History of the West Grove Company
The first discussion about the need for a fire company was held in the late 1800’s. A charter membership was first formed in 1904, and the West Grove Fire Company was incorporated in 1905
In April 1905, the new fire company purchased its first apparatus – a horse drawn chemical wagon for the sum of $1,315. Spray powder was kept in tank to put out fires. The first motorized apparatus was purchased in 1919, and, for the first time, the apparatus carried water to the fire.
The fire company bought the original building on Prospect Street in 1928. This building is still occupied today by the fire company. As you drive down Prospect Street, you can still see the curved brick openings through which the horse drawn apparatus responded 100 years ago.
1928 was a big year…not only did the fire company buy its first building, it was also the year of the largest fire in the company’s history. The famous West Grove Casket Fire of 1928 lasted three days. The WGFC was assisted by 20 fire companies – some from as far away as Baltimore. The fire was at the old Casket Co. site, which was being used as a lumber mill – one million board feet of lumber burned, valued at one-half million dollars lost. The mill site was at the other end of Walnut Street from the fire house. At the height of the fire, one half of the town was evacuated during the fire – including the West Grove hospital, which located in the building across the street from the fire company.
Also in 1928, the fire company experienced its only line of duty death – at a mill fire in Toughkenamon.
The minutes of the fire company are filled with interesting anecdotes and stories from the company’s history. Tales of fundraisers such as barn dances, spaghetti suppers, firemen’s balls, chicken dinners, and, of course, bingo, fill the minutes through the years.
One note of interest in the history – the fire company actually owned the Roslyn Theater, which used to be up on Exchange Place. The fire company bought it in 1934 as a source of income (we sold it in 1969)
The building at Prospect & Walnut Streets has served many purposes in addition to being a fire station. There was a courtroom on the second floor in the late 40’s and early 50’s. A jail existed in the engine bay – its still in the engine room, but most of our members don’t know what its original use was (now for storage). For a while, the old engine bays on Prospect were rented for retail use – many of you will remember Marrone’s deli being located in our building for many years. There was even a time when beer was available in our soda machines.
Our apparatus were updated through the years:
o 1924 two new fire trucks and a pumper were added.
o In 1947 the WGFC bought the first tanker truck in Chester County.
o Our first ladder truck was added to our fleet in 1975.
o The Ambulance division was formed in 1961 – the first ambulance responded from the West Grove Hospital.
Our community grew and grew through the years, with additional housing developments growing, especially in the western and southern townships. To meet a growing demand for ambulance and fire services, the fire company added a second station in New London in 1993 and a third station in London Britain in 2012.
Today the fire company has between 30 and 40 active volunteer members running more than 550 fire / rescue calls and more than 2200 ambulance calls – and that number keeps growing
We have one of the most modern fleets of fire trucks in the nation – you could compare us favorably with many big city departments, with:
o 3 fire engines
o 1 tanker
o 2 rescue pumpers
o 1 ladder truck
o 3 ambulances
o utility vehicles
Our best asset remains our people…our volunteers. We have enjoyed tremendous support from the community over our first 100 years. And we believe our best years are still to come!