THE DAYTON FIRE DEPARTMENT
by Charles F. Sullivan
When the first settlers arrived here, April 1st, 1796, to found the new town of Dayton, they built shelters for their families as quickly as possible and of the most handy material, for it was April first, and rain and cold were likely to prevail for several weeks.
As soon as possible, they built log cabins, and since the logs were green, it was several years before they became dry enough to become a fire hazard. The first fire of consequence was June 30, 1820 destroying Coopers mills at the corner of Mill and Water (now Monument Ave.) with four thousand bushels of wheat and one ton of wool.
There was plenty of water in the mill race under and around the mills but all the tools they had were brought from their homes and possibly not many buckets were to be had at that time, so about all that could be done was to keep the fire from spreading. The three mills were close together, (saw, flour, and fulling mills) for they were operated by one water wheel and were managed by one man. This fire caused quite an agitation for fire protection, and council bought a lot of leather buckets, and all active men were expected to keep two buckets with his name upon them, at his home and to run to every alarm with the buckets and fight the fire. A few extra were kept at the central point so that any stray man could be put to work.
On Nov. 16, 1824, George Groves hat store on Main Street burned with a loss of about $1,000. Council had bought some ladders for fire use, and kept them stored in the market house then located upon East Second, and when wanted at this fire they were not to be found. An ordinance was put through Council to fine any one using these ladders for any other purpose than fire protection.
This fire showed the need of better fire protection and H. G. Phillips was given $227. to buy a fire engine and as he was going east upon other business, he ordered it and it was shipped overland west to Pittsburg at a cost of $52. and by water to Cincinnati for $23. and again by land to Dayton $10. total freight $85. This must have been a very crude affair, for water had to be placed in a tank of the engine by buckets, and then by turning a crank the water would be forced through the hose and thus onto the fire. On one occasion water was left in the tank and it turned extremely cold, and after reaching the fire with the engine, it was found to be frozen solid and of no value to fight fire at that time. This pumper was housed on the lot now occupied by the new Courthouse. At this time the first volunteer fire department was organized with George C. Davis as captain and Joseph Hollingsworth as captain of the Hook and Ladder Co and John W. Van Cleve, chief engineer of the department. The fire alarm was given by ringing one of the church bells, and when hearing it all were supposed to grab their fire buckets and get to the fire as quickly as possible.
Another engine was bought December 4, 1830, but neither it nor the first engine were satisfactory, so June 10, 1833, Council ordered another engine and it was a suction engine and it was placed in charge of Peter Bear as engine foreman and Thomas Brown, for whom Brown Street was named, because he operated a brick yard east of Brown Street, was foreman of the hose reel. In 1833, a brick fire house was built facing Third Street west of the Courthouse, two story, 18 by 36 feet, and from 1841 to 1845 the upstairs was used as a Council chamber and Mayor’s office. Jan. 28, 1834, the president of the new Independent Fire Co. presented the Company to the council with 48 members. They offered to give council $1,050. that they had raised to buy a new engine, giving the old engine in exchange also, if Council would give them the authority and thus they would have a first class engine and outfit. The proposition was accepted and it was located on the north side of Second between Main and Jefferson.
Thus there were two good companies and both were well equipped.
Both of these engines carried 500 feet of hose upon a separate hose reel and when a good supply of water was available, five men upon each side of the engine, would throw much water upon a fire.
On Dec. 30, 1838, Warehams’ carpenter shop on St. Clair Street between Second and Third, burned and we find that the city had three engines working upon this fire and getting plenty of water from the canal one square away. This showed the danger of a large fire in the center of the city, where only pumps could be had to furnish water and to overcome this, wells were dug at First, Third and Fifth on Main and possibly at other places, where a good supply of water could be obtained. As Dayton continued to grow and larger buildings were being erected, many large cisterns were built in the business district and coupled with the water works so they can be easily filled at any time, and as they are always full there is quite a supply on hand. These were complete about the beginning of this century. This fire apparatus used less than a hundred years ago, seems very crude to us, but as this was new country and transportation and everything else was crude, nothing better could be had at that time.
At the founding of the city, there were just 36 people, including men, women and children, that arrived here at the founding and they had everything to build, only a little surveying had been done before their coming. Is it not surprising that in 1810, the census shows 383 inhabitants living here? In 1825, just before the building of the canal there were 1,168, and after its completion in 1830, 2,954, and in 1840, 6,000, more than doubling the population every ten years.
After the canal was built, it showed the way to obtain much water power, and this drew many factories to Dayton, giving employment to many new settlers in our city.
This explains why all along Patterson Blvd., formerly the canal, the buildings are all old factory buildings, erected about 75 years ago, and used water power, taking the water from the hydraulic just west of Wyandot St. and wasting it into the canal. To house the workers in these factories, Third and Fifth Streets to Dutoit and cross streets and Brown and Wayne to Burns Ave., were filled with residences, close to their work. In 1845, the Dayton Hydraulic was built and it made a new factory district along Front St. and east First, and the water used here was wasted into the canal and went down to Fifth St., where it was used again, increasing the water power there greatly. The water from here went on down the canal to Ludlow St. where it was used again and wasted into the river, and a number of factories located there to get the power. Men will go where they can get employment and the water power made work very steady, so we see in the census of 1850 the population almost doubled, 11,000 and 1860, 20,100, and this was brought about by the steady and cheap power and transportation of people and freight by the canal.
In the spring of 1851, Dayton built the railroad to Springfield, connecting with the Madriver & Lake Erie Road, and later in the year the Cincinnati Hamilton & Dayton started business and in a few years several others were built, making Dayton a railroad center.
In 1852, four new fire engines were bought and named the Neptune, Vigilance, Deluge, and Pacific, and they were a big improvement, yet they were operated by man power. In 1857, T. A. Phillips, son of H. G. Phillips who bought the first fire engine, and owned a cotton factory along the canal south of Fifth, donated a piece of ground to the Oregon Fire Co. for a house located at Fifth and Brown.
George Lehman was the captain of his Co. and he was a brick contractor and by donations, fairs, and other ways, raised enough money to build the fire house known to us as the number one house.
No doubt, Mr. Lehman did much of the work upon the building and Thomas Brown, a former volunteer fireman, operating a brick yard east of Brown (street named for him) near Richard, probably furnished the brick. Later Mr. Lehman was elected to council and was influential in making the fire dept. a paid one instead of volunteer, and other changes for the bettering of the dept. Later he took a fire engine and his crew to Chicago to work upon the great Chicago fire and after it was over he brought them home. Then he went back to Chicago and contracted brick work for the balance of his life. This building was in constant use until 1938, when a crack developed in a main wall and the house was discontinued and removed and the apparatus combined with the #3 house Fifth and Wilkinson. When this building was new, a bell tower was placed upon it and a bell brought from Maneely, West Troy, N. Y. in 1858, and at first the ringing of this bell by hand, was the fire signal. When the fire alarm system was placed about 1870, this bell was connected with it, and it rang the number of the box.
