The New England Association

The New England Association

50th Anniversary

Organizers of the New England Association of Fire Chiefs: standing, left to right, F.A. Leonard, S.M. Rich, J.C. Adams, W.H. Pierce, J.M. Casey, F.J. Morris, H.L. Stanton, F.M. Tiffany, J.H. Hardy, C.W. Maxim, G.L. Johnson, E.F. Saunders, G. Curtis, F.E. Tracy, P.H. Parker, F.A. Clark, C.B. Wescott, H. Thompson, A.D. Wheeler, E.B. Jones, W.H. Lewis, John Leonard, W. Atkins, J.A. McCarthy, A.E. Hiller. Kneel_____g, left to right, W.A. Tighe, T. Naphen, J. Barrett, J.O. Taber, J.P. Doyle, J.W. O'Hearn, R.D. Weekes, J.E. Smith, P.E. Walsh and D.H. Decourcy.

On July 12, 1922, 38 men, “interested in fire departments,” met in the office of the Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Company in Boston. The group consisted of fire chiefs, ex-chiefs and manufacturers of fire fighting equipment. Chief John P. Doyle of Wellesley was elected temporary chairman and Chief John W. O’Hearn temporary secretary. Following this, Chief John F. Leonard, Belmont, Mass., “moved and it was so voted (that) the association be now organized as a permanent organization to be known as the New England Association of Fire Chiefs.”

The first slate of officers was then elected: Chief John P. Doyle, Wellesley, Mass., president; Chief John Moran, Hartford, Conn., first vice president; and Chief John W. O’Hearn, Watertown, Mass., secretary-treasurer. O’Hearn, incidentally, was to hold this post until his death in 1959.

Plans were then made for the first annual convention of the association which was held at the Hotel Stratfield, Bridgeport, Conn., on June 21-22, 1923. Membership by this time was up to 119. It is interesting to note that at this convention there were 27 exhibitors of apparatus and equipment. The exhibits covered 5,880 square feet of floor space at 10 cents a square foot. (How times have changed!)

Some of the red-hot topics presented at the meeting of this historic first conference were: The Fire Hazards of Popular Radio, How to Get Better Insurance Classifications, and Standardization of Fire Hose Threads.

Conference locations varied

Conferences following the first were held at a variety of locations in the New England States including Pittsfield, Mass., Burlington, Vt., Manchester, N.H., and Dixville Notch, N.H. Two conferences were cancelled because of World War II—1941 and 1944. The 1945 conference was held at The Wentworth, Portsmouth, N.H., and the association has returned to this famous seaside resort every year since. It is fitting, therefore, that the Golden Anniversary will be held at The Wentworth in June 1972.

We note in the records of 1925 that members went to and from Pittsfield, Mass., on the Boston and Albany Railroad and in parlor cars. And that the membership list had increased to 281. By the time of the 1926 meeting in Manchester, N.H., the membership was up to 335. Exhibitors numbered 25 and included the big items from American LaFrance, Seagrave, Maxim and Ahrens-Fox.

Chief Lester R. Schick, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, who addressed the New England Association in 1967, posed with NEAFC President James L. Grote, left, and Secretary-Treasurer Al Kimball.

Fred Shepperd, editor of Fire Engineering, was one of the leading speakers at this conference; his topic was “Dusts and Their Relation to Explosions.” At the same conference a rising vote of thanks was given to Harry Belknap, press representative of Fire Engineering for “the splendid publicity work he has done during the past year for the association.”

Baseball featured in 1932

In the Depression year of 1932 the association met at Newport, R.I. Membership was up to 746, but the exhibitors went down to 18, with Mack Trucks featuring a new 85-foot aerial. A feature of this conference was a baseball game played between the Fall River Fire Department team and an all-New England firemen’s team. In a free-hitting contest New England won 15 to 6. Following the game, all retired to the Viking Hotel for an evening of whist followed by a buffet. At this meeting the well-known Chief Alfred H. Koltonski of Rutland, Vt., was elected president.

At the conference, it was brought out that “water was preeminent in forest fire extinguishment.” The speaker was K.F. Williams, supervisor forest fire control, New York State. Williams brought out the fact that rotary, piston and centrifugal pumps were available in weights from 40 to 300 pounds.

Straw hats, panamas and even canes were the height of fashion in 1935 as New England chiefs parade past the New London Hotel on way to exhibits.Giant tent housed exhibits at Wentworth in 1970 following a fire that destroyed exhibits barn.Brookline, Mass., Fire Department showed off its new enclosed pumper at the Burlington, Vt., conference in 1938.Stylish portico of The Wentworth where New England chiefs have met for 26 years.Lobster, chicken, steamers, Boston beans and corn at the famed clambake at the Wentworth which will go into history with this year's conference.

