West Lake Fire Department was first established on June 17, 1937 and at the time was located at West 12TH & Powell Avenue on the south side of Delaney’s Service Station. A Howe pumper truck with 300 gallons of water was housed there until West Lake moved to its current location at West Lake & Powell Avenue.
The original idea for a fire department to serve the West Lake Area developed during a card game at another famous Millcreek landmark, Pulakos-on-the-Lake, 4102 West Lake Road, presently home of Millcreek Brewing Company.
Pulakos-on-the Lake was built by Steve Pulakos, the father of former Millcreek Supervisor George Pulakos. It opened on July 4, 1925 and soon became the social center for that area of Millcreek Township. It was at Pulakos-on-the-Lake that St. Julia’s church first held services until the church was built. The Millcreek American Legion and the Lakewood PTA had its beginnings at Pulakos-on-the-Lake. West Lake Fire Department also held its meetings there until moving to West Lake & Powell. “There was a house fire one day”, George Pulakos recalled, “and by the time the fire department from Erie arrived it was a total loss. That’s when several people from the area decided we needed our own fire department here. During card games, people would chip in the money to buy a fire truck.”
The first fire truck was initially stationed at Delaney’s Service Station located at the corner of West 12TH & Powell Avenue, according to former Millcreek Supervisor Art Detisch who also spent much of his youth in the West Lake Area.
“People would call the gas station in case of a fire,” Detisch said. Delaney would then hop in the truck and go pick up the Chief, John Lerminaux. He used to live somewhere on Chelsea Avenue and then go to the fire.”
Several years later the fire truck was stationed at the present location on West Lake & Powell Avenue.
“There were no radio communications in those days and they had a big blackboard in front of the station. My twin brother and I always used to run over and read the blackboard to see where the fire was,” Detisch recalled.
In 1939 the department had a big festival to raise some money, Detisch added. His mother won a brand new electric stove.
“But she already had one and she was able to trade it in on a brand new GE refrigerator. You know, I still have that refrigerator in the basement and it still works today.”
The Pulakos family was also actively involved in the fire department during its early days. Steve Pulakos served as the first Treasurer and served for many years. George served a Fire Chief at the station and is still an Honorary Chief today.
“You really have to hand it to those guys back then,” Pulakos said. “We were just coming out of the depression and these guys came up with the money to get the department started. It was a small neighborhood then, a lot of the vegetable farms and the like, but a lot of cooperation from the people.”
The history of the department is also a history of the waterfront in Millcreek: House boat fires and drownings.
“We were the first to have a rescue boat back then and used to handle all the calls from Presque Isle. There were a lot of drownings back in those days. There used to be almost 98 fishing tugs that operated from Elk Creek and Walnut Creek and there were a lot more cottages along the waterfront back then,” Pulakos said. We still have that rescue boat. We used to work closely with the Ainsworth lifeguards, who were trained by Doc Ainsworth and Frank Pettinato.
Pulakos said one of the worst tragedies in the department’s history was the Hofbrau fire at Waldameer. On October 27, 1941 a fire broke out during a Hammermill dinner at the park.
“I can’t remember exactly right now, but I think that two waitresses were killed in the fire. I helped pull one of them out of the burning structure that night. It was a bad fire, tragic.”
Pulakos also smiled as he recalled some of the lighter moments of the department’s history.
“Waldameer used to have a large mokey house surrounded by a moat. Occasionally someone would lay a plank across the moat and the monkeys would escape. Sometimes it took weeks to capture all the monkeys and get them back inside.”
“Another call we received one day was from a lady,” George noted. “She asked us to come and capture “budgie”. We stopped and got a fishing net but we were never able to capture her pet bird.”
“One of the guys threatened to get his gun, but we never did. We weren’t able to get that bird out of the tree.”
During the Thanksgiving blizzard of 1955, Pulakos remembers that the fire house was manned from 7:00 p.m. that day until the following Monday as the firemen rescued stranded motorists.
“One guy, a truck driver, was so glad to be brought to the station that he washed all the dishes that weekend. We charged over $500 worth of food from Francis White’s grocery store which was located at 8th & Marshall.”
From its humble beginnings during a card game at Pulakos-on-the-Lake, the West Lake Fire Department has grown to become one of the most professional volunteer groups in the country.
“It was the result of many sacrifices by many people over the years, even when money was tight. It was and still is a great group of people.”
Information copied from West Lake Fire Department website on 9/27/02. Contents of this article taken from the following: By Greg Spinks, Staff Writer for the Millcreek Sun. Article from the week of Jan 28 – Feb 3, 1987.