A SECOND RESCUE COMPANY ORGANIZED BY N. Y. F. D.
New Unit Established in Brooklyn Borough —First Company’s Tenth Anniversary March 8—Police Also Establish Rescue Squads
ON March 1, the New York fire department organized its second rescue company, known as No. 2 and located it in the quarters of Engine Co. 210 in Brooklyn. Next Sunday. March 8, the department’s first rescue company will celebrate its tenth anniversary of service.
Within the next two months, the New York police department will place in service two companies and two pieces of apparatus for what the police commissioner likes to call “The Police Rescue Squads.”
What it required the fire department ten years to obtain —namely, another rescue company and apparatus—the police department procured on the initial application of its commissioner for an appropriation, and now the firemen in New York arc asking—”What sort of rescue work are the cops going to do?” “What does the police department want
rescue apparatus for?” and similiar questions, which can be better answered when the rescue companies of the fire and the police departments respectively meet on the same ground.
At all events, the original rescue company of the New York fire department has made history in ten years. The second company now being formed will be located in Engine Co. 210 in Brooklyn, where it will be centrally located.
Rescue Company No. I is located in the quarters of Engine Co. 30 on Spring Street on the lower west-side of Manhattan Island. This is its second home. It was orignally located in Chief Kenlon’s night quarters—Engine Co. 33 on Great Jones about the center of lower Manhattan Island.
The rescue company was created during the regime of Robert Adamson as fire commissioner and John Kenlon as chief of department. Its creation grew out of several conditions. such as ammonia fumes, drug and chemical fires, subcellars and kindred causes known only too well to the firefighting profession, but one human agency more than any other which instigated and accelerated the organization of the rescue company in New York was Honorary Chief Robert H. Mainzer—a banker by profession, but a fire fan first of all.
In the summer of 1914, a year before the rescue company was organized. Chief Mainzer while abroad attending the convention of the International Fire Brigade Council corresponded with Commissioner Adamson relative to the type of smoke masks worn by the London fire brigade. Chief Mainzer witnessed the work of the Londoners at a fire where okum was burning. While in Europe he collected considerable data and conducted quite some research on the subject all of which he furnished to the New York fire commissioner and fire chief. In the annual report of the fire department for the year 1915, treating the subject of the formation of the rescue company, Mr. Adamson publicly acknowledged the work of Chief Mainzer to wit: “The re-
search carried on led to the final adoption of the present methods employed by the fire department for fighting conditions outlined above.”
The company went into service on March 8, 1915 with a second-hand Cadillac car, the body of which was made at the fire department repair shops under the personal direction of the late Charles S. Demarest, battalion chief in charge of construction. Its first commanding officer was Capt. John J. McElligott, now chief of the 4th Battalion on the lower east side. With him were Lieut. Edwin A. Hotchkiss and the following firemen: John F. Mooney, James Shaw,
Alfred Kinsella, Alfred V. Henretty, Frank C. Clark, John P. Ryan, Thomas Kilbride, Walter A. O’Leary, William A. Dorritie and Francis Blessing.
The men were picked for their extra sturdy physique, plus such special qualifications as iron workers, elevator constructors, electricians, railroad or rapid transit men, boiler makers, bridge builders and similiar crafts. Every one of them had to undergo a special and exacting test by the Medical Board.
Only two members of the original company are in the outfit today. They are Lieut. Kilbride and Fireman Dorritie. Lieut. Hotchkiss became a captain of another company and subsequently retired. Shaw died a year ago as captain of 154 Engine, from pneumonia contracted in the line of duty. Kinsella and Clark are Lieutenants in other companies, O’Leary is now Captain of 6 Truck. Blessing is dead. When Lieut. Hotchkiss was promoted, his place was taken by Lieut. Benj. Parker now Captain of 36 Engine in Harlem, and Parker’s place as Lieutenant was taken by Kilbride.
Then followed the illness of Captain McElligott which nearly cost him his life, as the result of a fire in the subcellar of Park & Tilford’s store at 72nd Street and Broadway, where ammonia fumes and smoke had a serious effect on him. McElligott’s condition during his post convalescence was such as to cause official apprehension for his future health. He was therefore transferred from the rigors of Rescue Company work to a fireboat to give him some ease and a deserved rest. He is now chief of the 4th Battalion on the lower east side.
Fireman Blessing, the company’s dare-devil chauffeur was promoted to Lieutenant and retained in the company with Parker. When Lieut. Parker was promoted to captain, he went to H. & L. 16 and that left Kilbride and Blessing in charge. Later Blessing died and John J. Coffey was promoted to Lieutenant to fill Blessing’s place. Two years ago when Lieut. Coffey was promoted to captain of Eng. Co. 5, Walter Lamb, a former member of the company was sent from 9 Truck to take charge. He is the captain of the Rescue Companytoday.
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Late in January this year Fireman Peter Walsh was promoted to a Lieutenancy and retained in the company, giving it today a total personnel of three officers and seventeen men as follow: Capt. Walter Lamb, Lieutenants Thos. Kilbride and Peter Walsh and the following firemen: William
Dorritie, Bela Varga, Jos. Sullivan. Joseph Brown, Charles Kennedy. Robert Tierney, John Connors, John Milward, William Hutcheon, Charles Roggencamp, John Kistenberger, Thomas Larkin, Joseph Fulium, Fred. Kaiser. John Mayr, John Ryan and Matthew Crawley. The latter three are detailed to the chief of department, although carried on the company’s roster. Larkin is the son of the Battalion Chief Thomas Larkin, drill master of the department and in charge of the school of instruction. Crawley is the son of the late Assistant Chief of Department Joseph Crawley.
