History of the Liberty Fire Department

One cold winter night, February fifteenth, in the year Eighteen Fifty-Seven, a fire occurred in Liberty which, in a great way, was responsible for the start of the Liberty Fire Department.

Quinlan's "History of Sullivan" tells us that a professional burglar, named Levi Rogers, entered the store of Clements and Messiter, and after removing some of the contents, set fire to the building. Evidence found in the ruins let to Roger's arrest and conviction. Two other buildings were also burned in the fire.

Shortly after this fire, before 1861, two fire companies were formed: Watkins Engine Co. #1 (J.C Young) and B.W Winner Hook and Ladder Co. #2 (Hose & Truck). Dr. John D. Watkins who owned the property now occupied by the O.E.Kellers, purchased a second-hand pump from a private hose company in New York City for $325.00 and presented it to #1's. The Winner Co. raised the money and ordered a ladder wagon with twenty buckets. This equipment was made in Liberty by Lamoreaox Brothers and served the Winner Company so well that it was only taken out of service in 1925 when a Packard chassis with Pirsch ladder was purchased by the Village. We know very little about the operation of these units until the incorporation of the Village, September 1870.

The only two companies then active were the Hollock Hose Co. now J.C. Young Co#1 and Liberty Hose & Truck Co.#2, both located on or near Main Street. Both companies had only hand-drawn equipment. There was considerable delay before they arrived at a fire on the hill in the station area. The streets then were unpaved and sometimes knee deep in mud and in the winter it was worse because the snow was deep.

A group of men living on the hill saw a necessity to having some fire protection and decided to do something about it. On the night of January 15, 1901, fifteen of these men met and founded the Ontario Hose Co.#3. They then acquired a hose cart or jumper which was a two-wheeled card carrying 500 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose, two open nozzles, a hydrant wrench and a few spanners. From that time on the Liberty Fire Department was made up of three companies that still exist today as the Liberty Joint Fire District located at 256 Sprague Ave., Liberty, NY.