EMERGENCY WRECKER OF THE BOSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT
Although the general public has not heard very much about the exploits of the emergency wrecking truck of the Boston fire department, this piece of apparatus has rendered wonderfully efficient service since it was installed in fire headquarters on Bristol Street about two years ago. When it’s needed, it’s needed badly, and Supervisor of Motor Apparatus Stewart remarked recently: “I don’t know what we’d do without the wrecker.” The machine in use here is a specially built Mack auto truck, equipped with a fourcylinder. 70-horsepower motor, and weighing approximately seven tons. It carries all kinds of wrecking equipment, ineluding jacks, bars, shovels, chains, ropes, repair tools, oil. and 50 gallons of gasoline to supply motor pumping engines at fires when needed.
The machine can make a speed of 40 to 45 miles an hour, and is equipped with a power winch and derrick on the rear end, which is capable of lifting a weight of ten tons. Among the ordinary uses to which the wrecker can be put are: Towing in wrecked apparatus, delivering fuel, and pulling down walls at fire ruins. It has also been frequently used to rescue horses that had fallen into holes or ditches. The wrecker can pick up a heavy automobile and swing it around as if it were a baby carriage. The machine has been called to service in several hundred accident cases, and now averages almost a dozen calls a week.
Some extracts from the reports of the various runs made bv the wrecker may be of interest:
Wrecker used to convey divers and their outfits from the Navy Yard to Fenway Pond, near Westland Avenue, Back Bay, the scene of a drowning accident. Assisted Lad -der 15. and carried diving apparatus and men under command of Lieutenant Pratt, of the U. S. battleship Virginia.
Towed in a wrecked Ford car which had been in a smash-up opposite former Mayor Curley’s house in Jamaica Plain.
Wrecker responded to rear of 119 Cedar Street, Roxburv, and. assisted by members of Ladder 12. under Junior Deputy Chief D. F. Sennott and District Chief Gaffey, removed a horse and cart that had fallen over an embankment and into the cellar of the building.
Wrecker was used to rescue a horse which had gone through a barn floor at 171 Blue Hill Avenue.
Wrecker responded to fourth alarm from Box 1241, Battery wharf, and removed two horses that had fallen into a trench on North Street, near Richmond. Horses owned by fire department.
Wrecker responded to 167 Minot Street, Dorchester, and, assisted by members of Ladder 27, under orders of District Chief Heffernan, removed horse from a manhole. Horse was property of city of Boston, sanitary service.
The above are a few of the outside jobs done by the wrecker, and do not include the regular fire department emergency work, which is performed quietly, efficiently, and without any special notice being made of it—it’s all in the day’s work for the wrecker. Boston was the first city to adopt this type of machine, and since it was established here the idea has been copied in New York, Cleveland, and other cities.
The wrecker was designed by Charles E. Stewart, supervisor of motor apparatus of the Boston fire department, and was built by the Mack Company, Allentown, Pa. The wrecker is in reality a traveling repair and machine shop and responds to all third alarms. The motor squad is composed of six men, and three men are kept on night duty.
The derrick end of the wrecker can lift up the end of a trolley car, if necessary, to release the victim of an accident. and the towing in of an 85-foot extension ladder truck weighing 25,000 pounds is an easy matter.
Perhaps the most noted feat accomplished by the wrecker occurred during the extreme cold spell last February, when a horse and team fell into the harbor near the King terminal in South Boston. The temperature was several degrees below zero at the time, and the ground was so slippery on the incline near the wharf that the firemen had to fasten a stout rope to the wrecker for fear of losing the big machine while getting it into position to pull the horse out of the ice-filled bay before the animal was drowned by the rising tide. The distance from the pier head to the ice was from 15 to 18 feet, but the horse was pulled out safely and the wagon was also recovered.
When Engine 40 was hit by a train in East Boston, and when Engine 7 was crushed by a falling wall at the five-alarm South Boston fire a year ago last June, it was the wrecker which pulled the damaged apparatus to the repair shop.
There is no expense in maintaining the wrecker, except when it is in actual service, and the cost of gasoline and minor repairs is a mere trifle compared to the services rendered.