The company has suffered only one death of a member in the performance of duty, Fireman William R. Fletcher, who died recently, in Bellevue Hospital from smoke narcosis at a fire on Fifth Avenue, opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Fletcher too was picked because he was a specialist. A husky Missourian, an iron worker and elevator constructor by trade, he had a grip like a vise and a heart equally as strong. Fletcher’s death is the only casualty that ever has visited the Rescue Company.
With all due deference to the lamented Fletcher, it should he stated that other present and past members of the company, while they did not meet with Fletcher’s untimely fate, will nonetheless carry with them to their graves some day, the pronounced effects of some former service with the Rescue Company.
Indeed some gallant men in the department today who were in the Rescue Co. are still nursing either internal or external memories of valiant battles against fumes, chemicals, heat, cold, smoke and various other forms of that human destruction that never declares a truce and yields to no man until conquered—fire.
It would be difficult to enumerate the many conditions under which the rescue company is called upon to function. According to Captain Walter L. Lamb, it has been summoned to “cover” nearly every class of emergency, ranging from combating a fire in a submarine to rescuing a stray cat which had crawled into a drain pipe. Some of these instances have been tragic, some humorous, and all extremely interesting.
The first named incident was perhaps one of the most striking in the history of the organization. It came about during the World War, when the waters of the Brooklyn Navy Yard formed a veritable floating arsenal. On the morning on which the fire occured, one of the largest types of submarines was making ready to put to sea. On board was enough high explosive to wreck the entire lower end of New York City. Through some unknown cause, a fire broke out in the dy-namo room. The crew made valliant efforts to check the flames which were slowly spreading toward the powder magazines, but the heat having released great quantities of chlorine gas from the storage batteries, the men were soon forced into the open air, choking and gasping for breath.
Realizing the futility of attempting to fight the fire under such conditions, the Navy Yard officials appealed to the rescue company. By the time the latter arrived, the flames had crept perilously close to the magazines. Donning gas helmets, the firemen unhesitatingly boarded the vessel, and being protected from the fumes, they soon had the fire under control and averted what would probably have been the greatest naval catastrophe in the annals of history. It is needless to say that the Naval Authorities were unstinted in their praise of the rescue company.
When the company was organized, it was not assigned to respond on any first alarms, but was held in reserve for special calls. This of itself, unfortunately gave the outfit the complexion of “super men” In the eyes of other firemen and the jealousies that naturally arise in almost all other walks of life under such a condition crept into the early life of the Rescue Company, with the result that when the company rolled to its first call four days after it was organized, its members were as welcome to other firemen as if they had leprosy.
The first apparatus was equipped with six helmets, gas masks, life lines, life gun. rubber gloves, wading pants, tools for effecting forcible entrance, five hydraulic jacks for 15, 10 and 5 ton loads, oxygen tank-, pulmotors. acetylene torches, 150 feet of signal line, various blocks, wedges, stretchers, first aid kits, rivet cutters, towing cables, claw tools and telephone sets.
A short while after the company was created, it was assigned regularly to 33 first alarm boxes in the district bounded by Broadway and Lafayette Street to West Broadway from Canal Street to 17th Street. It now responds to 59 first alarm boxes from Rcade Street to Nth Street; seccond alarms from the Battery to 59th Street; third alarms from the Battery to 125th Street and otherwise specially called, which it frequently is to all parts of the city. The average number of runs per momh is 50.
In addition to the specialized work the company is called on to perform, its members are often used tor truck work, such as ventilating, opening roofs, stretching second lines and practically every other phase of fire-fighting.
In 1921. the Cadillac having stood as much use as could be expected, was sold at public auction for No. 22. It was substituted by a White machine. Last year a Mack “bulldog” replaced the White. The latter will be used for Rescue Company No. 2 in Brooklyn.
The first machine was devoid of windshield and electric siren. Long runs in very cold weather had a telling effect on the men. Sometimes they traveled miles to railroad wrecks, ammonia leaks, ship fires or other conditions requiring the use of special apparatus or equipment. Now the company apparatus has a windshield, electric siren and exhaust whistle.
The “feeling” among firemen that the rescue company was a band of super-men bas been dissipated. The company is no longer regarded as “better than thou.” Its members, now quartered in Engine Co. 30 do their share of the policing of quarters—or what the New York firemen like to call— committee work. They are regular in other words, and regular in every sense of the word. There is a splendid esprit de corps in the rescue company. Firemen are willing and anxious to be assigned to it. as evidenced by a very recent opportunity which Chief Kenlon held out to the force in order to obtain men who were desirous of being transferred to the rescue company.
In a public announcement to the department he asked that firemen of all grades desirous of being transferred to the new rescue company in Brooklyn, make application in writing. Hundreds of applications were received. Only those who passed the medical board with the best results were selected for the new company; which again demonstrates that politics and pull get nowhere in the New York fire department. Merit and fitness have been the keystone of its morale and its efficiency for the past thirteen years at least.
The police department’s proposed Rescue Squads are being heralded as the “last word” in rescue equipment and personnel. They are soon to be commissioned into service. That the day will yet come when the police rescue squads, so-called, will be allocated to the New York fire department, where they belong and where they have been needed for many years, is the humble prediction of the waiter.