The History of Durham Fire & Rescue
In 1948, a group of volunteers formed the first fire department in the town of Durham. In 1950, the department became incorporated, making it the Durham Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. At the time, it was supported strictly by the fundraising efforts of the volunteers. They had minimal equipment and did not have a station until sometime in the 1950’s. In November of 1974, the department became a municipal department when the property, building and equipment were all turned over to the town. At that time the town purchased its first new engine.
The first station was built on the same lot as the current fire station. The first building was a 2 bay barn which had a meeting room upstairs. An additional 2 bays were added to the back of the structure around 1965. The station remained the same until 1982, when a new station was erected behind the original station. The new station had 4 bays, a meeting room, kitchen, bathroom, and hose tower. Once the new building was completed the original barn was torn down. In July of 2002, a project doubling the footprint of that station was completed, which is the building that is currently there. The station now consists of a meeting room equipped with telecommunication equipment, 4 administrative offices, 2 bathrooms-one of which has a handicapped accessible shower, 6 bays, a full kitchen and 2 storage rooms.
Until 1997, the Durham Fire Department used what was called a Red-Phone system for dispatching. There were 4-5 dispatchers on the department who had “red phones” in their homes. When a person called the emergency number, the dispatchers would take the call and alert members of the department on their call list by phone. There was also a button on the side of the red phones that would activate the siren at the top of the hose tower at the station.
In 1997, the department began to be dispatched over its radio frequency. Until the state transitioned to 9-1-1 for all emergency calls, the seven digit emergency number would ring into dispatch in Freeport. Freeport would dispatch the call and once a dispatcher arrived at the station, radio communications were handled in house. In early 2008, dispatch moved to the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department, where the entire call is dispatched.
The rescue portion of the department was formed in 1997 as a First Responder service. Until then, EMS responses were handled by Lisbon Emergency, Freeport Rescue, and United Ambulance. In 1999, the town contracted with Lisbon Emergency to cover all emergency transports. In 2001, the contract was awarded to Northeast Mobile Health Services out of Brunswick. NEMHS donated the first Rescue to the department. In 2004, the town purchased a used box type ambulance from the town of North Yarmouth. Shortly after that, the department began transporting nights and weekends. In 2005, Durham Fire and Rescue began transporting all of the emergency calls. The town authorized the purchase of a brand new Rescue in 2007, which is paid for by the revenues from transporting.