The Portland Fire Department was started in 1884 by 25 men who formed a roster due to a series of devastating fires in town. Until then, bucket brigades were the primary source of fire suppression. Within a year, in 1885, the first Company #1 was established by the citizens and built between Cavaliere's Bakery and the old Country Market on Main Street. The second built Fire House, a barn, is still standing today at 605 Main Street was Co. 2. The department's first horse named Old Nell was commissioned and was used to draw a fire wagon which helped greatly with their response time. Many historic building were lost in our downtown area in the years to follow. As the town grew rapidly, appropriations were made for equipment and the town's first steam engine, a hose carriage and 600 feet of hose were purchased which proved to be much more effective than the original brigade. Great progress was made and in 1916 the first two modernized gasoline REO fire engines were placed into service. A new Company #1 was built and located on Middlesex Avenue which became the home of our town's first dispatcher and her family. Over the years two additional firehouses were constructed, Company #2 located across the street from the first fire house on Main Street and Company #3 located on Great Hill Road to better serve the 22 square miles of town.
The great need for water in the country brought the acquisition of Portland first Tanker truck to supply up to 3000 gallons of water to the scene of a fire while waiting for additional support from surrounding towns and the establishment of a water supply for shuttles. This year the department celebrates 125 years of service protecting the citizens of Portland and to those who may pass through. Today the department consists of over 60 Active Volunteers responding to an average of 1100 calls a year and a fleet of apparatus well equipped to protect our community against many new threats as well as protecting 6.5 miles of cost line and six marinas along the Connecticut River. The replacement of our 30 year old boat with a new 22 Fire Boat in 2007 equip with a Fire pump and equipment for our departments dive team has already made critical improvements in water related emergencies. The refurbish of Tanker #6 and Rescue #1 have allowed us to incorporate major changes needed for today's emergencies while reducing the impact on our tax payers. The replacement of our 30 year old ladder truck in 2008 has brought the department the safety standards needed for our firefighters and the ability to access areas which were impossible in the past.
Our members are a special group of people who put themselves in harms way while protecting the citizens of Portland as well as our surrounding towns when in need and are as committed today as they were 125 years ago in providing a safer town for us to live in. Currently the average tax payer spends less than 68 dollars a year on Fire and EMS protection saving over 3 million dollars a year due to our volunteers. We are committed to the procurement of grant money available through the Government and the State to offset the cost of our department to our taxpayers. To date the Chief's office has applied for and received over $500,000 in grant money which has rebuilt our communication infrastructure and supplied the department with life safety equipment for firefighters and firefighting tools to better serve our community. Please support your volunteers. Without them your community would be changed forever.
Fire wagon pulled by Old Nellie