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Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Town of Cavendish Fire Districts History
Murdock Mill Fire in Proctorsville
At the Nov. 16, 2015
Fire District # 2 (Cavendish) Informational Meeting, regarding the proposal to
replace two engines with one new one, there was considerable discussion about the town's need for two fire districts. To better understand the present
situation, the following historical information is being provided based on
information from Barbara Kingsbury’s book “Chubb Hill Farm and Cavendish,
Vermont” and Margo Caulfield’s digital Cavendish Update.
1833: Proctorsville Volunteer Fire Dept. (PVFD) formed-Fire District #1
1883: Cavendish Volunteer Fire Dept. (CVFD) formed-Fire District #2
1944:There was a fire at the town
garage on Feb 10. This was in Cavendish Village behind the Town Hall, but the
Vermont Tribune reported, “ The Proctorsville Fire Co was soon at the scene and
lines of hose were also strung from Gay Bros. Mill...” Cavendish village was
Fire District #2 but it did not then have much equipment nor a well-organized
volunteer force. Gay Brothers Mill used their own equipment to help fight fires
near the mill. For several years, Fire District #1 had had better equipment and
a more structured volunteer group under the direction of its fire chief, Nelson
Holland. By the early 1930’s, Proctorsville had a Women’s Auxiliary, which
helped raise money for a truck and garage.
Late 1940s:Milton “Mike" Dickerman, fire
chief for District #2 during this time remembers Cavendish village still didn’t
have much equipment. One of his main responsibilities was to check that fire
extinguishers were in working order. For years, there ha been ladders and
buckets stored at three or four strategic locations in or near Cavendish
village. Dickerman did not think they were used much in this period except when
the barn next to the Roger and Walter Buck house caught fire on Oct. 28, 1949.
The barn and house were adjacent to the Universalist Church on Main Street. One
of the storage sites for fire-fighting equipment was on the bank above the
church. Men from the village formed a “bucket-brigade” but the Vermont Tribune
credits the Proctorsville Fire Department and help from Gay Brothers Mill for
putting out the fire.
1957:Art Briggs became the fire chief
of District # 2 and served in that capacity for the next 30 years. He had
received training and experience fighting fires in the Army Air Force during
WWII. Under his direction, the volunteer firemen became a well organized group
with regular drills, and District #2 Fire Department was legally incorporated.
An active Auxiliary was formed. CVFD consisted of a portable pump, a trailer,
and one thousand feet of hose. An old Army truck (with four wheel drive) was
purchased for $500 and another $500 was spent to outfit it.
This was the year of
the Hawks Mountain fire. On May 7, the fire started on the Cavendish side of the
mountain and spread to Perkinsville. The National Guard, fire departments and
volunteers were all called to help. It took until May 9 before the fire was
finally under control. The Town Report lists $16,699.54 as the cost for
fighting this fire.
Cavendish Fire Feb. 2014
2005: The following is from the Cavendish Update:
April 12 The Selectmen’s Meeting on Monday, April 11, had the following agenda
item, “Follow up to discussion at the Annual Town Meeting wherein the status of
the two Cavendish Fire Districts was discussed by the voters in attendance and
the voters urged action. A question for discussion is whether legislative body
(Select Board) action is required or is appropriate and desired at this time.
Discussion to include the status of the two districts at present. Copies of
relevant state statue sections will be available as reference.”
has two fire districts, one in Cavendish (which operates with nine volunteers)
and the other in Proctorsville (which operates with 24 volunteers).Considerable discussion took place regarding
the lack of coverage in Cavendish. Currently, dispatch to Cavendish goes
through the “red phone,” which is located in various volunteer’s homes and the
town office. Because no one source of phone coverage is available 24 hours a day,
seven days a week, there have been difficulties alerting Cavendish volunteers.
