The Call Fire Department

Memories of The Home Front : The Fire Department . During WWII the Avon Fire Department was , like most organizations and enterprises , in need of manpower. Even before the war there was no formal department, just a non-paid chief who had a badge on his cap and anybody else who wanted to show up Monday evenings for the practice run of the lone engine.

The fire house was located across the street from the hangout in the square. On the peak of the station was a large air raid siren which was deemed necessary in case Avon became the next target after London. The siren became useful to summon the call firemen whenever there was some kind of emergency. (More than one cat was rescued from a tree). The Barney Feiffs who were the regulars didn't want just anybody running over to the fire house and starting the engine even though anyone could respond to the call.

They arranged a series of toggle switches that had to be engaged in the proper sequence for the ignition. After the run the sequence would be changed. One evening after enjoying a respite at the Linwood cafe in Randolph, the guys from the square thought it would be fun to start up the fire truck and take it for a spin. Deke McCoy hit the magic switch arrangement and we were off and running. Someone, luckily remembered to open the doors. Most didn't get on board because they were too occupied with the raincoats, boots and caps. To them. appearance was everything. It was a very short journey.. about a hundred yards. There were problems with the shifting and the sudden appearance of Ollie Graham , the police chief, who was the police department.

The town became the recipient of a gift truck which was outfitted as a forest fire vehicle.It had a pump and an array of back-packs known as Handy-Billys. A fire-fighter could fill one with water, strap it to his back and with a hand pump spray water on a fire in the woods. There was an extreme shortage of volunteer firemen. Many had jobs in the shipyard or were in the service.

A large supply of volunteers became available when someone thought about all those healthy strong bodies occupying seats in the local high school. If smoke was detected in the woods, the siren would sound , a driver would bring the truck to the school and anyone who wanted could get aboard. No formal attendance was taken ; there wasn't time.The lucky few who got to the truck first got the ride. The rest had to ride in automobiles and various vehicles. On arrival at the fire it wasn't too difficult to imagine the vehicles were Landing Craft , the woods Guadalcanal and the Handy Billy a flame thrower.

It is interesting to note that on warm spring days , when the ground was moist,and the conditions for spontaneous fires seemed remote,one could almost predict the exact time the siren would go off.