Augusta’s Fire Department and Its Chief.

Augusta’s Fire Department and Its Chief.


As the National Associatian of Fire Engineers wil hold its annual convention in this city next fall, I write you a few lines in regard to our fire department and its chief.

Augusta is situated on the southern bank of the Savannah River, and is, we think, the prettiest city south of Mason and Dixon line. Any chief who fails to visit it during the next convention, will miss the opportunity of his life, for this is certainly the Queen City of the South. Besides seeing the prettiest place in the country, he will have the chance of meeting the most hospitable people in the Southern States. This is saying a great deal, but it is true. The South is proverbial for its hospitality, so I say come one and all. The latch string hangs on the outside, and we propose to have our visitors taste the genuine hospitality of the South, and a regular old Georgia barbecue, which epicurespronounces the finest on earth, for there is nothing to compare with it.

As to our fire department it is needless to give any details of its early history, as this would be only relating the experience of other places similar situated. Every town has experienced the disadvantages which had to be overcome under the old system of fire fighting, when members of fire companies were scattered all over the town. Then an alarm of fire had to be communicated from mouth to mouth until it reached the ears of the tower watchman, or the fiery elements had become of such proportions as to be seen by that individual from his lofty perch. After sounding the alarm, the firemen had to run from all directions to the fire houses, lay hold of the apppratus, and proceed to a fire, probably a mile or more away, where, completely fagged out, they would be unable to render sufficient aid to stay its progress.

Such methods have given way to the modern system of the [electric’llre alarm, and its twin brother, the paid fire‘ department.

Among the first to see the great necessity for improving our fire department, was Edward Flatt, then chief engineer. , ,

He recognized the fact that Augusta had one of the best volunteer fire departments in the South, yet it was not up to the standard for a city like Augusta. In 1885, he laid plans for a better protection of the city, and after much hard work he succeeded in having the Gamewell Company place its system here. In June, 1886, it was tried, accepted and rented from the company by the city, and the watch tower became a thing of the past.

This improvement was fully appreciated, but it did not relieve the men who still responded to the bell alarm. Chief Platt determined to further improve the service. In the fall, 1886, he succeeded in having the city council organize apart paid department, and on December 16th, 1886, the ordinance went into effect, with fire companies, regulars and call men to each company. H. M. Young was appointed chief, and F. J. Roulett, assistant. This method was tried and found wanting, so in January, 1888, the department was made still more effective by abolishing the call men and the appointing of ten regular men to each company. In January 1890, a reduction of one man from each company was made for the sake of retrenchment.

In November, 1891, the city council decided to abolish the office of assistant chief and make the foreman of the hook and ladder company act as chief during the latter’s absence. In January, 1892, our present chief, F. J. Roulett, took charge, with F. G. Reynolds, foreman of the hook and ladder company assistant. Under the able administration of these men, the department has continued to improve until to-day, we think, it is second to none in effiiency in the South. Improvement is the watchword of Chief Roulett and his aids, and their suggestions are acted upon as fast as consistent with the growth of our city. Chief Roulett’s first step after assuming control was to induce the city council to purchase the fire alarm system, which was done, and during the past month he increased the efficiency of the department by the addition of a double tank sixty gallon Holloway Chemical Engine, and next fall he hopes to be able to add a steamer and hose reel company, consisting of nine men to be placed in the rapidly growing southwestern portion of the city.

Chief Roulett is one of the youngest and most progressive chief engineers in the country, being 32 years of age. He was born in Windsor, S. C., in 1862, and came to this city when a boy and attended the public schools. At the age of fifteen he was compelled to leave school and earn a livelihood, and went to Columbia County, G&, to work on a farm.

He was engaged at this work for two years when he accepted a position as clerk in the G. V. De Graaf Furniture Company. It was while here that he first became connected with the old volunteer fire department, joining Citizens’ Fire Company Number Eight, of which his brother was captain. He was not long connected with this company when he was elected lieutenant and served in that position for some time. In 1882 he was elected assistant chief before he had reached his twenty-first year. The appointment was contrary to the laws of the city governing the fire department, which enacted that a person to fill the position shall have gained his majority. When the returns of the election, however, were received, the council refused to give him a certificate.

The members of the department insisted upon the council recognizing him as their choice, and after much talk on both sides, that body decided to commission him.

Chief Roulett served in the position for one year, and then refused to stand for re-election, as he was called upon by the members of his old company to serve as captain. He filled this place until 1886, when he resigned and joined Washington Fire Company Number One.

He remained with this company until the paid fire department went into effect, when he was elected assistant chief. ⅜

Since his first connection with the department his advancement has been steady, and there are still higher honors awaiting the genial and whole-souled Frank Roulette. If there is ever a biography written of the self-made men of the Sunny South, his name will shine among the first, for with his indomitable will and pluck, and with “upward and onward” as his watchword, he is bound to succeed in all his undertakings. Chief Roulette is ably assisted in the management of the fire department by his efficient assistant, F. G. Reynolds.

He was born in Augusta, Ga., February 25th, 1867, and received a common school education in this city. At the age of fourteen he cornu, enced his trade as marble cutter and engraver, and continued at it until he entered the fire service in 1887.

He was first appointed call man in November 1887, and the following January, 1888, he was elected a regular on the hook and ladder force.

After serving nine months, he resigned on November 8, to again follow his trade, but his infatuation for fighting fire became so great that he again (Mitered the service as a substitute, and has remained in the department to the present date.


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