This bell lasted until the early part of this century when it cracked, and a new bell was bought by subscription and placed in the tower. Soon after, this bell cracked and was re-poured until 1928, when it was found to be too slow of action for the new system and it was taken down and discarded. The original bell is now used as a flower urn at the #4 house at the Main Street bridge.
The Williams directory published in 1856, tells us that the Independent Fire Co. was located on the south side of First, between Main and Jefferson, and it was still there in the directory of 1862, with F. W. Anderson as foreman. The Neptune Co. was located on the south side of Second, between Sears and Madison with H. Goodenough as foreman, and I have the memory of it there, when a child.
The Oregon house was located on Smith St. (now Sixth) between Logan and Tecumseh, and in 1862, we find it located at Fifth and Brown with George Lehman as foreman.
The Deluge Co. was located on the east side of Main between Fifth and Sixth where the Strand Theatre is now located with Anthony Stevens as foreman. About 1878, it was moved to its present location on Fifth, below Wilkinson. This building served until 1941 when it was replaced by a modern fire proof building on the same location.
The Miami Co. was located upon Ludlow St. just across the alley from the new Municipal Building, with J. C. Healy, a Journal employee, as foreman. This house was continued there until 1884, when it was moved to Main St. at the river bridge, first using a frame building formerly used as a monument shop, but in 1886 it was re-placed with the present building. The Sixth Ward Co. is mentioned as “not yet organized” in 1856, but in 1862, the Pacific Co. is mentioned at Fifth and Plum, with Wm. N. Love as foreman, they changed names, when organizing. A Hook & Ladder Co. was in existence April 1, 1854, according to a book of minutes, now in the hands of the chief at headquarters, and much of interest is found in this book. It does not say where the first house was located, but a new house was built for them on St. Clair St. between Third and Fourth, where the Beaver & Butt building now stands. The Fire Co. gave the city $50. toward the building of the new house, and while the city provided the apparatus, the Co. was supposed to keep it in repair and furnish the labor and money to do it, as well as all other expenses.
The men donated their time and labor and if absent from a meeting without excuse, were fined 10c and from a fire 20c. During the holidays of 1856, they held a fair at the
Clegg Bldg. every night for a week, and hired a band to play every night at $10. per night, and they cleared over $700. at it. During the Civil War, so many men volunteered or were drafted, that it was hard to keep the Fire Cos. strong enough to do good work. One fireman volunteered and took 60 of his Co. with him into the Army. In March 1864, Council dismissed all volunteer companies and made it a paid department.
When the volunteers were disbanded, they had accumulated considerable stuff which did not belong to the city so the Hook and Ladder Co. held an auction sale and received over $600. at it which was distributed to the members equally. I think this apparatus was taken to the #1 house and operated out of there for a while, but was re-placed by a one horse ladder wagon, and when this occurred, the old apparatus went to the Dayton State Hospital where it is still kept and was loaned to the city last June for the Centennial parade. As the door to the #1 house was made for hand drawn apparatus, it was found to be a very close shave for the horse drawn ladder wagon and so it could not be turned to go east or west on Fifth Street, but it was necessary to go south on Brown to Sixth and turn east or west there. This did not last long and it was moved to the Main St. house, and then to Fifth and Wilkinson, where I first saw it in operation. During this changing time, first Ezra Bimm and followed by George Lehman were elected to Council both being volunteer firemen, and with the desire of improving the condition of the department.
In 1863, three steam fire engines were bought, placing one at the Neptune house, calling it the Eastern, another at #1 calling it the Central and the other at the Main St. house calling it the Western.
A bell was placed upon each of the three houses, and an alarm was supposed to be rung from the nearest house, but all three houses were to answer, so they would go to the house where the alarm was rung and from there to the fire. May 5, 1863, the Journal office was the last large fire served by the volunteer force and since the building was fired by rebel sympathizers, and they were making quite a show of preventing the department from working, the volunteers did not answer the alarm. After they were assured that if the apparatus was injured it would be replaced by a good friend, they came to the fire and did their best but it burned to the ground and was a complete loss.
Jan. 12, 1864, Council passed a resolution “that the compensation of engineers of the steam fire engines, shall be $50. per month and the firemen, drivers and pipemen, shall be $36. per month until further ordered by council.” They also disbanded all volunteer companies, without a vote of thanks, or other recognition being given them. One of the old hand fire engines was sold to Sandusky and the other to Wapakoneta by the city.
Naturally the volunteer men were not enthusiastic about the use of the new steam engines, but when Turners opera house burned in 1869, it proved that the steam engines were far superior to hand engines.
At the fire one engine was stationed at First and the canal and pumped water into the cistern at First and Jefferson, while another pumped the water out of it and onto the fire at Main Street. This was a good test for them and they proved themselves to be a wonderful fire fighter. I was only three years old at that time, but I can remember it well, for the older members of the family came into my room and their talking wakened me, and we could see the flames and hear the noise, for the fire was only four blocks away.
With the coming of the steam fire engine, it was found necessary to use horses instead of man power to haul them to the fire, and this made it necessary to have harnesses that could be swiftly fastened to the horses. Mr. Burns, a Dayton Fireman, invented a horse collar, that opened at the bottom, and were quickly snapped together, when pulled down upon the horse. Larger hose reels, were made to be hauled by a horse, consisting of an axle with two wheels, and a large spool upon it to carry the hose, and a pair of shafts for the horse to work in and guide the reel. These reels were used until about the beginning of this century when D. C. Larkin wanted to carry more hose to a fire and he tried out the hose wagon and it was a success and soon all reels were exchanged for wagons carrying more hose.
All harness was fastened to the apparatus at all times and hung over where the horse should stand to fasten him to the apparatus.
The horse stalls were in the rear of the apparatus and the front of the stall was fastened upon a spring hinge to throw the door open on the one side and by a bolt on the other that would be lifted at every ring of the gong, and the horse was fastened until the door opened when he was free and would run out under the harness, which would be swiftly pulled down onto him and by the use of a few snaps, they were ready to go in very short time. If the horse was slow in coming out, a cylinder with a few whips was placed up behind him and connected to bolt so that when an alarm would come in, it would turn the cylinder and the whips would revolve, thus urging the horse along faster.
The halter acted as a bridle, with the bit in the rear of the jaw ordinarily but when going to a fire it was placed in the mouth with a snap.
In 1870, the census gave us 30,700, and we merged Miami City, a separate town, with its own depot, post office and government.
When I was in High School, a test of a new chemical fire extinguisher was made upon the public landing. A large pile of boxes and other inflamible stuff was placed there and oil was thrown upon it and fired.
