NEWINGTON - Local firefighting families have a burning desire to protect the town for centuries to come.
In honor of its 100th anniversary, the Newington Volunteer Fire Department is hosting a variety of celebratory and fundraising activities this year, culminating with a parade in September.
On April 4, 1917, a group of 30 men got together to form the department, which has been an all-volunteer body ever since.
“They were tired of the town fathers not being able to formalize an agreement with New Britain and Hartford for fire protection and the Newington Volunteer Fire Department was founded,” Chief Chris Schroeder said. “We’re very proud of our department and our community and we’re dedicated to maintaining a volunteer fire department for years to come.”
Over 260 people attended the firefighters’ ball last month, an evening affair at The Farmington Club that stripped local firefighters of their sturdy gear and put them in formal attire.
The department’s four fire companies have other fundraising activities planned for the coming months, including flower sales and a pasta dinner in April. According to the chief, local residents are proud of their volunteers.
“We’re very fortunate to get a lot of community support,” he said. “Also the Town Council and town manager back our budget every year.”
The department’s 110 members respond to more than 800 calls each year. Its annual budget - usually right under $1 million - covers benefit membership programs and a tax stipend for volunteers, along with a modest retirement program for those who have served at least a decade.
The chief is particularly proud of their cadet program, which is recruiting new members this month.
Young men and women who join the division at age 16 are sworn in as firefighters at age 18. Cadets even train out of their own firehouse on Maple Hill Avenue.
Another point of pride for the NVFD is a dedication to its history. Two of the original 1929 Buffalo fire engines are still in town, preserved inside the historic Main Street firehouse, a living museum open to civic and school groups free of charge.
Both engines are currently being repaired and are expected to be running in the 100th anniversary parade, set for Saturday, Sept. 23 - the same day as the annual Newington Waterfall Festival.
Firefighters convinced the festival committee to host its event in conjunction with the parade, which is set to kick off immediately following the downtown festival.
“Having both events on the same day will give everybody an opportunity to come to the town center and enjoy the day,” Schroeder said.
The parade will follow the same route as the Newington Memorial Day Parade, beginning on Main Street and ending in Mill Pond Park, where there will be a beer garden, food trucks and live music.
The department is raising money for these activities by selling NVFD-monogrammed apparel.
“Please show your appreciation to the hard-working volunteers not only by supporting this fundraiser but by wearing your 100th anniversary apparel with great pride,” said Fire Captain Melanie Depamphilis, who is organizing the fundraiser. “We are forever grateful for the tremendous support we receive from the community throughout the years and looking forward to the many more years to come.”
To purchase merchandise, visit NVFD100years.itemorder.com/sale through May 1.
The pickup date for all orders is Saturday, May 20.
at NVFD Headquarters, 1485 Main St. Out-of-state orders will be charged a $20 shipping fee and shipped out the second week of May.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.