History of the Spring Lake Fire Department


A brief History of the Department (with special thanks to Jeremiah McDonough, who has spent innumerable hours pouring through boxes of old records to try and put the history together)

The Spring Lake Fire Department was established to provide the residents of Ulster Fire District #1 with fire, rescue, and first response emergency medical services. Our department is all volunteer, from the fire commissioners to the individual firefighters.

Ulster Fire District # 1 is governed by a Board of Fire Commissioners consisting of five publicly elected fire commissioners, each serving a five year term. The Board of Fire Commissioners are responsible for all aspects of the fire district including personnel, budgeting, purchasing and maintenance of equipment, and approval of district officers. The Ulster Fire District #1 maintains the district with monies collected from fire taxes paid by each resident. The district officers such as the chief, assistant chiefs, and line officers are elected by the membership of the fire company, but are approved and answer to the Board of Fire Commissioners. The district officers are responsible for the day to day operations and emergency responses of the department.

The Spring Lake Fire Company is an independent organization formed by the firefighters and non firefighting members. The fire company accepts no tax money and raises all funds through various fundraisers. The fire company provides public safety programs for the community, participates in parades and other community functions, social functions for the members, and elects the district officers to be approved by the Board of Fire Commissioners. The company is run by officers elected by the membership. The officers are President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and a chaplain. The company also has 3 elected trustees which oversee and approve all major expenditures, contracts and audit the financial records once a year.

History of the Spring Lake Fire Department

The concept of the Spring Lake Fire Department was developed by a group of residents who believed that there was a need for a town fire department to serve the residents in our area. Prior to the existence of the Spring Lake Fire Department the residents of Ulster Fire District #1 primarily relied on the willingness of the Kingston Fire Department to respond to fires in the area, even though it was outside of their district. Sometime around Thanksgiving 1953, Mrs. Georgia Elmendorf wife of charter member Lester “Bud” Elmendorf was playing with her daughter in the living room of their Millers Lane home. While in the living room she heard the crackling of a fire in her kitchen, she immediately called the Kingston Fire Dept. but their was a delay in response for an unknown reason. This fire in addition to another fire on Millers Lane, where an entire house was lost, caused a group of citizens to get together and begin to organize a local fire department. This group of citizens took their first big step on March 31st, 1955 when a public hearing was held with the purpose of forming Ulster Fire District #1. According to minutes from this meeting, several residents were present to speak in favor of the idea. The Town of Ulster Town Board immediately entered into a special meeting where a resolution to create the Fire District was unanimously passed. The Town Board also appointed the following Fire Commissioners to serve until a district election was held in December. The Commissioners appointed were: Robert Pardee, Theodore Gile Jr., Raymond Davis, Lester Elemendorf, and Herbert Greenwald. In addition Clyde Wonderly Jr. was appointed district treasurer.

With the district formed and beginning to organize, the next step was to form a fire company which would serve the fire district by supporting membership, electing district officers for approval by the Board of Fire Commissioners, and carrying out is mission of providing fire protection to the residents of Ulster Fire District #1. The group of residents acquired legal assistance to develop a corporation. On September 21st 1955, the Ulster Hose #1 Inc. (later to become the Spring Lake Fire Department Inc.) was formed. On September 27th 1955 the first meeting of the fire company was held at the Spring Lake Beach House, and the first officers were elected. They were:

  • President - Arthur Bean
  • Vice President - Carmello Dragotta
  • Secretary - Fred Scott
  • Treasurer - Stan Skora
  • Captain - Tom Dragotta **(The title of Captain was almost immediately changed to Chief)
  • 1st Lieutenant - Ray Davis
  • 2nd Lieutenant - Robert Lauton
  • Trustees: John Provenzano, Mr. Gross, Donald Oakley

In addition to company elections, the members of the fire company also discussed how they could assist the Fire District Commissioners in the building of a firehouse and obtaining firefighting equipment. In the subsequent monthly meetings of the Fire Company and the Fire District the fire department members went about the task of setting up a fire department, including the search for equipment and the building of the first firehouse, in addition the department members began to attend local fire training.