In a short time, it looked as though nothing could save it from burning up, when this chemical was thrown upon it and it was extinguished at once. More oil was thrown upon it and fired again and extinguished as before. The Insurance Companies bought a truck with two tanks upon it for the city, carrying this chemical compound, and it was stationed at the Central house, and was supposed to answer every alarm, and Frank Ramby, later chief of the department was working upon it and it was a great success. It carried a couple of short ladders and on top a reel of small hose, that could be taken right into a house to the fire, before being turned on and it reduced the loss greatly, especially by water.
As the #1 & #3 houses were not out of my road, when I attended the intermediate school at the corner of Hess and Brown, (still standing but not used as a school) I was a frequent visitor there and enjoyed seeing the horses make their practice runs at 7 a.m., 12 noon and 6 and 8 p.m. I was there twice when a genuine alarm came and saw them hitch up and be going in a hurry. When the three fire engines were bought an engineer was appointed for each one, and John Bundy, Wm. Hooper and Wm. Crouse were appointed. The first chief of the department after council took it over was William Patton, later elected sheriff of Montgomery County, following him was Wm. Gill, then John Chambers in 1873, George Vail, Anthony Stephens in 1875, J. H. Winder in 1876 and James Lewis in 1879.
The Neptune Co. was the predecessor of the #2 house, called the Eastern, and as the city owned a market house, which I do not think was a success, enough space was taken off of the east end of it to build the new house, and as soon as it was complete, they moved in, and stayed there until the new house was built May 1, 1940. When the old house was complete, they added a ladder wagon to its force, and chief D. C. Larkin made it his head quarters for many years. The balance of the market space is now used as the Ford Street police station and prison.
About 1876, it was found to be advisable to move the Deluge or Western House, to Fifth below Wilkinson, for a new bridge had been erected across the river at Fifth St. making an easy road to the west side. The one horse ladder wagon was located there at my earliest recollection but was soon displaced by a two horse one and to get the ladders in the house a hole had to be cut into the horse stable for them. In the center of this room was the steamer and then was the hose reel and the assistant chief’s wagon.
The population of Dayton in 1880 was 3870, and Riverdale, (then called McPhersontown or Mactown for short) and Dayton View were growing rapidly and it was thought that by moving the Miami Co. to Main St. bridge, it would serve both of them well. This was done, and the old frame building formerly serving as a monument shop was re-modeled for its use, but in 1886 it was replaced by the present structure and it was the center of the alarm system, until the new fire proof building was erected about 1930 in the rear of it in Van Cleve Park.
When Miami City was merged with this city, fire protection was needed and an old school building was re-modeled to serve as a fire house at the corner of Fifth and Baxter now called Olive, and a hose reel was placed there and the one horse ladder wagon was there, but no crew was there to use it. This was the #5 house and later a new house was built on Fifth immediately in the rear of the old house, but later this house was merged with #13 at Third and Euclid.
The #6 house was first located in a frame structure just east of the Memorial Presbyterian church at Third and Terry, but later a new house was built upon Morrison St. (now N. June St.) but in May 1940, it was merged with the new #2 house at Third and Montgomery and the old building was re-modeled into a community house.
The city was growing in every direction and instead of using native lumber, were shipping more inflammable lumber, increasing the fire hazard. Wayne and Xenia Aves. were building rapidly and the #7 house was located at Henry and Xenia in 1882, to serve that section and it is still in service.
North Dayton, better known at that time as Texas was growing rapidly and a large paper mill operated by C. L. Hawes & Co., was located at the junction of the canal and Mad River and needed fire protection and in 1889, the #8 house was erected on Valley about three squares east of Keowee and served well for many years. Since water power was being discarded and the factories were building along the B & O Railroad, and the house on Valley was found to be away at the edge of its district so a new house was built at Maryland and Chappel in 1916.
The old house is still standing but not used for fire purposes.
Sept. 26, 1876, there was a large fire upon the west side of the river and a square below the bridge, and sparks from it flew clear across the river and we and all the neighbors were up on the roof brushing off the sparks from the fire. This fire started from a lard explosion and destroyed the slaughter house of Adam Schantz and when it was re-built it was used as a brewery. As there were also many factories located near by and fine residences were springing up all over Dayton view, the #9 house was built west of Salem on Riverview and served there until 1916, when it was moved to Salem and Oxford, but the old building is still standing there.
The census of 1890 gives us 61,220 inhabitants. Edgemont, formerly called Browntown, received quite a boom because of the Ohio Rake, Crawford McGregor & Canby, Beaver Soap Co. and others moving there along the railroads, and the #10 house was built at Washington and Portland.
The N. C. R. Co. was an infant industry, and built their first factory building in 1886 on Stewart St. and with the new residences coming as a necessity, the #11 house was built at Brown and Patterson (now Park) in 1892.
The Davis Sewing Machine, Hewitt Bros., Gem city Stove, Zwick Greenwald and others building along the east end of the Penna. Railroad, forced the city to build the #12 house at the corner of Linden and Huffman the third fire house to be built in 1892.
The west side was growing fast, extending almost to the Soldiers’ Home with many factories scattered all over the territory and #5 the only protection, so a new house was built at Third and Euclid in 1899 and #5 was merged with it.
The first electric street car west of the Allegheny mountains was built from the Soldiers’ Home by way of Lake view, Germantown, Washington and N. Main to Forest Ave., and this made Riverdale grow very rapidly, so the #14 house was built at Main and Forest in 1899 and this house was almost out in the country.
The State Hospital, located at the junction of Wayne and Wilmington, was built in 1852, and while the walls are of brick, the balance of it is of wooden construction and is quite a fire hazard.
The city served them with water through a 4 inch main, which was better than nothing, but when you consider the hundreds of lives at stake and lots of property, they were taking lots of chances, even though they were connected with the Dayton fire alarm system.
One thing was done at the foot of the second hill, the water main was so arranged, that a fire engine could be attached and this would boost the water up the hill with a good pressure, which is needed for fire fighting. In 1905 a house was built at Wayne and Medford, #15, only a couple of blocks away, and an arrangement was made with the street car co. to allow a chain to be attached to the street car and haul the apparatus up the hill. The fly in the ointment was that there never was a street car in sight when an alarm came in for the hill and when the horses had pulled up the hill they were winded and not much good to go further. When Wayne Ave. was paved, a large water main was laid up the hill, and a large city reservoir and stand pipe are in close proximity, so there is plenty of water now.
In 1908 the #16 house was erected upon S. Jersey and at the time it seemed to be necessary for Focke, Brownell and others close to it, and few people thought that the auto would ever be anything more than a rich man’s toy, for the Olds people did not begin making them until 1899 and Ford until 1903. I had the contract for the excavation and foundation for this house and it was used as a fire house before the department was motorized. Then half of it was used for repairs but now it is all for repairs. Soon the auto began to show its dependability and a trial of three gasoline driven pieces was made and they were located where they would give the greatest service.
