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Long-Time Croton Falls Firefighters Offer Memories

In 1894, EC Purdy is pictured on a roof of the Williams Building.
In 1894, EC Purdy is pictured on a roof of the Williams Building. Photo Credit: North Salem Town Historian's Collection

CROTON FALLS, N.Y. — It is nearly 125 years since a small group of local leaders decided that the town needed its own fire-fighting team. Fifty-odd volunteers soon came forward.

The newly formed Croton Falls Fire Department (CFFD) purchased a complete outfit, comprising a hand-pump engine, a hose carriage and a hose. The price was $935, most of it raised through voluntary and solicited donations. It quickly became apparent that getting the hand-pump engine from its home to the site of a fire was easier said than done. So a $5.00 incentive was offered to the first person to rush over with a team of horses.

By the end of World War II, the eastern part of North Salem had grown so much it warranted its own fire apparatus. And by that time, no horses were needed.

Jeff Daday, a 45-year CFFD veteran, remembers his childhood in the 1960s, when the local Croton Falls barber, Augie Piazza, had to drop everything in the middle of a haircut and run to a fire, along with Bob DePaoli of Bob's Superette and Ray Cole, the postmaster.

Harold Daros, whose membership goes back to the mid-1950s, recalls the dispatch system used to spread word of a fire. Someone would call the nearest dispatcher, who sounded her siren and passed the information to dispatchers elsewhere in town.

"All the men would rush to the fire house," Daros said.

Despite the best efforts of the CFFD, the 1977 destruction of the 100-year-old Croton Falls Baptist Church was a unique architectural loss to the town. Its famous Gothic style had even been featured on the cover of Collier's Magazine (1951).

Drew Outhouse, whose family has been involved since the CFFD's inception, observes that the character of volunteers has changed over the years. The original group consisted of laborers, farmers and other local workers.

These days, he says, "we have a half dozen lawyers… bankers… women. We even have volunteers who are professional firemen somewhere else."

The CFFD is always happy to have new volunteers. For more information, visit the department's website .

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