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Taghkanic Fire Co. recalls history

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TAGHKANIC—Nearly 100 people gathered for a banquet at the firehouse on Old Route 82 to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Taghkanic Fire Company May 2.
Officials from surrounding fire departments, including Livingston, Craryville, Copake, Ancram and Churchtown, as well as Community Rescue Squad Administrator Jeanie Scotti, Taghkanic Town Supervisor Betty Young and Columbia County Sheriff David Harrison Jr. were among the banquet guests.
Donald Coons Jr. was presented with the 2008 Firefighter of the Year Award for his record of participation in training sessions and responding to fire calls, according to Fire Chief Bill Hilscher, who handed out the honors.
Octogenarian Amos Lemmermann was recognized for a combined 55 years of service to the Taghkanic and East Hempstead, Long Island, fire companies.
Also recognized were Paul Nostrand for 35 years of service, Carmen Nero for 15 years of service and Jeff Browne for 5 years of service.
Taghkanic Fire Company officers for the coming year are Fire Chief Hilscher, Assistant Chief Henry Roberts Jr., Second Assistant Chief Dennis Callahan, Lieutenant Coons and Lieutenant Browne.
Dinner was catered by Jo Jo’s restaurant located up the road.
Residents of the community started talked about organizing a fire company after a large barn in the West Taghkanic hamlet burned to the ground in the early 1940s. While they apreciated the efforts of Ancram, Churchtown and Livingston firefighters, they believed those fire companies were too far away to serve the future needs of West Taghkanic.  
Several meetings were held at the West Taghkanic schoolhouse, where tough decisions were made. Many there were already members of the Churchtown Fire Company about four miles away. Some were in favor of creating Churchtown Fire Company #2 after that fire company offered to move one of their trucks to the center of the hamlet for a quicker response time. Those men who wanted to control their own destiny won out and the Taghkanic Fire Company #1, Inc., was formed with 19 charter members.
The fire company was incorporated by the state March 31, 1944. The Taghkanic Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary was organized June 19, 1944 and membership was open to any wife or female relative of a Taghkanic fireman. Both groups held meetings at the District #4 schoolhouse until the fire company purchased Grover Scutt’s Gulf station on Route 82 in 1945 for $3,200.  Also in 1945, the fire company purchased their first truck from the Churchtown Fire Company for $75.  
To report a fire, residents would call Hotaling’s store across the street from the firehouse. The Hotalings would in turn call firemen by phone until they got enough men to respond to the call. The first firemen to arrive at the station would sound the truck siren to alert others. This practice continued until firemen bought a siren and installed it on the firehouse roof.
 In 1946, the company purchased a surplus 1942 Chevrolet Army truck from the Depot in Schenectady for $900, the amount it was worth if the government had sold it as scrap metal. While not the first truck out the door now, the truck is still in service and is believed to be the oldest continually operating truck in service in Columbia County.
Around 1960, the fire company entered into contracts with the towns of Taghkanic and Gallatin to provide fire protection to parts of each town that were closest to the West Taghkanic firehouse. The fire company still receives funds from both towns to cover these areas.
The siren was recently rebuilt by life member and local electrician Ralph Schmidt and still serves the fire company from a new location on the east side of the firehouse.   
In May 1965, the size of the Taghkanic Fire Protection District #2 was extended and the fire company bought its first tanker June 8, 1965 for $500. The first Class A pumper was bought used in  from the Ghent Fire Company. The next new truck, also a Class A pumper, bought to replace the Ghent truck, was a 1978 Ward La France Patriot. In the mid-to-late 1970s the fire company got its first mobile radio, currently on display in the trophy case at the firehouse.  A short time later, the fire company installed  equipment that could pick up a signal from the Columbia County dispatch center to set off the fire siren.  As a result the fire company no longer needed to depend on the Hotaling family to alert firemen to emergency calls.
In 1984, Taghkanic became one of the first two fire companies in the county to run a first responder program, usually arriving on the scene before an ambulance could.  
Personal pagers arrived in the 1980s.  The new capability enabled firemen to respond to calls from locations beyond earshot of the fire siren.  
On May 3, 1994 construction of the new firehouse began under the direction of building Chairman Richard Skoda. The steel-studded, brick-faced building cost $225,000 and was completed by September of that year. After Carmen Nero joined the company and became treasurer,  he determined that the fire company could save money by refinancing the building loan. The fire company was able to pay off the loan early and save over $8,000 in interest—put to good use when the fire company purchased a 1989 GMC medium duty rescue truck fully equipped with extrication equipment from Community Rescue Squad.
The ladies auxiliary was disbanded in the 1990s, after more than 50 years of service.
Two years ago the fire company restructured itself to include support members, who help out with fundraising, work around the firehouse and support the overall mission of the fire company—to safely and effectively serve the public and make the community a better place to live.

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