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.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pelham Manor's Earliest Fire Fighting Equipment

After a series of fires suffered by homes in the Prospect Hill section of the Town of Pelham (now part of the Village of Pelham Manor), residents of the area decided something had to be done. They began to organize a fire fighting organization in early 1890. Even though the Village of Pelham Manor had not yet been incorporated, owners of fifty of the fifty-three homes located in the area agreed to pay an "assessment" of $30 per home to fund the purchase of firefighting equipment, among other things.

Among the first equipment the collective acquired were fourteen dozen hand grenade extinguishers for $84 and fifty-six racks for the hand grenade extinguishers. Each homeowner who paid the assessment received a rack and three grenades.

Fire grenades typically were glass globes or bottles filled with a chemical fluid. When a fire broke out, the grenade was thrown at the base of the fire, breaking the globe and spreading the chemical fluid to extinguish the flames. An image of the widely-available "Harden Star Hand Grenade" appears immediately below.

Such "equipment" provided little hope of fire safety, however. As Henry E. Dey, one of the fire-fighting organizational leaders later noted, "A meeting was called, someone suggested the fire-grenades, so we bought them, but they offered only slim assurance".

To supplement such "slim assurance", the organizers acquired a "25-gallon chemical tank mounted on two wheels". According to a transcription of portions of the early records of the Pelham Manor Fire Department compiled by Warren P. Lyon, the group ordered the new piece of equipment, which cost $400, on April 18, 1890.

The sketch below depicts what was known as Pelham Manor's "Chemical Engine No. 1" in action. Pulled by hand to the scene of a fire, the equipment was part of the earliest organized effort to protect the lives and property of residents of the area that soon became the Village of Pelham Manor.

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