FIRE DEPARTMENT APPARATUS
The Motorized Era Begins
The village board received a communication on March 5, 1917, from Klepfer Brothers, a local motor vehicle dealer. The letter was read and it referred to an Ajax-Ford Chemical truck for the Depew Fire Department. No action was taken as the communication was received and filed.
At the July 10th meeting of the village board, a communication was received from the Underwriters’ Association of the State of New York saying that they were in receipt of advice to the effect that the fire protection facilities of the Village of Depew were seriously impaired and asked for a reply at an early date as to what the village board planned to do to improve the conditions. The letter was referred to the fire and water committee for action.
In early July 1918, Chief Carlson made a verbal request for permission to use a village truck to draw the fire apparatus to Laverack Hall at Laverack and Calumet for a demonstration of firefighting on July 17th. This demonstration was in conjunction with Firemen’s Carnival Week. The Aetna Hose Company, Cayuga Hose Company and Hook & Ladder Company gave an exhibition drill with ladder and hose work. The chief was in all probability also trying to prove a point in that there was other means to move the fire apparatus other then by horses.
Chief John Carlson’s campaign for motorized fire apparatus received a boost from S.J. O’Hart, a charter member of the Depew Hook & Ladder Company and a former village attorney who wrote the following letter to the editor of the August 1, 1918 issue of the Depew Herald:
Pardon me a few words of reflection. I was deeply impressed with a display and exhibition made at the annual inspection day of the Depew Fire Department. Did you note those excellent motor fire trucks from our sister Village of Lancaster? As much as I admired them more was my chagrin, to reflect as I was forced to reflect that Depew was so far behind the time of development and progress.
All know of the wonderful progress the development of the motor truck in a very few years past, and with it has gone the progress and development of fire fighting apparatus and equipment. To reflect that Depew hangs doggedly to its old antiquated apparatus, 20 and 25 years of age and refuses to adopt modern apparatus and equipment is cause for mortification.
The feature of acceleration and mobility of itself is ample cause for installation of the new motor truck apparatus and discarding of the antiquated equipment we have had for so long. There is another remarkable and wonderful cause for the need of the new equipment and that is the auxiliary pumping facility.
We don’t have to suggest that the water pressure is fatally defective. We stood and saw the New York Central Locomotive office burn twice and the High School burn under our very eyes for lack of water pressure at the hydrants, for the entire liberal price we have paid for such service. And now comes the Erie County Hospital that burned for the very same reason, very largely for lack of adequate pressure. But what is the point you say? Well the new apparatus is equipped with an auxiliary pumping apparatus. It can be “hooked” to the hydrant and pump water from the hydrant under any desired pressure just as the industrial gas engine will draw its own gas from the natural gas main.
If Depew had enjoyed the possession of such a piece of apparatus, the losses at the New York Central Locomotive Works office on two occasions and the High School would have been practically negligible.
Let Depew move into the front line of progress and advance. Let her wade out of the ninety miles woods of the wild and wooly west.
I understand that the fire department boys are going to ask that a proposition be submitted to vote the authority to buy and to borrow the money to buy such modern apparatus in a few days from now. It is to be hoped it will be adopted by an overwhelming vote.
On August 5, 1918, the Chief of the Fire Department John F Carlson presented a petition signed by thirty taxpayers asking for the calling of a special election to vote upon the question of purchasing two motor-driven fire apparatus trucks at a cost approximating $15,000. The petition was referred to the finance committee of the village board.
Mr. O’Hart’s letter was followed up in the July 8th edition of the Herald with a letter from Fire Chief John Carlson which stated that in last week’s issue of the Herald there appeared an article suggesting that the Village of Depew purchase motor driven fire apparatus. For the two weeks I have broached this subject to a number of businessmen and individual property owners. I am greatly surprised to learn of the number of people who are in favor of improving the fire fighting apparatus of our village.
Upon making inquiries from persons if they favored the village buying motor driven apparatus the general response has been: “Yes, I do: Yes, I believe it is time for this village to show signs of going forward. Yes, we should have had such apparatus now, because the streets are in good condition and a motor truck can go on most any street now. Why, yes, I am in favor of motor apparatus. It is a shame for a village of this size to be using the old-style two-wheel hose reels like the ones used by the Cayuga Hose Company and the Central Hose Company.
I must admit that these replies are very encouraging and strongly favor motor driven apparatus.
Now that this subject has come before the public and many have become interested, I feel that, I may come before you, one and all, and put the motor apparatus proposition up to every taxpayer owning property in this village.
The discussion of motor driven fire apparatus, its many advantages over present apparatus, its reliability and endurance, will take more time and space than the genial editor of this valuable paper can give at any one issue. I will therefore, by his permission write a number of articles, one to be published each week, in which I will try to show the advantages of motor driven apparatus over the present apparatus, comparative cost of maintenance, the increased efficiency in the fire department, and the great advantage and reliability by having one piece of apparatus equipped with a pumping equipment.
To all of us the pleasure automobile and the commercial motor trucks are apparently of little interest because we know their superiority to the horse-drawn vehicles, which they have replaced. The commercial truck is considered a valuable adjunct to a person or corporation’s business when needed. Time and money is saved by use of the motor vehicle. The reliability and durability of the modern motor truck is beyond question.
Now then, why is not the motor driven fire apparatus equally as valuable to you in the saving of life and property? In the case of fire, the motor truck is there ready to go to where the alarm of fire was sent from without waiting for some teamster to hitch up his horses and run then a block or more to the fire house and to hitch them onto the hose cart or hose wagon or wait for some automobile to come along and hitch onto this and draw the hose reel to the scene of fire and when the hose reel gets to the fire, the men find that nearly all their tools have been lost out of the tool box because the reel had been drawn at a greater rate of speed than it was built for. The same applies when autos draw the horse-drawn trucks or hook and ladder truck. The practice of drawing these trucks to fires with automobiles at a fast rate of speed is a dangerous proposition.
