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- FIRST ATTEMPTS TO ESTABLISHMENT The movement toward establishing a paid Department for the city of Brooklyn dates back as far as 1858, when Alderman E. J. LOWBER introduced a resolution providing for such a Department. The resolution was referred to a committee consisting of E. J. LOWBER, Edward ROWE, Edward S. RALPHS, Martin KALBFLEISCH and William H. JENKINS, who in reporting favorably expressed the opinion that a reduction in the number of fires would follow upon the abolition of the volunteer system, as they were of opinion that many fires of incendiary origin were " started by the adherents of different companies in order to get up an excitement," much as a company in Utica had fired a church steeple to demonstrate the throwing capacity of a favorite engine. It was expected that the introduction of the Ridgewood water (then under way) would give a stream from hydrants with a pressure sufficient to carry one hundred feet through a 2" -inch hose, and that except for high altitudes no engines would be required, and for those the purchase of two steamers would suffice. The resolution was not passed. - JUDGE MASSEY'S SUCCESSFUL, 1869 In 1869, several prominent citizens of Brooklyn called upon ex - Judge Fred S. MASSEY, who had always been in favor of better discipline in the volunteer ranks and pledged their support if he would endeavor to organize a paid Department He was then Foreman of old Engine Co. No. 14, in Pierrepont Street. He consented and drew up a bill which was presented to the Legislature by Andrew B. HODGES, representing the Eighth Assembly District. It was entitled " An Act to Reorganize the Fire Department of the city of Brooklyn." When the original bill was passed, in 1869, visions of a more complete and efficient Fire Department, which would handle fires more expeditiously and with less bickerings and squabbles, arose before the eyes of the citizens. They thought well of their volunteer brigade, but they wanted something better and more under their control. The news that the Governor had affixed his signature to the bill, therefore, was greeted with joy by the community. -COMMISSIONERS - APPOINTED AND ORGANIZED Then came the appointment of the Commissioners. Mayor KALBFLEISCH, Alderman BERGEN (president of the Board of Aldermen), Street Commissioner FUREY, Comptroller JOHNSON and City Treasurer SPRAGUE were authorized by the new act to nominate five persons, and then ballot for four Commissioners, the four receiving the highest number of votes to be declared elected. A meeting was held in the Comptroller's office, and the following names were selected upon which to ballot: Frederick S. MASSEY, Hugh MCLAUGHLIN, William A. BROWN, Anthony F. CAMPBELL, Rodney THURSBY and D. D. BRIGGS, the first four of whom were elected. At the first meeting of the new board, which was held in the Comptroller's office on Saturday, May 22, 1869, the members drew lots for terms of office. MCLAUGHLIN was the first who tempted fate, and drew out an eight-year ticket from the hat. MASSEY followed, and drew out a coupon bearing a similar term. Messrs. BROWN and CAMPBELL, of course, drew six years slips. They were then sworn in by the City Clerk, after which officers were chosen as follows: President, F. S. MASSEY; treasurer, Hugh MCLAUGHLIN; secretary, C. A. SPARKS. Almost the very first thing which the board did in its official capacity was to notify the president of the Metropolitan Police Department that one section of the new bill provided that the police should cooperate with the firemen in every way, and arrest all persons who might violate any rule of the Board or the Department in connection with the extinguishment of fires. The next thing was to improve the condition of the Department as far as possible, and with that end in view. Chief Engineer SMITH of the Eastern District, and Chief Engineer CUNNINGHAM, of the Western District, were' ordered to furnish a complete list of the apparatus in use by the Department and its condition. Briefly summed up, the reports were in effect as follows: Western District- one Chief, seven Assistant Engineers, 1,743 enrolled members, fifteen steam fire-engines, two hand- engines, thirteen hose-carriages, and six hook and ladder trucks. Eastern District - one Chief, four Assistant Engineers, 610 enrolled members, three steam-engines, three hand-engines, ten hose-carriages and three hook and ladder trucks. The totals in the two districts footed up 2,366 members, eighteen steam-engines, five hand-engines, twenty-three hose-carriages, nine hook and ladder