After 4 years of trial, they were so much superior to horses, that the entire force was motorized, as quickly as the apparatus could be made and delivered.
Here is a sample of what was happening every day, and I saw it frequently. The #14 house at Main and Forest and the #4 house at Monument and Main, would get the alarm at the same time and both start at the same time and when the call was north on Main, the horses going at full speed, would be passed by pieces coming from the #4 house, between Mary and Ridge, and have the fire out before the horses arrived usually. This statement was verified by John Korn for many years stationed at the #14 house, but has now passed away. By motorizing the force, it was proven that with increased speed, the need for more houses was reduced and greater efficiency received from each unit.
After the World War in 1920, the census was 152,600 and lots of new territory was added to the city, but on account of motorizing, the department was able to get along without any new houses. In 1930, another jump of the census brought it to 200,962 and of 1940, on account of the depression, little gain was found, 210,718.
In 1940 there were three new houses placed in service, one on Wayne one square west of the Smithville road, to serve Belmont and adjacent territory, for hills make no difference with a gasoline driven motor.
Another is located upon the ground of the Soldiers’ Home, facing Third street and since they have had quite a number of fires there, they had a department of their own, but had to call upon the city many times for help. Now since this is close to them, they will receive prompt reply with efficient help, and more to follow if needed.
The third house is at Catalpa and Fairview, and it fills a long felt need, for Upper Dayton View and North Riverdale can be served from here nicely, for if the department can be on the ground quickly the fire cannot get much start and is easily extinguished.
This completes the history of the houses.
In 1880, a state law came into use, placing a bipartison board in charge of the department, instead of council as formerly.
When the first board, consisting of J. S. Miles, J. Linxweiler, J. K. McIntire and
E. F. Pryor, took over the department, it only had 13 horses, not enough to move all the apparatus at one time, very few supplies of questionable value and no experience in the work to be done.
For Fire Chief, they went outside of the department and selected Daniel C. Larkin, who had been an engineer upon the Cleveland, Sandusky and Cincinnati railroad, but had given up railroading and was doing contract hauling in this city. He turned the business over to his son and assumed the work before him in 1880. He held this job until 1906, and in that time the city had grown greatly, and that kept the chief working very hard to keep the department efficient as it grew in proportion to the city.
Our next Chief was Frank Ramby, whose father was a fireman, and at the age of 16 Frank became a call boy for the department at very low wage. Then he became a regular fireman, and when the new chemical truck was given to the city, he was placed upon it, and as it was supposed to answer every call, he had a hard job. He became Asst. Chief under Mr. Larkin and upon his retiring, Frank was appointed to take his place as chief, which he held until Jan. 1, 1935.
Wm. McFadden was chosen to succeed him, but did not hold it long, for at the fire of the Neal’s restaurant on W. Third Street Aug. 10, 1938, he had a heart attack from which he did not recover.
Joseph Kirby was appointed to succeed him and his father was in charge of the alarm system, ranking as Assistant Chief, probably from the start of the alarm system, and the son has come up from the ranks to his present position.
The Alarm system, put into operation about 1870, was a wonderful improvement for that time, for the telephone had not been invented and it only required 38 boxes to cover the entire city at that time. This became almost obsolete and a new system was needed and the new one is an immense affair, about 500 boxes at present and capable of being increased greatly.
The old #1 house had a bell tower and the alarm was carried to it and the bell sounded the alarm automatically, and the entire city would know where the fire was located. In early times, this was a good thing for the firemen needed all the help they could get, but at this time, it is just the other way, for the firemen know just what to do and how to do it and a green man is just in the road.
In the past ten year, the system has been completely changed to a modern system and it was done without interfering with the work of the department for a minute. The first thing was to build the fire-proof building in the rear of the #4 house and string new wires all over town leading to this building. In this building is a storage battery and this furnishes all the electricity for all the system including the broadcasting. This battery is constantly being charged by the D. P. L. Co., but if for any reason the company was unable to charge the battery, there is a gasoline motor ready at all times to take up the work and keep the battery full.
The city has been divided into several districts, and wires strung to all boxes placed or to be placed in the city, and now though many boxes were to be pulled at the same time, yet only one would register at a time, to be followed immediately by another. Under the old system, many times two would come in at the same time and both be jumbled, and the firemen have trouble finding the fire.
With this system, the operator must receive them and pass them on to the companies that are to respond to the alarm, telling them just where it is and who are to respond to it. Two men are always on duty here and use a public address system to notify each house and the house receiving it will signal back at once that it has been received.
During the day time all houses receive the alarms but after 8 P. M. only those houses that are to respond, get it, and the balance can sleep straight through the night, but if needed they can be called and be on the road at once.
At each house there is always one man on watch, to take any telephone calls or other needs and the loud speaker is close to him as well as one in the bedroom and all will get it at the same time.
After the alarm has been sent out upon the loud speaker, it is sent out upon the primary ticker to each house, and this is only used to verify the verbal alarm over the public address system. If two or more alarms are sent in from one fire, then the primary (small bell) and secondary (large bell) are used. There are four ways of receiving alarms, public address, telephone, primary and secondary registers.
When the department was motorized, they took off the front wheels of the steam engine and fastened it to a truck and this was better than horses. Soon it was discovered that a pump could be attached to the motor of the hose wagon, and would be ready to work as soon as they arrived at the fire not having to wait to get up steam. With horse drawn wagons it was necessary to consider how much weight could be pulled by a horse at full speed, but now with motors strong enough to pull any weight, they can carry much more hose, tools and other things at high speed. Also a 30 foot extension ladder is carried on them and this will reach to almost any residence roof, two chemical tanks that can be carried right in to the fire. Nine of these pumpers have centrifugal pumps, four pistons, and two rotary pumps, so lots of water can be thrown upon a fire in very short time.
Since the coming of the auto, there is a great demand for gasoline oil and other inflamable stuff and it is increasing continually.
The city is ever on the watch about this as a fire hazard, and all gasoline except in very small amounts, must be kept in tanks under ground, and pumps are used to draw it up and place it in the tanks of the autos. When gasoline gets afire and water is thrown upon it, the oil or gas floats upon the water and thus the fire is spread instead of being extinguished. This was a great problem for many years, but now they have a solution for it.
If the fire is not too large, it can be extinguished by a fog nozzle and that will require water to be thrown at a high pressure through this nozzle making such fine spray, that it smothers the flames and cools it off at the same time. If this is not successful then Foamite must be used. Foamite is a white powder, and a little of it is carried upon every truck, but if more is needed it can be promptly dispatched by calling headquarters for it. To use this a tank is placed one hundred feet from the nozzle in the hose line, and enough Foamite will be sucked into the water to make a suds, when thrown upon a fire and that smothers the fire completely.
