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Twelve of the 21 original volunteer firefighters at Farrington Volunteer Fire Company Station 11 reunited Sunday to celebrate the department’s 44-year mark.
According to Shirley Tate, a founding Station 11 volunteer firefighter, said some of the firefighters’ health has worsened over the years.
“We wanted to do this before we lost anyone else,” said Tate.
The crew made Station 11 what it is today. In early June 1969 the group started building the original three-bay station brick by brick and completed its construction Sept. 6, 1969. Many of the volunteer firefighters were construction workers, so Tate said it wasn’t a difficult job.
The company got started after Tate and a few others recognized a need for a fire department in western Hanover because of the long response time for calls. When the group started out, none of them really had any firefighting experience.
“We feel it had to be done,” Tate said. “Someone had to do it.”
Though the original members stopped volunteering in the field many years ago, some are still active in the department today. Shirley stays involved by attending the station’s fire department association meetings each month.
At the event, the remaining members of the department recalled old stories from their time in the field.
Billy Morgan, assistant fire chief at Farrington station, remembered responding to a huge brush fire that broke out in a pine forest on Farrington Road and extended to the Spring Branch neighborhood, burning a total of 52 acres of land in 1 ½ hours.
Art remembered that at some points of the fire, volunteer firefighters were completely surrounded by the fire. He and Morgan compared the vastness of the fire to brush blazes that often break out in California.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Morgan recalled, remembering that warm April day 17 years ago.
None of the firefighters, even after working year after year, got paid. The family aspect of the department kept volunteers coming back. They spent countless hours together because duty called.
“Everyone got along and that was a good thing,” Tate said. “If a guy couldn’t do [a job], someone would give him a hand.”
Shirley Tate’s son, Art Tate, joined the department after anxiously waiting for the day he could be a firefighter like his father. Art said he loved the fellowship of the job.
For Art, the older guys like his dad were all father figures. He said that though he had one father at home, he had numerous dads at the station.
“We looked at them as our leaders,” Art said.