With war clouds gathering, the conference in 1940 at “The Balsams” Dixville Notch, N.H. started on a somber note. Fred Shepperd spoke on “Fire Protection During Air Raids” and Director George Fairley, Pittsburgh Fire Department, explored the effects of the war on taxes and the consequent reduction in funds available for fire fighting forces and equipment. Fire Commissioner William A. Reilly of Boston took a 10-year look ahead to 1950 and predicted heavy traffic congestion and the end of the two-piece engine company—a pretty good prognostication.

Down through the years, timeliness of subject matter has always been associated with the New England Chief’s conferences. And the subject matter was such that it affected the entire fire service. The new-fangled radio in 1922 was explored for fire hazards and in 1947 the new-fangled television. Pneumatic tires presented a problem when they began to replace the solid rubber, and in 1927 the requirements for such tires were discussed at Portland, Me.

Papers geared to need

Training has been featured on the programs since 1929 when “The Organization of State Training Schools for Firemen” was discussed. Radio Service for the Fire Department (1934), Fire Alarm Telegraph Versus Telephone (1937), Fire Prevention in War Industries (1943), Fog Versus Foam (1946), Fire Chiefs’ Salaries (1951), Peacetime Hazards of Radioactive Materials (1961), The Problems of Fire and Police Unification (1963)—all these and many other subjects were covered while they were hot and of major interest to all.

In 1947 some of the members of the New England formed a group that became the New England Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. This group remained in the original association and has held concurrent meetings with it since 1951.

The New England Association has played a strong part in the affairs of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and has contributed six presidents to this association: Chief Selden R. Allen, Brookline, Mass.; Chief Daniel B. Tierney, Arlington, Mass.; Chief Samuel J. Pope, Boston, Mass.; Chief Henry G. Thomas, Hartford, Conn.; Chief Lewis A. Marshall, Providence, R.I.; and Chief Walter R. Carter, Lynn, Mass.

Down through the years, the programs of New England conferences read like a Who’s Who of the Fire Service: Percy Bugbee, Warren Kimball, Paul Lyons and Charles Morgan of the National Fire Protection Association; Fred Shepperd, Roi Woolley, Don O’Brien, Dick Sylvia and Jim Casey of Fire Engineering; W.J. Scott, Ontario Fire Marshal; Chief Gray Burnett, Ottawa, Canada, who was then president of the IAFC (1955); Frank Brannigan of Civil Defense, and many others too numerous to name.

The 1971 conference lived up to the reputation that the association has for timeliness and big names, with Dr. John A. Rockett, director of fire research and safety of the Bureau of Standards, explaining the “National Fire Program and the Fire Service.”

The 1972 Golden Anniversary Conference at Wentworth, N.H., promises to be the biggest and best ever. We hope you will all join us in spirit, if not in body.

Editor’s note: Albert W. Kimball as chief of Hingham, Mass., joined the New England Association of Fire Chiefs in early 1942. He has been secretary-treasurer since 1959. Al retired from his department early this year and will relinquish his post with the association after the Golden Anniversary.

Fire Engineering was still called Fire and Water Engineering in 1922 when the New England Association of Fire Chiefs was formed. Solid rubber tires and chain drives were standard for apparatus and doublejacketed, cotton rubber-lined was all that was available in hose as this montage of ads indicate. Radio was still to come, and selfcontained breathing apparatus was a long time away. But the New England Fire Chiefs then, as now, had the most modern equipment available.

The New England Association


The New England Association

The remarkable story of steady and healthy growth that is related in the short history of the New England Water Works Association published in this week’s issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING shows there was a distinct need for a body which should draw together into closer relationship the water works men of the New England and middle eastern states. But this need was not confined to the period of formation, as has been demonstrated clearly by the fact that this growth has continued up to the present day.

The pressing need of the association at this time is the drawing into its ranks all of the water works superintendents, both of large cities and small towns, in these states. The benefits that accrue from membership in the association and especially by attendance at its meetings and conventions are just as real—perhaps more so— to the men of the small cities and towns as to those of the larger ones. The problems attacked in the meetings are those common to all of the superintendents.

The question of an intensive campaign to see to it that the water works men of the small cities and towns thoroughly understand the advantages contained in membership in the association should be taken up at this convention and active steps adopted to reach these men both through circularization and through personal contact. The latter method is far the better one, as by word of mouth much more information can be disseminated and also questions which naturally arise in the minds of one considering the joining of the association could be readily answered.

Why not sign up volunteers from the membership of the association who will pledge themseves each to see personally at least one superintendent in a neighboring city or town who is not a member and bring before him the advantages of the association. There surely should be over a hundred members at least who would be willing to make this sacrifice of time in the interests of their association, especially considering the advantages which this increase in membership would give it. Such a pledge once made would undoubtedly be carried out and the result would be an enormous increase in the association’s roll.