With the present apparatus we are able to cope with any fire that may occur at any time day or night, but at the present time the department is much under manned. Some time ago, a large fire broke out at Middletown, Ohio, and they called for help from us and immediately a truck was dispatched to them by its own power and over the state highway at high speed, and helped them and when it was under control, the truck came back in the same way, none the worse for the trip.
Another time Piqua needed help and a truck was sent to aid them, and in a short time, the work was done, and thus we showed ourselves to be a good neighbor, ready to help whenever called upon.
There is another truck which is operated by the department and goes out at all second alarms, carries lots of tools not usually needed yet may come handy at large fires occasionally. It is equipped with a receiving and sending radio, so is in touch with headquarters at all times. It has a loud speaker, so that he can be heard by all working upon the fire, and give them information that may be for the safety of the men or property. I understand that this is a donation from a good friend of the department and is very useful at large fires.
When the bi-partisan board took over the department in 1880, politics was banished and appointments made because of real merit.
I think that the pay of the firemen at that time was $40. per month and they were supposed to be on duty 21 hours every day, taking one hour off for each meal, and only one from each piece of apparatus at a time.
Later each man was supposed to have two days a month off duty and this is the way it was planned. The man who was supposed to have the day would be the last one to go to breakfast about 7 A.M. but he must be back to let the other men go to dinner, and then he was off until supper time when he was on duty again and then he was off until 10 P.M. when he was supposed to go on duty again. Now I wish to ask you if this man was off that day or was it the man who planned this, that was completely OFF. If a man lost more time than that his pay was cut in proportion. When the new board came in they changed that and each man was allowed his two days a month off duty. From then on to this time there has been a gradual lessening of the time required, until 1920 when the present plan of 24 hours on duty and 24 hours off duty which has been fairly satisfactory. In 1941 a new state law gave to each man an extra day each two weeks and it is called his Kelly day, after Mayor Kelly of Chicago, who first advocated it for his department.
Each company may arrange the work of the house to suit themselves and I think that they all choose one man to do the cooking, and because of that he is excused from all other routine work and that is apportioned to the rest. At all times, there is one man on duty at the telephone and at meal time, he must wait until he rest have had their fill.
As a boy I was always interested in current events, and fire news appealed to me. I remember the folks telling this, about 1870, one Sunday morning a storm struck the city, blowing the Washington Street bridge (wooden) into the river, and about the same time, a wall of the Third Street Lutheran Church east of Madison, was blown in and some children attending Sunday School there were injured by the falling wall. But there was no fire at this time.
On August 15, 1876, I was in the street in front of home on W. Second Street and saw a big smoke in the street and the fire apparatus working, and immediately I was on my way there. The First Presbyterian Church, now the First Reformed, at Second and Ludlow, and the roof over the auditorium was burned off and the furnishings were ruined by water and smoke. The fire was started by pushing a lighted gas burner against a door behind the pipe organ, and the fire did not get to the rear room.
Nov. 3, 1876, The T. C. & St. L. railroad round house burned early in the evening, ruining several locomotives, and as it was a narrow guage road, they could not borrow any from other roads so were badly crippled for several years.
April 24, 1886, I was calling upon a young lady on S. Main when an alarm came in and the department went by, and we could see the red sky and hear the bellowing of cattle, so I made a short stay and went to Edgemont where Lake’s coal office is now and saw the ruins of the Syrup Refining Co.’s cattle pens, which were a total loss with many head of cattle. It was never rebuilt.
August 6, 1887, I was up town when the department went across the Main Street bridge and I followed as fast as possible, and just off of Main on Riverview, I saw a beautiful white horse, that I had seen a few minutes before, hauling the steam engine, lying there dead.
It had probably stumbled and fell and the engine ran over him.
Probably the one horse had pulled the engine to the fire for it was there and working upon the fire. The Palmer flour mill, a very old structure, located at the south end of Forest Ave., was burned completely and was never rebuilt. As the road past there was called the Tate’s mill road, the mill was probably built by him when the hydraulic was built, about 1830.
Sept. 29, 1889 I working at the corner of Third and Kenton, when an alarm came in late in the evening and as I could see the blaze, I went, and found it to be Brownell’s boiler shop. As it was a frame building, it burned down and Brownell moved out to Findlay Street where he is still located.
January 18, 1997. I was in the Beckel Building when the alarm came in for the store of A. W. Gump, just a couple of doors east. As I was a great bicycler I did hate to see all those good bicycles burned. The damage was $7500. and the building was repaired.
April 5, 1897. About the middle of the morning, a gasoline explosion in the kitchen of the Phillips House, S. W. corner of Third and Main, caused quite a panic among the guests of the hotel, one man jumped out of a window into a light court and landing upon glass, went through into the lobby of the hotel and was killed. Loss $18,000.
On Sunday afternoon April 30, 1899, a spark from the railroad set fire to the lumber yard of A. Gebhart on Wayne Ave. Loss $15,000.
A high wind from here carried a spark to the St. John’s Lutheran church on east Third Street, which also burned, loss $19,600.
On Feb. 1, 1900, I was operating a coal yard at First & Meigs, and when boarding the street car from home, I could see a great smoke over the city. I detoured around the fire, which was Wolf’s tobacco warehouse and several others near First & Mill. At noon I went down there and found the fire still burning fiercely and the street covered with ice, but it was thought to be under control. The total loss was estimated $471,000. and it put several of the loosers completely out of business for ever, and was the biggest fire ever in Dayton except the Turners Opera house at First and Main in 1869.
I have already told you of the old, man drawn, hook & ladder truck, probably bought in the 1840’s, which, with a hose reel of the same vintage, is at the Dayton State Hospital. Also of the one horse truck and the two horse one following it. About the beginning of this century, Dayton was building taller buildings and the ladders were too short to do much good. While still using horses, a new ladder truck was bought, with an extension ladder upon it, which could be raised by a screw upon the front end of the truck after the horses had been removed, using the truck as a standard and reaching up about 60 or 70 feet and this was considered a wonderful ladder truck.
When the department was motorized, a new ladder truck was bought, and later two more, and these aerial ladders are operated by hydraulic and pneumatic power, and these will reach 85 feet in the air.
A new aerial truck was ordered from the La France Co. of Elmira, New York, shipped in a car built especially for these ladder trucks, longer than any other freight car in use and it arrived on July 29, 1941. The next day, the city officials gave it a try out, in the parking lot next west of the municipal building. It just happened that the try out was held upon the 57thanniversary of the dedication of the Soldiers’ Monument, and as there was trouble getting the canvas off of the soldier on top, and the longest ladder to be had, did not reach more than 2/3 of the way up, and a steeple jack had to be found to climb the balance of the way up and pull the canvas off of it.
