengths of 4 ½” suction hose ; 1 24’ extension ladder and one roof ladder and 1 fire extinguisher; divided hose bed; 1 red flasher in front; siren; 1 large spot light in front, 2 small on rear; set of chains and tools.”

Hillary Meehan

Also in the Fall of 1952 a number of men set to work constructing the first fire house located on Route 64 just north of County Road 32. Excavation, masonry and carpentry work was performed by BVFD members. Burt Legg wrote: “We had just finished the cement floor in the fire house, which had been started in August. The Ernest Fales’ donated the lot next to the Library to the firemen with a 99 year lease. Ken Tietgen and Earl Case did the legal work. Earl and Ken also worked several weeks on our corporation charter, which we received in October 1952.”

The first officers were Burton Legg as president, Kenneth Morse, vice president, Clarence Granata as Secretary-treasurer; Hillary Meehan as Chief, John Schenk and James Thompson as assistants. Thought was given to placing drums of water throughout the village, but this never developed.

“Another big boost was the money turned over to BVFD by the 35 men who fought the big forest fire on East side of Honeoye Lake for 3 days in the fall of 1952. Total earned at 50¢ per hour and turned over to BVFD was $179.50.” (Burt Legg)

Stuart French, a life long fireman of Honeoye, and Assistant Mutual Aid Coordinator, was a most valuable councilor during the years of getting organized. He conducted both the State fire training course and a first aid course. Both courses were completed by approximately 20 fire department members.

In June 1953, the members of the Department met with the Town Board to seek some of the $850.00 which was divided between Canandaigua, Richmond and East Bloomfield for fire protection. We were granted $500.00 the first year, and the full amount the next year.

Burt Legg also noted other items of historical interest:

In 1975 an agreement between the BVFD and the Richmond Fire Department was signed. This agreement provided for automatic mutual aid from Richmond in western portions of Bristol. The area covered includes:

Gulick Road; County Rd. 33 to South Bristol town line; Ganyard Hill Rd. (within ½ mile of County Rd. 33); Lower Egypt Rd.; Morrow Hill Rd.; Rt. 20A between town line and Buckelew Rd; and County Rd. 32 between Morrow Hill and Rt. 20A.

This agreement is still in place today.

In 1975 the BVFD fundraising activities – carnival, etc – were huge money makers for the Department. So much so, that for every dollar received from the fire protection contract, the fundraisers made three dollars.