At the present time there is only one teamster who has an agreement or makes an effort to respond to a firehouse to draw the present apparatus. The apparatus in other firehouses must either be drawn by hand or wait until some team or automobile comes along and helps the men out.
Now don’t you honestly believe that the time is here for this village to purchase some modern apparatus?
I know that there are such thoughts as these in your minds. Will this new apparatus receive proper care and attention? Will this motor driven fire apparatus be driven properly, etc., etc.? It must be remembered that if motor this village purchases driven fire apparatus, the firehouses in which these pieces of apparatus are stationed, the members of such companies must be given to understand what they can do and what they cannot do, and who shall drive this apparatus and who shall not.
I am confident that any new apparatus that the village may purchase will receive proper care and attention.
Watch for the article next week I will be pleased to answer any query that may be made by any person who is interested in this proposition.
At the following meeting on August 19th, Chief Carlson requested permission to withdraw the previously submitted petition, asking for the purchase of certain fire apparatus. The request of the Chief was granted.
Following the withdrawal of the petition, the village clerk, John Graney, read a lengthy resolution that was prepared by the village attorney S. Jay O’Hart and was prefaced by the following statement: Petition subscribed by more than twenty five electors of the Village of Depew, qualified to vote on a proposition authorizing the borrowing of money to pay for village improvements of purchase of fire engines and apparatus to extinguish and prevent fires and dated August 19, 1918.
After some informal discussion in reference to the petition, Trustee Charles Crommett with a second from Trustee George D. Illig, moved to proceed to borrow monies to purchase new fire engines for the extinguishing and preventing fires within the Village of Depew. The resolution further went on to state, that the village board was impressed with the conviction of the petitioners that the apparatus now in use was obsolete and inefficient. The exigencies of the case render it imperative, expedient and necessary that new and modern fire engines shall be purchased to extinguish and prevent fires in the Village of Depew. A bond resolution was also submitted in the amount of $15,000, to fund the purchase of the equipment and a permissive referendum was scheduled on September 19, 1918, which would allow the village board to purchase the motorized fire apparatus.
As the time grew closer for the referendum, the campaign to educate the village taxpayers on the issue of motorized apparatus continued in the pages of the Depew Herald. The next article that appeared dealt with the driving and operating of the new proposed apparatus.
Many questions as to whom shall operate the proposed new motor driven fire apparatus has been asked in the past three weeks. This question seems to be more important in the minds of some of the voters who have been considering this proposition than the question of purchasing.
The driving and taking care of the proposed fire trucks would be done by a selected number of men from each company in which house a truck was stationed, the same method other towns and villages, which have a whole volunteer fire department would be used in this village.
The method used in towns and villages having motor driven fire apparatus where all members are volunteers, five or six members of each company are trained or taught to operate and drive the motor trucks. No other members are allowed to try in any manner to operate or drive the fire apparatus trucks.
In the villages and towns of Medina, Albion, Westfield, Cheektowaga and our neighboring Village of Lancaster, these methods are now in use and are working successfully. There is no reason why the fire department in this village cannot operate and drive these motor trucks in the same method.
Each fire company in the two houses where a motor truck has been proposed have eight or more members who either drive commercial motor trucks or have an automobile of their own. These men are willing to do their best in driving these new proposed fire trucks.
Much has been said by some people in this village that these proposed motor driven fire trucks would not receive proper care, attention and be driven by every Tom, Dick or Harry. This impression is wrong. Because the department is composed of all volunteers is no reason why new apparatus will not receive proper care, attention and be properly driven.
It is an unfair and unjust attitude to the members of the local fire department. It’s members have at all times responded to their call to duty regardless of time, day or night, sunshine or winter storm and severe weather, lose time from their work or business, suffer injuries, such as bruises and burns, loss of sleep, soiled clothing, endangering their lives to protect your property from destruction by fire. Does this then prove that they are willing and anxious to take care of any improved apparatus that the taxpayers may give them to better their fire fighting conditions and as well improve your own protection?
If a taxpayer who has a vote on this proposition who is not a member of the local fire department will give this proposition a fair and unbiased consideration and do his best to help better conditions rather than to keep them as they are, it will be better for all concerned. Put your shoulder to the wheel to help better and improve these conditions.
A week prior to the scheduled referendum, Hose Company Number One inserted the following piece in the paper. When the Depew Hose Co. No. 1 goes to a fire in their district, as a rule, the members have to draw their apparatus by hand. How about coming to the south side on a general alarm. A motor fire truck would be better. VOTE YES.
In this same issue of the paper a bold headline appeared that read: DO YOU WANT THIS TO OCCUR AGAIN, accompanied by an article and photos of the Depew High School fire that had occurred several years ago and had been referred to in previous published articles.
Cause---Inadequate fire apparatus and low water pressure. Remedy---Modern fire apparatus to respond promptly and raise water pressure to whatever pressure needed to the amount of 750 gallons per minute.
Cost of the building $75,000, including building and contents, and great inconvenience to hundreds of school children, teachers and parents for two years and a large additional expense to the taxpayers until the new high school was completed.
The foregoing is a most convincing piece of evidence when the result of our present fire equipment is used at a fire of any size that occurs. Unfortunately, we have had four big fires where the local fire department was unable to cope with successfully on account of being unable to respond more rapidly and not having apparatus, which the firemen could efficiently work.
Conditions are the same today and the fire risk is greater than it ever was. More buildings are being built; manufacturing industries have enlarged their plants. In the interest of all, this demands modern improvements.
The additional tax per thousand, per year, if the proposed fire apparatus is purchased will not exceed 25 to 30 cents. How much more then that have you already paid because we have not got modern apparatus to suit your needs and how much more are you going to pay before we get fit. That depends on how long you hold this proposition down.
Consider the difference in property damage in your home in case of a fire that could not be handled with our present chemical equipment, where it would be necessary to use a heavy hose, damaging both building and furniture more with water than the damage done by the fire.