Had they had this truck at that time, it could have been done in a short time and with ease. This truck is not as long as the old ones but uses a tillerman for the rear wheels same as the old ones, and this makes it easy to get in and out of close places, and also removes the danger of side swiping any object while making a turn. The truck pulled in beside of the building and then a man from the factory operated it, raised it up and turning it toward the building and then extending it to its limit, which was about 5 feet higher than the wall.
Several men went up and down upon it. The ladder is controlled by three motors, and two can be used at the same time and if he takes his hands off of the controls, they automatically stop. The bottom of the ladder rests upon the front end of the truck and will revolve clear around if wanted. The ladder is made in four sections, the bottom one is fastened to the table on the truck and by it, is turned to any direction wanted.
The other three sections, all move up or down at the time and all in the same proportion, and the extreme height is 100 feet.
There are two I beams in front of this table and two behind it, and by pulling them out on each side and tightening the jack fastened to it, there is no chance of the truck being overturned. Under the large ladder on the truck, there is quite an assortment of ladders of different lengths and they are strong, yet light in weight, making them easy to handle. This truck carries lots of tools all in boxes, which keeps them clear of ice or dirt and ready for instant use when needed, and it is easy to see that all tools have been returned to their places and not lost at the fire. This machine is equipped with a powerful motor and can take the truck along the road at high speed, no matter how much equipment it is carrying. If this equipment had been possible 50 years ago, it would have required many horses to pull it and even then the roads would have been so rough, that it would have been impossible for men to ride upon it, when moving at 10 miles per hour.
Thus you see that good equipment needs good roads. This truck is a wonderful machine and the very best to be had, yet in a few years it will become obsolete and our children will wonder how we ever were able to get along with it. This truck is now on duty at the #3 house and the one formerly there is at #13.
On many of the pumpers and ladder trucks, there is a deluge gun which can be used when high pressure is needed and when it is in use, two men must be stationed with it at all times, for it is hard to control.
This gun can be set up almost instantly with two or three lines of hose entering it and only one exit. With it water can be thrown over the highest building in this city, and woe to any person or object getting in its way. If a fog nozzle should be attached to it, the spray would be so thick that it would smother any fire, and remind one of a London fog.
My wife and I were eating supper one evening in 1939, and saw a boy riding a bicycle across the neighbors yard in a hurry and spoke of his nerve in doing so, but she did not know that he was riding to turn in an alarm of fire for our garage. Almost at the same time a neighbor was at our door knocking and calling at the same time and when we got to the door, smoke was issuing from every crack in the roof of the garage. I went to the telephone and quickly told my story, and received the answer “They are on the road”. By the time I was out of the house I could hear them coming and by the time I reached the garage they were there and one man had opened the alley doors and run my auto into the alley. A little water did the trick, and to be sure no sparks were left they pulled off some roofing, and then went inside and gave it a good soaking. As they were leaving, one man interviewed me as to the cause and on parting I told him I was very glad to see them come but I was twice glad to see them go, and hoped I would never have an official call from them again. I must say these men were as orderly and quiet and yet swift in their work, and accomplished the work before them, hardly speaking to each other, just as though they had been there the day before and practiced the job. When I first saw the garage smoking as it did, I thought it was goodbye to it, yet the loss was less than $50 and covered by insurance.
At the burning of the Daniel Cooper mills, in 1820, any person who would pass a bucket, or do anything to help extinguish a fire, was welcomed into the party, for all work was volunteer. Later when the first fire engine was received, it was everyone’s business to help on the tow rope, and at the fire to do all possible to flood the fire.
Soon after this, they organized a volunteer fire company, accepting all who would work without pay and respond to all alarms.
A Captain was elected from the company to serve for a year and was in command of the company during all activities, the apparatus being drawn and pumped by man power.
In 1863, the first steam pumper was bought and it was too heavy to be hauled by man power, and horses were used instead. Up to this there were five independent companies, all volunteer, and no superior officer over all, and considerable of rivalry existed. Each one was trying to take unfair advantage of the others and fights were common between firemen at fires, and at one time a fireman was killed by a brick, thrown by a man from another company, fracturing his skull.
No co-operation in this but lots of hard feelings were stirred up.
In 1864, council dismissed all volunteer companies and made it a pay job, subject to dismissal when politics changed.
The pay was so small that only a man very hard up would bind himself to stay on duty 21 hours per day, seven days a week and every day in the month. The only attraction for the job was the regular payday and a comfortable place to stay, night and day. During the first sixteen years after council took over the job, the quality of the men was very poor, and during this time, six men acted as chief, an average of less than three years per man, probably on account of politics.
In 1880, a state law provided for a bi-partisan board, and from then on, men were appointed because of their ability. From that time to the present, four chiefs have served and the department has been continually improving, an average of more than 15 years per man.
From 1864, to about 1915 all apparatus was moved by horse power, and then the auto came in, horses went out forever. From then on we have been placing larger and larger motors in the apparatus, until today some are 240 horse power. Can you imagine firemen hitching up 240 horses to one piece of apparatus, then trying to drive them to a fire? Could one man manage them? Could they pass other traffic upon the street? The internal combustion motor was a necessity, and it has revolutionized the department and all other traffic and transportation facilities.
In early days, all residences were one and two stories and only a few business blocks were three and four stories.
The first four story brick building in the city was at Rike’s corner, brick walls and the balance wooden construction. The people condemned it as unsafe and prophesied a terrible collapse for it, but nothing happened to it until Mr.Rike bought it and had it removed to make space for his present building. Before this all buildings were made of inflammable material, but at this time a change came, and now most new buildings are made of reinforced concrete, which is fire proof and stands fire and earthquake better than any other construction.
In many cities, buildings have been erected higher than here, for our highest is about 20 stories, but even then a fire of inflammable stuff in the top story would give the department a tough proposition.
About the same time, chemical, electrical, and mechanical experts began to bring in new processes and equipment that resulted in new and complicated fire and explosive hazards. For a while, the department continued using water and chemical extinguishers to fight the new hazards, but finally they woke up to the need of foam, carbon tetrachloride, carbon dioxide and better equipment. This was all good as far as it went, but there was a great lack and what was it? The pay of firemen was not enough to tempt a man of good habits and ability into the service, but the regular pay day was the drawing card.
The firemen are scattered in the houses all over the city and seldom see each other, yet at any time they may be called together on the same job, and can you expect team work under such conditions?
Every man has a head upon his shoulders, if it is used only as a hat rack, what good is it to him or his employer? A few men realize that they must use their heads and they go up in the department, yet most of them are just waiting for pay day, and while they work hard at a fire, throwing water on the blaze, they do not consider how much damage the water is doing. The result is that more damage is done by water than by fire and smoke. Civil service came into use for all city employees shortly after the city manager form of government was adopted.
