Camaraderie, tradition hallmarks of company's success
WELLSVILLE — The Dyke Street Engine Company held its first official meeting Aug. 16, 1894.
On Saturday, 125 years and a day later, the company hosted an open house in recognition of its 125th anniversary. The celebration was held at headquarters on East Hanover Street, a short walk from where those pioneers founded the company on Dyke Street at the tail end of the 19th century.
The original fire hall is now home to the Dyke Street Museum. The Dyke Street Engine Company moved into the former schoolhouse on Hanover Street in the mid-1960s.
“This station here was originally the Hanover Street School House,” said Kevin Fleischman, a former company captain currently serving as First Assistant Chief of the Wellsville Fire Department. “In the 1960s they started working on it to build it into a fire station. Over on Dyke Street, they started to outgrow the ’56. They had the ’56 LaFrance GMC. Just like today, trucks get bigger and longer. It wasn’t going to fit, so they moved over here.”
The company has been on Hanover Street ever since, answering about 200-300 calls a year, Fleischman said. The home on Hanover has received a few cosmetic changes over the years, such as new interior epoxy floors and new truck bay surfacing last January, but for the most part the company’s headquarters have stood the test of time.
The Dyke Street Engine Company has a strong lineage of family tradition, with service passed down through the generations.
“There’s a lot of tradition, a lot of second and third generations over the years,” said Fleischman, himself a third-generation captain. “The camaraderie is a big thing around here. Everybody is a big family. The joking around about who is going to drive the truck is always a big one.”
Saturday’s open house was a family affair, with a bounce house set up for the youngest generation. The company’s Dyke Street Engine No. 2 was on display, purchased payment-free in 2014.
“That’s one thing we’ve always been proud of doing,” Fleischman said.
Also on hand was the company’s old ’97, still in service by neighboring Allentown, which brought the rig back to its former home for the day. The company’s previous machine, a ’72, was sold to Richburg the last time Wellsville hosted the Southwestern Convention.
Wellsville is on track to host the Allegany County Fireman’s Convention in 2022.
“We’re going to slowly start fundraising for that,” Fleischman said. “A lot of our fundraising and efforts goes towards putting away money for the truck and some equipment over the years. There’s some minor stuff we’d still like to do to the truck. We’re looking at getting headsets for the radios and some updated radio purchases.”
Grants also play a big role, with Fleischman crediting former state Senator Cathy Young’s help in securing funding for items like a generator and turnout gear in recent years. The Dyke Street Engine Co. has its fall barbecue the 27th and is selling pig raffle tickets.
Of late, the company has been working with the Wellsville Fire Company a great deal. The two are in talks of merging as the future of fire service in Wellsville has become a hot topic over the last year or so. No matter what the future holds, the Dyke Street Co. has embraced working with other companies.
“We’ve been doing a lot with the Wellsville Fire Company. I know the merger talks have been a big thing. I think that’s down the road eventually,” Fleischman said. “We work good with everybody. We train with everybody, we practice with everybody, we’ve been in the process of training drivers from other companies. That’s been a big milestone because for the longest time we couldn’t drive their trucks, they couldn’t drive ours.”
The Dyke Street Engine Co. currently has about 25-30 members, down from a peak of 50 during the department’s heyday. The company is always open to new members joining the rolls.
“A lot of the fire departments have lowered their minimum age to join to 16, so they can start getting their classes in. We’re starting to try to get some fresh blood in here,” Fleischman said. “Alex Perry is our youngest, newest member at 16 and he’s gung ho. We have a few that are going to be taking some of the fall classes coming up.”
Given the merger talks, today’s new recruits might be some of the last to become members of the Dyke Street Engine Company as it is currently known. The name might change, but the mission remains the same.
“I think there’s changes coming in the department eventually,” Fleischman said. “As of right now we’re still operating as the Dyke Street Engine Company and trying to keep tradition alive.”