Bells, Buffs and Blazes
When New York buffs get to reminiscing, they are likely to recall that most embarrassing of days when, fate of fates, the Third Alarm Association’s headquarters in the Bronx burned.
But it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow someone some good, as the cliche goes, and this particular wind played a role in bringing a group of energetic young buffs on Staten Island to the fore.
When the TAA relocated in Manhattan, there was need for someone to provide canteen service on Staten Island. A group with a name as big as its ambition volunteered—the Richmond Association of Auxiliary Firemen-8-8 Fire Buff Club.
At that time, circa I960, the Staten Island buffs club was only two years old. And if it’s any source of pride to the many young buffs who write this column in search of encouragement, the Staten Island club was formed by a 15-year-old.
On January 24, 1961, the Staten Islanders entered into an agreement with the American Red Cross and the New York Fire Department. The pact called for the club to provide canteen service on Staten Island (or Richmond as the natives know it) 24 hours a day. The Staten Island Chapter of the Red Cross funded the operation and provided the equipment.
With a moniker as big as the one sported by the Richmondites, it wasn’t too long before they changed it. (The Super Pumper hadn’t yet been built and it would take a rig that big to carry all that hand lettering.)
In 1964, tlie club became The Signal 88 Fire Buff Club, Inc. But Staten Island wasn’t big enough to contain these enthusiasts and they have ranged fairly far in pursuit of the smoke spoor.
When a general alarm blaze struck a chemical plant in Garwood, N, J., the Signal 8-8 group turned out. The president of the chemical firm later wrote:
“The voluntary formation of the 8-8 Fire Buff Club for the purpose intended by private citizens is certainly strong evidence of the good citizenship and high public spirit of these men. Meeting this emergency was an outstanding example of intercommunity cooperation, for which all the people of our company are most grateful.”
After still another general alarmor – this one in Bayonne, N. J.—Fire Chief John T. Brennan wrote:
“The Islanders, who remained at the scene until the fire was brought under control early yesterday morning, are to he complimented for their work.”
When the worst fire in Staten Island’s history (April 20, 1963) destroyed more than 100 homes, 16 members and their wives worked with firemen, helped to evacuate citizens, and assisted at Red Cross shelters.
“In the five days that followed,” says Secretary John J. Kryger, “members worked at Red Cross disaster headquarters in all capacities until all the victims were assisted. We do this at every fire involving a family. We check on the condition of the family after the blaze is under control. If assistance is required, we notify the Red Cross.”
What started out as an enthusiastic group of buffs in their teens, has become a club whose members now wear the FDNY blue, or serve in other fire service capacities.
President John Jansen is with the Fire Patrol of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters; Vice President Roy N. Johnson is a fire alarm dispatcher in Manhattan; and Kryger, the club’s founder, is secretary.
Membership totals 23 and the outfit runs out of Room 100, 36 Richmond Torrace, Staten Island, N. Y. 10301. Their phone number, in case you’re in New York is YU 1-8951.