About this time it was found that each house had its own way of working which was all right for a small fire, where the work was all done, before the arrival of another company. However when all were working together, they worked at cross purposes, not knowing what to expect from his fellow fireman. In 1916, the training of the whole department was made the responsibility of one man, Mr. Henry Dietrick, assisted by all company commanders. He was sent to New York for a schooling, where a training had been in use for quite a while.
After his return, this training of the men was carried on at Main and Monument Avenue, until the tower was condemned and removed to make space for the present signal building. The training was then moved to the old water works pumping house at Keowee and Ottowa from 1924 to 1937, when the first instructor retired. These duties were then assigned to Mr. Forest Lucas, and he went to another city for training and after this a drill manual of the loose leaf variety was started, so that it can be built up gradually and not cause confusion.
One evolution is made at a time and after it is understood, another is added. After two years training by the instructor and company officers, the benefits and possibilities seemed so great that an assistant was appointed. When the #2 house was re-located at Third and Montgomery, the old dormitory was converted into a school room, with desks, blackboards, cut away hydrants, refrigerator compressors, tools and equipment, that are liable to be used in the service.
The first men to be instructed in this room, which was the first probationary fireman’s school ever conducted in Dayton, starting May 1, 1940, were instructed before they were assigned to a company.
These instructions were continued eight hours per day for four days or a total of 32 hours after which they were assigned to duty on May 6, when the new engine houses, 17, 19 and 20 were opened.
This 32 hours is not sufficient training, but was the beginning of something badly needed and more was given before they were allowed to ride upon the apparatus.
Ladder raising, hose laying, rescue and many other such evolutions are carried on at the old Corbin Screw Company on Keowee south of Ottowa. All pumper drills and water distributing tools are used in practice at Bimm’s pond on east Monument Avenue. All of these will be concentrated at a central drill tower, to be could as soon as possible on south Ludlow Street. This gives all men a chance to make suggestions for the good of the service, and if found practical, they will be adopted and the entire department be benefited.
The information given out by this school is authentic and goes to all houses at the same time, so all will work together without friction and with co-operation.
Nearly all the departments in the large cities have accepted this plan and have a school of their own and that shows a need of state and regional schools for new hazards and new remedies are being found continually and the department must be ready for them at any and all times. Most states now have fire colleges, mostly at the state universities, the instructors being drawn from the universities, the engineering staff of the underwriters, and from the more progressive fire departments.
There is a fire department instructors conference held at Memphis, Tenn., once each year, where instructors, engineers, and chiefs meet to exchange ideas, experience, methods, etc. In 1941, representatives from the District of Columbia and 38 states were in attendance.
The results of these schools has resulted in fire fighting becoming a highly specialized profession, with fires being extinguished by a scientific method rather than by the old hit and miss system formerly used in this work.
I have shown the progress of the fire department, yet without the help of the water works, it could not have been so efficient, for these two departments have had to work together, so I will close with a brief history of it.
After the Civil War, Dayton’s water supply for domestic and fire needs was not adequate for a city growing as we were, and besides, a well for every house was not conducive to good health. In 1869, a contract was given to the Holley Mfg. Co. of New York for a pump to force the water directly into the mains for use of the city, as it is done to this day, and for this reason our city water is called “Holley water”.
Two wells were dug near Dutoit and Bacon, but they did not produce the needed amount of water. Then a two acre lot was bought on Keowee at Madriver, where we are still working. This was complete and started pumping in April 1870, at a cost of $230,089.00 and soon after, my parents took me over to see it and I remember well the brass railings all polished and shining, and the man in charge, showed us all around explaining everything, especially the governor which controlled the pressure of the water in the mains at 50 lbs. ordinarily, yet during an alarm of fire, it was raised to 100 lbs. The fire alarm gong was upon the wall and if additional pressure was needed, two taps upon the gong would get it, and three would reduce it. My memory tells me that only once in all these years, when no water was to be had out of the mains and that was one week during the flood in March, 1913, when the entire plant was submerged in water and mud from the river.
From its beginning, this department was under the control of a board and politics did not figure in the appointments. After the flood, the city went under the city manager form of government, which took in all departments and in 1914 introduced Civil Service for all employees.
The first well did fine, but the demand was so much more than expected that new wells were sought. Several new wells were drilled in the bed of Mad River, from Keowee east and this furnished the water needed at the time. Ezra Bimm, an old volunteer fireman, and much interested in the fire department and other branches of the city, went into the business of harvesting and storing natural ice at the east end of Ottowa Street.
He made a pond covering a couple of acres, and surrounding it with large icehouses and a high fence between and as soon as the ice was strong enough to hold a horse, he had the snow scraped off, making it a fine place to skate and it was free and well patronized.
Mr. Bimm conceived the plan to drill a well and melt the ice with the water from the well, and then the water on top would freeze quickly and produce more ice. This was a success and he was well repaid by the greater amount of ice harvested every winter. One summer the city was short of water and Mr. Bimm donated the water from his well and it was found to be colder than the city’s water. Soon after, artificial ice was found to be practical and purer than natural ice and a plant was built on Second between St. Clair and the canal opposite the library. This was the beginning of the end of natural ice and a few years after he sold his ground to the city and several wells were drilled upon it. As more and more wells were needed, more wells were drilled in the bed of Mad River up to the aqueduct. Occasionally a new pump would be bought to keep up with the demand for more water.
The flood of 1913 washed all over the entire plant, and no water could be pumped for a week until everything could be thoroughly cleaned up. To prevent further floods in the valley, the Miami conservancy was organized to make plans to prevent further floods and then to carry out the plans. This was done and the dams built and now we are sure we are safe from floods. Much land is subject to flooding by this construction and to avoid damage suits, they bought up all the land subject to flood or change in any way. After construction was complete, the land was sold, subject to flooding during high water, and since the city was needing more wells and a right of way for a conduit to carry the water from the wells to the pumps, the city bought the river bed to Huffman Dam. This conduit was built of reinforced concrete along the right of way of the Erie road, size from 54 to 74 inches, and as soon as a new well is drilled it is connected with the conduit. This carries all the water to a reinforced reservoir at the pumping station, built in 1923, capacity 5 million gallons, and it is covered with a reinforced concrete roof, so that no foreign substance can get into the reservoir. The city has formed a fine park opposite the Smithville Road in the river bed, which is open to the public and enjoyed by many of the citizens during the summer and it is known as Eastwood Park. Last spring a new well was drilled and because it was a gusher, the city had all the water it needed last summer.