Suppose instead that a modern truck responded with 40 gallons of chemical available and the truck so equipped that a heavy line is run to the nearest hydrant and by-passed into the small chemical hose they would apply to a fire in a house where it was still confined inside the house. How much less will be your damage and how much easier for your wife and yourself to clean up what little water got through into other parts of your house.
Reliable persons have informed me that our water supply is not as good today as it was two years ago, due to more industries being supplied with water. The water pressure on the mains in this village is as low as 40 to 45 pounds for hours at a time and the pumps at the pumping station doing their best. The water pressure rarely goes over 90 pounds on any of our streets and then for short periods only.
Thursday, September 19th has been set as the day for a special election on this proposition. If your interest is for the future welfare of this village, do your bit and vote yes. This is a step towards the conservation of life and property.
Although the village board was in unanimous support of the proposition and the extensive campaign by Chief Carlson and others in support of the proposition, the voters of the village felt differently and the proposition was defeated at the polls.
A communication was received by the village board at the July 10,1919 meeting from the Underwriters Association of the State of New York saying that they are in receipt of advice to the effect that our fire protection facilities are seriously impaired and ask for a reply at an early date as to what we have in mind as to improving conditions. The letter was referred to the fire and water committee. One has to wonder who was providing the information of the fire facilities condition in the Village of Depew as this was not the first time that, letters of this nature were received by the village board. It could be possible that this was a part of Fire Chief John Carlson’s continuing campaign to motorize the fire department.
In 1919, Carlson’s efforts began to come to fruition. Earlier on July 25, 1919, the village board purchased a one-ton Ford motor truck as per specifications furnished by Philip Jerge and Sons for the sum of $775, which was assigned for use by the Aetna Hose Company.
On October 6, 1919, a motion and second was carried by the village board to purchase another Ford motor truck as an addition to our equipment. This truck was assigned to Hose Company Number One and it was to be a duplicate of the truck purchased for the use of the Aetna Hose Company.
Fire was discovered by a passing motorist in the roadhouse on Broadway adjoining the Moffat farm, and an alarm was sent in from Box 37, Tuesday evening November 11, 1919.
Although the fire was far out in the outskirts of the village, the Cayuga, Aetna and No. 1 Hose Companies responded in record time. It was necessary to lay a line of hose 2,050 feet long, and when the hydrant was turned on a stream of water about 11 feet high was all that the firemen could get to work with.
All efforts to save the burning building were then abandoned and all measures were made to protect the large barns and dwelling house on the Moffat farm, which were being heavily showered by sparks and flying embers.
Had adequate water pressure or a pumping engine been available only slight damage would have been done to the building and contents, the estimated loss to building and contents being $6,500. The cause of the fire has not been determined, as no one was in the house when the fire was discovered.
An automobile struck fireman William Smith of the Aetna Hose Company, who was on duty at the hydrant west of the terminal bridge. Smith was placed in an automobile and rushed to the office of Dr. Klahs, where it was determined that he was suffering from internal injuries.
Although the fire companies arrived on location in record time with their newly acquired motor trucks, the necessity of a piece of standard fire apparatus such as has been recommended by Fire Chief Carlson was again demonstrated at this fire.
When the first two hose companies arrived at the fire only a small portion of the roof and second floor were burning, but the firemen were handicapped with low water pressure. If a piece of fire apparatus with a pump on it had been available the building would have been saved with little damage to property and contents. Chief Carlson says the cost of proper apparatus with 1,000 feet of hose and a 600-gallon per minute pump is approximately $5,000. The need of such apparatus has been seen several times in the past.
Immediate steps should be taken to guard against more fires of this kind. The village should be prepared to give adequate fire protection at all times and in any part of the village.
It is interesting to note that in December 1919, the Chief of the Fire Department was authorized to purchase as necessary, wood alcohol and salt to be added to the radiators of the new motorized fire department vehicles to prevent the trucks from freezing up.
Now that the fire department was equipped with two pieces of motorized equipment, Chief Carlson in his efforts to completely motorize the fire department continued his campaign.
The April 15, 1920 edition of the Depew Herald carried the following headline; DEPEW NEEDS BETTER FIRE APPARATUS. Department Chief recommends essential improvements for better protection of life and property to forestall advance in insurance rates. Another letter written to the taxpayers of the Village of Depew by Fire Chief Carlson followed this headline.
What are the people of Depew going to do about having adequate fire fighting apparatus? Do you know the condition of the antiquated apparatus of the Cayuga Hose Company on Broadway? It consists of a two-wheel cart and hose reel and its condition is so bad that it is likely to fall apart when it is run to the next fire; a truly deplorable condition for a piece of fire apparatus to be in to respond to a fire alarm from the Penora or Main Street section. If you doubt this statement go to the Cayuga fire house and see for yourself.
The hook and ladder truck in the Gould Avenue firehouse is horse drawn and no horses to draw it with, and teamsters do not volunteer to draw it to a fire. This company has not responded to the last three fires alarms because there were no teams available to draw the truck to the fires. Think what a situation like that means if one is trapped on an upper floor by fire from below. Without a ladder in such a case, the firemen are helpless. There are times when ladders are as essential as hose and water.
The hose cart used by Central Hose Company No. 4, Harlan Street, is a two-wheel cart of the same type and construction as that of the Cayuga Hose Company. These carts were in their prime when our grandfathers were boys. Do you expect the members of these companies to do effective work with them today?
These conditions are well known to the state board of fire underwriters who are not going to let their insured risks be jeopardized by our old style and out of date fire apparatus. This board has assured the writer that owing to the conditions herein set forth; they intend to increase the insurance rates on property in Depew in the immediate future. While this increase in rates protects financial loss by fire to a certain extent, it does nothing for personal injuries or loss of life by fire, which might be prevented if the fire fighting apparatus of our village was adequate.
While it is true that two Ford trucks have been purchased and converted into fire trucks, they are not equipped with chemical tanks, which are necessary in small fires.
