By Dan Hust
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS November 9, 2001 Upwards of 150 people showed up at the White Sulphur Springs firehouse on Saturday to celebrate the local fire departments 75th anniversary.
The crowd was so large that organizers had to move the dinner from the new White Sulphur Springs Inn to the firehouse, but the Inn still catered the dinner and it appeared that the friendly bunch of residents and supporters had just as much fun as they would have elsewhere.
WSSFD President Dwayne Gorton served as the evenings emcee, accepting awards and recognition to the fire department and handing out some thanks and awards himself.
The response was far greater than we anticipated, he told guests. Thank you!
Created in 1926, the department started out with 50 members, just six shy of the current roster. But while todays budget for WSSFD is $102,000, a mere $1,200 got the fledgling group going, and for a year, firefighters walked with buckets to any local conflagration.
In 1927, the departments first truck was purchased, with a simple 150-gallon carrying capacity. Fast forward to today, where the departments main response truck can hold 2,500 gallons.
One thing that hasnt changed, however, is the volunteers commitment to community service in the highest degree, and that thought was repeated several times during the evening.
Among the list of speakers was Rodney Gaebel, who serves the area as District 5 County Legislator.
Its great to be here, he said, citing the recent beautification efforts in the town. White Sulphur Springs has always been at the top of the list as one of the nicest hamlets in Sullivan County. What you folks have done here in the past couple of years has raised the bar [for the rest of the county]. Its a tribute to you folks.
Gaebel likened the fire department to electrical service, which is taken for granted until its not available.
You appreciate what our volunteers do, but you never give enough thought to it, he explained. So keep these people in your thoughts and prayers 365 days a year. Support them!
Standing near impressive cakes created by Linda Manzolillo with historical photos imprinted on them, WSSFD Chaplain Bridgette LeConey followed Gaebel with a blessing on the department and the evenings activities, and attendees then dug into a hearty, delicious meal set to soft music by DJ Mike.
Available for viewing was a history book of the department by Liberty high schoolers Daniel Minckler and Christine Beach, and guests were treated to several more speakers after dinner including members of neighboring fire departments, like Jeff and Liberty.
Its truly remarkable all of the good things that have come from White Sulphur Springs, said Town of Liberty Supervisor Dick Martinkovic, who is also a county fire official and a longtime Liberty fireman. And when that whistle blows, we are all one. But tonight, instead of serving us, you are enjoying this meal.
WSSFD Ladies Auxiliary member Sue DeWitt also made mention of her fellow auxilians, who have served to the best of our ability. Thanks for everything, ladies!
Citing numerous efforts from helping with dinners to serving coffee to firefighters working in sub-zero weather, Gorton said to the auxilians, You do a great job. We cant do it without you. You should be very proud of yourselves.
And when the remaining charter members of the 40-year-old auxiliary were presented and congratulated, the audience gave the proud members a standing ovation.
Indeed, the entire department received several raucous rounds of applause, including after Gaebel completed his comments by saying, Probably 75 years from now, our children and grandchildren will be here celebrating 150 years!
And then, with a smile echoed by others in the room, he added, Hopefully, we wont have the same equipment!