Prior to establishment of its own Fire Department, Williston relied on other area Fire Department, such as Essex Junction, Richmond, Camp Johnson, and Burlington for fire protection. After a serious fire at the Williston Academy School (where the Armory stands today), Howard Lunderville and Roland Osborne sought establish a Fire Department based in town, as it was apparent it was no longer viable for Williston to rely on other Fire Departments. Therefore, in early 1949, Howard Lunderville and Roland Osborne went to the Town Selectmen to offer there services as a Fire Department for the Town. Unfortunately, the Selectboard turned the men down, yet the men were determined and continued their efforts to form a Fire Department. In August of 1949, they returned to the Selectboard, and this time their offer was accepted. As a result, Howard Lunderville and Roland Osborne co-founded the Williston Young Peoples’ Association, and both personally signed for the purchase of a 1930 Maxim pumper truck, which they then gave to the Town.
In addition to Howard Lunderville and Roland Osborne, the following men are considered Charter Members of the Williston Volunteer Fire Department: Oscar Staple, Eddie Roberts, Ernie Gaudette, Preston Charland, Eugene Hanson, and Adrian Fortier. Howard Lunderville was Williston’s first Fire Chief, of which he held throughout his 45 years of service in the Department. Roland Osborne became the first Assistant Fire Chief. During the first year of operation, membership was around 12 to 15 members, most of whom were farmers. Farmers would remain the mainstay of the Fire Department for many years to come, as they were available for calls during the day when others might be working out of town. Some of the early members were Adrianne Fortier, Edward Roberts, Emerson Miles, Ernest Gaudette, Haultsey Shortsleeves, Herbert Goodrich, Howard Lunderville, Lester Lunderville, Lynwood Osborne, Oscar Staple, Paul Dufresne, Paul Roberts, Preston Charland, Robert Alberts, Roland Osborne, Roy Lunderville, Stuart Talcott, Ward Johnson, and William Lane. All members were strictly volunteers; no one got paid for time spent serving the Town. It didn’t matter if you were the Chief or a Firefighter; every member would fight the fire.
The number of calls handled by the Williston Volunteer Fire Department the first year was 5. Soon, the total increased to 20. Today, the Williston Fire Department handles over 1,300 calls and the number are on the rise every year.
Over the years, many members have come and gone, and there have been a variety of people who have graced the halls. Today, there are 50 personnel, and they still face some of the same challenges that were face back in 1949. The challenge of recruiting and retaining members has been an issue throughout the Fire Department’s fifty-year history.
The charter members did much to make the Williston Volunteer Fire Department a success over the years, but other members have also contributed as time has moved on. According to Ken Bessette, the Bessette family has given over 120 years of service to the Department over multiple generations. The Lunderville family combined, has given over 80 years of service. There are other families that have had multi-generational membership, such as: Boutin, Gaudette, Goodrich, Gokey, Germaine, Johnson, Lewis, Murray, Osborne, Tatro, Tymecki, and Vezina.