The annual Great Valley Fire Company installation of officers and Christmas Party held on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, was a celebration of the 65th anniversary of the formation of the company in 1948 by 76 charter members, five of whom are alive today.
The evening was dedicated to those who have contributed to the fire company over the past 65 years responding to calls for help from the Great Valley area and giving mutual aid assistance to towns outside Great Valley.
Today there are 51 members assuming positions of firefighters, fire police and EMS as well as 14 active auxiliary members.
Rob Snider, 1st assistant chief, began the program with the invocation taking a minute of silence in remembrance of firefighters Loile O. Chase (past president, chief and commissioner) and Joseph F. Ward (past chief and charter member) who passed away this year.
It is unimaginable today to think of not having a fire department available to answer our calls for help, but there was a time when there was no fire company in Great Valley and most small towns around this area. When the great fire of 1890 in Ellicottville burned the north side of Ellicottville’s downtown, they had to telegraph a message to Salamanca and wait for a train to bring firefighters and equipment .
“The Great Valley Fire Company was formed,” said 2nd Assistant Chief Mark Ward, “at a meeting in 1948 by a group of people who met at the town hall (then across from the Great Valley First Baptist Church on Route 219) to discuss the formation of an electric lighting district in the town of Great Valley.”
The fire station was located in a barn (behind the B & B on the corner of Routes 219 and 98), which housed the company’s first fire equipment, a portable pump and trailer.
Ward recalls living next to the Great Valley fire station as a child, “with six relatives, all charter members of the fire company, including my father. I lived and breathed the fire department. All calls came into our house.”
Officers for 2014 installed by District Coordinator Larry Nagel were Clarence Bickell, President; Jim Evans Jr., Vice President; Christy Wiser, Secretary; Dean Yarnes, Treasurer; Randy Wiser Jr., Fire Chief; Rob Snider, 1st Assistant Chief; Mark Ward, 2nd Assistant Chief; Kevin Watt, 3rd Assistant Chief (Ambulance Captain); Dustin Hostuttler, 4th Assistant Chief; Eileen Hostuttler, Fire Police Captain; and Jim Evans, Jr., Safety Officer.
Fire Chief Randy Wiser presented awards to first responders to fire calls. Charlie Grinols and Randy Wiser tied for first place with 42 responses to the 51 calls (10 fires and 13 motor vehicle accidents), 9 non-emergency calls and 15 mutual aid calls.
Three more scuba divers were certified, making a total of seven available for underwater recues. They are Rich Rinko, Randy Wiser and Christy Wiser.
The Great Valley Ambulance Service was formed in March 1988, becoming a part of the fire company.
The top responder to the 371 ambulance calls recorded this year (325 in the Great Valley, Ellicottville, Mansfield and Humphrey Fire District, and 46 mutual aid calls) was awarded to Rob Snider with 100 responses.
Honored for 50 years of service to the Great Valley Fire Company were Mike Slater and Hoby Hall.
“Our Volunteer Fire Company does an exemplary job of serving the Great Valley Fire District as well as assisting other departments,” said Chief Randy Wiser. “We have a great group of men and women that sacrifice time away from their families to assist those in times of need.
“We are also very fortunate to have the support of our entire community when it comes to hosting our annual regatta fundraiser. It takes more time and volunteers then most people realize to put an event of that magnitude together and this company really works hard to pull it together.
“Just like every volunteer organization, we have some great people, but we are always looking for more. New recruits are always welcome and anyone interested in joining can contact a member or stop in on a Monday night to fill out an application. Some people get the wrong idea that all volunteer firefighters do is fight fires and go to car accidents. There are several other roles that also need to be filled within the company and we would be happy to discuss this with anyone that is interested.”
Thanks to the dedication of this diligent group of volunteers, we can rest easy knowing “help is on the way.”