This system has been a great success and is only possible because nature has placed a strata of gravel under the ground, extending to near Bellefontaine, where it is open to receive the rain water and after filtering through the ground into this gravel, filters down to Dayton, where we are using it. On top of this gravel there is a layer of blue clay which we call “hard pan” which is impervious to anything guarding it from infection. This water is very pure because of the 40 or 50 miles of filtering, and since the gravel is limestone, the water is full of lime and so we say it is very hard, and because of its depth in the ground, it is very cold.
The original settlement of Dayton was down in the valley, but as the city grew, it began to climb the hills. In 1866, the government bought nearly a square mile of ground on the hill west of town for a Soldiers’ Home. There are several springs still running, giving cold water and fine, too, but how they received this water to the many buildings, higher up in the hills, housing the disabled veterans, is more than I can tell you, for this Home was started on my birth year and my memory is a little defective at that time. About 1880, the government bought a piece of ground near the crossing of the Home Avenue and the old narrow gauge railroad (now the B & O) and drilled some good wells there, calling it “Wagner wells”, and a steam outfit was placed there to pump the water to the home. The standpipe, still standing, was built by Brownell, who rolled the sheets at their shop and hauled them out there upon a two horse dray, and after 60 years service it is still being used. After this century had a good start, the government contracted with the city to furnish the water and Wagner Well was discontinued.
As Dayton continued to grow out the Salem pike, up the hill, some of the residents found themselves out of water in the summer, when the city was watering their lawns, and for hours at a time not a drop of water could be had from any faucet in the house. The next morning there would be plenty, so they had to store water for use in the evenings. Suppose that a fire should break out, and when the apparatus arrived, they were unable to get any water? To remedy this the city erected a standpipe, near Catalpa and Fairview, up on the highest ground in 1916, capacity 900,000 gallons, and to keep this water from running back down hill, many check valves were placed upon the supply pipes. A booster station was placed at Salem and Harvard in 1920, and 1922 another standpipe was erected beside the first and ten feet higher than the first, with an electric pump, automatically controlled, to draw water out of the larger tank and keep the new taller one full at all times thus all residents have a good pressure of water constantly.
Later two more large standpipes were built there thus storing quite a lot of water for use upon that hill.
The first system of pumping the water into the mains and keeping the pressure equal at all times was a success and in a modified way is still in use. Suppose that the pump should break down or a serious break in the mains occur during a fire, it might have serious consequences. To remedy this they built three reinforced concrete reservoirs, to carry a reserve supply, each with a capacity of 10 million gallons, all at the same height above the pumps at Ottowa Street, about 142 feet, so that all would be equally well filled and in case of a demand each would contribute equally of it. All of them have a reinforced top and a layer of earth with sod over them, thus keeping the water cool and free from impurities. The first one was built upon the south end of Anderson Street about a square from the Dayton State Hospital, in 1918, the second upon the hill above Miller’s ford in 1921, and the third at the west end of Spiece Avenue in 1926. In 1921 a standpipe was erected upon the State hospital grounds, and this is kept full with an electrical pump, automatic, at the Anderson Street reservoir, another standpipe is located near Smithville Road and Burkhardt Avenue, filled by a pump at Spiece Avenue, and the third standpipe south of the Miller’s ford reservoir and filled from it.
So all high ground south and east if the city are having good water service. At some time, the county erected a standpipe, upon the hill south of the Germantown Pike, capacity 200,000 gallons, and later it was taken over by the city, to supply those upon high ground west of the city, with a booster pump near Lakeside Park to fill it.
At this time the city has done away with all steam power at the pumping station, and the pumps are driven by electricity from the D. P. & L. Co. as well as all auxillary pumps. The main pumps now work at a regular speed and any surplus is stored in the high reservoirs and when needed will supply any shortage. As the city grew from nothing to 210 thousand people, with no transportation of people or goods to the present system, the fire and water departments have faced many problems of all kinds and by co-operation have accomplished much and at this time, we have plenty of water of the very best quality at all times of night and day. Occasionally in dry summer times, we are asked to conserve water, but as a new well was drilled last spring, 1941, with an enormous output, there was no request to save water last summer.
Chas. F Sullivan
40 Glenwood. Dayton, Ohio.
Since writing the above, I had occasion to call upon Capt. Beckham, who has just been transferred from #14 to #2 house, and I entered the office on the corner, and was greeted by a hearty “Good afternoon” by the man upon duty there, and I asked to see Capt. Beckham.
He happened to be just outside of the door in the main room, and looking up, he saw me and came to me immediately. After I had finished my business with him, he asked me if I would like to see the new building, and as it was new and considered very modern, I accepted the invitation. The first piece of apparatus was the combination engine and hose truck, as is now used in all houses, and next to it was the #6 truck, formerly known as the Hope Fire Co. and located upon N. June Street. Next was the ladder truck, the district Chief and other trucks, only used in emergencies.
Behind the #6 engine truck was another, fully loaded, and ready for use at an instant’s notice, but is seldom called into service. If the entire department were busy at a large fire, or other duty, regular men off duty for the day would be called in to man that truck and answer any call that might come in, for any part of the city, so one truck is always ready in reserve for instant use. At this time, the Captain was called to the office, and must have received some information that the whole house should know, for I recognized his voice upon the loud speaker, and there are quite a number scattered all over the building, every man received the word at the same time.
The first room at the top of the stairs was a lounging room, with chairs, tables, etc., for writing, reading, games or anything else.
Then we entered the dining room, with a long table where all the men can sit down at once to their meals, (however, always one man must be on duty in the office, and must stay there until relieved). The kitchen is just off of it and as dinner was just over, all four men were busy cleaning up and putting things away.
The district Chief has a separate room, and like all firemen, is on duty 24 hours, and off the same length of time, there are two beds, one for each chief when on duty, and the Captain also has the same arrangement for himself. At the front of the building is a large sleeping room with 15 beds in it, bath room handy, and two poles for hasty exit to the main floor when an alarm came in. Downstairs, the front doors open overhead, operated by electric power, several switches conveniently located, and after four minutes, automatically closes them unless the switch is turned off. So if the department are gone a long time, the house will be warm and less liable to be tampered with during the absence. The house is steam heated, with a stoker operating the boiler, and in summer, it is air conditioned, so that the men can get a good rest in hot weather. This building is constructed of reinforced concrete and so is fire proof, and is the kind of construction that stood the San Francisco earthquake and fire, better than any other. Also it withstood the fire at Baltimore, years ago, resisting the great heat to which the buildings were subjected.
Chas F Sullivan Jan 20 1942
40 Glenwood Dayton Ohio.
I am indebted to the following persons and books
Early Dayton John F Edgar
Story of Dayton Mrs Conover
Minutes of Hook & Ladder Co, kept in the office of the chief
Frank Ramby Retired Chief
Henry Dietrick Retired Chief, district
Captain J. B Beckham Captain of #2 house
Forest B Lucas Instructor in the school.