trucks; hose, 27,000 feet, of which 12,000 feet was in good, 9,000 in ordinary, and 6,000 in bad condition. In the Western District, so it was stated by Chief. Engineer CUNNINGHAM, nine engines were in bad condition, and only five fit for use by the new Department. Four hand-engines and fourteen tenders could also be used, but only three of the five hook and ladder trucks were in good order. He recommended that the Department be furnished with eight second-class steam-engines at once. Chief Engineer SMITH reported regarding the apparatus in the Eastern District that of the six engines only two could be adapted to the uses of the paid Department, and that none of the hose-carriages were fit to be employed, being too lightly built. Of the three hook and ladder trucks, but one could be used under the new system, and that only with some expense for repairs and alteration. On May 26 another meeting of the Commissioners was held in the City Hall, when standing committees were appointed as follows: Apparatus - MCLAUGHLIN, BROWN Finance - CAMPBELL, MCLAUGHLIN Buildings - BROWN CAMPBELL Supplies-MCLAUGHLIN, BROWN Appointments - The Board Shop - CAMPBELL Telegraph - BROWN, CAMPBELL At another meeting on the following day, the Commissioners decided upon the building then occupied by Engine No. 17, on Jay, near Willoughby Street a suitable place for headquarters, and early in June it was fitted up with offices, where the Board took up their position. - INSPECTION OF OLD DEPARTMENTS & CHANGES ORDERED The Commissioners made it one of their first duties to visit all the Fire Department buildings. They inspected the western District first, and were struck with the general bad condition of the apparatus; it was extremely dirty, and in some cases the buildings were falling to pieces. Many engines were practically useless; hose dry, dirty, and cracked ; some of the engine-houses occupied by private families, and others in various respects unfit for use - while in many instances both houses and apparatus were in excellent condition, reflecting credit on the Companies charged with their custody That the Commissioners had a big task before them to reorganize the Department was very evident, as was also the fact that it would require the expenditure of a large amount of money, After much deliberation the Commissioners decided to dispense with the following engines and companies: Union, No 5; Columbia, No. 10; Hibernia, No. 16; Montauk No. 22 Goodwill, No. 4; Jackson, No. 11; Eagle, No. 13; Truck, No. 1; Atlantic Hose, No. 1; Mechanic Hose, No. 2; Frontier Hose No. 5 ; Bedford Hose, No. 11; Eureka Hose, No. 14; and Excelsior Hose, No. 9, E.D. The 632 officers and men attached to those companies received notice that they would be relieved from duty from June l, l869 and on that date some of the houses were closed, transfers were made to others, and discarded apparatus was stored. New apparatus was ordered, houses and stables built, and on July 27, a revised schedule was published of the existing companies and locations. It being announced that the Commissioners would make public the names of the successful applicants for appointment in the new Department, a large number of the hopeful assembled in front of the headquarters in Jay Street on the morning of September 15, 1869. The successful candidates were called up and informed of their appointment and given some general instruction. The following is the full list of appointments made: - ROSTER OF THE COMPLETED DEPARTMENT
HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS. Chief Engineer, John CUNNINGHAM. (Appointed May 31, 1869.) Assistant Chief Engineer, John W. SMITH. District Engineers, James GAFFNEY , James SHEVLIN , Charles B. PARLEY , Thomas F. NEVINS , George VERITZAN , William A. MINARD Superintendent of Horses, Arthur QUINN Superintendent of Repair-Shop, Patrick HUGHES. Foreman of Harness-Shop, John MCGRONEN Secretary of Department, Caspian S. SPARKS Messenger, Thomas HEFFERN Surgeon, William F. SWALM, M. D. APPOINTMENTS TO ENGINE COMPANIES. ENGINE No. 1.: John J. REID, Foreman Frederick J. MANNING, Engineer John BEGLEY, Stoker Privates: James CONNORS James DONOHUE John MORGAN and M., QUINN ENGINE No. 2.: James DOYLE, Foreman Francis CURRAN, Engineer John GEARY, Driver James FITZPATRICK, Stoker Privates: Andrew DOUGLASS James FARRELL Andrew LEONARD Henry RYAN Robert O'DONNELL ENGINE No. 3.: Peter FAGAN, Foreman David KELLY, Engineer Edward FITZSIMMONS, Driver James BUTLER, Stoker Privates: Patrick FAGAN Patrick KEATING Samuel DUFF Patrick MCKENNA James HAGGERTY ENGINE No. 4.: Daniel J. GARRITY, Foreman William