Answering 575 emergency calls from the Clay community in 2009
Pushing aside the ways of the bucket brigades in the early 1900s, the Clay Volunteer Fire Department was officially incorporated Feb. 26, 1917, after a fire roared through the walls of Sponable's barn in the fall of 1915.
With approximately $870 raised by a planning committee, a chemical hand cart was purchased to help fight fires in the town of Clay. Soon after incorporation, the department acquired a piece of land between the feed mill and the Clay Hotel where the town's first fire station was built. This building with a few renovations served as the town's fire station until 1954.
Today, the CVFD runs two fire stations with three engines, one truck, one heavy rescue, two medium-duty rescues, one boat and a snowmobile. The 39-member department operates a five-man fire police squad when on scene at a fire, motor vehicle accident or other emergency, according to CVFD Chief Dan Ford.
The crew secures the scene and directs traffic if necessary, which in today's world of emergency rescue, Ford said it's a rare form of fire service.
Every Tuesday night, available fire fighters gather at CVFD Station 1, located off Route 31 in Clay, to work on training drills and take educational courses on such aspects of rescue like railroad emergencies. The department also holds a business meeting on the first Tuesday of each month.
The volunteers also gather for several department gatherings for holidays and annual events. Ford described the members in the department as "tight-knit." Because the majority of the members live in the town of Clay or have family and friends in the areas in which they respond, Ford and the firefighters know that they might arrive on a scene where loved ones are in need.
"I've worked on my family before, but I separate myself," said Chris Saxton, 27, a volunteer firefighter for two years. "When you walk in the door, your personal life goes out the window. You're there to do your job."