1950s to the Present
The Village Board of Cayuga Heights resolved to form a fire company on December 30, 1954. Mayor Henry J. Shirey appointed James R. Simpson, George R. Hanselman, Orval C. French, A. Barry Credle, and Charles I. Sayles as the first Board of Fire Commissioners on January 5, 1955.
An organizational meeting of the Fire Company was held at the Cayuga Heights School on March 15; the first training school for fire fighters began May 9. At 0001 hours, on July 1, 1955, Cayuga Heights Fire Company, No. 1 became responsible for fire protection in our community. Orval French served as the first Fire Chief. The action of the Village Board was prompted by rapidly increasing fees charged by the City of Ithaca to give fire protection to the Village. In the early 1940's, the City had charged only $1,000 per year for protection, but the figure had risen to $15,000 by 1955. In part, the fee increase was attributable to the growth in the Village, particularly in commercial property. The Village Board also recognized that the remoteness of City equipment necessitated a change. Upon formation of the Fire Department, the Village entered into an agreement with the Town of Ithaca to include that part of the Town of Ithaca east of the Village, as well as the Forest Home area in the Fire Protection District. In 1964, the Village contracted with the Town of Lansing for protection of that part of Lansing which is south of Route 13. In January of 1971, Lansing formed a new Fire Company No. 5 to protect that area and it was thus excluded from the Cayuga Heights Fire Protection District.
With the formation of the Rescue Squad in 1978, the Department instituted rescue services to provide all important initial medical care at a time when it is so critical. Since that time, the Rescue Squad has responded to an increasing number of calls for medical emergencies and motor vehicle accidents. In its first full year, the Fire Department responded to about 25 calls, while the number of total responses has continued to increase over the years; in 1989, the Department responded to 285 calls, including 109 fire calls, 159 rescue calls and 17 incident calls. In 2018, they responded to over 500 calls for service.
The Department and the Company
The Fire Department is responsible for all fire fighting and rescue activities within the Fire District; the Fire Company is the social arm of the organization with responsibility for all activities not related to fire fighting and training. Each now has its own officers, although at one time the Company Officers also served under the chief officers at a fire scene. The Department is under the direction of a Chief, three Assistant Chiefs, and four Lieutenants. The Fire council, made up of the four chief officers and two wardens representing the Company, conducts the executive affairs of the Department. The Company is directed by the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary.
The Cayuga Heights Fire Company is precisely that: a company of men and women who volunteer their time and efforts to provide fire protection for the Village and the nearby Fire District. At the present time, the Company includes over 50 people of all ages and occupations who are serving their community in this way. All residents of the Village and the Fire District who are 16 years of age or older are cordially invited to become active members of the Company and assist in providing this important service to their neighbors.
Training For A Volunteer Department
Recognizing the need for trained volunteers, particularly as firefighting becomes a more specialized activity, the State of New York provides training courses in firefighting. Courses, such as Pump Operator, Initial Fire Attack and Ladder Operations, are available at the CFR Building, in sponsoring stations throughout the County or at the State Fire Academy at Montour Falls. The Cayuga Heights Fire Company requires that every active firefighter complete the basic course within two years of joining the Company. Attendance at more advanced courses is strictly voluntary, but encouraged. Certain courses, including command and management subjects, are required for those members seeking to achieve the officer ranks. Only those members over the age of 18 who have completed the Basic Firefighting course as well as specific Department requirements are allowed to participate in interior fire attack; only those over 21 who have been qualified are allowed to drive the trucks. Firefighting can be dangerous. It is only by having a membership of well-trained volunteers that we can continue to enjoy the excellent rating given to the Company by the Insurance Service Organization. At the same time, only trained firefighters and rescue squad members understand what to do and what not to do.
Cooperation with Other Companies
The State of New York, recognizing the volunteer companies can be of assistance to each other, created the office of County Fire and Disaster Coordinator. Through this Office, and with the aid of the county-wide radio dispatch network, manned from the Central Fire Station in the City, and fire chief or officer in command at an incident, may request, and expect to receive, help from other companies. City of Ithaca, Lansing, and Town of Dryden fire trucks have been present at several Village fire. Conversely, the Cayuga Heights Fire Department has assisted the City both by standing by at the City Central Station when all the City equipment has been committed to a fire scene or by actually going to a fire scene with personnel and/or equipment. We have also assisted in Ithaca, Dryden, Freeville, Lansing and Varna. Cayuga Heights personnel have been active in the Tompkins County Fireman's Association, the Tompkins County Fire Police Association, as well as participating in the Tompkins County Fire Advisory Board. The Fire Advisory board is composed of representative of all the fire companies in the County and provides assistance and guidance to the County Fire and Disaster Coordinator.
Our entire Fire Protection District is served by fire hydrants, thus minimizing the potential problems of water supply for firefighting activities. Previously maintained by the City of Ithaca, the water system supplying the hydrants is now operated and maintained by the Southern Cayuga Intermunicipal Water Commission, with the water coming from Cayuga Lake at Bolton Point.