H. FORD, Engineer Charles MCCHESNEY, Driver Michael BENNETT, Stoker Privates: John DUYER A. J. LYONS Cartwright MCBRIDE S. A. LOVE Thomas KELLY ENGINE No. 5.: James DALE, Foreman; William H. SHAW, Engineer John BUTLER, Driver; Henry KING, Stoker. Privates: Thomas F. BYRNE, James W. DEAN, John A. FAY, David MCCONNELL and Charles F. POUCH ENGINE No. 6.: Patrick LAHEY, Foreman James LAHEY, Engineer Arthur JOHNSON, Driver John J. POWELL, Stoker Privates: Edward J. HORAN Bernard MCLAUGHLIN James RILEY Patrick HARRISON and Michael DUNDON ENGINE No. 7.: William HAGAN, Foreman William F. HAGAN, Engineer Daniel MCCAULEY, Driver Charles FOE, Stoker Privates: Andrew MCSHANE John MALLIN Richard SMITH Thomas MACKIN and Frank J. RYNN ENGINE No. 8.: James WALSH, Foreman William BRENNAN, Engineer Patrick MURPHY, Driver Michael MCCANN, Stoker Privates: Samuel BURNS Charles JOHNSTON Peter FITZPATRICK John MCCOLE and John MCDONALD ENGINE No. 9.: James CUNNINGHAM, Foreman James W. CONNELL, Engineer Edward FITZGERALD, Driver John E. MALONE, Stoker Privates: James BRENNAN John FARRELL Moses MORGAN James CASSIDY and John FRIEL ENGINE No. 10.: William HARRIS, Foreman Benjamin CARMAN, Engineer Joseph H. BENNETT, Driver Charles MCDONOUGH, Stoker Privates: Zach SIMMONS William A. BEARDALL Thomas LEE William H. SHERRY and James GANNON ENGINE No. 11: Peter SPENCE, Foreman Alfred E. GRUNDMAN, Engineer George A. FROST, Driver J. F. GRUNDMAN, Stoker Privates: John J. FANNING Daniel R. KETCHAM Cornelius WOGLOM, Jr. John E. HUTHWAITE and George W. THOMPSON ENGINE No. 12.: Michael KELLY, Foreman Andrew TENNANT, Engineer J. Watson TAYLOR, Driver John OLMSTEAD, Stoker Privates: James WALSH John FIELDING Thomas MCCAFFREY John KANE and John CONNOR ENGINE No. 13.: John MCMILLAN, Foreman Andrew TAYLOR, Engineer Edward MURRAY, Driver Patrick MURRAY, Stoker Privates: William O'BRIEN John MCMAIL David BAXTER Joseph BELL and Platt VAN COTT APPOINTMENTS TO TRUCK COMPANIES. TRUCK COMPANY No. 1.: Timothy NOLAN, Foreman James ENNIS, Driver Privates: Samuel C. BROWER James DONNELLY James SMITH John MCGEE George BRESLIN Michael J. MCCARRON and Elisha SNEETHEN TRUCK No. 2.: John DOOLEY, Foreman Theo. S. MUNSON, Driver Privates: James F. MULLIGAN George L. APPLEGATE Dennis MCGROARTY Richard C. LAMB Thomas SWEENEY Thomas F. BARRY and Charles T. WIEGAND TRUCK No. 3.: Samuel G. HUESTIS, Foreman Michael MCGINNESS, Driver Privates : John BRADLEY Peter CAMPBELL Edward FINN, Patrick DOUGHERTY Henry J. ADAIR William HIGGINS and James MCLAUGHLIN TRUCK No. 4.: Timothy F. FOLEY, Foreman Benjamin R. BATES, Driver Privates: John W. HAMILTON Charles E. QUINN Thomas J. HAMILTON James SLAVIN Cornelius NOONAN Mortimer W. CASPER and John L. OTTEN TRUCK No. 5.: Joseph BRENNAN, Foreman Peter RICARDS, Driver Privates: Jesse SEAMAN Fred W. DAUBER John RILEY James FLAHERTY Thomas MEEGAN Owen S. CAMPBELL and Thomas MCKEEVER TRUCK No. 6.: Enoch S. KEPPLE, Foreman Daniel SULLIVAN, Driver Privates: Edward HINNESSY James COLLINS John MCKENNA James MCNEIL Bernard F. DONNELLY Martin PHELAN and John CONNOLLY - PARTING WORDS TO THE OLD REGIME When all the appointments were made, the Foremen were called in and instructed as to their duties and when they were to take charge of their companies. Particular attention was called to the fact that the horses were new and green and that care in the handling of them at fires must be taken. A copy of rules neatly bound was given to Each Foreman. The District Engineers were instructed as to their particular duties, and when this was over the organization of the new Department was completed. At seven o'clock on the morning of September 15, 1869, the new Fire Department went finally and fully into operation; the horses and apparatus passed into the possession of the new Foremen and Engineers appointed by the commissioners. The change had been quietly made and the old Volunteer Department, which for half a century had protected the property of the citizens of Brooklyn without reward, had peacefully passed away. It had been discarded, not from any faults of its own; not that volunteers were lacking, or were less prompt, active and zealous in the performance of their arduous duties, but because of the changed condition of the service. The introduction of steam fire-engines and other improved means of extinguishing fires necessitated changes incompatible with the old volunteer system. The paid attaches of the Department had increased in number until the only volunteers were the men who dragged the engines to the fires, work that could be better done by horses. On that date the Eagle, in its leader