City of Manchester, NH Official Website

Turn of the Century

In 1902 a station was built in the Derryfield section of the city, at the corner of Weston and Concord streets, remaining unoccupied for two years. A company known as Combination #2 was organized November 1904, with a hose wagon mounted with 2 30-gallon tanks and a 25-gallon chemical tank. In 1908, the name was changed to Hose 4, at which time it was staffed by Captain Alfred Gustafson with two permanent men and six call men. On February 8, 1932, this company was reorganized into Engine Company 10. In 1982 the Company was again reorganized into Engine 10 and Truck 3 with new quarters built on Mammoth Road. The original building is now used for city storage.

The Somerville Street station housing Engine and Truck 7 was erected in 1906. Captain James J. Collins was the first Captain when the company was organized on January 11, 1908. The apparatus consisted of a horse- drawn steamer, hook & ladder and a hose wagon. Ladder 7 had the distinction of having the last horse drawn apparatus in the city. A motorized Seagrave pumper and a Robinson aerial were placed in service June 1924. This original station is still the quarters of Engine and Truck 7.

During the period from 1860 through 1924 over 40 horses served the department. On the average it took a year to acclimate and season a green, western horse to the fire service and they normally served ten years. "Molly", entered the fire service in 1888 and served the General Stark Company for 18 years without missing a day of service. "Fanny" never missed a run for 14 years at Hose 2. Her career ended when she injured an ankle while her regular driver, Walter Seaward was on vacation. "Frank" served the department for sixteen years at Amoskeag One. These horses were held in the highest esteem by their drivers as well as the entire department.

In 1912 the first station designed for motorized apparatus was erected on South Main Street corner of McDuffie. An American LaFrance 50 foot service truck was placed in service in 1914, as the company was known as Hook and Ladder 8. In 1938 the city purchased a Maxim Quad and the company was assigned as Ladder 12. The original station is currently used as the quarters of Engine and Truck 2, although an additional apparatus bay has been added.

Despite this continuing modernization of the department another major loss came in January of 1914 when the Merchants Exchange building again burned. The damage totaled $700,000 and destroyed the office of the Merchants Bank.

On June 24, 1914 Box #5 was transmitted at 2:15 A.M. for John Varick Company on Elm Street between Merrimack Street and Manchester Street. A small basement fire turned into a general alarm fire after gas flames erupted from the cellar. Explosions rocked the building as large tanks of alcohol and volatile oils stored under the sidewalk ignited. A basement filled with paints and oils contributed to the blaze. Fire apparatus from the Amoskeag Corporation assisted the city department. An engine from Fore River Ship Company, which was stored at the city yard and was to be demonstrated that day, was put into service at the fire. The agent, J. A. Lamkin, hearing the alarm, awakened his two assistants and they rushed up Elm Street to volunteer their services. Chief Lane directed them to set up at Hanover and Elm Street. The 175 H. P. engine pumped 1600 G. P. M. through 4 hose lines. At 4:20 A.M. Carl Lagequist and Fireman Harris removed 50 lb. of gunpowder from the building. At 4:45 A.M. the fire spread to the R. G. Sullivan store and office. By 6 A.M. heavy, green smoke, from the tobacco, was pouring from the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors. Roger Sullivan's large tobacco stock was ruined and $30,000 of automobile tires in Varicks was destroyed along with an immense amount of supplies. The Varick Block had previously burned on February 7, 1892 sustaining losses of $144,000 and again on May 21, 1914 with a loss of $44,000.

The Board of Fire Commissioners was formed by decree of the Board of Mayor and Alderman on May 1, 1917. The Fire Commission issued Order #1 appointing Thomas W. Lane Chief of the Manchester Fire Department. After 38 years serving as Chief Engineer and Chief of Department Thomas W. Lane retired on July 1, l917. Charles H. French was appointed Chief by the Commission effective that date.

The second line of duty death in the department was Firefighter Michael E. Kelly, 42, of Engine Company 1. He was fatally injured when a pony chemical tank that was strapped to his back exploded while fighting a brush fire near Pine Grove Cemetery on Tuesday, March 25, 1919. The force of the explosion broke his back and lifted Kelly off his feet. He was rushed by the chief's car to Sacred Heart Hospital, but his injuries were so severe he did not survive.

An early morning fire on January 28, 1920 gutted the upper stories of the Elk's hall block on the south side of Hanover Street forcing 50 residents to the street. Offices on the 2nd floor and stores on the 1st floor were damaged by water. Damage was estimated at $100,000 by Chief French.

On March 3, 1920, the department was summoned to the Boston and Maine railroad yard to battle a fire in a 3,000 ton coal shed. Captain Frank W. Tebbetts, 54, of Engine Company 7, was seriously injured when he fell 50 feet through the flame-weakened roof of the burning coal shed to the basement. Captain Tebbetts succumbed from his injuries two days later. He joined the department as a charter member of Fulton Engine Company 6 in 1893.

During the early 20's most of the department’s apparatus was replaced. The Massabesic Hose #2 located on Maple Street received a new Ahrens-Fox fire engine in 1923. The company was reorganized into Engine Number 8. In 1943 the company received a new Mack pumper and it served until it was relocated to headquarters in May of 1959. Engine Company 8 was permanently placed out of service in July of 1959. The station is now used as a community center.

The city report of 1925 showed 8 engines, 6 were Ahrens-Fox’s and 2 were built by Seagrave. Of the 6 ladder trucks 4 were unique trucks built by Ahrens-Fox and the others by American LaFrance and Robinson. The two remaining volunteer companies had horse drawn hose wagons or reels. Of these companies 2 are in west Manchester and all the areas of the city except the Massabesic Lake and Goffes Falls sections were within 1 mile of an engine or hose company.

Prior to July 1923 firefighters worked 96 hours on duty followed by 24 hours off, averaging 134.4 hours per week. On July 1, 1923, the schedule was changed to 72 hours on duty followed by 24 hours off, an average of 126 hours per week. Members were allowed to leave the city on their days off, but had to respond to alarms during meal hours.

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