Bicentennial Snapshot No.36: Centennial Celebration of North Greece and Ridge Road Fire District

North Greece 100 Years Service Patch
North Greece 100 Years Service Patch
Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years
Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years
Greece Bicentennial 200

Today we are spotlighting the two Greece fire districts that are celebrating their centennial years and they are the North Greece Fire Department and the Greece Ridge/Ridge Road Fire District

Bucket Brigade from Monroe Historical Society

As a rural agricultural community in the 1800s, there was no formal fire brigade or fire department in Greece. Fires were common “in an era when most buildings were made of wood, when candles and fuel lamps provided lighting, and when wood stoves were used for cooking.” Bucket brigades fought fires. Water was taken from whatever source was nearby—streams, lakes, ponds, or cisterns—and a line of men formed to pass the buckets from one man to the next until it reached the fire. It was an ineffective way to fight a fire.

In 1890, John Fetzner of Fetzner Carriage shop and Peter Knipper, owner of the Falls Hotel, (we told you about them in Snapshot 16), imported a chemical fire wagon from France. They stored the fire wagon in a shed on the hotel property next door to Fetzner’s carriage shop making it readily available to serve them and their neighbors. The apparatus was on a wheeled carriage base and had to be pulled by volunteers on foot. A chemical reaction between sulfuric acid and a premixture of sodium bicarbonate in one tank propelled water in the other tank through a hose; it could create a stream of water up to 30 feet high. This is the oldest piece of fire equipment in Greece, and one of the oldest in Monroe County. It is on display in our museum. You can read the full interview on how Society acquired the fire wagon from Bud Steeb by Kay Pollok.

Journey of the Fetzner Knipper Fire Wagon Story an Interview with Bud Steeb
Fetzner-Knipper fire wagon photo by Bill Sauers
Clip 3: Call for Service Map from Future of the Fire Service in Greece Evaluating the Existing Conditions in and Considering Options in the Town of Greece, June, 2020, prepared for: Barnard Fire District, Lake Shore Fire District, North Greece Fire District and Ridge Road Fire District by the Center for Governmental Research
Call for Service Map from Future of the Fire Service in Greece Evaluating the Existing Conditions in and Considering Options in the Town of Greece, June 2020, prepared for Barnard Fire District, Lake Shore Fire District, North Greece Fire District, and Ridge Road Fire District by the Center for Governmental Research

The Town of Greece does not have a centralized fire department; there’s no GFD on the back of our firefighters’ turnout coats. Rather the town is served by four separate fire districts: North Greece, Ridge Road (once called Greece Ridge), Barnard, and Lakeshore. North Greece and Ridge Road (once called Greece Ridge) have three stations, Lakeshore had three stations but decommissioned the station near in Braddock Bay Heights area, and Barnard has only one, which makes nine total in the town. Some calls may receive mutual aid from other fire districts they are Hilton, Spencerport/Odgen Fire, Gates Fire, and the City of Rochester, depending on the type of assistance that is needed.

North Greece Fire District

North Greece 100 Years Service Patch
North Greece 100 Years Service Patch

Founded June 1922

In June 1922 the Carriage and Blacksmith shop once owned by Lewis Combs became North Greece Fire District's first firehouse and the town’s first fire station and their…

North Greece Fire Station, 1926
North Greece fire department testing Pierce Arrow truck, circa 1928, from the Office of the Town Historian

…Pierce-Arrow truck was the first motorized fire truck in the Town of Greece. This is their centennial anniversary.

In 1958, North Greece added a second Station on Latta Rd at Mt. Read Boulevard. Up until the mid-1980s, the fire district had an all-volunteer force.

Dedication ad from the Greece Press, July 24, 1958
Station 1, the 1960s, the Office of the Town Historian

The North Greece Fire District Headquarters were moved from Station 1 at North Greece and Latta to Station 2 at Latta and Mount Read in 1970.

In 1983, a third station was opened on English Road.

North Greece Fire District Station 3
North Greece Fire District Station 1 North Greece and Latta Roads, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers

Encompassing more than 27 miles, today, the North Greece Fire District serves the largest geographic area in the town and a population of about 41,000. As of January 2020, the district had 45 career firefighters and 33 volunteers.

Between 2016 and 2018 they responded to an average of 3,539 calls per year; 62 percent were EMS-related. [1]

Fire at Harris Dairy Farm, English Road, 1938, from the Office of the Town Historian
North Greece Fire District Headquarters, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers

In 2019, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rated the North Greece Fire District at a 2 which places it in the top 3% of fire departments in New York State.

Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District

Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years
Greece Ridge / Ridge Road Fire District 100 years

August 3, 1922

The Greece Ridge Fire Department, now Ridge Road Fire District, was established on August 3, 1922. It was first located at 2550 Ridge Road West, the northwest corner of Long Pond Road and Ridge Road. The building was shared with three businesses on the upper floor: H. A. Herrick Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor, J.V. Gallagher Realtor Real Estate Insurance, and A.R. Koerner Contractor Builder. At the back of the site was Buchman’s Dairy then a Walgreens and now an Orvilles Appliance store.

First Greece-Ridge Fire Station at 2550 Ridge Road West, circa 1924, courtesy of Bill Sauers
RRFD fighting a fire at Fetzner’s Garage, 1969, from ridgefire.org

By the way, Peter Knipper and John Fetzner also helped found this department.

Like North Greece, the Ridge Road Fire District is celebrating its centennial.

Long Pond Road sign, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers
Long Pond Road sign, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers
Helmet of A.R. Koerner - 2015.03.01
Helmet of A.R. Koerner - 2015.03.01

In 1922, A. R. Koerner besides being a building contractor became the first Fire Chief of the Greece Ridge Fire Department (Ridge Road Fire District). He served as Chief from 1922 to 1939, encompassing three different town administrations: Frank J. Mitchell from 1922-1927, William F. Schmitt from 1928 - 1933, and finally Gordon A. Howe from 1934-1939. Gordon A Howe was the Town Supervisor from 1934 to 1960. A.R. Koerner's chief helmet was received into our collection in 2015 and has been on display since with the chemical fire wagon that is pictured at the beginning of this snapshot.

Like North Greece, Greece Ridge started with a Pierce-Arrow fire truck which was built in Buffalo, NY.

1st motorized apparatus 1924 Pierce Arrow pumper
1st motorized apparatus 1924 Pierce Arrow pumper
Amelia & Frank Siebert, courtesy Kathy Gray via Facebook

In 1930 Frank Siebert, a co-founder, and volunteer with the department became the district’s first paid firefighter. The firehouse was remodeled and included an apartment for Siebert and his wife and children.

Amelia & Frank Siebert (Kathy's Great-Grandparents) with Jack - Kathy Gray's Father, courtesy Kathy Gray via Facebook
Firefighters are pictured here in front of the 1922 Pierce Arrow pumper, celebrating their 3rd Annual Field Day. The Greece Ridge Fire Department was incorporated on August 3, 1922. The first firehouse opened in 1924 on the corner of Ridge Road and Long Pond Road. Office of the Town Historian.

He was on duty 24 hours a day, with about 8 hours off per week. He was assistant chief and later chief commanding volunteer operations during fires.  He and his wife continued to reside at that apartment above the station at least until 1953 and most likely until his retirement in 1959 at the age of 79. Frank and A.R. Koerner are in this picture to the left but without notes, on this picture, we are not sure who is all in this picture.

As the population of Greece soared, so did the demands on the department. A new firehouse was opened in 1962 at 1299 Long Pond Road. It is the district’s Headquarters. Today the district serves a population of 27,000 in an area of just under 14 square miles.

Ridge Road Fire Station, 1299 Long Pond Road, 1967, courtesy Bill Sauers
Stoneridge Station, 2020, photo by Bill Sauers

The Stoneridge Station (Station #2) was opened in 1971 and was renovated in 2001, while

Headquarters of Ridge Road Fire District
third district station at 2300 Ridgeway Avenue opened in 2007 - Matthew Pillsbury, RRFD Historian

The third district station at 2300 Ridgeway Avenue opened in 2007.

Quint 250 parked outside at Ridge Road Station #3 on Ridgeway Ave

A hallmark tradition of the Ridge Road Fire Department, begun in 1935, is that their fire trucks are white rather than the traditional red or even yellow.

Frank Siebert and the Volkmars, Democrat and Chronicle, October 8, 1962, photo by Gordon Massecar

It is often a family affair for Greece residents who answer the call to fight fires as it was for this Greece Ridge family. At the dedication of the new firehouse in 1962, three-year-old Stephen Volkmar receives a salute from his father Chief at the time John Volkmar, his grandfather, former chief Alfred Volkmar, and his great-grandfather, none other than Frank Siebert. Although the Ridge Road fire district started as a volunteer company, today it does not have any active volunteer firefighters and has not had any for the last 20 years.

You can read more about the Volkmars as well as the Fetzner and Knipper families in the Society’s Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece available in the gift shop.

Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece by Marie Poinan, and Joann Ward Synder

In 1947, Ridge Road responded to 52 alarms; in 1959 it answered 126 alarms. Between 2016 and 2018, the district had an average per year of 7,390 calls for service, 68% of which were EMS calls. [1]

RRFD is the only one of the four districts in Greece and one of three in New York state to be accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, CFAI. The District first achieved accreditation in 2005, and again in 2010, 2015, and 2020. In 2017 it also received a rating of 2, from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) which places it in the top 3% of fire departments in New York State.

With all the training and resources that these firefighters do on a daily basis from doing routine inspections of fire systems in every business, drills, learning new techniques to battle fires, rescuing you from a motor vehicle accident, providing assistance to medical facilities for lift assist and other services they provide, could not prepare them to save ten guests at the Holiday Inn on West Ridge Road, from the town's deadliest fire at the Holiday Inn in 1978 even though the hotel had some of the fire prevention systems in place and yet it failed and Ridge Road Fire District had the equipment to fight the fire and resources to rescue the guest from the hotel and fire companies within a 6-mile radius of the hotel came to assist Ridge Road Fire District to get the fire under control, we will dig a little deeper next week into the Holiday Inn Fire.

We at the Greece Historical Society & Museum would like to congratulate the Ridge Road and North Greece Fire Departments on Celebrating their Centennial anniversary.

Thank you for joining us today.

Citations

[1] source from Future of the Fire Service in Greece Evaluating the Existing Conditions in and Considering Options in the Town of Greece June, 2020, https://www.cgr.org/greece-fire/docs/GreeceFireStudyBaselineOptions.pdf

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Journey of the Fetzner Knipper Fire Wagon Story an Interview with Bud Steeb

Kay Pollok’s interview with Bud Steeb when Kay was Vice President, of the Historical Society of Greece September 25, 1972.

This interview with Bud tells the story of the Fetzner Knipper Fire Wagon:

Kay: Bud, how and where did you acquire this fire wagon?

Bud: I first became aware of the existence of this antique piece of fire equipment at a garage sale in Rochester in April, 1970. The owner, Mr. Henry Griffin of Paddy Hill Drive, Greece, took me to the nearby residence of his father-in-law where it was stored in the garage along with a hose reel which was used to carry additional hose. This is a picture of the equipment taken when it was owned by Mr. Griffin. Both vehicles were lettered for the Greece Ridge Fire Department Greece Ridge had them on display in the old firehouse and had lettered them for their company. When the old firehouse was torn down to make way for the new one, this equipment was returned to Mr. Ray Fetzner who was the real owner. This is a picture of the equipment as it was stored in the basement of Ray Fetzner’s garage. Actually, the units were never owned or used by Greece Ridge, as it was always privately owned. Mr. Griffin said that he understood this was the first wheeled fire equipment in the Town of Greece and that he wanted to dispose of it to a museum or a collector, and that he had owned it for a very short while I was afraid that it might be purchased by someone out of the Rochester/Greece area and immediately began to negotiate for its purchase. Mr. Griffin and I reached an agreement and it was acquired by me on April 21, 1970.

Kay: How did you learn the history since the man had only owned it a short time?

Bud: At the time of purchase Mr. Griffin disclosed that he had purchased it from Ray Fetzner, prior to the time Fetzner’s garage on Ridge Road was razed to make room for the expansion of the Greece Towne Mall. I knew Mr. Fetzner slightly and through various talks with him, I was able to put together a history of the fire wagon, which at this time was not complete and is subject to future additions. Ray Fetzner’s story is as follows: During the 1870s and into the 1900s Ray’s father and uncle operated the JMF Fetzner Carriage Manufatury which included blacksmithing and painting. This is a picture of the Fetzner business as it existed in the 1870s.

This business was conducted in two wooden buildings connected by a third structure also of wood construction. A photo of this business exists in the Greece Historical Society archives through the courtesy of Mr. Fetzner Adjacent to the Fetzner family business and a short distance to the west was Peter Knipper’s Hotel, which was later operated by his son-in-law, William Buckert, and known as Buckert’s Hotel. Sometime in the 1890s a fire damaged a Fetzner property since there were no organized fire companies in Greece, the Fetzner and Knipper families decided, for their mutual protection, they had better seek a better way to combat any future fires than by the old and only method known then, the bucket brigade. The result was the purchase of a then modern and sophisticated for the time, piece of firefighting apparatus which is our subject of discussion.

