Elsmere is one of seven hamlets in the Town of Bethlehem, along with Delmar, Glenmont, Selkirk, Slingerlands and South and North Bethlehem. Elsmere is directly south of and adjacent to the City of Albany, New York’s capital city. It is a modern suburban community that, due to its location in Albany County, offers a unique combination of friendly neighborhoods and convenient retail shopping opportunities. The Town of Bethlehem, incorporated in March of 1793, is a dynamic and diverse community with a population of over 32,000 and total area of 52 square miles.
In June of 1922, a group of concerned residents of Elsmere started the necessary legal procedures to form a Volunteer Fire Company. They held informational meetings for the residents and circulated petitions approving the formation of such an organization. The petitions were then presented to the Town Board and a special election was requested to authorize the formation of a Fire Company, the raising of funds for the initial costs, and delineation of the territory to be protected. A special election was held on November 18, 1922. The proposition to approve the formation of the Elsmere Fire Company passed.
In 1928, a Fire District was formed in accordance with the State and Town laws and a Board of Fire Commissioners was elected, which consisted of three Commissioners and a Secretary/Treasurer. In 1933, the Board of Fire Commissioners was increased to five members with one elected annually to serve a five year term. Also in 1933, the first Chief of the Fire Company was elected. Until 1933, the Captain was the highest ranking fire officer as well as the chief executive officer of the Fire Company.
The original two-story fire station was erected in 1929 and a coded siren alarm system was installed to replace the hand operated alarm system, which consisted of three locomotive tires erected in three different locations in the community. To sound this hand operated alarm, a sledge hammer, placed by each tire or ring, was used to pound on the metal ring producing a sound similar to that of a large bell. In contrast, today the Fire District uses a triple air horn mounted on the fire house roof as an audible alarm and each firefighter has a radio paging device to alert him/her of an alarm of fire or emergency.
In 1963, the fire station was remodeled and a three bay addition was added to house three pumpers. The engine bays were further extended in 1969 to house an aerial platform. In 1978, a new office for the Chief, a mechanic’s workroom, a storage room, a new kitchen, an expanded meeting/banquet room and a museum area were added. In 1990 a three bay garage was constructed at the rear of the property affording an attic storage area, work area, and garage space for smaller department vehicles. In 2001-2002, the firehouse was completely renovated to add a second floor above the engine bays which now houses a meeting room/classroom, Company and District offices, new kitchen and members’ room. Additionally, an area was built (now used for storage) as a “bunk room” should the District be required to provide sleeping quarters for firefighters to man the station around the clock at sometime in the future. The new first floor houses offices for the Chief and Line Officers and a conference room. A new gear room and a larger mechanic’s workroom were also included.