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Richville Fire Department celebrates 100 years

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RICHVILLE — The Richville Fire Department is celebrating a century of existence with a parade, music and fireworks Saturday.

The celebration started with the publication of a calendar filled with pictures and history and will end the week of Oct. 20 with a special stamp cancellation featuring a fire department logo.

There is no admission charge for Saturday’s festivities.

“It’s not going to be a big affair. We’re a small village,” said Martin J. Hassett, a 39-year member of the department and its president. “We’re just celebrating 100 years of the fire department.”

The parade will begin at 4 p.m. at the top of the hill on the Gouverneur side of Richville and end at the Richville Baptist Chapel.

Food catered by Mullins Restaurant, Gouverneur, will be at the parking lot at the church. There also will be ice cream provided by Mr. Dingaling. Music by Alternative Motive and Juggernaut Agenda will be in Fenlong’s field across the street. Fireworks will take place at 9:30 p.m.

The destruction caused by fire was devastating in the days before there was an organized department.

According to an 1896 account of a fire at Lynde House, the only hotel in Richville at the time, “when the villagers turned out at the cry of fire all they could do was to carry out what they could from the house and extinguish the burning embers that threatened destruction to surrounding buildings. The hotel barns caught and were burned to the ground.”

As was the custom in many small communities, the department was founded as a bucket brigade Oct. 20, 1914. Water was brought in cans on horse-drawn wagons. The first engine was pumped by hand. In 1940, the station was in the building where municipal offices now are. The department moved to its station in 1971.

Two accidents influenced the evolution of the department to what it is today.

In 1994, firefighters untrained in emergency medicine could only stand by a 12-year-old Richville boy seriously injured until rescue crews from another area arrived. Within a few years, the department had created a first responders unit.

In 1996, a motor vehicle accident took the life of Coach Frank B. LaFalce. Firefighters had to wait to free Mr. LaFalce and his wife, Mary Ellen, until a set of the Jaws of Life could arrive from Gouverneur. Mrs. LaFalce later provided some of the money needed for Richville to become the first in its district to have its own “jaws.”

Richville Library Manager Lila M. Youngs said she has always appreciated the work of the department, including when it responded to a fire she had one Thanksgiving Day.

“Nobody griped or anything. They were so great,” Mrs. Youngs said. “People have no clue what these men do, and they don’t get paid for it. There’s a lot of emotional trauma to that job, too.”

Volunteers are aware of the amount of money it takes to keep the department operating, Mr. Hassett said. The department has been the recipient of six federal Assistance to Firefighters grants totaling nearly $300,000, in addition to other grants.

“We’re trying to defray the cost and do the best we can,” Mr. Hassett said.

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