It is indeed fortunate for the people of Depew that we did not have a serious fire during the past winter because these Ford trucks have not power enough to get through deep snow and for that reason cannot be relied upon under such conditions.
The writer takes the liberty of making the following recommendations to improve the fire fighting apparatus of Depew.
First that two standard pieces motor driven apparatus of the double combination type be purchased, that is, chemical and hose combination.
Second, that the hose truck now used by the Aetna Hose Company be transferred to the Cayuga Hose Company on Broadway.
Third, that the hose truck now used by Depew Hose Company No. 1, be transferred to Central Hose Company No. 4 on Harlan Street.
Fourth, that one of the proposed new trucks is placed in the Gould Avenue firehouse to be used by the Aetna Hose Company, and the other in the Ellicott Road firehouse to be used by Depew Hose Company No. 1.
Fifth, that a new motor driven ladder truck, equipped with all necessary appurtenances, be purchased to replace the horse drawn truck.
The writer respectfully asks the people of Depew to kindly give this vital matter their serious consideration, not only for protection against property loss by fire, but to prevent loss of life. Think what an invaluable asset it will be to the whole village.
We take pride in our paved streets; in our sewer system and water supply; in our splendid schools so well and conscientiously administered and in our great industries; all of which makes Depew a good place in which to live, and yet the guardian of all these things, our fire department, receives but little thought and consideration.
Now let us have the fire apparatus herein recommended and be proud also of the fire protection we will then have.
On April 20,1920, Carlson addressed the village board again asking for newer better fire apparatus. After a heated discussion lasting three hours, Fire Chief John Carlson finally induced the village board to consider the purchase of two new fire trucks of the latest model. So set was the board against the proposal that Chief Carlson was obliged to have the present apparatus brought to the village hall where he demonstrated the needs.
The board was opposed to spending more money this year, the members claiming that they wished to reduce the tax rate that has been steadily climbing since the war. It was decide to sell the old apparatus to help pay for the new. The board later however, decided to defer consideration of the matter to a special meeting, to be held on April 23, 1920.
Village President Cornelius Gibbs opened the special meeting by stating that the purpose of the meeting was to consider the advisability of purchasing additional motorized fire apparatus.
Mr. George R. Stephens of Lancaster, New York, representing the Buffalo Chemical Fire Extinguisher Company of Buffalo, New York, addressed the board in regard to fire apparatus that his company were selling agents for. After considerable discussion pro and con, it was moved by Trustee Michael Potoczak and seconded by Trustee Michael Dobbins, to purchase, two combination hose trucks and a city service hook and ladder truck manufactured by Obenchain-Boyer Company of Logansport, Indiana, at a total cost of $17,500 F.O.B. Depew, New York.
The two 1920 Combination Chemical Tank, 600 G.P.M. pumping engines with a hose body, were on a Stewart Truck chassis built by Obenchain-Boyer. Both trucks were delivered on September 7, 1920.
The ladder truck was a 1920 city service, double-banked ladder truck, on a Stewart Truck chassis built by Obenchain-Boyer and was also delivered to the village on September 7, 1920.
The village board met on September 10th for the purpose of accepting the new fire apparatus and ordered the $17,500 purchase price be paid in full.
On September 11th, the Depew Fire Department held it’s annual street carnival and dance. One of the main features of the evening was the exhibition of the newly delivered fire apparatus. The new apparatus received many flattering remarks and it was said that, the boys can feel proud of their new “dreadnaughts” and no doubt they will.
On Friday October 1st, the Lancaster Fire Department hosted visiting firemen from Depew, Williamsville, Kenmore, Hamburg, East Aurora and other neighboring villages in Erie County in a parade with $100 in prize money.
The turnout of the Depew Fire Department now entirely motorized showing their new fire apparatus was expected as a special and urgent invitation was extended for their participation.
After the new engines were put in service, the Ford trucks that were in use by the Aetna Hose Company and Depew Hose Company No. 1 were transferred to the Cayuga Hose Company and Central Hose Company No. 4 just as in the plan Chief Carlson had advanced earlier.
On Wednesday December 7th, the Depew Fire Department showed some wonderful speed when Chief John Carlson turned in a general alarm to test out the entire apparatus. No previous warning had been given to the fire ladies but within two minutes after the alarm was sounded, Aetna Hose Company was on the scene at Main and Penora Street, followed quickly by Cayuga Hose Company, Depew Hook & Ladder, Hose Company No. 1 and Central Hose Company. In all five companies about 100 men turned out.
Practice in ladder work and hose laying was ordered and the men performed smartly. The Fire Department drilled for about half an hour in the presence of numerous spectators. The new ladder equipment was given a thorough tryout and Chief Carlson expressed himself at the end of the practice as well pleased with the manner in which the men had fulfilled their duties.
The Fire Chief hopes to have at least three companies ready for an exhibition drill at the next firemen’s convention.
The general alarm sounded by the fire siren on Tuesday afternoon December 27th was the subject of much comment as to the nature and extent of the blaze and the reason for the call on all of Depew’s firefighting apparatus. It was a precautionary measure of Assistant Chief Miller, and was justified by circumstances.
However a chemical stream was used but as the fire had spread between a number of partitions and under the roof, it proved a stubborn blaze to fight. With inadequate water pressure, a general alarm was turned in which brought the rest of the chemical trucks to the scene and with their aid the fire was extinguished.
The blaze started through an attempt to thaw out water pipes in the Dojinski residence on Burlington Avenue.
Had this fire occurred in a section of the village where a large quantity of inflammable material is at hand, the low water pressure would have meant that a serious fire would have been the result. Only prompt work of the local companies saved Tuesday’s fire from spreading.
None of the pieces of fire equipment of Depew possess a pressure pump, and it is apparent that in a fire under such circumstances as prevailed yesterday, a pressure pump would have been of great assistance in drawing a greater stream from the water main.
