FALL RIVER, MASS., FIRE DEPARTMENT
Especially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.
Looking back into the records of some eightyeight years when Fall River, Mass., or Troy, as it was then called, was a primitive New England village of ten wards, and comparing it with its present population running far beyond the 104,-864 of the last United States census, comparing also its congested and bustling streets and huge factories spread over a fire area of not far front 19,500 acres, with the few-and-far-between frame structures that dotted its quiet and rural territory, the mind also recurs to the days of the old handengine of 1818—as primitive as those who worked it when any one of the lowly dwellings caught fire, and, in the face of the present first-class fire department, marvels that the flames were ever put out with such a weakling in the shape of squirting machine that could with difficulty throw a stream a few feet above the street level, while today huge steamers can send the water above the highest building in the city and in a few minutes extinguish a blaze that nearly a century ago would have turned into a conflagration. Even twelve years after, in 1830. when the first attempts were made at an organised fire department, hand-engines and primitive leather hose on equally primitive reels were relied upon to do the work, and for two years things remained in that condition. The number of fire wards was then increased to twenty, and a better organised and better equipped fire department superseded it predecessor. It consisted of several companies of volunteers, equipped with forcing pumps More reels of an improved type, and leather hose, were connected with the various factories—for Troy had by this time become an acknowledged centre of textile industries. In 1830 the department was still further improved; a certain number of engine-men were allowed $5 per year, and a certain number of firemen $3, while the town was taxed for the expense of oiling, cleaning and repairing the forcing pumps, t wo engine companies and a hook and ladder company were in service, while some of the factories had private forcing pump companies, and ninety townsfolk took charge of the movable engines and the hook and ladder truck. The conflagration of 1843, which rendered one-eighth of the population homeless, caused an improvement in the lire service, which was supplemented by the purchase of additional engines, another truck, and 150 lire buckets, besides those that were private property. That year also saw the organisation of the Cataract company, which was made up of the most influential men in the town, and till 1865, when it was disbanded, was a power in municipal affairs. Further additions in men and materiel, including horsed hose reels, were added from time to time, as was also more territory—the village being chartered as the city of Fall River in 1854. In that year the fire department was reorganised under Chief Asa Fames, and consisted of six companies, the first permanent fireman being added in i860, whose duty it was to drive steamer No. 1, to which were added two more in 1863, each with its own permanent driver and horses. In 1870 the Gamewell lire alarm telegraph system was installed, in 187-2 the first chemical engine was purchased. Permanent engineers were appointed in 1874, and in 1886 the first permanent captain and hoseman. By 1898 the department consisted of 195 men, permanent and call, with 150 fire alarm boxes (there are 160 now), five fire engines, three chemical engines, four hook and ladder trucks and eight hose wagons. Today, under Chief Wm. C. Davol, the force consists of about eighty full paid men and about seventy part paid, every one of whom from the chief down is an efficient fireman. The equipment is as follows: Steamers, six; combination chemical and hose wagon; hook and ladder trucks, four; aerial truck; hose wagons, nine; hose, cotton, rubber-lined, two and a half-inch good, well on to 18,000 feet, besides 4,700 three-inch and 1,300 chemical. Considerably over 1.390 fire hydrants are set and the fire pressure is eighty pounds. With such ,1 chief and such well trained officers and men and sueli effective equipment, it is no wonder that the underwriters rating of Fall River is first-class.
In January 1857, the Neptune hose company, o Buffalo. N Y., was chartered, with thirty-thre members. Of those only two—Howard H. Bake and htihu H. Spencer—survive and were presen at the recently held forty-ninth annual dinner the company.