For 35 years, the Bergton Volunteer Fire Department has banded together to provide community protection! Fabulous chiefs, officers, directors, firefighters, auxiliary members and the community have carried, and continue to carry, this company forward. To name them all, would fill the Chronicle!
Creating and sustaining a fire department, is a testament of endurance. Miller Turner, owner of Crider’s Store in years gone by, once told me that in the mid-1900s it had been attempted to start a fire company in this remote region of Bergton and Criders. A fire truck had been acquired, yet when it was needed, it had no water in its tank. That first “company” failed.
An August 24, 1987 Daily News Record article quotes David May, the company’s captain at the time, as saying that the idea for a fire station in Bergton/Criders had been discussed for many years. Being at least a 30-minute drive from the nearest fire departments (an hour in some places), everyone agreed that the need was great. The company finally took root when the Broadway Fire Department bought a new fire engine and wanted to put their old GMC engine to good use. Broadway’s Fire Chief, Mike Hoover, approached the Bergton Ruritan Club. The club accepted the truck (and a utility vehicle) and went to work raising money to build a fire house. The Bergton Fire Department Building Fund was created and letters were sent to Bergton/Criders residents stating the need for “The Bergton Branch of the Broadway Fire Department.”
At that time, there was no financial backing from Rockingham County. According to the article, the Ruritan Club donated $7,000 “seed money.” Donations poured in from Superior Concrete, Broadway Electric, Farmers & Merchants Bank of Timberville, the Bergton Fair Association, businesses and the Orkney Springs Fire Department who donated their old tanker truck. And the community gave $14,000! Member Jr, May is quoted as saying, “The people were just great. They were really digging in and giving.”
Anyone who was interested in helping to create a fire department was invited to an “organizational meeting” on February 3, 1987. Broadway fire fighters, Bergton Ruritan members and a room full of people gathered that night at the Bergton Recreation Center. When the speeches were done, the lights were dimmed and training began. Safety was emphasized, stories were shared and films were shown. 26 people, intent on creating a fire department, signed the roster.
Over the next 6 weeks, Broadway and Rockingham County Fire Instructors taught us the Basic 30-hour Fire Training. The Board of Directors, Secretary (they voted me in for those!), Line Officers, Treasurer and Engineer were all elected. CPR, 1st Aid, Haz Mat, Emergency Vehicle Operations and further trainings, drills and meetings evolved.
Nights and weekends were dedicated to building the fire house. The concrete was poured and the frame was erected. Elbow grease and labor, hammers and nails, week by week the fire house grew.
On August 23, 1987, with the community, donors, firefighters, reporters and a state senator in attendance, the ribbon was cut. The Bergton Branch of the Broadway Fire Department was completed and dedicated. It would now run calls with its neighbor, the Bergton Rescue Squad (which had been in service for many, many years at that time!). In 1996, with the blessing of the Broadway Fire Department and the assistance of county funding, the Bergton Station went on its own and became an independent department.
Bergton’s well-loved couple, Jr. & Betty May, have been active members since the first organizational meeting. Jr. went to the meeting, because like many others, he knew that it was a necessity for Bergton/Criders. “Broadway [Fire Department] was very good, but I thought our community needed the service of a fire company that was closer than Broadway. It sure was a lot, getting it going. And it proved out good.”
Betty also knew its importance. She thought, “I may be a lady but if there is something that I can possibly do to bring a fire company to our community, then I will do it!”
They attended all the training courses and Jr. qualified to drive the engines. He has worn many hats over the years and served as a director, firefighter and house cleaner! Betty has been a firefighter (in the early days!), and for much of the last 35 years she has served as their devoted treasurer.
Built on hard work and dedication, the fire company has grown to include another building and state of the art trucks and equipment (the GMC is long gone). The fire house has been home to surprise parties and Christmas banquets, Fund Days and Poker Runs, apple butter boilings and anniversary celebrations. And every year we see many of you at the annual auction at the Bergton Recreation Center, always the first Saturday of November.
Thank you ALL who have supported, created, and built the truly phenomenal Bergton Volunteer Fire Department! Hundreds of thousands of hours of time and money go into the running of this fire department, made up by generous souls.
Men and women, each of its faithful members, continue to serve the region by fighting chimney, forest and house fires, responding to accidents, tragedies and rescue calls and by maintaining the day to day needs of the company.
You have done yourselves
Bio: CMD♥’s binders of meeting notes, quotes and miscellanea from 1987 through 2008 are housed for the public’s perusal in the Bergton Library. As a charter & lifetime member, Carol’s heart will always be with Station 55, the Bergton Volunteer Fire Department.
New members are always welcome! 540-852-3331!
~ When throwing the ashes out of your stoves, please make certain the coals are cold! ~