  • February 1956:
    • Property for the new firehouse was purchased in the triangle just off of Lucas Ave. The price of $850.00 included a steel garage, tool house, well and well pump.
  • April 1956:
    • Bob Pardee succeeds Tom Dragotta as Chief of the Department.
  • September 1956:
    • The taxpayers of Ulster Fire District #1 approve a bond issue of $19,000.00 for the purpose of building a firehouse and purchasing fire equipment.
  • November 1956:
    • The Fire Company joins the Ulster County Volunteer Firemens Association.
  • December 1956:
    • The fire district purchases its first fire truck, a used 1928 Mack pumper for the price of $500.00 from the Tilson Lake Fire Department. This truck’s first official act was on December 23rd for the department’s first Santa Claus Ride to deliver candy to the children of the district, a tradition of the Spring Lake Fire Department to this day.
  • March 1957:
    • A motion was carried to change the name of the Fire Company from Ulster Hose #1 Inc. to Spring Lake Fire Department Inc. An agreement was signed with the Hurley Fire Department for interim fire protection coverage until July 8th 1956.
  • May 1957:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department’s first meeting was held in its new firehouse.
  • June 1957:
    • It was reported that the firehouse siren system was complete and that starting June 27th for seven days the commissioners would sound the siren at random times to determine the manpower that is available.
  • July 8, 1957:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department officially goes into service. A picture (in the Spring Lake FD trophy cabinet) was taken on this date. It shows Chief Bob Pardee and two additional firemen.
  • July 9, 1957:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Dept. responds to its first call. A false alarm caused by a malfunction of the siren system at 10:12am. Sixteen members responded.
  • July 27, 1957:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Dept. responds to its first Fire Call. A grass fire was called in at 3:08pm by Mrs. Roy Wulff. The fire was located to the rear of the Nebele residence on Lucas Ave Ext. and was caused by neighbors burning brush.
  • September 1957:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Dept. signs into the Mutual Aid system, which allowed and provided coverage for fire departments providing assistance to neighboring departments.
  • October 1957:
    • The Spring Lake FD Ladies Auxillary was organized.
  • June 1958:
    • The Board of Fire Commissioners of Ulster Fire District #1 enter into contract with Albany Ave. Garage to purchase a new American LaFrance Fire Engine. The Engine would have a 750gpm pump and a 750gal water tank. It was expected to be delivered in October.
  • September 1958:
    • The company purchases a tanker truck for $100 to be converted by Clayt Elmendorf for firefighting use. In addition the duties of firematic officers was added to the Company Constitution.
  • November 1958:
    • The Departments new American LaFrance Pumper arrives and is put into service. The 1928 Mack was traded in as part of the deal.
  • January 1962:
    • Clayton Elmendorf becomes Chief of the Spring Lake Fire Department.
  • January 1972:
    • Theron Jones becomes Chief of the Spring Lake Fire Department
  • Spring 1975:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department takes delivery of a new White Western Star Pumper. It had a 1000 gallon tank and a 1250gpm pump. It’s call sign was designated E 59-20.
  • January 1976:
    • Douglas Storm becomes Chief of the Spring Lake Fire Department
  • 1981:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department takes delivery of a Ford Tanker. It was equipped with 1500 gallons of water and a 1000gpm pump. Its call sign was designated T 59-30.
  • January 1983:
    • James Brown becomes Chief of the Spring Lake Fire Department
  • January 21, 1983:
    • Spring Lake Fire Department responded to an accident on the NY State Thruway where a Greyhound bus struck the rear-end of a Tractor Trailer. Three persons on board the bus were killed, and twenty two passengers were injured in the accident, including the driver of the bus who lost a leg in the accident. This incident was the largest Mass Casualty incident responded to by the Spring Lake Fire Department. It involved numerous Mutual Aid from surrounding fire departments, ambulance squads, multiple medivac missions, NYS Police as well as local police, NYS Dept of Transportation, the Ulster County DA’s office and a full scale response from both of Kingston’s Hospitals, including Emergency Room Personnel being requested to the scene to assist with the medical response. This incident was used in the development of the NYS Bus Accident course.
  • March 2, 1984:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department responded to a structure fire at the Siller Beef facility on Hurley Ave. This fire is considered the largest in the history of the Spring Lake FD. The original incident lasted approximately 14 hours and involved over 20 fire departments. The alarm log from Ulster County Fire Control indicates that between 250 and 300 emergency workers were on the scene at one point during the incident. Spring Lake Fire Department was called back to the sites seven times in the weeks that followed for re-kindles and reports of smoke.
  • Winter 1987:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department takes delivery of a Hahn Pumper. The truck was equipped with a 1250gpm pump and carries 1500 gallons of water. Its call sign was designated E 59-10.
  • 1989:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department takes delivery of a Chevy Rescue Truck. This truck was equipped with 4WD, and a walk-in body for additional equipment storage. Its call sign was designated R 59-40. It replaced a "Ghostbusters" like station wagon.
  • 1991:
    • Ulster Fire District #1 completed the most recent of many expansions to the Spring Lake Firehouse. This included raising the roof on the Engine Bays to accomodate newer fire apparatus. Also a fourth bay was added so that all of the truck bays faced Lucas Ave.
  • January 1994:
    • John Cranston (Doc) becomes Chief of the Spring Lake Fire Department, a position which he held until 2014.
  • December 1996:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department takes delivery of a Pierce Pumper Tanker. It is equipped with a 1250gpm pump, 2500 gallon tank, as well as a Class A foam system. It replaced the Ford tanker and assumed the call sign E 59-30.
  • March 2002:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department takes delivery of a Pierce Rescue Pumper. It is equipped with a 1250gpm pump, 750 gallon tank, Class A & B Foam System, and a 3000 watt Command Light System. It serves as an engine and a rescue, carrying extrication equipment, Ice Rescue, Hazmat equipment and other specialized gear. It replaced the White Western Star and assumed the call sign E 59-20.
  • 2005:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Among other events, a 50th Anniversary Dinner was held where Thomas Dragotta SLFD’s first chief and only remaining charter member was honored with a plaque in recognition of his 50 years of service to the department.
  • Winter 2007:
    • The department took delivery of a Ford F-350 utility truck. The truck’s primary purpose is EMS response but is also equipped for cellar pumps and other miscellaneous calls for service. It replaced a 1989 Chevy rescue.
  • Winter 2013:
    • The Spring Lake Fire Department takes delivery of a 2004 Pumper manufactured by 4 Guy Fire Apparatus on an HME Chassis. It serves the Spring Lake Fire Department as 1st due to all structure fires in the district and to all mutual aid requests for an engine. 59-10 has a six man cab, 1500 gpm pump and a 1500 gallon tank. It is outfitted with a Compressed Air Foam System and a 40 gallon Class A foam cell as well as a 15kw on board generator and Wilburt Light Tower. 59-10 started its service with the Adam's Area Fire District outside of Pittsburgh, PA before being purchased by our fire district in 2013. It replaces the 1986 Hahn and was assigned the call sign 59-10.