Further, several of the holders of the red phone are now volunteers for
Proctorsville. In short, there is a real problem with dispatching in Cavendish,
which could have dire consequences.
operates out of Ludlow’s dispatch.In
the event that Proctorsville does not immediately respond to a call, Ludlow
Proctorsville Fire January 2014
Copies of the
Secretary of State’s Book of Opinions on Fire Districts and Fire Departments was
made available. After considerable discussion, it was agreed that the select
board is ultimately responsible for providing fire protection. To that end, the
first order was to figure out an immediate solution to the “red phone” issue in
Cavendish. The select board voted the following:
• The current fire
line in Cavendish, 7823, should be rolled over to 911 as soon as possible (this
needs to be cleared with state 911, and worked out with TDS). This means that
if someone would dial the old Cavendish Fire number, their call would
automatically go to a 911 dispatcher.As
911 is the preferred method for contacting fire and rescue, and to reduce
confusion if there are multiple callers for one incident, it was agreed that
911 be used, versus a roll over to Ludlow dispatch.
• Ludlow will
be asked to provide dispatch for Cavendish. There will be a cost associated
with this service, but it was felt to be more than justified
• Rich will be
responsible for contacting the Secretary of State for confirmation that the select
board can operate in this manner. Depending on confirmation, he will then
contact TDS, Ludlow PVFD, and state 911 to arrange for Cavendish dispatch
With a unanimous
“straw vote” at town meeting regarding the combining of Fire Districts into one
district, the select board voted to do the following:
legality of strategy with Secretary of State
• Convene a planning
meeting with Cavendish and Proctorsville Fire Departments (Prudential Boards
and fire fighters) and the selectmen. Rolph Van Sheik will be asked to moderate
the meeting. A date was set for April 18 (Monday), 6:30 pm at the Cavendish
Town Elementary School in Proctorsville.Note: This meeting may change due to availability of various parties.
For meeting confirmation, contact the Town Office 226-7292.
• Hold a town
informational meeting, where the proposed plan for a single fire district is
presented and discussed.
• A town vote
would follow to determine if voters want to continue with two fire districts or
convert to one.
May 3: In response to the ongoing situation with fire service in Cavendish,
the following petition is available for signature at Singletons, Crows Corner
Bakery and Bennets Store:
voters of the Town of Cavendish hereby petition the Cavendish Board of
Selectmen to hold a special town meeting for the purpose of having the legal
voters of the town consider, by Australian Ballot, merging Cavendish Fire
District # 1 and Cavendish Fire District #2 into one consolidated fire district
for the town. This special Town Meeting will include a general session wherein
the general public as well as Town and Fire District officials and Firemen may
comment and ask questions.” By May 7, 70 signatures had been obtained.
May 23: The select board held a special meeting this evening to “continue
discussion on the petition received on Monday May 9 with input from Town
Counsel. A course of action on this petition is anticipated to be established
and initiated. The subject petition asks for a Special Town Meeting vote on a
merger of the two Cavendish Fire Districts.” The results of this meeting were
• Town Counsel
felt that this was not a select board issue but rather one for the Fire
Districts. As such, the select board rejected the petition.
• After discussion
by select board and audience participants, it was made clear that:
a)There is fire protection for the town of
Cavendish, as Fire District 1 (Proctorsville) does respond to Cavendish fires.
The problems with notification of fire fighters in Cavendish has been resolved.
b)The issue of fire districts is not about the
fire fighters, but rather the Prudential Boards that over see the fire
c)Fire District 1 (Proctorsville) feels they
are operating quite well, but are being dragged into things because of problems
with Fire District 2 (Cavendish).There
have been a number of fire fighters from Cavendish that have transferred to
d)It was noted, by a lister, who also serves on
the Fire District 1 Prudential Committee, that the town property, as far as
monetary value, is now split 2/3 non residents and 1/3 residents. What impact
this will have on fire service remains to be seen.
• If change is to
occur it has to happen at the Fire District level, particularly Fire District 2
(Cavendish). This can be done by petition, which would require 20 signatures of
town voters that reside within Fire District 2.
• It is strongly
recommended that residents attend fire district meetings on a monthly basis and
participate in the annual meeting in February.
September 12: A request was recently made by the wife of a
Cavendish volunteer fire fighter to inform Cavendish Update subscribers that
Fire District 2 has 12 volunteers.