History of Elderville Lakeport VFD

Elderville Lakeport Firemen Standing in Front of an American LaFrance/Ford Fire Engine


The Elderville Lakeport Volunteer Fire Department was established in August, 1975 after a Man trapped following a vehicle crash perished when the vehicle caught on fire. There was no fire department in the area at the time and unfortunately it took too long for the neighboring department to get there.



Elderville Lakeport VFD PatchElderville Lakeport VFD Second PatchMeetings were held in the Elderville community center where it was decided to start a volunteer fire department. During the initial meetings, the areas to be included, as well as the name and type of organization were decided. Chief's from neighboring fire departments such as Chief Causey from nearby Longview fire department and Chief McBride from Kilgore fire department came to show their support and offer some guidance and input. Walter Mathews was elected as fire chief to oversee the departments day to day business. He was a retired LA County,CA fire fighter and had to leave the department shortly after being elected for family reasons. He was succeeded by Charles Johnson.





With help from the Gregg County Airport Lions Club through donations, the first truck was purchased. It was a 1945 Ford American LaFrance pumper and is believed to have been purchased used from Center, Tx fire department. The first fire trucks were stored at the fire chief's house until money could be raised to build a proper fire station. The 1945 American LaFrance Pumper was placed in service in July, 1975 and it was kept until March 1980 when it was sold.




In 1976 a 1953 Ford LaFrance Pumper was donated to the department by neighboring Kilgore Fire Department. It had a 500 Gallon per minute pump and a 500 gallon water tank. It was later donated to the Gum Springs VFD (now West Harrison VFD).




A 1940's model Military Tanker was also donated to the department by New London Fire Department and it held about 2000 gallons of water and was built on an Military 6x6 truck. Fund raisers such as Fish Fry's were done to collect money to build a fire station. The department took out a loan and along with money that had been donated to the department, built a two bay fire station on FM 2011 just west of SH 322. This fire station was used until our current central fire station was built and is now utilized as a maintenance facility.




In the early stages of the department, members paid dues to the department and donations were accepted. In order to notify members of the fire department of a call, there were dispatchers who were usually wives of firemen used a telephone and a citizen band Radio to contact fire department members. A phone list was created of the members and they would be contacted by phone when a call was received. Then Citizen Band Radios were used in the members vehicles and fire trucks.




In August of 1979 a 1952 GMC 6x6 was purchased from the Texas State Surplus in Fort Worth, Tx. A 2000 gallon tank was bolted on the bed, and a low pressure trash pump was fitted to the bed to act as the fire pump. The truck was used as a tanker until it was sold at auction.




In November of 1979 Longview Rescue Squad donated a 1976 Chevrolet van after they disbanded their Rescue Squad. The truck was our first rescue vehicle and was later taken out of service as the rescue tools were put on an engine to allow for greater scene safety. The van was later sold at auction. An International Harvester pickup was placed into service in this time, though the exact date is unsure. Interestingly, the truck was tipped on its side while returning from an emergency call one day and on a separate occasion, the wiring underneath the truck was burned during a wild land fire and had to be repaired.


 The "Albino Buzzard" Dodge Power Wagon


In June of 1980 a 1962 Dodge Power Wagon M-37 1-1/2 ton truck was placed into service as a brush truck. Nicknamed the "Albino Buzzard," for it's scraggly appearance and white paint color, it was used for wild land firefighting and structure fires. The truck was later donated to Glenwood VFD in Upshur county.





A Low Band (33.480 MHz) Radio system was built to service the district. The fire department members had to purchase their own pagers and transmitters to be able to receive calls. The day the radio system was placed into service a structure fire was dispatched in which a vehicle caught fire inside of a garage, catching the house on fire.


DM Messner researched alternative funding services to try and improve funding for the department and discovered that there were Rural Fire Prevention Districts. A petition was then circulated mostly on foot with the intent of establishing a fire district. There was no opposition to the vote when it came up, and the Fire District was established in 1981.


A 1946 Dodge Power wagon was placed in service in August 1981. It was donated to the fire department by Lake Cherokee Water Company after they disbanded their Fire Brigade. In April, 1982 a 1981 Ford 1-Ton was purchased new from Dusty Rhodes Ford. This was the first brand new vehicle purchased by the department. The bed was built by LeTourneau Industries in Longview, Tx. It had a 350 GPM Pump and was used in the department for several years until it was sold at auction.




In February, 1983 a 1976 Chevrolet 1/2 Ton 4x4 was donated to the department by Lake Cherokee Water Company. It was previously used as a patrol vehicle by the Lake Patrol.  A rebuilt engine was installed and a 150 gallon water tank installed with a 120 GPM pump. It was also used for several years until it was sold at auction.


In 1984 two stations were built. One on Swepco Trail, which leads to Lake Cherokee off of SH 149 formerly Station 2 where it stands today though it has been replaced by a newer station. Another station was built on at the same time on FM 1716 at the intersection of CR 2165D; it was later dismantled and removed before our current station 3 was built in its place.


Around this time a 1979 Chevrolet C-30 was donated by the Texas Forest Service.  It is currently used as a reserve truck when a front line truck is taken out of service for repairs. We also use it as an additional brush truck whenever personnel are available.


In 1984 a 1984 Ford American LaFrance (1982 Chassis) was purchased brand new and three fire department members flew up to Elmira, NY to pick it up. This is the first brand new factory built fire apparatus that the department bought. It has a 1000 GPM Twin Flow (two stage) American LaFrance pump and 1000 Gallon Water Tank. It has been in service as a front line truck until 2006 when it was replaced and was placed into reserve status where we currently keep it.


Also in 1984 a 1984 Dodge D-250 was purchased new from Ringer Chevrolet. It originally had a Texas Forest Service WEPS unit (Water Expansion Pump System) and Tree Sap was used in the water tank as foam. Within 2-3 years after facing maintenance issues, the WEPS unit was removed and replaced with a 250 gallon steel water tank and 120 GPM pump. This truck is (at the time of this article) in service as Reserve Attack-1 and is sometimes used as an additional unit on wild land fires and as a backup to our front line wild land apparatus.