Fire department to celebrate 125th anniversary with Oct. 13 parade

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Oct. 4, 2013
The parade will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13, right in front of MHS.  Photos by Corey AmEnde.
The parade will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13, right in front of MHS. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

The Eighth Utilities District Fire Department continues to celebrate its 125th anniversary year with a parade on Sunday, Oct. 13. The parade will start at 1 p.m. on East Middle Turnpike, right in front of Manchester High School, and continue west before taking a right onto Main Street. The parade route will continue north on Main Street before concluding at the intersection of Main and Hilliard streets. 

Parade Committee Chairman Ryan Bilodeau said that 40 organizations are scheduled to march in the parade. “It’s made up mostly of volunteer fire departments in the area such as Vernon, South Windsor, Ellington and Broad Brook,” said Bilodeau. “On top of that, we also have the Governors Foot Guard, the Manchester Police Department and the ambulance service of Manchester.” There will also be a few different pipe bands and a motorcycle group called the Patriot Guard.

Residents who live in the immediate area of the parade route are advised that there won’t be any access to Main Street from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13. 

The parade is just one of the events scheduled this year to mark the 125th anniversary of the Eighth Utilities District Fire Department.  Assistant Chief Dan Langer said there was a family fun day at Northwest Park over the summer for past and present members and their families and there is a reunion dinner for past and present members and their spouses scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, at Maneeley’s in South Windsor.

“It’s tough being a volunteer because the family takes a hit sometimes when you’re supposed to be doing something and a call comes in, you have to leave,” said Langer, a volunteer with the department for the past 17 years. “It’s good to thank the wives and spouses.”

An anniversary book documenting the history of the department is currently at the publishers. “Hopefully we’ll have that back for our reunion dinner,” said Langer.

The Eighth Utilities District Fire Department was formed in 1888 and is comprised mostly of volunteers.  There are seven paid staff members – three paid firefighters/EMTs and four paid dispatchers. Langer said that the approximately 100 volunteers in the department field roughly 2,600 calls for service a year, averaging from six to eight calls a day. “It’s everything from house medicals to structure fires to car accidents,” said Langer. 

The original fire house back in 1888 was staged in a barn.  In 1921, the headquarters moved to 32 Main St., right on the corner of Hilliard and Main. This building housed the district’s first motorized piece of fire apparatus. Then in 1998, the department headquarters moved to its current location just up the road at 138 Main St., the former site of the Knights of Columbus hall.

“We’ve progressed a long way,” said Bilodeau. “They started with very limited equipment. They actually used to pull a hose cart, and you drag it to a fire, and now we have five engines, two rescue trucks, a ladder truck, a service truck and we have a boat for Union pond.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the department's distinction as the Eighth Utilities District. Langer explained that the town used to have nine different districts, nine different tax districts, nine different school districts and nine different police departments. “They all decided to join and come up with one tax district,” said Langer. “All of them except for one district – the eighth district.”

Eventually the school district and police department combined with the rest of the town, but the fire department and the sewer department stayed separate. “That’s why you have your eighth district fire department and your eighth district sewer department," Langer said.

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