said: "In finally parting with the old volunteer Fire Department, a few words of tribute are due to its memory. With all its faults it was a noble institution. We honor and exalt the soldier's profession and extol his devoted heroism in braving hardship and periling his life in his country's service. The work of the fireman is hardly less exacting and often as perilous. The fireman is liable to be summoned at any hour of the night to brave all weathers, to work laboriously for hours and often risk his life in trying to save the property and perhaps the lives of his fellow citizens. "Up to this day men have been found to do this work without pay, without the stimulus of glory which awaits the soldier. Our volunteers never faltered in their duty, no city in the country had a more effective volunteer Department than Brooklyn could boast; it was efficient to the last, and the dose of its career was not the least honorable part of its record. The paid fire department law went into operation some five months ago, but it took the commissioners until now to perfect all their arrangements for the reorganization of the Department. The volunteer were not unnaturally, not favorably disposed toward the change by which few of them expected to profit. But no signs of mutiny nor evidences of of demoralization were known. For months a large body of men have been working without pay in the nominally paid Fire Department. Yet they were true to their self imposed obligations to the last, turned out when the alarm bell summoned them as promptly, and worked as zealously as ever up to the day of their dismissal a fitting answer to the charges that the turbulent element predominated in the Department and so endangered its usefulness as to justify its disbandment. "It has closed in the most becoming manner an honorable career, and Brooklyn must ever remember the old Volunteer Fire Department with gratitude for the service it has done in its days." THE FIRE-ALARM TELEGRAPH. When the present Fire Department came into existence, the alarm and electrical apparatus consisted of four bell towers; one at the city Hall a second at the comer of Hicks and Sackett Streets, a third at North First street and Bedford Avenue, and the fourth on Ten Eycke near Ewen Street, with men to ring the alarms. The City Hall tower was connected with police headquarters by a single telegraph wire, but messages could only be received at the tower by this means, no facilities being provided for the transmission of messages from it. In less than a year, however, two wires were run from the City Hall tower connecting it with all the engine and hook and ladder houses in the Western District. Subsequently, two wires were also run from the North First street tower to all the houses in the Eastern District. Another wire was run from the Hicks Street tower to the City Hall, and one from the Sixteenth to the Fourteenth Ward tower. For all fires south of Flushing Avenue, the alarms were transmitted first on one line and then on the other, to all companies in the Western District, and the alarm was also sounded on the bells. The same method prevailed in sending alarms from the Fourteenth Ward tower to the companies in the Eastern District. At this time, too, the city was divided into fourteen sub-sections -eight in the Western District and six of them in the Eastern. The code of signals employed for giving alarms was similar to that which was in vogue in other large dries. Immediately upon the discovery of a fire, some one would rush to the nearest police station and inform the officer in charge. That individual would notify the nearest bell-tower, via police headquarters. The bell ringer, by means of an instrument which embodied the thumb-piece of the present transmitter, would communicate the number of the district in which the fire was located to the several companies by means of a series of taps. When this much had been accomplished, he would strike the alarm on his bell. Upon receiving the signal, the engines and trucks hastened to the district indicated, and scoured around it until they discovered the location of the fire. The manifold disadvantages and loss of valuable time incurred by the use of such a signal system were only too apparent. In December, 1869, President MASSEY, of the Board of Fire Commissioners, arranged a system of ringing the alarm bells, which enabled the firemen to drive almost direct to a fire, instead of having to skirmish over the whole district for it. By means of the new system, first the district was telegraphed and then the particular section in which the fire was. A schedule