Pine Hill Fire Department tolls bell in honor of late members

By Jay Braman Jr.
Pine Hill area firemen, who have responded to their last alarm, were honored in Pine Hill Sunday with a heartfelt ceremony led by Lowell Smith, the chief of this little hamlet’s hook and ladder company.

Just outside of the firehall on Main Street there now stands a beautiful, pewter colored bell atop new stonework.

The bronze bell, crafted at the end of the 19th century, is not new to the hamlet. Smith, speaking to a crowd of fire company supporters inside the hall Sunday afternoon, reminded all that this particular bell used to be housed in the old Methodist Church just up the street. When the fire department took the church over years back, the bell was saved and stored.

Decades later, Smith had the idea to polish it up and put it to use again. For some time he had been trying to find a way to permanently pay tribute to all those volunteers that have passed away since the company, Pine Hill Fire Company Number One Incorporated to be exact, was established back in 1897, and the bell would be perfect.

“We felt it important to have a physical monument,” said Smith. “This bell rang in Pine Hill thousands of times for church services, funerals, and fires.”

Smith’s nephew, Craig Smith, himself a former member of the Pine Hill Company and now a minister in Phoenicia, opened Sunday’s ceremony with an inspiring talk about the importance of remembrance and that keeping memories alive is the responsibility of the community’s elders. He noted the sacrifice that volunteer firemen make, and insisted that those who once made those sacrifices for the people of Pine Hill not be forgotten.

“They respond to a call,” he said. “They respond and do what needs to be done because it needs to be done. Its that simple.”

The bell, which rang at the close of the ceremony, emits a deep mournful tone that slowly fades away.