The village board meeting, which followed the Burlington Avenue fire, had north side Trustee Walter Witkowski hot in denunciation of the company that failed to provide water pressure at the time of the Burlington Avenue fire when the firemen only had chemicals to work with. Witkowski opened up a heavy barrage on the Western New York Water Company for its failure to provide sufficient water pressure.
Witkowski pointed out the great danger to which the village was subject at that time. He stated that on his arrival at the scene, he called the superintendent of the water company and demanded an explanation of the lack of pressure. He was informed that the pumps were being repaired.
“Where would we have been,” he quarried, “if the fire had been located on Main Street? Suppose the fire had got beyond control of chemicals, what then? Where would it have ended, when the firemen would have been practically helpless? I want to see this water company forced to live up to its agreement to provide adequate water supply. It was only quick work and the turning in of a general alarm that saved the fire from becoming serious.”
Trustee Elmer Nash voiced strong support of Witkowski, and called for adequate fire pressure whenever needed. Trustee Michael Dobbins emphatically demanded that the water company be forced to live up to its agreement with the village. He asked for the pressure that was to be maintained by the company.
Attorney S.J. O’Hart produced the contract of the water company in which the company agreed to furnish “adequate” pressure---no precise pound pressure being cited. Another clause in the contract freed the company from damage caused by shutting down of supply at any time. The contract was to expire next May.
Fire Chief Carlson told the board of a test which was recently conducted on Main Street by representatives of the fire underwriters and the Western New York Water Company. The test was made at the most favorable time in the afternoon, about 4 o’clock, and showed only 60 Pounds pressure. “Put that kind of stream through 600 feet of hose and what have our men got to work with?” queried the Chief. ‘Of course the water company can increase this pressure in case of emergency, but it might result in burst pipes.”
Chief Carlson recommended a way out of the difficulty, by installing a pump on one of the pieces of fire apparatus, which would enable the fire fighters to get the requisite pressure regardless of the conditions of pressure in the water mains.
Trustee Witkowski returned to the attack and got through a resolution calling on the water company for explanation of its lack of pressure in village water mains.
The Depew Herald in a lengthy editorial on the village’s problems with the water company, backed Chief Carlson’s suggestion stating the here, then, is a remedy, a safeguard, a means of protection that can be depended upon, and will prevent a recurrence of such a condition as prevailed at the Burlington Avenue fire, when low water pressure, forced the fire department to use expensive chemicals to extinguish the blaze.
There is no room for argument as to what should be done in this case. There is a proven danger existent to the lives and property of the Village of Depew. It is up to the village fathers to remedy such conditions, for the seriousness of them demands careful thought and direct action.
For the second time in less than two weeks, the fire department had to rely on chemicals to extinguish a fire in a boxcar when there was inadequate water pressure available
That the village must insist that the water company provide adequate water pressure or that the fire department must have a pump was again demonstrated last Saturday afternoon when a boxcar loaded with wood shavings at the N.Y.C. shops caught fire.
Hose companies No.1 and No.4 responded to the call and quickly laid in a hose line. It was then discovered that the water pressure was so low that it was impossible to throw a stream into the burning car. The chemicals on No. 1 were used to hold the fire in check and prevent the flames from spreading to other cars.
When Chief Carlson investigated later, it was found that the water pressure had been very low throughout the day and at the time of the fire was only about 25 pounds. Had there been a fire on Main Street that day, it would have been a serious matter, because there was a high wind blowing at the time.
The Chief pointed out that the chemicals are useless in case of a large blaze, being used mostly at the start of small fires.
At the time the present new fire apparatus was purchased, Chief Carlson urged the Board of Trustees to equip the Aetna Hose Company truck with a pump, so that in case of low pressure the fire department can throw a stream. He again requested the trustees to take up the matter.
One thing sure, the trustees must provide this pump, or make the water company come to terms. It is a serious matter as the businessmen and residents must be protected.
At the August 18, 1924 meeting of the village board, a petition was received by the board asking that a sum not to exceed $18,000 be raised thru the sale of a bond in order to purchase two motor-driven pumping fire engines and other necessary appurtenances necessary for the extinguishments of fires and the protection of property.
So the battle for newer and better pumping fire apparatus continued. The September 28, 1924 issue of the Depew Herald described a public demonstration that was held on Saturday September 23, 1924, which showed the necessity of equipping the local fire department with motor pumping equipment.
The Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation made the demonstration with a 450 G.P.M. pumper. This pumper, although smaller than the pumpers which have been recommended to be purchased made a splendid showing. At the Cayuga Creek and Broadway Bridge, the pumper delivered 533 G.P.M. with a pump pressure of 150 P.S.I. against an eight-foot lift. At Main and Muskingum Streets, a large difference was shown between the hydrant pressure and the pumping pressure.
At Broadway and the New York Central Terminal Railway Bridge, taking water from the 25 P.S.I. hydrant pressure at this point made a practical demonstration. A line of hose 1800 feet long was laid to the three houses west of the bridge and the pressure flowing at the nozzle was only 3 P.S.I. The pumping engine was then connected to the hydrant and the nozzle pressure using a 1 1/8 inch nozzle was 25 P.S.I. The hose lines were split to provide two streams with 7/8 inch nozzles attached and with a pump pressure of 210 P.S.I. provided two good streams.
Needless to say people in this section of the village who have suffered fire losses due to low water pressure are very much in favor of the village purchasing motor driven fire pumping apparatus.
The proposition is to purchase two 600 G.P.M. motor pumping fire engines and retire from service the two Ford trucks that are too small for the requirements of today. Neither of these trucks has chemical equipment and is capable of carrying only three hundred feet of fire hose.
As this village has suffered a fire loss of approximately $230,000 in the past twelve years due to low water pressure and the possibility of low pressure in the future is not impossible, no argument in favor of the purchase of motor pumping fire engines can be too strong or convincing.
