Volunteer firefighter Joseph Sheehan celebrates the department's 50th anniversary with his children Ava, 7, Jaxton, 5 and Joe, 9. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Palm Coast Observer
Community members and firefighters past and present attended the Palm Coast Fire Department’s 50th Anniversary Celebration at Fire Station 21 on Saturday, April 22.
Mayor David Alfin, State Rep. Paul Renner and Palm Coast Fire Chief Kyle Berryhill were among the speakers at the ceremony.
Alfin read a letter of congratulations from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“It is my honor to extend greetings to the firefighters and the community of Palm Coast as you celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Palm Coast Fire Department,” the letter said. “As the parent of three young children, the First Lady and I appreciate the first responders who work day and night to keep our communities safe. Thank you for your unwavering service and sacrifice to the community and our great state.”
The Palm Coast Volunteer Fire Department was formed on April 3, 1973, with 28 firefighters. Over the first two years the department responded to two calls. Last year, the department responded to 13,444 calls.
Over the years, Berryhill said, the PCFD has responded to serious wildfires in 1985, 1998 and 2011 as well as to hurricanes, tornadoes, industrial fires, plane crashes, train derailments and fuel tank explosions.
“But what makes the department special is how our firefighters recognize that your emergency is never routine,” Berryhill said.
Renner, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and a Palm Coast resident, spoke briefly.
“We know you always have our back,” he said. “Congratulations on a great 50 years and to another 50.”
Alfin said the community’s praise and respect for the department’s dependable service has grown stronger over the decades.
“We continue to admire (the firefighters’) fortitude and heroism under the most intense, stressful conditions imaginable,” he said.
We continue to admire (the firefighters’) fortitude and heroism under the most intense, stressful conditions imaginable. — MAYOR DAVID ALFIN
But, he added, the department’s contributions to the city are not limited to emergency response.
“The Palm Coast Fire Department has also been a leader in community outreach and education, providing programs and events that have helped to build a stronger relationship between the department and the people it serves, from fire safety education for children to CPR training for citizens,” Alfin said.
PUMPER RETURNED TO PCFD
A 1959 American LaFrance pumper truck was parked behind the stage during the celebration. The fire engine has been returned to the department from Flagler County Fire Rescue. It was originally acquired in 1978 as the department’s second engine.
“I’m happy that it’s back,” said retired Batallion Chief Ron Petrillo, who, with former Palm Coast Fire Chief Howard Peiffer, described the history of the engine, which was refurbished in 1988, saving the department $70,000 on a new pumper.
“It had a standard transmission. The clutch was very, very hard to operate,” Peiffer said, noting that “Save the clutch,” became a catchphrase.
The American LaFrance pumper will be used for community events and as a caisson in the event of a firefighter death, Peiffer said.
Kathy Reichard-Ellavsky, the Palm Coast Historical Society and Museum president, presented the department with an enlarged duplicate poster of Garfield the cat wearing firefighter gear and a PCVFD fire helmet with a caption, “Rather Be Fighting Fires?”
Jim Davis, the cartoon character’s creator, signed and dedicated the poster to the Palm Coast Volunteer Fire Department in response to the “Black Friday” fires in 1985 that destroyed 131 homes.
The original poster was donated to the Historical Society by former PCFD Fire Chief Michael Beadle and is displayed in the museum in Holland Park. The larger poster will hang inside the Palm Coast Community Center, Reichard-Ellavsky said.
PCFD Deputy Fire Chief Bradd Clark, who served as the celebration's master of ceremonies, announced that the department will be burying a time capsule this year at Station 25.
The capsule will contain a portrait of department members, plans for the original fire station — Station 22 which is still in service — blueprints for the latest firefighter apparatus and the department's 50th anniversary challenge coin, which “symbolizes the present and honors the past,” Clark said.
The capsule will be unearthed at the department's centennial celebration in 2073, Clark said.
In his closing remarks, Clark saluted the department's members past and present and thanked city and county officials and community residents for their support.
“Citizens, you’re in our organizational chart,” he said. “You’re at the top. You matter the most. We serve you.”