WOODSIDE AND ITS FIREFIGHTERS.
The New York Times, in describing the fire department of Woodside, Queens, New York, indulges itself in good natured chaff at the expense of the members, who are all volunteers, receiving a subsidy of $1,000 a year from New York city. The Times insists that the entire equipment of the department “consists of one truck, on which is mounted a ladder with five rungs missing, four long hooks, and two very ancient axes.” When there is a fire, the nearest fireman rings the large bell in the tower of the fire house, for which he receives a fee of fifty cents. Hence the Times suggests that a thirsty soul is sometimes over-anxious to mistake an innocent glare for a fire and to sound an alarm accordingly. A local coal dealer supplies the team for hauling the apparatus, receiving $2.50. if the alarm is false, and $5. if it is for a real fire. The horses are respectable, elderly quadrupeds, neither too rapid in their movements nor too anxious to exert themselves when once they have started.
How they behave on an emergency the Times tells as follows: “About a year ago. while clanging on their way to a midnight blaze, the two horses suddenly decided that they had done enough to earn their hay by delivering coal for their owner while the sun was shining. Just after passing the tracks of the Long Island railroad they stood stock still and refused to move. Neither coaxing nor the plying of the whip availed. Just as it seemed that the horses were about to move, an express train thundered along. One end of the ladder projected over the track and about four feet were lopped off by the locomotive. This accident, however, did not impair either the beauty or the usefulness of the ladder, and it still forms part of the equipment of the company.
“On another occasion the volunteers were on their way to a fire when the wheels of the truck became stuck in the soft clay at the side of the road. The horses were unable to pull the heavy vehicle out, and after fifteen minutes’ delay a neighboring liveryman brought one of his horses, and with this aid the truck was finally lifted to solid ground. The driver gathered up his reins, and was about to start his team on their mad gallop, when he chanced to look round and found to his horror that two men who were not affiliated with the company were seated on the back of the truck. This would never do, and he deliberately got down from his perch, and, shaking his fist at the interlopers, shouted:
“‘Youse fellows come down outer there, or I’ll pull yer down. Yer ain’t got no right there.’
“ ‘Pull nothin’,’ was the response, ‘We’re goin’ to show youse how to put out a fire.’
“ ‘I say yer ain’t got no right there, and we’re not goin’ ter take yer.’
“ Then,’ responded those who were not authorised to ride on the truck, ‘you will stay here.’
“After arguing the matter for some time the parties to the dispute agreed to adjourn to a near-by saloon to arbitrate. This they did, and remained debating the matter so long that some impertinent villagers butted in and told them the fire was out, and they might return, which they did with the matter still unsettled.”
There is a scandalous libel on the men of Gheel, in Belgium, the city where the idiots and madmen of King Leopold’s dominions are kept in safety at the public expense, to the effect that one night, on seeing the reflection of the moonlight on the tincovered spire and roof of a distant church, they raised a shout of fire, and, girding themselves for the fray, speeded with the engine and all the paraphernalia necessary for putting out the flames, only to find they had been fooled.
The Times must have had that incident in mind when it tells much the same story of the Woodsiders as follows:
“A volunteer who had spent the whole day and his available cash in a village tavern saw, late last October, a glare in the sky—a glare that could not bee mistaken. It was the real thing. A fire, and a good one. He made for the bell and clanged it violently. Firemen in their slippers and with great red hats under their arms rushed from their houses and made for their station.
“‘Where is it?’ they inquired with one voice.
“For answer the intrepid bell ringer merely pointed to the sky, with its rolling masses of flame. Then nervous hands hitched up the fiery steeds and dashed wildly through the village towards the shore of the Sound. With clanging bell and rushing throng behind them, they dashed through other settlements, and passing other engine houses, the inquiry came;
“Where is it?
“For answer they only pointed. Other departments followed in their train, and each denizen of Woodside felt his heart swell with pride within him, as he knew that his department was leading the procession for once. Madly they dashed through streets and village ways until they came to a level space, and then burst upon their view a glorious sunset! Sadly they turned their backs upon the lory of the dying day. and since then it has been ifficult to get a Woodsider to admit that he is a member of the local fire department.”