The Austintown Township Fire Department recently filled two new volunteer positions. Firefighters Tom Neff and Tom Metzinger have taken on the duties of department historians. Their mission will be to bring together the historic records and documents to assemble the history of the department, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year.
According to fire Chief Andy Frost III, the program began shortly after his father, retired fire Chief Andy Frost Jr. had his retirement party. A video of department memories showed the need to preserve its history.
Last week, the two Toms were given the title of historians and they began work to put together the history of the department. In just a short time they found a lot of interesting details.
Austintown Fire Department’s new history co-chairman Tom Neff goes over records of the department to compile information for the department's 75th anniversary to Austintown Township and surrounding communities.
"When the Austintown Fire Department began in 1938, it had 18 volunteers," Neff said. "They each got paid $1 per year for their service."
Neff said prior to the formation of the new fire department, the Youngstown Fire Department handled all the calls in Austintown.
To respond to fires, the department needed a fire truck. Neff said the first fire truck was a 1939 Seagraves that was purchased for $8,040. The truck required a lot of changes for adding firefighting equipment as it was built as a beer delivery truck.
Neff also found records of the newly formed fire department's first call. It was to the Schiavonne's parking lot on Mahoning Avenue for a car fire. It is assumed the car was destroyed as the loss was listed at $300.
Neff also ran across the records of the new 1951 Barton-American Ford F-7 fire truck that was purchased for $21,000. That was fully equipped from Harry Sutphen of the Sutphen Corporation. The department still buys vehicles from that corporation today.
Neff and Metzinger are also seeking records, artifacts and stories that may be spread around the community. Anyone who has something related to the department that they would like to donate or just to share with the historians can bring it to Fire Station 1 on Ohio 46 during normal business hours. Neff is also setting up a Facebook page and website that will contain a lot of this information.
One big task that will be forthcoming, is the conversion of old style media. The department has a lot of slides, 35 mm film, and video cassettes that Neff said he hopes to have converted to a digital media. He would also like to compile a book on the history of the fire department.
"There is such a great and rich history here, but it is sliding away as older guys retire," Neff said.
It will take hours to go through old records, record retired firefighter's stories and place them in sequence to show the whole picture. While there is no time limit, both Neff and Metzinger want to be able to pull something together for the anniversary next year.
"We would like to set up a display and maybe hold an open house with the artifacts," Neff said.
While an open house is still being discussed, Chief Frost said he was getting set for the anniversary.
"I am putting together an anniversary committee," Frost said. "As far as the history goes, I know Neff and Metzinger are going to do a real good job with this."