Head of Schenectady Fire Department Passes Away Suddenly—Long Secretary of New York State Fire Chiefs—Prominent in Civic Work

CHIEF HENRY R. YATES, head of the Schenectady. N. Y., fire department and for many years secretary of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs passed away suddenly from an attack of acute indigestion at his home in that city at one o’clock, P. M., August 31. He had suffered a similar attack earlier in the day, but had so far recovered that he planned to attend a clambake to be held by the Volunteer Hose Company 6, and he was about to enter his car to attend the event when stricken for the second time.

Chief Henry R. Yates, Schenectady, N. Y.

Chief Yates was born in Schenectady 54 years ago, and belonged to an old family long identified with the city’s history. His fire-fighting experience began when as a youth he became one of four men in the volunteer fire department. Later he prevailed on his mother to dispose of an undertaking business in which they were partners and from then on devoted all of his time to the formation of a regular fire department. At that time the fire-fighting equipment consisted of four hand reels with no horses and no motor apparatus. For a short time previous to the organization of the regular department, the Van Vranken Hose Company of which the chief was captain, supported a chestnut horse. The organization was proposed by the common council in 1899, when Dr. Charles C. Duryee was mayor. The chief was at that time a member of the council and was known as the “boy alderman.” During the business of the council the “boy alderman” showed such deep knowledge of fire fighting that Dr. Duryee was struck by his appearance. When the organization was finally approved he was appointed chief on the recommendation of Dr. Duryee at a salary of $62.50. He kept the chestnut horse and out of his new salary paid $45 a month for a driver, thus receiving about $5 a week for his services.

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Chief Henry R. Yates Dies

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Natually. a man of Chief Yates’s executive ability received many offers of employment elsewhere. In fact, last November he contemplated entering another field of endeavor, but there was such a universal demand that he be retained as head of the fire department on the part of the business men and general public of his native city that Mayor William W. Campbell, of Schenectady, who was also a personal friend of the chief, persuaded him to stay. An item was to have been inserted in the 1925 budget raising the chief’s salary from $3,300 to $4,000 per annum to take effect January 1.

It is said that during his long career as chief, in spite of having served under mayors of all shades of politics, that Chief Yates has never been refused an appropriation for new apparatus or equipment. He has taken a leading part in many civic endeavors outside of his fire department work. Prominent among these was his work among the unemployed during the business slump of 1920, when many needy families were taken care of in an inconspicuous way through the fire department. There was scarcely any public demonstration where the city officials did not call upon Chief Yates to take a prominent part.

His work as secretary of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs did much to make that organization a power in the state. He has served in that capacity ever since its organization, having been re-elected each year.

The funeral took place on Tuesday, September 2, from the late chief’s home, and was attended by every member of the fire department. In order that all the men might attend Chief Cornelius Casey, of Troy, sent a delegation of his fire department to man the Schenectady fire houses during the funeral. A large number of civic and other city organizations also attended. The interment was in the family plot at Yale Cemetery.

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