On July 19, 1926, the petition of twenty-five taxpayers petitioning the board of trustees to hold a special election for the submission of a proposition to spend the sum not to exceed $10,000 for the purchase of fire apparatus was read. The board ordered a special election on the proposition on August 24th and set the date for the election on September 7, 1926.
The July 22, 1926 issue of the Depew Herald carried an article, which stated, that it is hoped that the village taxpayers will consider the proposition intelligently and vote accordingly.
The need of the two new hose trucks is imperative and immediate. The members of the Cayuga Hose Company and Central Hose Company had circulated the petition requesting a special election on the question of the two new hose trucks. The leading businessmen and taxpayers of the village headily signed the petition. If this proposition is passed, the two small Ford trucks will be retired from service. These trucks have served well but will not stand the strain for very much longer.
They were old trucks in 1921, when the companies that have them now were given them second handed. The body of what is now the Cayuga truck was formerly the box of the old Aetna horse drawn truck. About ten years ago it was mounted on the chassis of a Ford truck, which had served its usefulness in the streets department. The truck now belonging to Hose Company Number Four formerly belonged to Hose Company Number One. The members of both the Cayuga’s and Number Fours are tired of being laughed at when answering an alarm of fire. The trucks are so small and so many members of each company ride them, that admittedly, it is a laughable sight to see them coming down the street. All that can be seen is the firemen, and it is hard to see what they are riding on.
The trucks are unsafe; those firemen risk their lives every time that they ride them. WHY? To protect your lives and property. Will you force continued risks upon these lads for the sake of about two cents additional taxes for every thousand dollars valuation of your property?
They give their services, their sleep, and their time, which often results in a financial loss. In return they receive no recompense for it and are often razzed. Depew has the youngest, best and most active volunteer fire department in this end of the state. The least you can do is afford them trucks on which they can ride safely as they take enough risks at fires as it is.
Some say though, what is the use of giving them a new truck, the will only wreck it. Well to this we reply, neither of the two companies in question has ever had new equipment. Receiving second handed junk always destroys the morale of everyone concerned. Give the boys a chance to show how they can and intend to take care of the new equipment if they are given the chance. Another reply to that is that if at least one of the trucks is not replaced soon, it will crack under the strain of some fifteen or twenty young men answering an alarm sometime and perhaps result in death of one or more of the firemen. Half of the really active members of this company are young married men who have families. We are of course speaking of the Cayuga’s truck and members of that company.
The reason why this truck is in worse shape than that of Hose Company Number Four is that has answered at least eight times as many alarms as the north side truck and in most cases has carried more men.
Do the right thing by the boys. Vote in favor of the proposition for the two new hose trucks at the special election. Show them that you “will entrust new equipment to them and they are bound to do better work.” They have always done the best, with the equipment furnished. Help them continue to do better work by voting “YES” for the proposition.
With the arguments presented, the proposition was received in a positive manner by the taxpayers and on September 20th, bonds were ordered to be issued to cover the purchase of two fire engines. On November 1st, the village clerk was directed to advertise for bids for two pieces of fire apparatus at a price not to exceed $10,000.
Bids were requested per specifications to be received on November 15, 1926. Bids were received from the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company Inc., Brost Brothers, Childs Motor Fire Apparatus, The White Company and Peter Pirsch and Sons Company.
The American LaFrance Fire Engine Company bid was for two rebuilt Combination Chemical / Pump and Hose Trucks at a cost of $10,000. Following the receipt of the bids, the board voted to go into executive session. After reconvening, Trustee John Murray moved to accept the American LaFrance bid despite the fact that the LaFrance bid was the highest. Trustee Arthur Prestine seconded the motion and the village board accepted their bid for the two rebuilt engines as specified. The village attorney was authorized and directed to draw up a contract for the fire apparatus. On December 20th, the Village President Elmer J. Nash was directed to sign a new contract with the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company for fire apparatus. The new contract contained a new car guarantee clause.
These American LaFrance trucks were trucks that had been turned back to American LaFrance in trade for new equipment. The entire truck was disassembled and any parts that had shown any wear were scrapped and new parts were used as replacement. The trucks were re-built by the same process as new trucks and all were given the same tests as new apparatus and the same guarantee as new apparatus. The trucks were equipped with new wheels and tires and the entire truck was repainted, making it impossible to tell them apart from a new truck
On Tuesday afternoon, February 22, 1927, the two new American LaFrance hose trucks, the latest additions to the Depew Fire Department equipment arrived in the village. A LaFrance engineer accompanying the rigs had both trucks tuned up and ready for service the same evening.
The two new hose trucks presented a monstrous appearance along side the two small Ford trucks they displaced. One was delivered to the Cayuga Hose Company on Broadway and the other was delivered to Central Hose Company No. 4 on Harlen Street in the northeast section of the village.
The trucks were built to carry 1,200 feet of hose. Each carried two 40-gallon chemical tanks and two three-gallon hand chemicals. They were equipped with 38x7 pneumatic cord tires mounted on ultra heavy artillery wheels. The motors were the four-cylinder type. The trucks were able to attain a speed of 60 miles per hour, though the necessity of traveling at that rate may never actualize.
The two trucks were purchased for $10,000 as the result of the taxpayer’s decision at a special election held the previous fall. They were considered good investments and raised the already high standard of the fire department and its equipment. They were placed in the houses of the companies that had petitioned the village board and taxpayers for new equipment. Until this time, neither company had ever received new apparatus. The new trucks would be their pride and joy for years to come, and justly so, for they were equal to any hose trucks in the country, and surpass about ninety percent of them. The boys of both companies were anxiously waiting for the opportunity to show their new apparatus to the people of the village.
Following the delivery of the American LaFrance engines, the village clerk was directed to advertise for the sale of two Ford trucks, which were recently retired from service by the fire department. A bid of $10.00 was received for one of the Ford trucks from the Depew Eagle Home Association and accepted. It was not clear as to the disposal of the second Ford truck.
