Durham Fire Company marks 90-year anniversary

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DURHAM – For 90 years since its founding in 1931, the Durham Volunteer Fire Company has been protecting residents and their property.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Fire Company did not hold a celebration to mark its anniversary. 

“The men and women in our company work tirelessly to provide the best for the town that we live in,” said the Company secretary, Shannon Carey. 

The role of the Volunteer Fire Company goes beyond just fighting fires. Volunteers also respond to a wide range of incidents, from car crashes and emergency medical events to rescue calls and hazardous materials mitigation.

The history of Durham Fire Company goes back to 1926. During a town hall meeting, a lifelong Durham resident and an active member of the community, Francis Edwin Korn, suggested the possibility of obtaining a fire apparatus for the town. 

In March of 1931, after five years of prolonged meetings and discussions, the Board of Selectmen voted 34-4 to purchase a $3,500 fire truck and also establish Durham’s first Volunteer Fire Company.

According to Fire Chief and a third-generation firefighter, Robert Chadd, Durham Fire is one of the few companies today that continues to conduct in-person drills despite the coronavirus pandemic. 

“You have to stay sharp with your firefighting skills because the fires are not going to stop due to the pandemic,” said Chadd. “You have to continue the drills. But we take all safety precautions.”

Chadd joined the station thirty years ago and in 1998 helped put out one of the town’s biggest fires - a blaze that engulfed and destroyed a portion of the Merriam Manufacturing Co. plant on Main Street.

“We had pretty much all Main Street shut down,” recalled Chadd. “It took us about 20 hours to put out the fire - we worked from 4 p.m. to 12 in the afternoon the next day.”

The Fire Company is actively trying to recruit new members as the number of volunteers has been declining over the years. Although today, 45 volunteers successfully operate the station, thirty years ago the fire company consisted of 60 members and even had a long waitlist.  

Deputy Chief Terence Finley, who described firefighting as his “true passion,” said demanding hours can deter new members from joining. 

“A lot of people in today’s society don’t have the time to devote to this job,” said Finley. “Our girlfriends, our wives they know that when our fire pagers go off, we might not be going to dinner that night.”

Durham Fire always welcomes new members. The company also offers an Explorer program, where young men and women ages 14 to 21 work alongside volunteer firefighters to learn skills related to the fire service, leadership, and teamwork. 

To learn more information about the Durham Volunteer Fire Company or make a donation, visit durhamfirect.org

nKorytnikova@record-journal.com203-317-2444Twitter: @n_korytnikova


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