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Department Traces Roots Back to 1942 

By Bill Rinko, Past Deputy Chief

In 1942, while the United States was getting involved in World War II, the town of Harwinton was granted a Chrysler-Marine pump from Civil Defense. While the exact delivery date of the pump has been lost to time, an official organization was needed to man it, so the townspeople gathered for a meeting on March 14, 1944 and voted to form the Harwinton Volunteer Fire Department. 

Harwinton resident Norman Barber was elected Chief and Custodian of Equipment. He called an organizational meeting for March 21, 1944, and a full slate of officers was elected and a set of by-laws was adopted.

Hans Thiemann was elected Deputy Chief. He ran a store/gas station combination, which was common of the period, on the site of the present gas station on Route 4.  He apparently let the department use his panel truck. However, the exact location where the Civil Defense pump is unclear.  Some memories place it at the town highway garage, which was on North Road in back of the church, while others place it at Thiemann's store.

The department soon purchased a new 1944 Ford with an American LaFrance body and pump and also used 1933 Dodge truck. These two vehicles were used until 1948 when a new Ford was purchased to replace the Dodge. 

In 1954, a Ford cab and chassis was purchased and sent to American LaFrance to have a pump and fire body installed. This truck served until 1981 when it was replaced by an American LaFrance custom pumper.

A third engine was added in 1964. Again, a Ford cab and chassis and American LaFrance pump and body was purchased. This truck served until replaced by another American LaFrance custom pumper, in 1991.  The original 1944 Ford was replaced in 1972.

Originally, fire calls were answered at Thiemann's store.  Eventually, four other homes were added to the circuit. Under this system, a call list was used to contact other members.  In 1980 the Department contracted with City Answering Service in Torrington, as did the West Side Fire Department and the Ambulance Association.  Calls were received there on a seven digit line and tones were sent out to activate alerting receivers in members homes. These not only alerted membes of an emergency, but also gave a voice message as to the location and type of emergnecy call.

In 1989, enhanced 911 service came along. These days, 911 calls are taken by Litchfield County Dispatch, located inside the state police's Troop L Barracks in Litchfield. Tones and voice messages are sent to members via belt pagers -- but there's still an old-fashioned siren at the firehouse that is also used when members are needed to respond to a call.



For More Harwinton History feel free to Visit www.harwintonhistory.com.