It was an interesting meeting of the Hicksville Historical Society on Wednesday, May 29, as Hicksville Fire Department’s Ex-Chief Owen Magee discussed the department’s 100-plus year history. Magee, a 57-year member of the department, gave a talk describing the history, establishment and operations.
“Pretty much my whole family has been involved with the Hicksville Fire Department,” said Magee who joined the ranks in 1957. “My father, brother, brother-in-law and my son who is now a federal firefighter at West Point has all held rank in the department at one time or another.”
The Hicksville Fire Department is a total volunteer group that was organized in 1868 with one fire company and later became a department in 1893. It has been served by 59 past chief officers and is made up of 298 men and women from the local community.
The department’s inception began in 1893 after a joint meeting was held to incorporate three existing fire companies, Protection Hook & Ladder 1, Independent Engine & Hose 2 and Citizens Engine 3. The purpose of the meeting was also to elect a fire chief to oversee affairs of the fires. That man was Arnold G. Heitz, who was elected the first chief of the Hicksville Fire Department. He received 32 of 51 votes cast and Harry Nichols was elected Heitz’s assistant chief.
It didn’t take long for the department to battle their first blaze. Three days after Heitz was elected, on Feb. 18 at 11:40 a.m, a cry went out at MA Lauck’s building on Broadway and seven wells were emptied before the fire was put out.
As the Town of Hicksville continued to expand so did the need for another fire company. On Jan. 8, 1904, 19 men formed Volunteer Hose Company Four. In November of that year, the Hicksville Fire District put forth a vote to the community for a proposition to appropriate $6,000 for the building of a firehouse on Mary St.
The vote was 60 in favor and 42 against. A special ceremony was held in the towns hamlet with many prominent citizens attending as the cornerstone of the new firehouse was laid. The firehouse opened with a celebration on May 30,1906 bringing the four fire companies into one house.
“The original firehouse still stands today across from the present headquarters,” said Magee. “It stands on the same location as Peppercorns Restaurant.”
The first fire of any magnitude hit Hicksville in 1937, causing over $150,000 in damage. It destroyed a whole row of stores on Broadway.
Other memorable fires included the Capstone Paper Company fire in 1963 that caused $250,000 worth of damage, the Mid Island Shopping Plaza fire in 1972 that caused $250,000 worth of damage and most recently the 1985 fire at Agway on West John Street that caused $500,000 worth of damage. Chief Magee used five mutual aid departments in that blaze which injured 12 firefighters.
“This was a very interesting historical account about our Hicksville Fire Department,” said Historical Society President Michael Christodoulou. “It is a great thing to know the history of every facet of our wonderful town.”