From the time it was founded in 1834, the Granville Fire Department has relied on volunteers from the local community and Denison for its firefighting efforts. Before the 1970s, when the Granville Fire Department’s siren started wailing, a handful of young men and faculty members would grab their books and dash from their classrooms down to the station on Prospect Street. In 1972, physics professor Lee Larson offered a January Term course on firefighting, and half of the 18 students who signed up were women. The J-term course continued for several years, and the students who participated in 1974 included three women who decided to apply to be regular volunteers: Jan Packard ’76, Mary Martha Hall ’74, and Jane Watterson ’76. They were accepted, and were reportedly the first female firefighters in the county.
From that point through the ’80s and ’90s, the volunteers have been an easy mix of men and women. Meg Filoon ’85 recalls no resistance to her being on the squad, only a few practical considerations. Meg pulled her own weight, but at 5’5”, sometimes it made sense for her to let the men manage the larger pieces of equipment. Her memories from the experience are positive: “The entire time I was on the force, there was a strong and consistent effort to make me feel like I was an integral part of the Granville and firefighting communities.”
That sense of community was sometimes expressed at Commencement, where student firefighters could show their pride by swapping their mortarboards for helmets, as in this photo.
With the steep requirements for training and certification, particularly in the area of emergency medical runs, the GFD’s volunteer program functionally ended during the last year. If any of our readers have memories or stories from their experiences working with the Granville Fire Department, we’d love to hear from you.