HISTORY OF CANTON FIRE DEPARTMENT
For the $52,000, which the city of Canton, Ohio, annually devotes to the upkeep and betterment of its fire department, it receives the fullest measure of service. This policy the municipality has observed almost from the very beginning of its existence as an incorporated borough and dates back to the early 80’s, when the establishment of a factory for watches, gave employment to a large number of people and pushed Canton to the front as an industrial centre. Long before that time, however, Canton had a lire department composed entirely of volunteers, and in no respect very different from similar organisations in other places. In 1 Ht»8 the initiative was taken, if only in a small way, in the formation of a paid fire department, when one man was engaged to remain permanently in the enginehouse, so as to be on hand to start a lire in the engine when an alarm was turned in, care for and harness the horses, and drive them to machine to the scene of the fire, where the volunteers did the work. The enginehouse stood at the northwest corner of Court and Eighth streets, where the centre enginehouse was afterwards erected, and where the new central fire and police building, fronting on West Seventh, Court and West Eighth streets, is at present being erected. The system then in vogue, of course, gave rise to much delay. The three horses, when not at a fire, were engaged in street work, from which they had to be taken off, haul the steamer and the hose reel, and the volunteer firemen had to be summoned by the alarm bell. Th’steamer was of Amoskeag make and is still in the city’s service.
Today’s fire department dates back to 1883, when the present city hall and the late central enginehouse on the site of the public safety building were erected on the block bounded by Cleveland avenue, Court, Seventh and Eighth street were finished. Jn this house were stationed a steamer, a hook and ladder company and a new hose reel manned by a freshly raised company of volunteers, who, with five paid men, formed the department, under John Leininger, the present electrician, as chief engineer and driver, with Henry Neuman as a second permanent driver, and Robert O. Mesnar, then as now chief, Edward Reigler and Florin Rose as paid men. Chief Mesnar has risen to his present position from the lowest rank to the highest, having passed all the necessary competitive civil service examinations. With the enrolling of these paid men the volunteer force was disbanded and minute men were substituted—a system which was maintained up to a few years ago. Till the newest order of things was inaugurated there were always men enough in the enginehouse to take out the engine, which was operated by a crew regularly assigned to that work. These were paid at the rate of 40 cents an hour from the time the alarm sounded on the bell of the old First Baptist church until the fire was out, provided they reported at the scene of the blaze and at the rollcall at the central firehouse. The bell was operatd by a windlass arrangement, and a code adopted for the alarm. The old order has changed, giving place to the new, in the shape of the Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system, which has succeeded the big city hall gong, that had ousted the old bell. The gong still sounds by means of electrical devices connected with the Gamewell system.
After the minute men had been enrolled to serve the engine, another set was appointed for the hook and ladder truck and then to the district firehouses as they were erected. In addition, there was established a fire and poiice patrol, as there was then not a sufficient po lice force to do the work of patrolling the city and keeping order at fires. Its members were all volunteers, and they had a special partol wagon of their own.
The earlier chiefs of the fire department were unsalaried and were taken from the ranks of the city’s business men. The first of them was the late Thomas Patten, who served, also, as street commissioner. The last was Edward Piero. The first of the salaried chiefs was Louis P. Ohliger, who filled the position in connection with his work as superintendent of the waterworks system. He was succeeded by John Leininger, the present electrician, who was an old hand at the business, whose successor was Robert O. Mesnar, captain of the central enginehouse, who from the beginning of his assuming the command of the lire department to the present has given his whole time to the work. Under him the city has been peculiarly exempt from anything approaching to a real conflagration. By his skill in handling serious fires he has always been able to control them, before they assumed too formidable proportions. That, however ,has been Canton’s good fortune throughout, and Chief Mesnar, going back in memory to 1872, says he cannot recall a fire that crossed the street from the point of origin and gained headway sufficient to inflict more than superficial damage. Steam fire engines are used only in enginehouses, as the direct hydrant pressure—140 lb.—is generally enough to reach the top of the highest building in the city. The waterworks pumping station has direct connection with all the apparatus of the fire department and as soon as an alarm of fire reaches the firemen, a similar alarm reaches the pumping station, where the pressure in the water mains is immediately increased to the normal fire pressure. Chief Mesnar, however, has ordered that, as an emergency measure, the engines should be sent out in response to all alarms coming from districts in which shops and factories are located. Under normal conditions the pressure in the mains will meet all requirements; but the chief deems it best to have the engines at hand for service in case the pressure from the pumping station should be at fault. There are also seven cisterns in the central portion of the city, each with a capacity of from 1,200 to 1,500 bbls. They are filled either through direct connection with the mains or from nearby hydrants. Of hydrants 600 are set in the most important street-intersections, all connected with high pressure mains and at very close intervals. The amount of hose kept always on hand is 8,000 ft., of which 1,000 ft. are carried on the reel at the central station. The Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system is installed, with 101 boxes, each with a key plainly exposed behind glass, which has first to be broken, before the key can be got at. The personnel of the department is as follows: Robert O. Mesnar, chief; Frank X. Schario, assistant chief; Robert Little, lieutenant; John B. Reno, chief engineer; drivers, 7; stoker; captains, 7; lieutenants, 7; hosemen, 19; truckmen. The equipment is as under: Steamer; chemical engine, with two 60-gal. tanks; hose wagon, with 1,000 ft. of hose; hook and ladder truck. There are 7 fire horses; 7 fire houses. The apparatus is as under: Steamers, 2; chemical engine, with 2 60-gal. tanks; hose wagons and reels—one with 1,000 ft. of hose at central station; combination chemical and hose wagons, 3; aerial truck. The new building for the use of the department of public safety will house the fire department and the police force. It will occupy the sites of the old central enginehouse and the police patrolhouse, running along Court street, between Seventh and Eighth streets, and with the present city hall, will occupy the entire block bounded by Cleveland avenue and Court streets on the west and east, respectively, and by Seventh and Eighth streets on the north and south, the two buddings being connected by tunnels. As originally protected, the building, whi;m will be 94 ft. wide by 196 ft. long, was to be 2-story. It may be increased to 3 stories. Its cost, all told, will probably be$ 100.000. It is built of pressed brick, with stone trimmings,andan architectural standpoint would be a ornament to any city. It is one of the finest structures^f^its kind in the State.
From the above description it will be seen that the Canton fire department is very complete in every detail,and so thoroughly competent to protect the city that the insurance rates are very low.
The illustrations accompanying this article were nserted by the courtesy of the News-Democrat Publishing company of Canton, Ohio.