Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 in litigation with the state over the 1950 agreement | News


The Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1, which owns Station 74 at 11328 Jackson St. in Columbia, as well as three historic hose carts, two hand pump engines and four vintage internal combustion fire engines, is in conflict with Columbia State Historic Park, the nonprofit’s president said Tuesday.

Ron Montoya, president of the group that owns, maintains and displays firefighting history dating back to the town’s origins in the gold rush in the 1850s, said they may have to leave the park d state and, if that happens, they will take their historic fire apparatus with them.

“Basically the state wants to become a co-manager with the engine company,” Montoya, 72, said Tuesday. “They had never had a co-management role with us before. Never.”

Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 should not be confused with Columbia Fire Protection District, which leases Station 74 to the nonprofit group.

The history of organized firefighting in Colombia is as old as the city itself, dating back to 1850. The first miners were tent dwellers who made bucket brigades when tents caught fire. By 1860, the city had at least one reel, the Papeete, engine #452, a two-cylinder hand-pump device built in Boston in 1852, and at least one pipe company.

Montoya says Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 represents the city’s first organized firefighters, and their history obviously predates Columbia State Historic Park, which was founded in 1945.

“According to our stationery, we were founded in 1852,” Montoya said. “For a few years when they started they were a bucket brigade. The pipe business started in 1855. Papeete was bought out in May 1859. We have always been independent. state historic park. The state park was established in the 1940s, and we have remained independent of the state, and we remain independent to this day. We have worked with the state since 1945.”

In 1950, Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 accepted a special concession agreement with the state for the use of the Main Street Fire Hall. to store his historic equipment, Montoya said.

It’s the only agreement the nonprofit has had with the state since 1950, Montoya said.

“They told us a few weeks ago that if we don’t renegotiate with the state, they will end the 1950 agreement,” Montoya said. “The way we interpret that is that they will kick us out of the state park. That’s how we take it. »

The Main Street Fire Station is the only building the nonprofit group now uses in the state park, Montoya said. If they are forced to leave this building, he said they will have to remove the motors from the Papeete and Monumental hand pumps.

Montoya said they would likely store Papeete at Station 74, located at Bigler and Jackson streets, but they still haven’t figured out what they would do with the Monumental due to its size.

Efforts to reach Danielle Gerhart, superintendent of Columbia State Historic Park, were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

Montoya says that since 1950 the state has attempted to revise the terms of the 1950 agreement between the nonprofit and the state. The state has sporadically approached Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 to try to renegotiate details, but no updated terms were ever agreed to, Montoya said.

“The 1950 agreement is still the only binding agreement we have with the state,” Montoya said Tuesday. “We don’t want to enter into a partnership with the state. We never had them there, we still don’t need them in there, and we don’t trust them. We remain solvent. We are not asking for financial support from the state. We never will.

The state sent the nonprofit Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 a 50-page letter, Montoya said.

“We’re doing well,” Montoya said. “We see no reason to co-manage with the state or anyone else because we’re doing well, and we have been for a long time.”

Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 remains independent and self-sufficient by raising about $10,000 a year when it can, Montoya said.

The nonprofit organization receives rent for leasing Station 74 to the Fire Protection District of Columbia, and its members also receive money from the county highways department to place and remove from time to time traffic barriers in Colombia.

They also sell T-shirts to raise a few thousand dollars a year, and they share a portion of their profits with young people with autism and members with illnesses or battling cancer, Montoya said.

“We haven’t been out for a few years because of the virus and this year looks pretty dodgy,” Montoya said. “We like to bring in $10,000 a year to break even, but I don’t think we’ve hit that target for the past two years. But we are still solvent. We are independent. We are a non-profit organization. We try to donate $100 per meeting to the local crisis center, local students with autism, and fundraise from time to time for members who fall ill, including cancer.

The bottom line, Montoya said, is the nonprofit organization Columbia Volunteer Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 is not interested in partnering with the state.

We were fine before the state intervened,” he said. “We’ve been fine since the state took over the park. We are quite alone. We are independent.

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