The W.F. Bruen Rescue Squad was organized in 1937 by a handful of men and has the distinction of being thesecond oldest volunteer ambulance service in the state of NewYork.
At first, the squad served as a walk-in first aid station for treatment of minor injuries and if a more dire situation was presented, emergency medical care was given until an Albany hospital ambulance arrived.
In 1939, a prominent citizen named Willard F. Bruen purchased a 1931 Cunningham hearse for the squad to use as an ambulance. In honor of this generous man, the organization was name the W.F. Bruen Rescue Squad.
The first ambulance response occurred on December 9, 1939 at 6:10p.m. The patient has suffered a fractured ankle and was transported to Memorial Hospital. The second ambulance response was 16 days later on December 25, 1939 for transportation of a patient to their home. For the first full year of providing ambulance services, 79 responses were recorded.
In the 1940's, there was an increase in the demand for the services of the rescue squad and the number of calls grew dramatically. In an effort to meet the demands of the community, the rescue squad used state troopers as drivers for their ambulances.
The 1950's was a memorable decade for the squad. In 1954, the Bruen Hose firehouse was severely damaged by fire. Many records and equipment were lost in the blaze. But on April 2, 1955, the squad responded to its first major catastrophe, a wrecked New York Central passenger train near the Hudson River in Schodack Landing. Many train cars were found cascaded over the river bank and resting in the water below. The squad transported three patients from the incident to local hospitals. The log book of the squad contained 2,389 ambulance responses for the decade, almost double the number for the 1940's.
Within the 1960's, the rescue squad decided to expand to meet ever rising community needs. In 1964, the squad became independent of the fire company, purchasing land at 11 Hampton Avenue, the Hampton Manor, Rensselaer. The building was restructured to resemble a ranch house, blending in with local housing and squad members provided the labor. At the close of the decade, the number of ambulance responses had grown to 4,044.
After 33 years 7,688 ambulance responses the rescue squad had entered the 1970's with some changes being made to membership. Traditionally, the squad had restricted membership to men who were residents of the Clifton Heights Fire District. In the early 1970's, the squad expanded its membership to women, who had proven themselves to be a valuable and necessary asset. Later on, membership was opened up to the residents from the entire town of East Greenbush. In 1974, a two ambulance operation was put into effect, using a rebuilt 1968 van as a rescue truck to assist with major structural fires and mutual aid disasters. During the mid 70's, the squad sponsored an EMT course at Columbia where 12 members became certified EMT's or Emergency Medical Technicians. During the fall of 1977, the squad conducted a special pancake breakfast fund-raiser for the benefit of the Cancer Fund and raised over $ 300.
By the end of 1983. the squad had responded to an average of 1,000 calls per year, providing annual coverage for the Pop Warner and Columbia High School football home games and also the East Greenbush Girls Softball tournaments. During the 80's, the squad conducted annual open houses for the community, as well as 2 blood-pressure clinics per year and also bi-annual CPR courses and annual first aid courses.