THE RISE OF THE CHICOPEE FIRE DEPARTMENT
Fifty-five years ago the fire department of Chicopee, Mass., began with an organised bucket brigade, which served what was then the Cabotville district of Springfield, with Elijah Blake in charge of the Cabotville fire district. On the separation of Cabotville from Springfield, a fire department was organised, with Binning Leavitt as chief, under a board of engineers and a prudential committee. The new department boasted only a bucket brigade up to the early fifties when two hand engines—the Atlantic and the Pacific—were bought, and engine houses were built on Exchange street and Grape and Springfield street. Each company had a hose reel, and, according to the old records, each did fairly good work. A third hose company the Independent —was organised; it was equipped only with a reel, which it hauled to fires, and with which it assisted the Atlantic company. A crude form of hook and ladder truck was also purchased and stationed at the Atlantic house. It was but soon superseded by the Owego truck, as it was found to be of very little service at fires. The first steamer was bought in 1873, when J. U. McClench was chief, and was stationed in the Grape street house. It was hauled by hired horses, which, however, were not as useful as they might have been, owing to the fact of their being excitable and untrained. The Atlantic and Pacific machines were sold as the day of hand engines had gone by. The old Pacific machine passed out of sight covered with honor. She had been a prize-taker all round.
In 1890, Chicopee, late Cabotville, was incorporated as a city. When its first engine company was incorporated, the fire bell was hung in the tower of the Presbyterian church. On incorporation, however, it was removed to the city hall, and when the Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system was installed, with its street boxes, a striker was added. On the building of the Cabot street fire house a large bell was put in, and all alarms were, as they are today, struck on it. The latest engine house is that on East street. It superseded the old Torrent engine house at the corner of Church and Market streets— a house now used for the storage of an emergency hose reel. In the East street house are all the modern improvements in fire apparatus, as well as accommodations for the firemen.
During the last year or two, under Chief John E. Pomphret the department has materially advanced in efficiency. A fire station has been built at the Falls, which is provided with a new Holloway twenty-five tank, steel combination wagon. The new station at Willimansett has been completed, and a 900-pound bell hung there, and with arrangements made for washing and drying the hose. For better fire protection additional hydrants have been set; the twelve-inch water main has been extended as far as the Boston and Main depot; and the pressure has been increased from thirty and forty to eighty and ninety pounds, which will afford protection to sections where, under the old system, the water would not reach. Chief Pomphret is nothing if not up-to-date, and through his efforts the department, whose membership is nearly all full paid, has been placed in firstclass condition. To bring this about. Chief Pomphret has reduced the number of call men and added four more men to hose company No. 5. More permanent men, however, arc needed, also more hose, some fire hydrants, and additional fire alarm to boxes, and the single circuit must be duplicated.
The following is a list of chiefs since the organisation of the department in 1848, with the time of service of each: Benning Leavitt, September 6, 1848; Lucius Harthan, 1849-51: Daniel Leavitt, 1851-54: Rufus Mosher. 1854-55; Abner B. Abbey, 1855-56; Daniel Bodwoin, 1856-57; S. B. Lancton, 1857-59; Albert A. Waite, 1859-62; Frank E. Drake, 1862-63: James Churchill, 1863-65: F. E. Drake. 1865-66; J. U. McClench. 1866-68: F. E. Drake, 1868-71; A. O. Kenny, 1871-73; C. F. Hadley, 1873-74: A. K. Graves. 1874-75; C. F. Hadley, 1875-77; James E. Hosley, 1877-85; E. J. Heath, 1885-86; James E. Mosley. 1886-87; P. M. Judd. 1887-90: William H. Osgood. 1890-93; Thomas W. Blaisdell, 1893-97; John E. Pomphret, 1807.