Written by: Plandome Fire Department.
The volunteer fire service was first organized in Plandome under a plan adopted by the Village board in 1913. The men of the Village were arranged into six squads, each of sufficient number to move and operate the fire fighting equipment. They appointed a Fire Chief, and Captains were named to head up each squad. The assembled squads were known as the Plandome Hose and Chemical Company.
Their hand-drawn fire apparatus was limited to a single hose reel and a chemical engine, which was essentially a forty-gallon soda-acid fire extinguisher. Both carts were stored in the basement of the Village Hall. The fire alarm was the split ring iron gong that still stands today, suspended between two locust posts on the north side of the building.
One squad at a time served as the designated “alarm” squad with the duty rotating monthly. Residents were instructed that the Captain of the duty squad “should be notified at once of any fire”. The duty Captain would then hustle to the Village Hall and sound the alarm by striking the ring with a hammer kept there for that purpose. His squad was to report there and pull the two carts to the fire, while the others assembled at the scene.
This plan proved to be woefully inadequate. Over the next several years the Manhasset Fire Company responded to each of the five house fires that occurred in the Village. Residents felt dependent on Manhasset to cover any serious fire in Plandome, and by 1920 many were urging that the arrangement should be formalized.
Finally, the board took up the issue with vigor. They scheduled a special meeting with all male residents requested to attend and discusshow to provide fire protection for the Village. Notice of this meeting seemed to reinvigorate the self-reliant nature of Plandome’s citizenry. In the words of one, “Let us organize the fire department first. We cannot depend on outsiders.”
The meeting on December 11, 1920 set in motion a total remake. A committee was appointed to properly organize the volunteer fire department, purchase a motorized fire truck, and install an electric fire siren. Funds would be solicited from the residents by subscription to a Fire Protection Fund. Within two months, most of that was accomplished.
The keystone event took place on February 12, 1921 at a beefsteak dinner hosted by trustee Jesse Ricks. With the Village officials and all who volunteered to serve in attendance, the occasion was declared a “Special Meeting of the Fire Department”. The board appointed a Fire Chief and Treasurer for the new organization and officially designated all who attended as its members.
During the next few years the foundational structure of the Plandome Fire Department took shape. Originally funded only by contributions, the Department was fully integrated as an agency of the Village in 1925. The board assumed its proper statutory role for supervision of the Department and appointed its first Fire Commissioner to direct that function.
Over the first half-century, there were several down turns when participation ebbed and the Department came close to collapse. But each time, 1927, 1936, and again in 1959, whenever alternatives for fire service coverage were suggested, Plandome volunteers rose up and said, “We can do this ourselves.”
Through the last fifty years, that attitude and dedication has continued to improve the Department professionally and technically. What began as a loosely formed brigade, with primitive hand-drawn equipment, evolved into a highly developed organization operating sophisticated 15-ton engines. Today, the PFD stands as an enduring association forged by a spirit of civic pride.