OF INTEREST TO VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS
STEPS IN MODERNIZING A VILLAGE FIRE DEPARTMENT
Memory of Bad Fire Many Years Ago Prompted Action — Modern Apparatus Purchased by Popular Subscription — Change Justified
WITHIN the last three years, Richmond, Me., a town of two thousand population located on the Kennebec River, progressed from the hand drawn equipment class to a completely motorized Fire Department. All this was made possible by the splendid cooperation of the town’s residents.
Fifty-eight years ago the village was nearly wiped out by a fire that devastated the business section. The memory of that fire lingers. A progressive group formed the Richmond Fire Apparatus Association and started a drive to purchase a triple combination pumper through the aid of popular subscription. Two thousand dollars were raised and the pumper was ordered. The truck was delivered May. 1927, and turned over to the town.
In February, 1928, one of the worst fires since the big one of 1871 broke out in the new high school building. It was the first test of the new apparatus. A hot air explosion practically demolished the building but with the aid of three streams pumped by the new machine, the fire was confined to the school. Residential buildings all about it were not touched, although clapboards on some were scorched. In the town meeting that was held in March, the town took up the remaining payments of the truck.
In June. 1927, shortly after the apparatus was delivered, a town ordinance was passed organizing a regular Fire Department under the laws of the state. Previous to this, the department was volunteer. The new organization consisted of three chiefs, one elected from each of the three fire wards, four companies of ten men, including a foreman and assistant foreman. The idea of the three chiefs was to have one representative from each ward.
One officer stated he wanted a hall fixed up where the department could meet, the motorization of other pieces of apparatus, a fire alarm system, fire inspection work, practice in resuscitation methods and first aid, and frequent fire apparatus drills. The men were very enthusiastic. Before the next meeting, a hall was provided for meetings and for the housing of the pumper. With the aid of several donations, the department had three pieces of motorized apparatus by July. 1928. Firemen were given instruction.
A fire alarm was installed. August, 1928, consisting of a coded siren.
The pumper is only used on country calls. No. 3 Hose Company substitutes for the pumper: on a second alarm No. 2 Hose Company substitutes and No. 3 goes with the pumper. In this way the village is always protected.
However, all of the improvements and the new eqipment were not paid for. In the fall of 1928 the department conducted a three-day fair to raise funds. The profits paid a greater portion of the unpaid hills.
A GMC truck was found with a long chassis so that it could he converted into a ladder truck. This truck went into service September, 1929. Again the department was in debt, and again a three-day fair was successful in reducing the unsettled balance. Thus far the men had done all the necessary mechanical work, and they purchased their rubber coats, hats, gas masks, and department equipment. But the department was not satisfied with the progress made, and with the proceeds from the last fair, equipment was purchased for a salvage squad. No. 3 Hose Company was changed into a salvage company.
By a new ordinance, the chief in charge has the power to call upon the constables of the town for police protection at fires.
Inspection work has been rigidly followed, and many bad conditions have been corrected. A notice from the chief has always resulted in prompt cooperation on the part of the residents.
Through the officers’ efforts, at the annual meeting the town passed an ordinance prohibiting shingle roofs in the business section, and the residential section surrounding the business district. A firemen’s relief association has been formed which pays sick and accident benefits to men in the performance of their duties, and a small death benefit when member passes away.
Men have been Invited to give lectures on modern fire fighting methods. All members of the department are members of the State Firemen’s Association. A large majority the town’s residents have endorsed what has been done protect them against fire.