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The seed of the Company was planted when Anthony J. Rubino, owner of the Stony Hill Inn, called on Michael Hugyo Jr., Julius “George” Hugyo and Harry Lent with the express purpose of seriously discussing a fire company in the Stony Hill District. Many months of meetings followed with the group of interested people steadily growing. In rotation, The Stony Hill Inn, Avalon Inn, and Armando’s were the meeting sites. The list of questions to be answered was also growing — company size, location, financial support, Underwriters’ requirements, town and state requirements, organization structure, incorporation and many more. The founders sought the advice and comments of established fire companies In neighboring towns and the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department. The chiefs of these organizations were invited to speak at the meetings. Speakers from other organizations such as the Bethel Tax Payers Association were also heard.
On September 12, 1949, a slate of temporary officers, beginning with Captain, was elected and Mr. Joseph Mantak was voted to this first office.
Chief Herbert Webb of the Bethel Fire Department addressed the founders at the September 26, 1949 meeting. He advised them to send a committee to the Bethel Department to investigate being incorporated with them. Captain Mantak, Mr. Tomanio, and Mr. Muffati went to Bethel for this discussion. On October 11, they reported that, “The Bethel Department feels we should start from scratch.”
Start they did. On November 28, 1949, a permanent slate of officers was elected with Joseph Mantak again being named captain. Eight days later the Articles of Association were signed by Anthony J. Rubino, Gaston F. Balme and Jacob Zimmerman in Attorney Wanderer’s office in Danbury. Being officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization, the charter members moved on with their stated purpose of protecting life and property from fire.
At the January 1950 meeting, the distaff side requested permission to start a Ladies Auxiliary. This group was to become a most dedicated and helpful partner in supporting the Company. Their first donation of $100.00 was made in June of 1950. It was used to start a Kitchen Equipment Fund for the firehouse that was still a dream.
In February 1950, Jacob Zimmerman loaned the Company $1,000.00, at no interest, to purchase two used American LaFrance fire trucks from the town of Mamaronek, a hook and ladder and a pumper. The 1916 pumper was delivered in March and was to become affectionately known as “Betsy Ann” or “Old Betsy.” This veteran apparatus had a gear pump and could really throw water at little more than idle engine speed. The ladder truck was delivered in May. It had a dubious characteristic for a fire truck, or any vehicle, in that the steering gear would often lock in the full turn position.
Tony Rubino found that land on the corner of Weed Road and Route 6 might be available from the State for a firehouse site. Inquiry was made, and based on a phone call description, the land was purchased for $600.00 in March 1950.
At the May 8, 1950 Town Meeting, $10,000.00 was appropriated for the Stony Hill Firehouse. R. Marinden donated his architectural services in drawing the plans for the 40’ x 6O’ building, the west wing. It contained a double bay, a ladies’ room, a men’s room with a work bench and kitchen that also housed a forced hot air furnace. In September 1950, Alan Boughton was awarded a contract for $8,864.00 for the building with rough plumbing, insulation and a septic system. Lighting, heating and plumbing fixtures were subcontracted or installed by the Company. The first meeting in the firehouse was on January 22, 1951, though the building was by no means completed. The Town of Bethel also appropriated $3,000.00 for Company expenses in the 1951-52 year.
In the November 1951 Company election, J. Donald Craig was named captain. In this month, the Company also acquired a 1938 Ford Pick-Up. Nineteen fifty-one had been a very busy year with completion of the building a prime project. Harry Lent was elected captain at the annual meeting in 1952. Carnival stands, firecracker sales, card parties, dances, fund drives and pool drawings were means of raising money to support the operation of the now blossoming organization.
Charles Gereg was elected captain in November 1954. In this month, a 1947 Ward LaFrance pumper, Engine #2, was obtained from the Bethel Department in return for supporting their request for a new pumper.
George Hugyo was elected captain in November 1955. The subject of an ambulance service by the Company was broached this year by Junior Ely. Also, the old ladder truck was sold in January 1956 to Rubino Brothers of Norwalk for $150.00.
William Corbett was elected captain in November 1957. A 1939 Chevrolet 600 gallon tanker was obtained from the Bethel Department in January of this year.
In October of 1960, Louis Godkin presented plans for the addition of a Meeting Room on the east side of the firehouse. The footings and foundation were laid in late 1961 and the building was completed in 1962 at an approximate cost of $5,000.00. This was Company funded including a donation of $1,000.00 from the Ladies’ Auxiliary. William Cabral was paid for his time as journeyman, mason, carpenter, and director of operations for the Company members who worked on the project. The Town of Bethel donated the shingles for the addition and the firehouse which was re-shingled at this time. A newspaper picture of the first meeting in the new room showed Captain George Hugyo, elected in November 1961, receiving a $1,000.00 check from his sister, Emily Hodgsen, President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Edward Granatin was elected captain in November 1964.
- In 1965, the organization structure was revised to establish chief as the first officer.
- May of 1965, a 1958 Dodge tanker holding 1,200 gallons was purchased from the Dolan Oil Company for $1,100.00.
- September 1965 – the Company received its first new apparatus, Engine #1, a Ward LaFrance pumper with a 1,000 gpm pump and a 1,000 gallon booster tank. This was built on a 1964 Ford “950” chassis. The unit was built to Company specification and was budgeted by the Town of Bethel at $18,500.00.
- In 1966 – the Company purchased a 1954 G.M.C. pick-up for $495.00. This replaced the Ford pick-up.
- November 1967 – George Hugyo was elected chief in November 1967, for his third round in the first officer position.
- July 1968 – “Old Betsy” was sold for $250.00.
- June 1971 – A new mini-pumper, Truck #4.
- April 1971 – A 1952 Ward LaFrance pumper, Engine #3, was received from the Bethel Department in exchange for Engine #2 which was sold. A new mini-pumper, Truck #4, was received in June.
Discussion began in 1972 about a much needed building expansion. There were now five vehicles in the original double bay building. A Building Committee; George Hugyo, Hugh Hugyo, Hugh Odell (succeeded by James Belot), Phil Runge, Emile Racenet, H. John Dietter and Louis Godkin-Chairman, was appointed to prepare specifications. The Bethel Permanent Building Commttee engaged Whitcomb Associates to design the structure and Dolan Construction Company to build it at a final cost of approximately $222,000. The project, renovations of the west wing, 10’ extension of the Meeting Room to the East, new kitchen South of the Meeting Room and a 40’ x 60’ double through bay east wing was completed in August 1975.
In the midst of the building project and in November 1973, Edward Whitlock was elected chief. His two years in office were very busy with building connected activities as well as directing the Company.
Serious training for an ambulance service began in 1974 with many members enrolled in the EMT course and the advanced first aid course. This was in preparation for manning the Company purchased, owned, and operated ambulance which was received in March 1975.
November 1975 – Chief William MacWilliams was elected and directed the Company in its continuing service to the community.
This brief beginning history does not attempt to recognize the endless contributions of the time and effort by all the members since that first meeting. The Company today is their tribute.
Fall 2002 – Construction of the new engine bays began, and destruction of the old building began shortly after the new bays were finished and the equipment moved over. The new bays were completed in May of 2003.
Stony Hill’s new fire house opens in 2004.
In October 2004 the SHFD was ready for full operation and officially opened. Thanks to the entire town of Bethel, we are now ready to commit our services as volunteers to our neighbors and visitors.