Wilton Fire Department has lengthy history

Small-town fire departments were frequently created after a disastrous fire proved one was needed.

Wilton was no exception. Most of the Main Street business section burned in December 1874.

The town had a hand pumper, purchased by the residents of East Wilton (now downtown) prior to 1870, but when the fire broke out, nobody could remember where it had been stored. It was finally found in a barn, but it was frozen, and it was much too late to save the businesses.

Three weeks after the fire, a special Town Meeting formally accepted the hand engine, named “Carmi,” appointed engineers, and authorized selectmen to buy another engine and provide a suitable place for it.

At Town Meeting in 1875, residents approved $3,000 to carry out those votes. They also agreed to spend $425 to buy Peter Putnam’s engine house in French Village (now known as The Intervale). This house became known as Engine House No. 2, and is now a private home.

Engine House No. 1 was built in 1875, and Engine No. 1, “Excelsior,” was moved in. It was purchased from Winchester, Mass., which had bought it new in 1851 from the Hunneman Co. of Boston. It was originally designed to be pulled by hand, but was adapted for horses.

It now has a bar to be pulled by a truck when brought out for parades.

For many years, from the 1970s, Excelsior was housed at Frye’s Measure Mill. But in 2014, it was moved into the foyer of the new station addition that opened that year.

In 1887, two years after Town Hall was built, Excesior was moved into the east end – referred to by the department as Engine House No. 3.

In 1911, Carmi and all of its equipment was moved to West Wilton. But in 1917, it was declared to be in such neglected condition, it was scrapped.

The department got its first motorized engine in 1913, a 60 horsepower Alco. It was replaced in 1920 by a new Reo truck at a cost of $1,685. It was sold in 1944.

In 1924, a Stromdos Triple Air Horn was placed on top of the hose tower of house No. 1. It still blasts mightily, and can be heard in South Lyndeborough when the wind is right.

In 1936, the department bought a Ford truck chassis, and added a pump and other equipment.

In 1949, Excelsior was turned over to the town for preservation.

Radios were installed in trucks in 1955.

It was decided it would be more efficient if all trucks were under one roof. Two were at House No. 1 and two were at Town Hall.

A new fire station was proposed in 1957, and at an adjourned meeting in June, a new station was voted, which would become Engine House No. 4. The low bidder was Abbott Machine Co. The building, complete with the retaining wall, was $71,826.

After many years of discussions, presentations of many proposals and the gradual acquisition of adjoining properties, the present station was built in 2013.

The department, like most in the area, is still volunteer.