At the March 1, 1927 meeting of the village board, a petition signed by twenty-five taxpayers and electors to submit the following proposition was received. The petition was to purchase one piece of apparatus, namely a Triple Combination Fire Engine, at a maximum cost of $12,000 and a minimum cost of $10,000.
The proposition was submitted as Proposition No. 1 in the annual village election to be held on March 15, 1927.
Although the March election was expected to be the dullest and quietest on record in this village, as the slate of incumbents representing the Citizens Party were running unopposed, it turned out to be somewhat interesting.
Had it not been for the fire apparatus proposition it was thought that less than one hundred votes would have been cast, since there was no opposition to the candidates seeking re-election. However, on the south side some of the firemen worked hard for the proposition and taxied many voters to and from the polls. Most everybody on the north side was opposed to the passing of the proposition and some one hundred and seven declared their opposition by voting against it with only four Yes votes cast on the north side.
In all, there were two hundred forty seven votes cast for the unopposed candidates. The same number of taxpayers cast ballots on the proposition, though two of these were blank and eight were void because of incorrect marking.
At the April 16, 1928 meeting of the village board, a petition was received from the Aetna Hose Company for a fire engine with a 750 G.P.M. capacity pump at a price not to exceed $13,000.
A motion was made by Trustee Joseph Collie and seconded by Trustee Arthur Prestine, directing the village clerk to advertise for a public hearing on the aforementioned petition, to be held on Monday evening May 7th.
The April 26, 1928 issue of the Depew Herald stated that, Final arrangements were completed by village clerk Joseph C. English for the public hearing on May 2nd on the question of purchasing a new triple combination-pumping engine for the Aetna Hose Company.
The following week an article was carried by the Herald indicating that the public hearing on the proposed fire engine purchase for the Aetna Hose Company as announced the previous week was in error and the hearing would be held on May 7th. The article went on to say that there was no pumper of any capacity in the village. For any fires in the western section of the village requires a call for assistance from the Forks Fire Company. Valuable time is lost in getting the Fork’s pumper here and the village must also pay at least $25 each time Forks is called in.
When the public hearing on the Aetna Hose Company’s petition was held, it became shrouded in mystery. Most of the Aetna’s doughty firefighters attended the hearing and many citizens were there to see the fireworks. Twice, Mayor Elmer Nah announced the hearing and invited any and all either for or against the proposition to step out and speak their pieces. None responded.
A third attempt was made to get an expression of sentiment, but in vain. Village Clerk English quietly quizzed the firemen on whether or not they would take the floor, but all he got by way of an answer was grins. Thus passed the hearing on the fire pumper proposal.
On May 7, 1928, Fire Chief Henry Young, Sr., appeared before the village board and requested that serious consideration be given to the need of a pumping fire engine for the Depew Fire Department. He pointed out an instance at recent fires where little to no water pressure hampered the fire department. The assistance of the Forks Fire Company with their equipment was necessary and on another occasion on Main Street, where three streams were required, the water pressure again was extremely low. After listening to the plea of Chief Young, the board deferred action on the matter.
At the following board meeting on May 21, 1928, the village clerk was directed to advertise for bids for a 750 G.P.M. pumping fire engine.
On June 4th two bids were received, one from the American LaFrance Fire Engine Corporation in the amount of $12,700 with a promised delivery in 45 days and a second bid was from the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation in the amount of $11,135 with a promised delivery date of 30 days. The bids were tabled. Salesmen from both concerns addressed the board and Fire Chief Young took the opportunity of reiterating his plea for a pumper.
The board decided that the two rival firms were to give a demonstration of their pumping equipment for the board. The demonstration was held on Saturday evening June 9th. Both firms gave demonstrations of their apparatus hooked to fire hydrants and again by drafting water from the creek. During the latter demonstration, the pressure delivered by the pumper broke four lengths of hose.
The June 18th meeting was a stormy session. The bids that were received were all rejected and the village clerk was again instructed to solicit new bids on a new pumper with a pumping capacity of 1000 G.P.M.
This action was precipitated by the appearance of a representative of Ahrens-Fox Company, of Buffalo, who claimed his firm and at least two others would have been able to give the village much better bargains had they been given a chance to bid on the pumper.
The first order of business at the July 2nd meeting of the board was to postpone the bid opening to July 16, 1928 at which time eleven bids were received from some of the country’s finest manufacturers of fire apparatus. Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, American LaFrance Fire Engine Company of Elmira, New York, The Seagrave Corporation of Columbus, Ohio and the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation of Buffalo, New York all submitted bids for various pump configurations and pumping capacities.
The bids were received and tabled and the village clerk was directed to arrange for a public demonstration selecting the 750 G.P.M.Ahrens-Fox engine with a rotary pump and the 1000 G.P.M. engine manufactured by the Seagrave Corporation. A goodly delegation of firemen headed by Chief Young, were on hand to urge the board to speed up the matter. Following the meeting, the demonstration and test of the two competing manufacturers and their equipment was scheduled to take place on Saturday July 28th. Both firms were to demonstrate 750 G.P.M.fire pumpers.
The Depew Village Board along Fire Chief Young and other officers of the fire department were the guests of the Seagrave Fire Engine Corporation on August 13th at a demonstration of a Seagrave engine at North Tonawanda.
The guests were provided with bus transportation by their hosts. All those viewing the pumping demonstration were very much impressed by its performance. The time has arrived for the local fire department to be equipped with a high-pressure pumper in order to cope with fire within the village limits and in the outskirts. The displays of modernly equipped fire departments during the recent convention in Depew has made Depew’s need of such an apparatus more evident than ever before.
Following the public demonstration of the various pumping engines, the board of trustees received a letter from the Aetna Hose Company, recommending the purchase of the Seagrave engine.
