Watching Over Their Livelihood and Their Homes
The earliest fire protection in White Mills was likely informal bucket brigades—-neighbors pitching to help when needed. The Dorflinger Guards, a group dating back to the early days in Brooklyn, was a security force whose members probably provided a quick, organized response to fires in the Dorflinger Glass Works. In 1911, the community came together to form the White Mills Fire Department. Members of the community constructed a building to house fire-fighting equipment at the corner of Main and Park Streets. The firehouse also served as a social center for the villagers. When the 1911 building was threatened with demolition as part of a bridge expansion in 1999, descendants of some of the original founders and other preservation-mined people came together to move the building across Main Street to its present location.
(Inscription beside the image on the left) On a cold January night in 1917, a fire of unknown origin destroyed two buildings of the Dorflinger Glass Works. As employee Edward F. Rice hurried from his home to call a physician, he discovered the fire in the packing room on the first floor of a three-story frame building. The second and third floors were the etching and engraving departments. In a short time the entire structure was a mass of flames that spread to a two-story brick building (the second story was wood). The first floor was a burning room and the second was a stockroom and office. Concern became keeping the fire from spreading to the rest of the factory. Along with help from Honesdale firefighters, the efforts of the White Mills firefighters saved the lower blowing factory and the still-standing bluestone cutting factory building. Nearly every lintel in the cutting shop was cracked, and window frames and sashes were burned to a crisp. The cause of the blaze was not determined, although it is considered suspicious. The company's faithful watchman, George Kimble, had made his rounds about twenty minutes before the fire was discovered.
(Inscription beside the image in the center) When flames destroyed St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church on December 21, 1960 during an early morning snowstorm, the eighty-year-old landmark was one of the oldest churches in the Scranton Diocese. The cause of the fire was an overheated or defective oil furnace in the basement. Included in the$50,000 loss were all the furnishings, a four-year old electric organ, sacred vestments and vessels, and statuary. Two nearby homes, one of which caught fire briefly and was scorched, were threatened but were saved by the nearly fifty firefighters at the scene. The resident of the scorched home was ninety-one-year-old Joseph Stephens, who was among the original organizers of the White Mills Fire Department in 1911.
(Inscription under the photo in the upper right) Front Row, left to right: Bill Hittinger, Joseph Stephens, Bill Weeks, Fred Houth, John Dorflinger. Back row: Art Firmstone, Louis Aug, John Tuman, Fred Hertel, John Gumper, Fred Suydarn, Charles Austin, Ralph Brown.
(Inscription beside the photo in the upper right) On August 12, 1919, meeting was held in White Mills for the purpose of organizing a fire department. The hall was erected in 1911 on land donated by Charles Dorflinger under the supervision of Fred Houth, master carpenter, at the pay rate of $1.50 per day. The equipment purchased in 1911 consisted of a ladder truck, which carried six ladders, four ropes, and twenty-two ten-gallon pails. Engines #1 and #2 carried four lengths of hose, sod-acid extinguishers, lanterns, and nozzles. Two hose carts completed the early equipment. All of these units were hand drawn.
(Inscription under the image on the bottom right) Wayne W. Stephens, whose grandfather Joseph was the White Mills Fire Department's first president, led the community effort to save the old firehouse in the way of a modern, two-lane concrete bridge. On Columbus Day, October 11, 1999, the historic structure was raised from its foundation and relocated to a safe location, several hundred feet away. The building crept at a snail's pace in a trip that took nearly the entire day to complete. The project closed Route 6 for the day and required the time and effort of dozens of individuals.