Burrillville Then & Now: Glendale Fire Department

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BURRILLVILLE – Welcome to Burrillville Then & Now, where we take a glance back at how the town used to look, then show how the same space looks today.

With photos and information provided by the Burrillville Historic & Preservation Society, we look now at the Glendale Fire Department.

In the fall of 1939, a small group of men met in the basement of the Methodist Church in Glendale to discuss the idea of having a fire station for the village of Glendale. After several meetings, the Glendale Volunteer Fire Company was formed.

Mr. Ismile Hakky, the owner of the gas station in Glendale – opposite the present post office – donated $50 to purchase land to build the station. A temporary headquarters was set up and a barn was used as a fire station. They had some successful fundraisers and were able to purchase their first pumper in June 1940.  It was a 400 gallon a minute pumping engine from Uxbridge, Mass. 

The new station was built on Joslin Road opposite present day Bruin Plastics. Work began on the building of the fire station, and even though it wasn’t finished, they were able to move into it in 1943. The station was built with bricks from the Old Saranac Mill on the tow path in Blackstone, Mass. for a penny each. Members of the fire department cleaned the bricks and got them ready for the mason. The foundation was dug by hand and poured from borrowed cement mixers, with men working nights and weekends to build the station.  Stillwater Worsted Mills owned the old Pascoag #1 fire station and donated it to the Glendale Fire Department. It was torn down and transported to Glendale. The doors on the Glendale Station were the original doors from the old #1 Pascoag station, and much of the material from that old building was used to build the roof.

Some of the Charter members were James Maher, chief; Ray Young, Frank Harvey, and Ray Burlingame. In 1980. when the Glendale Fire Department celebrated their 40th anniversary, former Sen. James C. Maher had been the only chief.

Glendale was the first fire company in town to have two-way radio equipment. They were one of the first ones in Burrillville to have a water tank on a fire truck with more than 300 gallons. They were one of the first ones to introduce, “wet water,” which is a detergent that allows for better penetration, particularly useful for brush fires.

In 1960, the Glendale Fire Department made the news when they purchased a 30-year-old Dodge fire truck from Hamilton, Mass., and altered it to create a forest fire combat vehicle called, “Smokey.” They shortened the 131-inch wheelbase to 101 inches and equipped the rig with heavy iron side rails. It carried a 200-gallon water tank and a power take-off pump capable of spraying 150 gallons per minute.  “Smokey” looked like a baby tank and was great at fighting brush fires and forest fires. The modified truck with plenty of power for low speeds was able to move through tangled undergrowth and get up close to any blaze.  At that time, 70 percent of all fires were brush fires and forest fires. Chief James Maher said, “With this vehicle, we can travel cart paths, or trails, and if none exist, we work our way through the brush, and in an out among the trees until we extinguish the fire.”

In 1997, the Glendale Fire Department  voted to merge with other fire departments in town and closed in 1998. The station was later demolished.

Betty Mencucci is president of the Burrillville Historic & Preservation Society.

Editor’s note: An original version of the above article stated that Maher was the only chief in the department’s history. We apologize for the error, which has been corrected, and note that more history made be added/corrected if information is provided.

James Mahar
The Glendale Fire Station was once situated in this primarily residential neighborhood on Joslin Road.
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