Area firefighters relive the Dec. 20, 1967 fire that destroyed Penn Yan's Main Street Engine House and two other buildings.
Last week the Penn Yan Fire Department hosted a show of collected images of the fire that destroyed the old Main Street Firehouse 50 years ago. Area fire companies who came to Penn Yan’s aid that day were also invited for the Dec. 20 anniversary event, including Dresden, Dundee, Benton, Branchport, Bellona, Wayne, and Geneva.
Gathering in the hall of the “new” consolidated Elm Street Firehouse, dedicated in 1969, the volunteer firefighters and their families, numbering about 100, sat transfixed by the remarkably clear color images as they filled the projection screen. Narrated by PYFD veteran Marty MacKerchar, with Assistant Chief Derek Christensen managing the images, the photos and some film footage converted to DVD, triggered vivid memories. Faces from the past, many of whose older versions were watching, came back to life from a half-century ago. Added to the remembered faces, the colors of helmets and coats reminded them of what companies took action that extraordinary day.
MacKerchar himself was a young boy then, who had wanted to skip school to see the fire, but was caught by the nuns at St. Michael’s. For corroboration and “on the scene” detail, he turned to PYFD’s most honored senior member, 99-year-old Past Chief Paul Kubli, who recalled the day with a clarity envied by those half his age.
As devastating as those images were, the irony of a firehouse being destroyed by fire still causes the same wry smiles they did back then.
Going beyond the fire, MacKerchar continued the slide program into happier memories; the many offers to loan equipment to Penn Yan as the news of the fire spread, and eventually to the brand new firetrucks and firehouse that made the Ellsworth, Sheldon, Hydrant Hose, and Hunter Hook & Ladder Companies into a better, more modern, and more capable department than they had ever been before - a commitment they continue to uphold everyday.
Another presentation set for Jan. 20, will be held by the Yates History Center at the firehouse on Elm Street, and will be open to the public.