08/22/11 — Thoroughfare VFD marks 50th anniversary Sunday

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Thoroughfare VFD marks 50th anniversary Sunday

By Gary Popp
Published in News on August 22, 2011 1:46 PM

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Donald Herring, left, and George E. Jones, two of the original charter members of the Thoroughfare Volunteer Fire Department, reminisce at the department's 50th anniversary celebration Sunday afternoon.

The Thoroughfare Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its 50th anniversary Sunday.

The department started in 1961 as a group of local farmers meeting in a barn. It now has a modern facility manned by trained volunteers.

The department was created after the Dudley Fire Department, which once was the only department serving Brogden township at the time, divided into several departments including Thoroughfare, Arrington and Mar Mac.

The Thoroughfare Fire Department was founded on Aug. 23, 1961 and was located on U.S. 13 near Overman Road.

In 1973, the Overman family donated two acres of land to the department and the fire station was moved about a tenth of mile to 157 Herring Road, where it stands today.

One of the department's charter members, Elton Aycock, has witnessed the evolution of the firefighting force.

Aycock said when the department was founded, he and other firefighters made fire calls on makeshift fire trucks created from military surplus vehicles, including a 1948 Ford that came from a Navy aircraft carrier.

The truck had no cabin, Aycock said, so the firefighters always hoped it wasn't raining or too cold when they had to answer a call, he recalled.

"On some days it was so cold, the driver would nearly freeze by the time we got the fire," Aycock said.

Aycock said the charter members were an inexperienced group that had to learn together how to fight fires efficiently and safely.

"We were basically nothing but farmers that had a fire hose," Aycock said.

"We went to a fire and put some water on it, but really, we didn't know much about firefighting."

Aycock remembered the early years as "tough going," but also that he was part of group of community members who came together to provided a needed service.

"Pretty much, back then, if something caught fire, it burned down," Aycock said. "There was no chance without a fire department.

"We didn't know much about the art of fighting fires. We went in the front door and tried to put the sucker out. Believe it or not, we saved quite a bit."

A frequent fire call for the department at that time, Aycock said, was to tobacco barns that had caught fire after the hanging tobacco fell on the heaters below.

Nowadays, Aycock said, the members of the department are much better equipped and trained.

"If anybody goes to fight a fire now they got through many hours of training, and they go in with really good equipment, radios and a different attitude," Aycock said. "We did it as a service. They are a lot more professional about it. They are now a good, full-fledged department."

Aycock is proud to be part of a unit that has served his community for half a century.

"We are one of the older departments in the county, and if you can keep an organization together over the years and it grows and prospers, you really did something."

Thoroughfare Fire Chief Delbert Edwards also carries the same since of pride.

"It is very exciting for me to be chief at this point in the department's history. I have the opportunity to think about what other chiefs have gone through, and it inspires me to continuing working hard and not become stagnant," he said.

Edwards leads a crew of nearly 30 firefighters in a facility that was renovated in 2003 and includes a kitchen and rooms designated for meetings and training.

While Thoroughfare has developed into a department capable of providing top-notch fire protection, Edwards said he will not grow complacent.

"I will put my firefighters against anybody else, but you can never be too good," Edwards said.

Edwards said recognizing the department's 50-year mark has been a time to reflect on the past and look into the future.

"We are inspired to work even harder to provide this service for our citizens," he said.