Bath Volunteer Fire Department celebrates history, deep roots

Published 4:10 am Monday, October 13, 2008

By By GREG KATSKI Staff Writer
The Bath Volunteer Fire Department has come a long way since its humble beginnings 50 years ago, while still maintaining the department’s strong family roots and traditions.
The department celebrated its 50th anniversary Sunday afternoon on a day filled with history and recognition, good eats and treats, and activities for “future firefighters.”
The event, held from 1 p.m. to about 4 p.m., welcomed over 120 department supporters, family members and friends, said Chief John Taylor with the Bath VFD.
The day kicked off with a slideshow presentation and video tribute to the history of the department.
The tribute, which featured pictures taken throughout the department’s 50 years of existence, was compiled by the department’s six junior firefighters.
The department then recognized its 39 current members, and 13 charter members.
Of Bath VFD’s 13 founding members, three are surviving.
Two of them, Ed Carson and C.M. Woolard, were on hand to accept plaques dedicated to their service.
The department’s other surviving charter member is Taylor’s father, John Taylor Sr., who currently resides in South Carolina.
Taylor said he will personally deliver his father’s well-deserved plaque to him.
The families of charter members that have passed were also present to accept their loved ones’ plaques.
Charter member Hal Wingate’s granddaughter, Claudia Alligood, and great-grandson, Caleb Alligood, attended the event to honor Wingate, who died of a heart attack while working on the department’s former station.
The former station became a memorial in his honor. A stone memorial engraved with Wingate’s name was also placed outside the department’s current station.
The department’s first fire station was a two-bay tin building located on King Street.
Claudia Alligood recalled her mother’s stories about the ramshackle station.
According to the department’s history presentation, the early means of contacting firemen, which is still used today, was a siren mounted on a light pole by the station. Residents called the fire department number, which was manned by Mr. Holland Gurkins and his wife, who lived right beside the fire station. There was a switch in their house that activated the siren.
Taylor, who joined 35 years ago, said he was always around the department as a child. He became the department chief in 1999, and many of his volunteers said they hope he stays on until he passes.
Ed Buck, Captain with the Bath VFD, said, “He does a good job at it.”
Buck, himself, is a second-generation firefighter with the department. His father, Jesse Buck, was a charter member.
And he is glad the tradition lives on through his sons, Jesse Buck Jr. and Gary Buck, who are both members of the department.
Buck said the department is “a pretty proud station.”
Lt. Mike Harper with the Bath VFD is trying to get his son, Zackery, started early in the life-saving profession. Zackery, 4, was more than excited to put on his firefighter’s gear and corral a miniature fire hose at the 50th anniversary event.
And if his undershirt, which read “future firefighter,” is any indication, the Bath VFD has another 50 years to look forward to.