of the new arrangement was submitted by Mr. MASSEY to the full Board, and on and after February 1, 1870, alarms of fire were sounded in accordance with this schedule. The first private building to be equipped with a box was JEWELL's Mill, Fulton and Furman Streets. It connected with a line of wire running to all the engine-houses and the City Hall bell-tower as well. In 1873 the number of these instruments in private buildings had increased to thirty, but as the city grew apace :the buildings erected being mostly of wood, the almost utter uselessness of the system became more and more apparent. The instruments could only be employed by operators who thoroughly understood them, and then, very frequently, mistakes were made in striking the requisite number of taps. If a fire broke out during the night, one who wished to give the alarm would, perhaps, find the nearest instrument located in some factory. Rousing the watchman was not always speedily accomplished, and the nearest police station would have to be notified, or else there would have to be a long wait until the flames were high enough for the watchman in the nearest tower to "pick the fire up," as it was termed. The instruments, too, were continually getting out of order, very slight changes in the weather seriously affecting them. Then, again, when a break occurred in the wires, it was sometimes necessary for the linemen to go over the roofs of hundreds of houses before the offending wire was found. Very frequently fifteen or "twenty minutes elapsed before an alarm reached the Fire Department after the discovery of a fire. Despite the improvements in the alarm system the Commissioners were fully aware that the system was still very faulty, and urgently advised a change. The schedule introduced by Mr. MASSEY was followed for some considerable time, but in 1873, he laid a lengthy petition before the Common Council, in which he pointed out the city's great danger. The number of places from which alarms could be transmitted had not been increased from the original thirty, and the only improvement had been the establishment of the location numbers in the districts. Mr. MASSEY stated that not over ten in a hundred persons knew how to send out an alarm by means of the instruments in use; and that on an average the distance from each fire that had occurred to the nearest alarm station was three-eighths of a mile, which distance had to be traversed " by some one before the alarm could be sent out. He showed that there was scarcely a point in the city which one or more engines could not reach in five minutes after the alarm had been received, but twenty or thirty minutes frequently elapsed before the firemen were notified that there was a fire. The critical period of a fire was the first few minutes after its breaking out, and if the engines could be summoned promptly enough to gain the advantage at the start, there would be a less number of heavy losses to record. The alarm system which was the cause of all these complaints had cost the city about $5,000, and Mr. MASSEY, in behalf of the Board of Fire Commissioners, asked for $10,000 additional for the purpose of improving the service. The Department, however, did not get it at that time. In January of the following year age (1874) another petition was laid before the Council, but it met a similar fate. In this petition particular attention was called to the fact that during the three last months of 1871, the average loss per fire was $2,700; in 1872 it was $7.024; in 1873. $3.499 and in 1874, $3,595. Matters were allowed to remain in statu quo until 1878, when the city was presented with thirty-eight fire-alarm telegraph boxes, made by Pearce & Jones, which were placed at various points in different thoroughfares, together with additional instruments in the City Hall and Fourteenth Ward towers. Additions were made to this equipment from time to time, until at the end of the year mentioned there were fifty public and sixteen private boxes connected with the Fire Department by sixty-five miles of wire, strung on 779 poles. In November, 1879, a "central office" system was installed on the top floor of fire headquarters, then located at No. 367 Jay Street, but it was not put into operation until December 22, 1880. During the year 1884, the ringing of alarms from the bell towers was discontinued, and the Sixth and Seventeenth Ward towers were torn down. Early in 1885, by order of the Common Council, the ringing of alarms in the City Hall and Fourteenth Ward towers was resumed. In 1884-5, all wires in the Eastern District were extended to