On Saturday, the Highland Hose Company #1 is sponsoring the 84th Annual Ulster County Volunteer Fireman’s Association Convention and Parade, which corresponds with their own 125th Anniversary, 1895-2019.
At 6 p.m, approximately 40 fire companies will parade through town in full uniform, starting at New Paltz and South Chodikee Lake Roads. They will make their way down Main Street, Church Street, Vineyard Avenue and take a left onto Van Wagner where they will pause by a viewing stand hosted by MC DeWitt Sagendorph. From there the parade will turn left onto Milton Avenue and go through the hamlet and out onto the town field. Several trophies will be awarded and hamburgers, hot dogs and refreshments will be served free of charge. A spectacular fireworks display will top off the evening.
Chief Peter Miller said all of the planning is done, “and we’re in good shape and right now the weather looks good.” He said it is “kind of scary” that he has been involved in the fire service for more than a third of Highland’s 125 years.
Miller apologized ahead of time for any traffic inconveniences on the day of the parade, “but we appreciate the support we get from the community and we look forward to continuing to serve.”
Highland Hose Company historian Michael Gaffney provided highlights of the history of the company. He was the first cadet member to join as a junior in High School in November 2000 and now serves as an Assistant Chief.
Gaffney noted that after a tragic fire in March of 1891 claimed the life of a seven year old boy and destroyed eight buildings, a water company was formed in 1893 that took on the construction of a reservoir and a pipeline system that led to the establishment of the Highland Hose Company in 1894. Initially, there were 25 men in the company under the leadership of foreman John J. Clearwater. Their first fire truck was a two-wheeled push cart that carried 200 feet of canvas hose and carried a 30 gallon chemical tank on it. Over the years the Department has continued to retire and acquire equipment; a ladder truck in 2010, a new 2,500 gallon pumper/tanker in 2015, and this year they will add a 100 ft Tower Ladder.
The Highland Company’s first firehouse opened on Easter Day 1925 on Main Street, where they remained for the next 67 years. In 1979 the department expanded from a hydrant and protection district into the Highland Fire district and in 1982, Station #2 was opened at 570 New Paltz Road. In 1989 they purchased their first Heavy Rescue truck, a walk in E-One. It was in use for 18 years and saw its last run in January 2007 to assist in an entrapment incident on Jansen Road.
The company held a Grand Opening of their new, and present, headquarters on Milton Avenue on May 3, 1992 at the former Grand Union grocery site.
Gaffney listed a few of the most notable “Big Ones” the department has dealt with over the years: a June 25, 1938 fire at the Highland High School [now the Middle School] that caused $40,000 in damages; on October 30, 1943 a tanker car caught fire after a derailment at Pratt’s Lumber; a January 28, 1948 fire at the Seaman’s Electrical Shop in the business district that was stopped, in part, because of the availability of nearby fire hydrants; the infamous May 4, 1974 fire on the Railroad Bridge that resulted in the discontinuation of rail service across the Hudson River. It took on a new life in 2009 when it was transformed into the Walkway Over The Hudson State Park.
John Gallagher, who is the Vice Chairman of the Planning Committee, said they began working on the event six years ago.
“It’s been pretty hectic making sure that we have the right players for all the committees that had to be filled and are out there doing their jobs,” he said. “It looks like Saturday is going to be a very successful day for us.”
Gallagher thanked the Lloyd Police Department, especially Sgt. Phil Roloson, for their help in the planning stages and for their anticipated assistance on the day of the parade. He also acknowledged the Town Board for allowing a parade of this size to take place in town, “for without their assistance this never would have happened.”
Gallagher hopes the public, “joins us in celebrating our 125th year...We tried to promote this as much as we can and now it’s up to the citizens of Highland to come on out and watch a good parade and enjoy some food and some fireworks. It will be a great community event.”
James Balint is the Chairman of the parade and said this anniversary means a lot to him.
“I got into the fire service in 1978 based on getting my father into the fire service way back in the 1970s where several houses in our neighborhood had burnt down and there were no fire houses close by,” he said.
Balint said the camaraderie of the firefighters and the service to the community is as important to him today as when he joined in the late 1970s.