From Founding thru the 70’s
The Pine Level Volunteer Fire Department was founded in Feb 1972. Founding members of the department were James “Judge” Cothran, James “Mickie” Cothran, Estes Frey, Dewey Tatum, Malvin “Buster” Barber, and Forest Gibbons. The department was formed on the recognition of need in the Pine Level community for fire protection. Judge Cothran was the driving force of the formation of the department and then served as Chief once it was formed until his passing away in 1992. The department received the department designation of 700 for identification. This number was assigned in alphabetical order starting at 500 for the volunteer departments in the county. Autaguaville was 500, Billingsly 600, Pine Level 700, White City 800 and Union Camp Fire Brigade 900. The department incorporated as an in-state non-profit organization on August 2, 1978 with James “Judge” Cothran, Malvin “Buster” Barber and James “Mickie” Cothran as the Board of Directors. Later in 1978 Judge along with Chief Donald McGough of the Prattville Fire Department and Ben Hughes from Marbury formed and incorporated the Autauga County Firefighters’ Association.
The department’s first truck came from the city of Prattville and was a 1936 Chevrolet. Later in the 70’s the department was able to upgrade its apparatus and replaced the 36 Chevrolet with a 1952 Ward La France airport crash rescue fire truck from US Air Force surplus. The department also added a deuce-and-a-half truck for a tanker and a 50’s model Willis Jeep from the Alabama Forestry Commission for a brush truck. The Pine Level Community Center allowed the department to cut a hole out of the wall of an old classroom and install doors and this was the department’s first station.
Judge was able to obtain a radio from the Prattville Fire Department and received the initial calls from dispatch. The rest of the department members were notified through a ring-down system in which each person called the next on the list until one-by-one all members were notified.
The department saw tremendous growth as an organization during the 80’s. The department was able to obtain a track of land and started its new station construction in 1983. Members worked side-by-side and completed the construction in 1984. The location at 109 County Road 40 East still serves the department today as the home of Company 1.
The department was able to improve its apparatus as the years went by and added a tanker to replace the deuce-and-a-half with a truck they purchased from Bubba Seamon’s Wrecker Service and added a tank they got from the Gulf Oil distributor in Prattville, W.L. Hubert. The department added its first Custom Class A pumper when they purchased a C85 Mack 750 gpm Pumper fro the Decou Hose Company in New Jersey. A quick attack mini-pumper was purchased from the city of Montgomery and added to the fleet as well.
Department members received their first formal training in the early 80’s with the first members attending the Volunteer Fire Fighter course offered by the Alabama Fire College. Department membership grew throughout the decade and also added its first female members to the ranks. In 1985, the Pine Level VFD responded to its first major incident when a gas transmission line exploded in the Autauga Heights area between Pine Level and Prattville. The department assisted the Prattville Fire Department for nearly 12 hours combating the blaze.
This period of department history was a rocky road of events. The department suffered it first loss when Chief “Judge” Cothran passed away in 1992. During this period the department saw 4 different leaders with Buster Barber, Jeff Frey, and Charles Davis all taking the helm at some point. In 1999 members elected Mark Caffey as Chief and he continues to serve in that capacity today.
The department renovated the fire station an added a classroom, office area and day room. Department apparatus was constantly changing as we saw 2 more pumpers come thru the doors from departments in New York, 2 tanker units, a new brush unit and a service truck all added to the fleet.
We also experienced several milestones during this time for the department. In 1997, the department along with all other departments within the county went door-to-door and convinced the people of Autauga County on the need for funding for the fire departments. The efforts paid off with the passage of the county’s fire protection tax which assesses 3-mils for all property in the county for fire protection. In 1999 the department was able to put those funds to use and returned the people’s investment in the form of a reduced ISO insurance rating. The department was able to lower their previous 9 rating to a 6 and in-turn reduced the property hazard insurance premiums of the property in the district.
From 2000 to 2010
The PLFD has continued to grow through today. In the last 10 years we have added more apparatus to the fleet and retired many others. We have received grants from the Assistance to Firefighters grant program from FEMA in 2003, 2006,2007 and 2008. All of these awards have enabled us to further improve our equipment needs. In 2004 we added a great deal of response area when the city of Prattville elected to cease coverage in their police jurisdiction. The department added Company 2 in 2010 to address these response needs. This period has also seen a larger role in training and fire prevention efforts for the department. All of these changes are in response to a rapidly increasing population base and call volume for the department. During this period we have seen call dispatches almost double to nearly 660 each year. The PLFD continues to provide premium fire protection services to the people of the district.