Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, August 01, 2005

An 1896 Inspection and Drill of the Fire Department in Pelham

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Long, long ago, the local fire departments that served Pelham were quite different than the efficient and professional organizations that serve our community today. The dedication of the volunteers, no doubt, was as strong and selfless as the dedication of today's professional and volunteer firefighters. Their proficiency, however, does not seem to approach that of today's departments even remotely. A case in point -- a drill and inspection held by one of the local fire departments on Friday, September 25, 1896.

A merciless report of that drill and inspection appeared five days later in The Pelham Press, a local newspaper at the time. The report suggested that the drill went so badly -- with the Relief Hook & Ladder Company unable even to get their truck out of the building -- that one bystander refused to make his horse available to help and, instead, told the hapless volunteers to use a couple of goats and a pair of chickens instead. The report appears below in its entirety.

A drill and inspection of the Pelham Fire Department was held last Friday night and presented a sad spectacle to those who witnessed it. The ‘fire bell’ (which, by the way, was reconstructed so that the distance from which it could be heard has been reduced several thousand feet) was rung and the entire department responded. Liberty Hose was first to get under way. They succeeded in getting out of sight before all of Relief H. & L. Co.’s men arrived. Chief Heisser’s horse had a sore back and could not be used. The five members put their shoulders to the wheels and pushed, but they might just as well been trying to push the building for the truck wouldn’t budge an inch. Chief Heisser asked Dr. Chas. Barker to donate the services of his colt, but the doctor advised him to secure the services of two of Francis McDermitt’s goats and a couple of Thos. Hewitt’s chickens and make a tandem, but the motion was lost in the excitement. There was no use; all they could do was to sit down and wait for Liberty to return. Up to a late hour they had not returned, and it was unanimously agreed upon that they had probably got stuck in one of the ruts in Wolf’s Lane. The crowd was looking on pitilessly when the Press reporter left the scene.”

Source: The Pelham Press, Sept. 30, 1896 (Vol. I, No. 30), at 1, col. 6.


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