History of the Best-Luther Fire Department
Best-Luther Fire Department History
Excerpt from the 50th Anniversary Installation Banquet brochure
Written by Robert Don, Expanded upon by Chief Chuck Milkiewicz
The Early Years
The first treasurer’s records show that Best-Luther Fire Department started with $45.00 in dues in April 1946. The yearend report showed $442.83 and Best-Luther Fire Department was on its’ way. In 1947, Mr. & Mrs. Theodore Southworth donated four acres of land on the Old Best Road and a small wooden barn which the firefighters hauled down from the Southworth residence on Craver Road to their newly acquired property. This became the home of Best-Luther’s first fire truck, a Sanford. In that same year, we purchased a 1935 Dodge from Clinton Heights Fire Company for $240. By 1949, the original truck had been replaced by a war surplus purpose-built Liberty stored in the big barn on Best-Luther Road belonging to Charles La Dow. The net value of the company’s assets, including the truck, had grown to about $12,000. This was pretty good in those days for a rural fire department without any government support. On October 29th, the members were attending a meeting about a mile away at the Luther Community Club House, a former school house which eventually became the company’s second fire house, when they were informed that La Dow’s barn was on fire! Upon arrival, the truck and all of the stored equipment were a mass of flames. In spite of all their efforts, the barn and everything in it burned to the ground. Not wanting to give up, even though it meant starting all over again with nothing, they borrowed a truck from the Ring Hose Company in Rensselaer and other equipment donated by several neighboring fire companies. They were shortly “back in business”, this time in the little barn on their own property. By the early 1950s it became a time to concentrate on fund raising. Much of this activity was carried on by the firefighter’s wives, mothers, daughters and other women in the community, at first as an informal group but later organized into the Best-Luther Ladies Auxiliary. In July of 1953, the Town of East Greenbush established the Best-Luther Fire Protection District and we received our first funding, three hundred dollars. In 1954, a contract was signed for the completion of a two-truck concrete building.
The Radio System
Private phone lines were the only method of alerting firefighters of an emergency. The alarm was called in to three key members, one of whom would immediately proceed to the fire house or scene while someone else n the household, usually the wife, would start a chain of calls which would be fanned out to the other firefighters. Recognizing the time it took to complete this process, Best-Luther agreed late in 1954 to take part in the development of a radio alarm system. We purchased and installed a radio transmitter to operate on the “fire” frequency and obtain the necessary FCC license together with licenses for the individual firefighters who would use it. The Macal Company designed, built and installed a unit which, using our transmitter would send out a signal which would activate an alarm tone in each of a number of radios in the homes of key firefighters and at the same time touch off the sirens on top of the fire house. Unfortunately, the system never worked satisfactorily and all the equipment was removed. The Federal government had established the Federal Civil Defense Authority which, through the states, was encouraging the creation of shelters and other equipment for defense purposes, including alarm systems. We managed to convince the authorities that a radio fire alarm system could be a great value for Civil Defense purposes, we were able to obtain FCDA funding for half the cost of our transmitter and ten new monitor radios. After these monitors had been fitted with a radio operated alarm bell, they were installed in the homes of the Chief and nine other firefighters. The Best-Luther radio alarm system, in operation since 1957, is believed to be the first of this type in the state, if not the country.
The Middle Years
Over the years BLFD continued to develop and expand its services. In 1958, unable to afford a new truck, the members bought a new chassis, fitted it with a water tank and pump and built their own truck. In 1961, a new section comprising of a kitchen and restrooms was added to the fire house, which had been essentially only a garage previously. By 1969, we were able to buy a new truck. In 1970, the former school and later Community House in Luther was acquired and transformed into what is now the Luther Station. In the early eighties, the company concentrated on improving and obtaining new equipment. By 1984, the garage section of the main station was completely transformed into a community room for meetings and other events. This room can also be used as an emergency shelter for the public.
Present and Future
In 1995, the company took delivery of a new Freightliner fitted with the latest in high-tech equipment with the designation of 3-7. In 2001, we were able to purchase an additional new Freightliner to replace our old ’68 Hahn Tanker with the designation of 3-6. In 2002, we purchased a Polaris ATV 4×4 Commercial vehicle. The ATV-3 is used for brush fires and rescue.
In 2005 and 2008, Best-Luther received a grant for new extrication tools, under Chief Milkiewicz. In 2005, a grant for a Thermal Imaging Camera was received.
In 2008, Best-Luther further advanced fire protection for its neighbors by purchasing a highly specialized piece of apparatus that replaced the 1969 Dodge. This fire truck is designated 3-1 and is equipped with a four-wheel-drive to access difficult locations and foam to better extinguish stubborn fires quickly. In 2010, Best-Luther became the first agency in the area to buy New Car Technology cutters which are specially designed to cut the high-strength materials and reinforced constructions we find in the latest car models. In 2012, Best-Luther began responding to EMS calls throughout the district. In 2016, Best-Luther bought Bruen Rescues' old MCI-62 and turned it into Rescue-3. Best-Luther also built an addition to the Main Station and moved all the apparatus under one roof.
In 2020, Best-Luther further advanced the apparatus fleet when they took delivery of Tanker 3 to replace 3-7. Tanker 3 is a 3000-gallon tanker that will allow for a greater water supply on the initial arrival to a fire. Tanker 3 will also assist with mutual aid departments in supplying water and tanking water.
In 2021, Best-Luther added tablets and internet to their apparatus to assist firefighters with the ability to further access resources right from inside the apparatus and on scene. HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Best-Luther also made the transition from a fire protection district to a fire district and became the Best-Luther Fire District under Chief Chuck Milkiewicz. Our first Commissioners became Chairman John Schweigert, Vice Chair Dave Milkiewicz, Commissioner Chris Glander, Commissioner Jean Schweigert, and Commissioner Mark Bonder. Later that same year, we began changing all portable equipment over to battery-operated instead of gas-operated. We replaced two gas chainsaws and two gas K-12 saws with battery-operated ones.
In 2022, we continued the initiative by replacing our Holmatro Core gas-powered equipment with Holmatro Pentheon battery-operated equipment.