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Celebrating service

Volunteer fire company marks 75th anniversary

September 19, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

FORT JOHNSON - The Fort Johnson Volunteer Fire Company, celebrating 75 years this year, does more than put out fires in the local community.

"We realize we are just part of the community, not the whole of the community," Chief Alden Miller said.

According to the department's website - - the fire company was established in February 1935.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

The Fort Johnson Volunteer Fire Company’s station in the village is shown Wednesday.

"In the past three-quarters of a century, it has grown to accommodate two stations, nine trucks and specialized equipment to serve the village of Fort Johnson as well as part of the town of Amsterdam," the website said.

Dorothy Jobin, the village historian, said her father, Francis Jobin, was one of the village residents who helped start the volunteer fire company.

In addition to its official duties, she said, the company is involved in many community activities, such as the harvest festival.

"[Village residents] should know they have one of the best volunteer fire companies in the area," Jobin said. "They are very involved in the community and work very hard."

Village Mayor Ken Walter said over the years, the volunteer fire company has let groups, such as the village's Youth Commission, use its facilities if needed.

Walter, who has been mayor since 2003 and on the Village Board since 1996, said the company has always been very responsive to requests for help. As an example, he said, it has made its ladder trucks available to the village when they have been needed to cut hard to reach tree limbs.

The company has two fire stations. Station one is located in the village near the intersection of Routes 5 and 67. Station two is located near the intersection of Golf Course Road and Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam.

Walter said the fire station in the village actually is owned by the village and leased to the volunteer fire company. He said that is part of the reason it is important for the village and the company to maintain good communication.

"We've always had a very good relationship with the fire company," he said.

Valerie Phillips, a Perth resident, is a member of the auxiliary to the volunteer fire company. She said about 2 years ago, she was among a group of volunteers that got the auxiliary going for the department. Her boyfriend was involved with the fire department, so she figured it would be a way to help out, she said.

The auxiliary tries to make sure the firefighters have water or coffee to drink when they respond to any major calls, Phillips said. They also try to have food ready when they firefighters get back to the firehouse, she said.

She noted the fire company helps out in many avenues, including during the village's 100th anniversary celebration last year.

Miller said the fire company helps out where it can, because the members - 40 active and 69 listed - all recognize they are part of the community. So they make EMS calls, pump out cellars and host events, just to name a couple of things besides fighting fires, he said.

Miller has been with the fire company for 48 years. He has been the chief a few times, and was named chief again in late 2008.

He said in some other places, the biggest problem people have to deal with is ego.

In a place the size of the village, that could create major problems. He said it is important to remember to be humble, so ego doesn't get in the way of doing the job.

"You have to learn you don't know it all," Miller said. "I learn every fire, every drill."

Miller spoke at an event?Sept. 18 in the village celebrating the company's 75th anniversary.

In his speech, he talked about how important it is for volunteer firemen to prioritize their lives to avoid being burned out by the work. He said his advice is to treat the work like a job.

Miller said he personally makes God, his family, then the fire company the priorities in his life, in that order.

"There are pictures in my mind that I would like to erase, but it does not happen. There are sounds and smells that to this day haunt me," he said. "Without God, a good wife, sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and friends I would probably not be here talking to you today."



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