Where it was purchased and exactly when and by whose foresightedness, it’s not known today. But in retrospect, it certainly must have been a wonderful addition to the Ridge Road scene in those happy and uncomplicated Victorian days. Ray Fetzner, who admits to being in his mid-seventies, states that it was housed in a small shed between the Fetzner and Knipper establishments as far back as he can remember. This picture shows the firehouse we referred to and believe it or not, that is Ray Fetzner holding the hose This was apparently a demonstration of the fire-fighting equipment. Mr. Peter Knipper, who was the first chief, stands under the street light and Ray Fetzner’s father stands in the doorway of the firehouse Ray, as a young man, helped to pull the equipment to fight fires. A picture of the firehouse and the Fetzner garage which Ray operated for so many years, is also on file in the Greece Historical Society archives. Again, through Mr. Fetzner’s kindness.

Kay: Bud, who were the builders of this equipment?

Bud: Well, whether the fire wagon was imported to the United States complete as it now exists, or whether only the pressure tanks were imported, is not known. On each of the two tanks, which are solid brass of riveted and brazed, construction, are two identification tags which are soldered on. One square embossed brass tag has the following description: “Fire extinguisher, F Carlier’s patent, U.S. Monnet and Company, Paris, France, 40 Rue Notre Dame, Pat. March 30, 1869”. The other tag is oval in shape and is embossed “Bate and Pinkham, pat. March 30, 1869”. They apparently were the importers.

The hose reel is obviously a carriage shop fabrication and very nicely done. Ray Fetzner is not sure who made it, but in all probability, it was made in the Fetzner Carriage Shop. This is a purely personal opinion based on my examination of several commercial and manufactured hose reels.

Kay: How was this equipment operated, and how was it moved to a fire?

Bud: Essentially, this equipment comes under the classification of a soda acid, pressure-operated, hand-drawn extinguisher. This picture shows the equipment hand-drawn in the 1972 Barnard Firemen’s parade. It operates on the same principle as an extinguisher still used, which hangs on a wall on a hook and is activated by tipping upside down. The tanks on the fire wagon, which are mounted vertically,
employ a crusher to release a sulphuric acid which mixes with the soda water solution in the tank, thereby generating tremendous pressure. While I do not know exactly how the equipment was handled, I assume that the tanks were charged with a soda water solution, and a two-quart bottle of acid was placed in the crusher which was incorporated in the pressure-type cap The crusher was a brass cage built on the bottom of the cap so that when the cap was screwed on tight against the heavy gasket by means of a 26-inch spanner, the bottle was inside the tank ready to be broken by the crusher which was screw-operated from the outside of the cap. A seat placed between the tanks was occupied by a fireman with his feet placed on stirrups at the bottom level of the tanks, who on the way to the fire operated the crusher handle so that on arrival at the fire, the front tank was pressurized When the front tank was exhausted, the rear tank was used while the front tank was recharged This was accomplished by a system of valves and piping known as a Siamese manifold.

Kay: Bud, what are the physical characteristics of a fire wagon?

Bud: Well, the length is seven-foot-three, the draw-bar length is six-foot-six, with a quick detachable rig on it. The overall length of the wagon is 13 feet nine inches. The width is five foot eight, the height is five foot five. The estimated weight is 1,500 pounds. The tanks are 18 inches in diameter by 35 inches high of brass plate, tapered at the top like a thermos bottle. The front wheels are 38 inches in diameter. The rear wheels are 43 inches in diameter with brass hub caps and iron tires. The front toolbox has compartments for eight bottles of acid. The rear toolbox holds 50 feet of high-pressure hose and nozzles, a fire axe, a pinch bar, a spanner wrench for tank caps, wagon jacks, wrenches, etc. Other equipment consists of two kerosene fire department lanterns on brackets, two 100-pound pressure gauges (one on each tank) test petcocks, Siamese manifold with necessary valves, four coated fabric fire buckets, a leather embossed belt “alert hose #1” and a white chief’s helmet with a hand-painted tablet showing side arm hand pumper with initials PK which stands for Peter Knipper who was the first chief of this fire company. The hose reel is four foot six inches long with a draw-bar four foot four inches long, giving an overall length of eight foot ten inches. It is 48 inches wide and the wheels are 49 inches in diameter. It carries an eight-inch wooden drum with eight 18-inch winding handles on each side of the drum.

Kay: This equipment is now the property of Mr. Bud Steeb, who feels these historical items should not leave this area, but should always be associated with the Greece Historical Society. Thank you, Bud, for a job very well done.


(Bud Steeb sold this fire wagon to the Greece Historical Society for $1,500 in 1979.)

Typed: 5/24/88 Digitized: 11/07/2022