Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Fire Department Years Ago

Painesville Telegraph, October 15, 1890  -  The Fairport Flats are a mass of smouldering ruins...

Painesville Telegraph, July 6, 1891  - broke out in a row of houses under construction on the south side of Seventh Street...five were destroyed.

Soon after these two devastating fires, it was decided by the town council that a fire department would have to be formed.  The regular meeting in September 1891 passed an ordinance to establish a fire department complete with one thousand feet of fire house, two nozzles, a dozen coats, hats, a ladder, badges and necessary items.  Thomas Irwin was appointed the first chief on September 29th.  Thomas Murray was appointed assistant chief.  George Paytosh, M. Leino, J. Weisson, John Barkinen, Henry Hervey, Albert Conners, Elias Warren, James Arraogon, James Dixon, James Chapman, E.E. Lawrence, William Becker, N. Nelson, M. Pedro and F. A. Winters became the first firemen.

A fire in November 1893 at the ore docks highlighted the need for a horse cart to be ordered for the newly formed department.  The horses proved to be a burden on the village by 1912 as food costs soared.  However it was 'The February 10, 1910 Plum Street School Fire' that paved the way for a fire truck to be purchased by 1917.  The delivery of an American-LaFrance Co. truck at a cost of $10,900 proved prudent as a future fire at the Arlington Building was contained due to these past key village purchases.

Some Fairport Fire Department Nostalgia -  Buckets were scare in the first eight decades for the village.  'Bucket brigades' of town men, women, and children were the only means of organized fire fighting.  In 1911, horse power replaced manpower.  A team of spirited horses were purchased.  Gus Wolff and his horses Dick and Tom were always ready to respond to the fire bell.  When financial burdens retired the horses in 1912, Gus hauled the fire wagon hitched to his coal truck.  The old fire bell was cast in 1893 and hung for many years atop the village hall cupola.  Used to sound the call for fire duty, it also sounded daily at 8pm to indicate curfew.  In 1968, the original fire bell was enshrined in a brick frame structure on the lawn outside Village Hall.

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