Volunteer fire department to celebrate 75 years of community service

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Aug. 18, 2011
Andy Hildebrand is the chair of the South Winsor Fire Department's 75th anniversary celebration. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Andy Hildebrand is the chair of the South Winsor Fire Department's 75th anniversary celebration. Photos by Martha Marteney.

The South Windsor Fire Department is gearing up to celebrate 75 years of volunteer service to the town. “It’s not just our celebration, it’s everyone’s,” said SWFD member Andy Hildebrand, referring to the benefit provided to the community by the volunteers.

Since 1938, the SWFD has been fully-staffed by volunteers. There are approximately 80 active members on a daily basis, with an additional 40 members helping in various capacities. “It’s been a volunteer fire department the entire time,” noted Hildebrand. There are three fire houses, including the newly-dedicated station on West Street.

For many families, being a part of the SWFD is a generational tradition. Andy’s father, Roger Hildebrand, joined the department in 1967, coincidently the same year Andy was born. “I’ve been around it [the fire department] my whole life,” Andy Hildebrand said. The third generation of Hildebrands is currently a member of the Explorer’s Post.

“It’s hard work, but it’s a family,” said Andy. He noted that there are many ways to volunteer for the SWFD besides becoming a firefighter. All the apparatus and vehicles need constant maintenance, someone needs to handle the logistics of dispatching the firefighters and on-site coordination, and then there is always the constant flow of paperwork.

“If someone wants to volunteer, there’s always something to do,” said Roger Hildebrand, who is now the chief photographer for the department and manages media relations. Roger is also putting the 75th anniversary book together.

Fewer and fewer towns have volunteer fire departments, especially one of South Windsor’s size. It is commendable that so many residents offer their time, and that the local employers support the firefighters responding to an emergency during business hours, Hildebrand said.

The SWFD celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1988. That was the last time the department did any fundraising, as its operational budget is supported through town taxes. Andy Hildebrand said he hopes the 75th anniversary celebration will be fully-funded by donations, rather than relying on the town budget.

Andy Hildebrand stepped in as chair of the 75th anniversary celebration, saying, “I think this department is worth highlighting.” He is planning a full weekend event, all open to the public, complete with a cookout, activities for the kids, dancing, a parade and a firemen’s muster. The muster is a competition of skills relating to firefighting, such as timed hydrant hook-ups and targeted water shooting. It is anticipated that many of the fire departments from surrounding towns will join in the festivities. “The town deserves to have this fire department shown off to the rest of the state,” Andy said.

In order to fund the 75th anniversary celebration, which will be held in September 2013, the SWFD will be hosting several fundraising events. The first annual South Windsor Fire Department golf tournament will be held Thursday, Sept. 8, at the Topstone Golf Course in South Windsor. Sponsors are still being sought, and golfer registration is open until Sept. 6. The cost for the day of golf, golf cart, lunch, cocktail reception and dinner is $150. Non-golfers are welcome to join the reception and dinner for $50. “It’s a good value,” said Andy. He also noted that the South Windsor Police Department is not holding their golf tournament, which would normally be held in September. For more information on becoming a sponsor or to register for the tournament or dinner, contact Scott Fine at 860-982-3368.

For more information about the South Windsor Fire Department and the golf tournament, visit the website southwindsorfire.org. Anyone interested in joining the department is invited to the weekly meeting, held Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the fire headquarters.

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