By Alberto Gilman
The Middle Hope Fire Department celebrates 75 years of active service in the Town of Newburgh and long-time department members and company accomplishments were recognized and honored on Saturday, April 29.
First established in 1948, the Middle Hope Fire Department currently operates two active fire stations located at 11 Lattintown Road and 5172 Albany Post Road in the Town of Newburgh.
Middle Hope Station 1 on Lattintown Road was first built in the town in 1948 and originally had two bays constructed for their fire apparatuses. In 1962, two more bays were added to the station. Middle Hope Station 2 was then built along Route 9W in 1990, and most of the larger trucks are housed there when not in service.
Since the company’s inception, there have been 26 past fire chiefs, 28 past company presidents, 80 charter members and 41 active members currently. One of the senior company members, Edward Mills, recalled going to fire calls during the times when the roads were still unpaved and there were a few horses and buggies still being active. As time has gone on, senior members of the company have noticed several factors that have appeared during the change of generations that have led to the decline in membership. Factors included rising home costs, the increase in call volume, the required amount of training hours for new volunteers and the increase in population within the town.
Members collectively shared that back then, everyone knew each other, but with an influx of residents from the city, the neighborhood dynamics have changed. Station 2 in particular faces the ever- constant challenge of the Route 9W traffic, which can be backed up for miles during peak rush hour periods. With the increase in call volume and limited manpower, Middle Hope made the difficult decision to cut back on its emergency services. While member numbers have dwindled and other members have since passed, Middle Hope firemen and women continue to serve their community whenever a fire call comes across their scanners.
Longtime member Edward Bailey joined the department in 1975. He worked as an EMT for 25 years, and within the Middle Hope company he recruited his daughter and his grandson and granddaughter to join the department.
“I just became really involved in wanting to help the community,” says Bailey. “For us to stay in existence we need your help, we need your body. And as for us to stay in existence as a volunteer fire department, we need the community’s help.”
Member Brian Morris who joined the department in 2004 did not come from a family with any firefighters, but as a child, he remembered seeing movies, reading books and participating in the fire prevention program in school which ultimately led him to pursue firefighting. Today Morris works as a full-time firefighter and volunteers at Middle Hope whenever possible.
“I was lucky enough to start here, you know, as a kid in high school. I always wanted to be a fireman ever since I was a kid,” said Morris. “Then finally getting the opportunity to join as a member, when I turned 17, it was the best thing ever.”
When John Martin was 19, several of his classmates encouraged him to join the Middle Hope department, which he officially joined in 1992. Now 30 years later, Martin has remained an active volunteer member and was recently recognized at the company for his three decades of service.
“Back in the day you used to know everybody, now you don’t. But there’s still a way for us to learn all these other people, whether it’s through our fundraisers and certain events we do. As a volunteer, you’re here for your community, because you live here,” said Martin.“This place [Middle Hope] has been volunteer for 75 years. I hope for the next 25 it stays that way.”