The letter received from the Aetna Hose Company read; We have seen the following pumpers tested, the Buffalo Fire Appliance, American LaFrance, Seagrave, Ahrens-Fox and find that the Seagrave engine has done it’s work in perfect form. So the Aetna Hose Company has taken a vote of its members of which two-thirds are taxpayers and ask the Honorable Board of Trustees to purchase for their use, a Seagrave engine. Thanking you all and hope that you will grant the Aetna Hose Company this request. Twenty-eight members of the Aetna Hose Company signed the letter.
Differences of opinion on the merits of a gear driven pump or a piston pump in the various types of modern fire apparatus has thus far held up any action by the village board in purchasing the apparatus for the Aetna’s.
Despite the letter received from the Aetna Hose Company, the village board took no action. Representatives of several other factories induced the board to wait until after special demonstrations of both gear pump and piston pump apparatus.
James Geddes of Buffalo promised a demonstration of both styles of motor pump engines of the manufacturer whom he represents, this week. He said he was under the impression that the village did not desire a piston pump. But will bring the engine of the Snyder Hose Company for a demonstration of that type of machine.
Following several demonstrations under the close inspection of experts representing the Village of Depew, the local fire department and various fire truck manufacturing companies, the board of trustees carried a resolution accepting the bid of the Seagrave Corporation of Columbus, Ohio, being the most favorable and in the best interest of the Village of Depew.
Mayor Elmer Nash said the machine selected was not a piston pumper, and its modern improvements and general excellence in severe tests greatly satisfied the village board and other village officials in every particular.
The Mayor and Village clerk were directed and authorized to enter into and sign a contract for (1) Seagrave Model 1060, 1000 G.P.M Triple Combination Pumper for the sum of $13,000.
The board is planning to issue bonds to the amount of the cost of the pumper, to cover the purchase immediately, and after the bonds were sold would apportion the amount against all of the taxable property in the village over a term of years, probably five years, to pay off the bonds.
Acquisition of the pumping engine to the department actually does not cost the taxpayers a penny, board members say, because decrease in fire insurance rates for industrial and private property will equal the tax over a five year period.
The mammoth 1000 gallon capacity Seagrave pumper ordered by the village board several months ago was delivered to the Aetna Hose Company of the Depew Fire Department in mid-January 1929 with the following description of the new pumping engine in the January 17, 1929 issue of the Depew Herald.
The new pumper will be housed in the Gould Avenue firehouse. Just what arrangements will be made regarding its response to alarms on either side of the village have not yet been worked out. Chief Henry Young states that as soon as the pumper is put into service, the Board of Wardens will announce these arrangements.
It is a majestic and powerful looking piece of machinery. As it stands now, the radiator cap is approximately 6 feet from the floor; the hood over the motor is about that length. The motor has a rating of 100 horsepower; it has six huge cylinders each with a dual ignition. The tires are 40x8 pneumatics.
The pump, a centrifugal type of 1000 G.P.M. capacity is located under the front seat. It is entirely encased, only the levers and gauges protruding. This feature of the encased pump is especially appealing to officers of volunteer fire departments for it greatly discourages and hinders tampering with the mechanism of the pump and also lessens the chances of the pump or gauges freezing. The exhaust pipe running under the pump also lessens this danger while water direct from the pump line is circulating around the cylinders to keep them cool during long runs. There is a six-inch intake to the pump and four outlets, two of which are on either side affording ready access regardless of the position of the pumper, the source of water supply or the fire.
The truck is equipped with a booster tank of 80-gallon capacity. This tank is filled with clear water, which is forced out of the pump through a one-inch hose.
This small line will be used for all small fires and is specially adapted for small inside fires, which in the past in many cases, most of the damage inflicted was due to the acid in the chemicals used or in the excessive use of water. Two foamite tanks are also carried on the truck for use in fighting gas or oil fires. The hose bed will carry 1500 feet of regulation 21/2 “ fire hose.
The village board will meet and inspect the apparatus either on Saturday or Sunday. Village Clerk Joseph English has notified the fire underwriters that pump has been delivered and is ready for inspection. The village board will not officially accept the pump until it has passed the underwriters test, which includes a 12-hour pimping test. When accepted by the insurance underwriters, application will be made for a reduction in the fire insurance rates within the village limits. If a reduction is granted, the pump will cost the village practically nothing for the reduction in the insurance rate will more than makeup the few cents added to the tax rate to pay for the added fire protection.
Chief Young and the members of the Aetna Hose Company invite all taxpayers of the village to inspect the pumper. There will be someone at the Gould Avenue firehouse every evening to explain the many good features and workings of the new monster. The time of the underwriters test will be announced in time to give everyone interested the opportunity to witness the test and see the pump in action.
The Aetna Hose Company held a banquet on February 2, 1929 in celebration of the arrival and official acceptance of their new 1,000 G.P.M. pumper. The banquet was held at the Eagle’s Home and a host of dignitaries were invited as guests
Before the banquet, John Bauer Chief Mechanic of the Aetna Hose Company explained the workings of the mammoth pumper as the Seagrave delivery engineer had explained them to him
Promptly at 10 o’clock, Chauncey Urschel served a seven course chicken supper. Immediately after the last course, Wilfred Settle, President of the Aetna’s appointed Albert Simbritz, toastmaster.
The first speaker of the evening was Mayor Elmer Nash. He told of his early days as an active member of the Aetna Hose Company and of its first equipment. Edward Byron, former President of the village and also a member of the Aetna’s also spoke of his early affiliations here in the village. Mr. Byron told of pulling a two-wheel hose reel through the mud of Penora Street on more than one occasion. He expressed his satisfaction at the progress the company and the village has made during the past decade.
Former Fire Chief and now Judge John C. Carlson gave a brief history of the Depew Fire Department and its apparatus. He blended his information with a few short and interesting stories and astounded many of the boys when their former leader started a fuselage of facts and figures that had been tucked away in his memory since his first year as an active fireman some twenty-seven or eight years ago.
After the speeches, the boys adjourned and were entertained and kept in the best of spirits until the wee small hours of the morning.