Volunteer Fire Department
Following three devastating fires to major hotels within three consecutive years, the City of Pass Christian bought its first Fire Engine in 1917. A new fire station was built in 1937 on Second and Clark Streets and the First Fire Chief, Albert Andresen, was named.
Following World War II, the Pass men realized that it was time to respond to the many new construction starts by officially forming the Pass Christian Volunteer Fire Department. Some of the founders were Billy Bourdin, Ernest Benvenutti, Herman Mc Arthur, Tom McDonald, Herman Finhold, Lester Garriga, and Adolph Pouyadou, in addition to most of the volunteer Fire Chiefs named below. The first Fire Chief in 1951 was Harry Wittmann.
The first organizational meeting was promoted by then Mayor Francis Hursey on March 15, 1951. It was recommended that 4 or 5 members should be recruited from each of the four wards. The regular firemen would instruct the volunteers in the use of trucks and equipment. They were not to fight fires but rather to help with fire hoses; watch for leaks; checking, cleaning, and greasing fireplugs; and cutting grass around fire plugs and other designated areas.
The first Annual Fireman's Ball was held in 1951 with 20 people in attendance being served turtle and spaghetti. The following year in 1952, the Ball was at Bennie French's Beachcomber in Henderson Point with 300 people dancing to PaPa Celestine's Tuxedo Jazz Band.
The Pass Christian Volunteer Fire Department was officially incorporated in September 1956 as an organization staffed by men who work on a volunteer basis when there is a fire. It was originally organized to help the firemen of Pass Christian but later began to help communities in the outlying areas. It is a non-profit organization and purchases equipment from donations raised. In addition they remain on Stand By Alert during Storm Warnings, ready to assist in emergency.
In addition to their first Chief Harry Wittmann in 1951, the following Chiefs who served through 1974, stand out like an Honor Roll.
Cary Spence, Pete McCollister, Shannon Pickich, Bernard Hayden, Richard Purchner, Jr, Joe Hayden, Henry Hayden, Parnell McKay, Avery Allen, Jerry Andresen, Charles Donlin, John Latino, Westley Gervais, Steve Kohl, and Jimmy Benigno. (A number of the men served more than once.)
The Volunteers, almost from their inception, also volunteered in raising funds for purchasing street lighting and the hanging of Christmas Lights for the City.
The Pass Christian Volunteer Fire Department has been an integral force in making Christmas in the Pass so successful. One of their projects is the lighting of the city.