Department History

On April 10, 1928, a group of civic minded residents of the Town of Stamford, Connecticut sat together in the residence of Frank F. Veit of Leonard Street in the section of Stamford known as Belltown. On this night they started what has continued for the last seventy five years, a volunteer fire department.

A citizen volunteer fire company was formed in Belltown at an enthusiastic meeting Tuesday evening at the residence of Frank F. Veit on Leonard Street. The purchase, at once, of a second hand chemical engine from the Mount Kisco Fire Department was unanimously voted, and nearly $300 dollars was subscribed on the spot toward the cost.

This was the article that was printed in the Stamford Advocate on Friday April 20, 1928 and it became the beginning of what is known today as The Belltown Volunteer Fire Department, and the first Chief of the Department was Frank F. Veit. "On June 9, 1928 the Belltown Fire Department was incorporated under the laws and rules of the State of Connecticut. The department was now a fully commissioned fire department by the State of Connecticut."

The department's first engine was the one from Mount Kisco, and its first home was that of Mr. Fred Berg, who offered his barn on Dale Place for temporary headquarters. With an engine and now a home for it, the department needed a way of communicating alarms to its members in case of fire. This was done by acquiring an old train locomotive rim which was rung by striking it; this would signal the members to respond to the firehouse for the alarm. This rim was mounted at the old Kresans Market where Mr. Kresan would take down phone information for the department and strike the alarms when needed. This was rudimentary, but was a common way of dispatching rural departments at the time.

In April of 1929, the department realized it had to find a permanent home for it headquarters, so through fundraising events, such as block parties and shows and with donations from Mrs. Fanny Crane of the Crane Family, which lived in the area now known as Crane Rd. and Mrs. Francis Holbrook of the Holbrook Estate, which is now known as Holbrook Dr. a permanent station was built on Leonard Street, built by the volunteer firemen and members of the community. By the 1930s a new station was in place and the department was growing, training took precedence.

In the early years and with the help of the Stamford Fire Department and its Chief Victor Veit, the Belltown officers received training and support from the Stamford Fire Department, which they brought back to Belltown and in turn trained the volunteer firefighters. Once Belltown's training program was underway and well established it no longer needed to rely on other departments for guidance. It became and is still known today for putting out excellent firefighters.

With the war years of the 1940's, the department was strained from its members going off to war. Many of the older members stepped up and took their old responsibilities back and guided the department through these times. This was a time that you could find Belltown's equipment located in different parts of the district so as to make a quick attack incase of fire, or worse, in case of enemy attack or sabotage. During this time, an alarm for assistance was called in from the Stamford Fire Department on January 1, 1943 for what is now known as the Sarners fire, where two blocks of Atlantic Street were burning. Belltown responded with enough manpower to man seven engine companies under the direction of Chief John Moehring. Many of the firefighters escaped injury and death when the roof they were working on collapsed; all the firefighters returned safely when the recall alarm was struck six hours later.

By the end of the forties Belltown was growing by leaps and bounds, with the soldiers home from the army, homes were sprouting up all over the district, the department needed a new and more modern fire engine to handle this expansion. So in 1949 a new engine was delivered and so began the beginning of a tradition. The 1949 Mack Fire engine was delivered, it could pump a astounding 1000 gallons per minute, the first of its kind in the city, but what made this engine really special was that it was painted the color white and from this point on all the departments apparatus were white, including the new Engine 41 which arrived in May 2003.

With the fifties came a period of constant growth in the district and it became very evident that the department need to find a new home once again. A piece of property was found and once again the funds were raised to purchase it. This third location is the department present location, a four bay colonial style fire house on Dorlen Road. This house was completed in 1960. The sixties brought more challenges and emergencies to respond too.

In 1967 the Belltown Fire Department responded Mutual Aid to Springdale Fire District for the Elan Chemical Co. fire which sent 23 volunteer firefighters to the hospital. All the firefighters recovered but it brings forth the dangers of the profession.

With the seventies came another new apparatus to Belltown, A ladder truck which the department bought used from the Stamford Fire Department. The department refurbished, painted it white and equipped it for service. With this addition the department became a full company, having two engines, a truck and a rescue. And in 1978 the department celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a firefighter's parade and a carnival.

The eighties and nineties brought a tremendous change to the city, Stamford grew up. It was no longer the sleepy little town with large estates in the north country, the estates were being developed into roads and home sites, the demographics of the surrounding community changed but Belltown remained the same. A small close knit community of quaint homes on well maintained properties with community minded residents which is the foundation of any volunteer fire department or organization. With this new century still in its infancy and uncertain where it will take us, one thing is certain, that the Belltown Volunteer Fire Department celebrating its seventy fifth year of selfless and dedicated service to the community will be around to guide it through the good times and the bad and its motto of "Belltown against the world!" will always be heard.

Excerpts from "50 years of service to our community Belltown Fire Dept." by Joe Coppola Jr.

Additional material by various Members of the Department.