FALL RIVER FIRE DEPARTMENT
The fire department of Fall River, Mass., consists of a chief, a deputy chief, an assistant chief, 115 regular firemen and 26 call men. The apparatus comprises three American-La France engines, two Clapp & Jones engines, three aerial trucks, one service truck fitted with two 25-gallon chemical tanks, a combination truck with two chemical tanks, nine hose wagons, a combination hose wagon, three double tank chemical engines, an automobile chemical wagon, a spare hose wagon, two spare reels, and 10 exercise wagons. That the cotton factories might be protected in case of fire, a bucket engine was bought in 1818. When there was a fire some of the fighters had to keep the tub supplied with water, as the suction method was unknown in those days. In addition there was a bucket wagon, while some citizens kept buckets at their homes as part of their equipment as firemen. In 1826 a hand engine was bought by private subscription. Water was forced through a nozzle attached directly to the machine. Oxen were used in drawing it when the occasion arose. Firewards were elected annually to have charge of the department, members of which were compensated by exemption from poll taxes and military duty. Each of the textile corporations had organizations of workmen to man hose reels in emergencies. The town organized a hose reel company in 1843, and in 1863 introduced horses to draw the reels. Quequechan engine No. 1, bought in 1859. was the first machine in which steam was used as a motive power. In the sixties they became common. Although ladders formed a part of the fire apparatus almost from the beginning, it was not until after 1844 that a truck was pulled by a horse. This city has the distinction of introducing the first truck to be drawn by three horses in 1885 The ordinance establishing a fire department for the new city of Fall River provided that immediately on learning of a fire during the night the watchmen should warn the people by springing rattles, crying “Fire!” ringing bells, and telling the direction or street in whicli the blaze was located. Neglect to at_ tend to the duty entailed liability of a fine of $10. Asa Eames was elected chief, and the following were his assistants: Daniel Leonard, Albert G. Howard, Caleb S. Chase and Jonathan E. Morrill. The 245 firemen making up the five companies received $8 yearly. Not more than two engines were allowed to go beyond Prospect street and Bowenville lane on the north, and the state line and the shore, and the intersection of Union and South Main streets on the south, upon an alarm of fire. Clarke Whipple, appointed a driver of the Quequechan horses in 1860, was the first man entitled to designation as a permanent fireman. He was paid $66, an allowance of $16 being made for sleeping in the city stable and responding to alarms at night. In 1865 Nathan Chase and Philander Curry were added to the list of drivers, one of them remaining at bis post in the daytime while the others were employed in highway work. The Gamewell system of alarm telegraphy was ordered by the city government in 1870, from which date the gradual placing of the force on a permanent basis began, engineers securing a fixed tenure in 1874. Twelve years afterward Captain Thomas F. Lynch and Hoseman John F. O’Brien were made permanent captains. In 1894 all occupying that position were placed in the regular class. Since that year there has been a steady advance in the movement to do away with the call force, vacancies in which are allowed to continue unfilled as they occur through death or resignation. Under the commission form of government, the department has thriven, its morale and efficiency comparing favorably with those of any department in New England. Fall River enjoys peculiar distinction in immunity from serious destruction of flames. Since in 1855, when there were 30 alarms for tires which caused a loss of $20,015, down to the present year, there has been but a single instance when the aggregate loss for a year exceeded $600,000. That was in 1867, the damage amounting to $635,550. The next total that is high was that for 1882, when property suffered a loss of $592,937. Only three men are living who have served as head of the department. Holder B. Durfee, a son of Dr. Nathan Durfee, was a member of the board of engineers in 1872, and for two years thereafter he was chief engineer. John A. Macfarlane, who retired from the force a few months ago on account of sickness, held the office in 1882 and 1883. William C. Davol, the incumbent, became a fireman in the sixties. In 1876 he was elected chief, and has never been disturbed. Business forced him to resign in 1882. In 1884 he was ready to return, and the city council accepted his services once more. Chief Davol has occupied the berth continuously down to the present year, though not without contests that have been the hottest in the city’s political history.