A Brief History of Barnstable Fire District
Barnstable Fire District was authorized and established by special legislation of the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature) in 1926 due to the ever-increasing need for small municipalities to provide better fire protection and emergency services for their residents. In the town of Barnstable a number of fire districts arose due to the relatively large geographic area of the town and their unique populations and challenges.
A Fire District is a form of government entirely separate from town management and exists largely due to the need for reliable public water sources and delivery systems, primarily for fire fighting. Fire Districts typically came to life in direct response to dramatic fires. The complete destruction of the original Unitarian Church and the Blue Whale Inn, both in Barnstable Village were motivating factors in the formation of Barnstable Fire District. Each of the other fire districts in the other villages of Barnstable experienced similar events that led to their respective formation.
The legislation that allowed the formation of fire districts in Massachusetts dates back to 1910. The original legislation was aimed at helping communities with fewer than 2,000 residents to organize and raise funds through property taxes for the specific purpose of establishing fire departments. Through an amendment to the Commonwealth's Constitution in the 1960's, municipalities with greater than 2,000 residents were allowed to continue to have, or to establish, fire districts.
Barnstable fire district is governed by two committees, the Water Commissioners, who oversee the Water Department and the Prudential Committee which has oversight of the fire department, as well as the entire operation of fire district's operations, including water. There are three elected Water Commissioners as well as three elected members of the Prudential Committee. In addition to that there is an elected Clerk and Moderator.
Besides meeting at least once each month, the Water Commissioners and the Prudential Committee hold an annual meeting every spring where the District’s upcoming fiscal year budget and expenditure amendments are presented to, and voted on by, the District’s voters. A quorum at the annual meeting, or any special District meeting, is 25 eligible District voters.