headquarters, thereby centralizing all alarms at that point. A telephone system and an exchange switchboard were added in 1887, with sixty-seven telephones connecting with each officer's quarters and the fire houses. The police and ambulance systems were also located in the same room at headquarters. In August, 1884, the Department received fifty-two Gamewell non-interference alarm boxes, and from time to time the old Pearce & James boxes were replaced by the new ones, until January i, 1888, when all the public alarm boxes were of the Gamewell pattern. In 1883, the central office system (automatic) had nine circuits "connected up," and in working order, some metallic and some grounded. It now has twenty-three metallic and one ground circuit, the latter being connected with the New York Insurance patrol, and forty-nine telephone circuits. Since 1882, the bureau has grown from twenty engine-house instruments, sixty-seven public and twenty-seven private alarm boxes (individuals owning the latter, which the Bureau, after purchase, connected free of charge), to eighty-four conversational and box line sets of instruments; seventy-four alarm gongs, 461 public alarm boxes and 129 private alarm boxes. The Department has in service 373 miles of aerial wire stretched on 2,172 poles, crossing over 284 streets. There are 2,070 feet of aerial and ground cable, containing 38,050 feet of insulated conductors, strung on the King's County elevated railroad. In "box" conduits there are 28,750 feet of rubber insulated wire. Superintendent WATSON purposes making many changes in the apparatus of the Telegraph Bureau, when the latter is located in the new headquarters on Jay Street. He has visited Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, and at each of these cities he has inspected the fire alarm telegraph apparatus. In each place he has learned something and he will give the Brooklyn Department the benefit, by introducing new apparatus which will facilitate the service. One important accessory to the bureau will be a clock, which will automatically report, every fifteen minutes, the condition of all the fire telegraph wires in the city. When a break occurs in a wire, the machine will register on paper the location of the defective wire, and the exact spot where the break has occurred. An important extension of the fire-alarm facilities has recently been made, in the adoption by the Commissioner, under authority of a resolution of the Common Council, of the Sachs Instantaneous Auxiliary Alarm system. This system furnishes alarm boxes in private buildings, connected with the regular street boxes, by means of which the Department is notified of a fire the instant it occurs, without the usual delays caused by finding the key to the street box, running to the box, opening it, and sending the alarm. The ten to fifteen minutes thus saved at the very beginning of a fire will prevent its gaining headway, and many fires which might otherwise become serious will be nipped in the bud. The boxes are small and ornamental, and may be placed on every floor in a factory or residence, so that the engines may be summoned, often by merely wheeling around in one's chair and touching a button. What the boxes do when operated is simply to perform the same work at the nearest street box as would be performed by a person after he had reached the street box, opened it, and set it in motion. Any number of private boxes may be connected with the same street box without interference. A beautifully ingenious device provides for informing the sender of an alarm that his alarm has been received at the engine-house, the dropping of a small disk in his private box revealing the printed notice: "Alarm received." This notice cannot be disclosed until the current has actually started the street box. sounded the engine-house alarm, and returned by the return wire to the sender. If there should be any disarrangement of the wires, the return message will not be received But a disarrangement is almost impossible in the system, and should one occur, it is automatically reported on separate wires to a central office, without awaiting a fire call to disclose the trouble in an emergency. The adoption of this system, so complete in its provisions and so perfect in its workings, will mark another step, and a long one, in Brooklyn's boasted immunity from serious fires, such as is enjoyed by no other large city in the world. Transcribed for the Brooklyn Pages by Mimi Stevens BROOKLYN FIRE DEPT. Chapter 5 Back To HISTORY of the BROOKLYN FIRE DEPT. Index Back To FIRE Index Back To CIVIL Index Back To BROOKLYN Main