South Line Volunteer Fire Company
It began toward the end of 1944, when the Four – Town Volunteer Fire Company was formed by the men who represented the adjacent areas of Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Lancaster and Depew. A few years after Four Town was started, a barn on French Road was destroyed because the apparatus did not arrive in time. The firefighters of Four Town who lived off of French Road in Cheektowaga decided that the area in that part of town was too large to be adequately covered. These firefighters met on October 3, 1946 in the boiler room of the greenhouses owned by Curtis Lehde to make provisions so that further loss of life and property would not occur. It was at this meeting that Alfred Kless motioned, and his son, Wesley Kless, seconded, that a new fire company be formed. This was the beginning of the Cheektowaga South Line Volunteer Fire Company.
The incorporation of the present South Line Volunteer Fire Company was made official on April 3, 1947. Two main issues were brought to the forefront of the company’s attention: the need for a pumper and fire hall. The original 26 members of the company each donated one hundred dollars ($100.00) to purchase an old civil defense pump, which after renovation was placed on a trailer and became the first fire apparatus of the company. South Line’s original fire hall was at 931 French Road across from Brentwood Drive. This structure was built by the firemen themselves before the company was placed on the town’s tax rolls.
A few years later, the truck was found to be inadequate to the needs of the growing company and a second army surplus vehicle was purchased and mounted on the bed of a G.M.C. truck. As time went on, the area that the company served changed and farms were slowly replaced by homes and small businesses along French Road. This resulted in the acquisition of the most cherished possession of this fire company: the 1935 pumper, South Line’s first fire truck. This pumper is a Buffalo Fire Appliance and is the end product of many fund-raisers that included dances, raffles, and picnics. The “35” is now the oldest functioning fire apparatus in Cheektowaga and the adjoining areas. In the spring of 1950, South Line added another bay to the fire hall to accommodate for the growth of the area and of the company itself.
South Line joined the other companies in the Town of Cheektowaga at district status when the Town Board dissolved the South Line Fire Protection District in 1963 and created South Line Fire District #10. In 1965, the residents of the South Line district authorized the spending of $51,700 for an additional new two-bay fire station, which is the current substation on Boxwood Lane. The substation was the first in Cheektowaga and continued the progressive nature that South Line was known for during this time period. The substation was christened with a brand new $32,000 pumper that was purchased in 1968 to cover the western end of the district along Union Road.
Our current structure at 1049 French Road was built in 1970 with the groundbreaking ceremonies being held on September 13th, which included the placing of the cornerstone and a time capsule. The building cost $295,000 and could hold four firefighting and rescue vehicles. In 1990, another addition was put on the main hall, which included two new bays and a total renovation of every room inside of the structure. This addition was dedicated in the spring of 1991 with the laying of a new cornerstone.
In 1996 South Line Fire Company celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Multiple proclamations were issued acknowledging the dedication of the firefighters and officers of Cheektowaga South Line Volunteer Fire Company. In 1997, due to decreased attendance and increased financial demands, the South Line Weekly Friday Night Bingo Fundraisers was terminated.
As residents of Cheektowaga South Line Volunteer Fire Company demanded more emergency medical service requests than fire responses, the South Line Fire District petitioned New York State Department of Health for a change in EMS Certification. In spring of 1998, a temporary status change was granted from NYS EMS BLS Transporting Level to NYS AEMT – I Non Transporting Level. This advanced certification allowed South Line to provide Advanced Life Support while waiting for the private ambulance company to arrive and transport.
In 2001, the firefighters and officers of Cheektowaga South Line Volunteer Fire Company were forever changed. The terrorist attacks on the United States at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A statewide mutual aid plan was enacted, requesting any fire departments that could provide EMS vehicles to respond to the World Trade Center. Due to South Line having a Non – Transport EMS Certification, their services were not required. With this news an emergency meeting of the South Line Fire Company was held. It was determined that something needed to be done to show South Line’s support to the first responders of this unspeakable tragedy. A one day boot drive was held at intersections of French and Borden Roads as well as French and Union Roads. The community support was absolutely tremendous. In about 7 hours over $17,000 was raised for the families of the FDNY affected by the 9/11 tragedy. This money was hand delivered by officers of South Line Fire District and South Line Fire Company to FDNY Engine 44 a few weeks after the attacks.
In 2003, South Line gained official approval from NYS DOH to operate as a NYS AEMT – I Non Transporting Agency permanently. This certification is renewed with the NYS DOH every 3 years. In October 2006, WNY was hit with a surprise snow storm. This storm left over 5 feet of snow, and power outages for days. Even some firefighters of Cheektowaga South Line Volunteer Fire Company suffered damages to their homes. South Line answered over 400 alarms in this 4 day span alone. Many South Line apparatus were also damaged as a result of this storm, mostly cosmetic issues. With 2 new apparatus being ordered, and several damaged cosmetically due to storm damage, it was determined that an apparatus color change was in order. Newly arriving South Line apparatus were changed to Black over Red paint scheme.
As the demands of South Line members to the community increased, the need for more training increased as well. In spring of 2006 South Line Fire District acquired a vacant warehouse adjacent to their Boxwood Substation. This adjacent warehouse and Boxwood Substation were renovated to create South Line Fire District Training Facility. The 2 new apparatus and the training facility were dedicated in October of 2008. Due to the increased number of members answering their last alarm, the memorial brick plaza was moved to the rear of the South Line Fire Station on French Road. The bigger memorial plaza also offered firefighters and officers of Cheektowaga South Line Volunteer Fire Company the opportunity to have their name forever inscribed in a plaza paver brick.
So now in 2013, the 85 active firefighters of the Cheektowaga South Line Volunteer Fire Company have the resources of 2 fire stations that house three fire engines, two light rescue vehicles, one heavy rescue and one aerial platform to better serve and protect the residents of South Cheektowaga.
(We would like to thank Steven Rudnicki, and James Rudnicki for their research and assistance in helping us create this history page)