During 1885 and 1886, members of the Committee of the Fire Department discussed how the purchase of chemical engine would add to the efficiency of the department. Despite criticisms by the citizens and by some members of the department, a Babcock Chemical Engine drawn by two horses was purchased at a cost of $2,250. The men who were selected to form Chemical Engine Company Number 1 were experienced firefighters and were said to be the best four men that the Board of Engineers could have chosen. The company went into active service April 1, 1886, and during the following year displayed impressive results. The "Chemical" with it’s double tanks holding 60 gallon tanks of soda and acid, answered a number of alarms with great success.
On January 1, 1886, the old E. W. Harrington Hose station on Clinton Street was relegated to storage as a new brick engine house on North Main Street was opened. The Fire King Steamer Number 2 was moved from Vine Street into the station and staffed by fourteen men. This station was rehabilitated in 1977 into a branch of the city library.
February 8, 1888, the Board of Engineers reorganized Merrimack Hose Company Number 4 into Merrimack Steam Fire Engine Company Number 3, with a steamer purchased from Manchester Locomotive Works. They were quartered in a substantial new brick station on Lake Avenue that had been built at a cost of $11,005.23. This station was used until 1979, although still standing this large building is now privately owned.
In March of 1888, the city purchased from the Manchester Locomotive Works, the General Stark Number 5 steam engine at a cost of $3,657 and a hose carriage at a cost of $1,000. The engine house on Webster Street had been under construction since the latter part of 1886. On April 16, 1887 the company was organized, and named "General Stark Steam Fire Engine Company Number 5". The company’s apparatus consisted of an Amoskeag engine with a hose wagon, and a combination hook and ladder. The station was razed for the construction of the present quarters in 1992.
In those years, one of the duties of the firemen was to do the scavenger collection. There were community dumps located in all parts of the city at that time. While picking up the garbage, if the bell tolled at the schoolhouse in their district, signaling a fire, they would immediately return to the station. At the station the horses were unhitched from the scavenger wagon and hooked to the fire equipment to respond to the fire. The remainder of the men were volunteers who assisted in firefighting.
In 1892, a new engine house was built in McGregorville under the name of Walter M. Fulton, Number 6 at a cost of $13,219.57. The old N. S. Bean Steamer and a newly purchased ladder truck were assigned here when the company was organized in 1893. This company is still known as Engine and Truck Company 6. The original station served the neighborhood until heavily damaged by fire on June 9, 1988.
In 1894 the Committee of Fire Department had commissioned a wooden hose house built in the southern section of the city. The Committee had requested the Pennacook Hose Company be transferred from Vine Street to the new Bakersville firehouse, but the Board of Engineers refused. The Underwriters Petition of September 1894 to the Honorable Board of Mayor, Alderman and Common Council expressed their opinion that Pennacook should not be moved citing "Removal of the carriage means a great deal of water damage in case of a small fire in our business and mercantile blocks." Instead a hose carriage was purchased and this company was known as Hose 3 until February 1932 when it became Engine Company 9. This station served the south end until March 20, 1963 when the building was razed for highway improvement and new quarters were built on Calef Road.
The department’s first recorded line of duty death was Lieutenant Thomas E. Gorman, 37, of Engine and Ladder 6. On December 30, 1896, Lieutenant Gorman died while responding to Box 53 for a fire at the George Foster estate on the Bedford Road. The accident occurred at Clapp's Corner (Granite Square) when Ladder 6 started to slide side to side on the icy roadway. Fearing that the apparatus was going to overturn, Lt. Gorman jumped off the truck and was crushed by the rear wheels. Nearly 500 men attended his funeral as Lt. Gorman was laid to rest in the Valley Cemetery.
On October 12, 1899 a muster was sponsored by the Manchester Board of Trade and The Manchester Veteran Firemen's Association and held on Merrimack Common and was more successful than the 1859 melee. After a lengthy parade the events began at 1:30 p.m. and finished about 5:00 p.m. The First Prize of $400 was awarded to the "D. A. Taggart" company of Goffstown, N. H. for a stream of 206 feet 6 3/4 inches. The "D. A. Taggart" may still be seen at the Goffstown Fire Department.
The old station on Vine Street was rebuilt in 1864. Later a substantial reconstruction was made in 1912 and 1913 replacing the original two-story section with a three-story section. The southerly 50 feet was of fireproof construction and the entire third floor housed the fire alarm division. This building was razed February of 1971 when the Central Fire Station was built at 100 Merrimack Street. Over the years several companies have been quartered from “Central” as the administration offices, fire dispatch, and the fire prevention division.
On January 14, 1902, one of the city’s handsomest buildings, the Kennard Block, was destroyed by fire. The fire started about 9:00 P.M. in the ceiling of the Allen and Kimball Clothing store at the north end of the structure. The fire was thought to be under control within a half hour but soon the entire building was ablaze. Fire traveled through the block, end to end, and through all 5 stories. The stores on the ground floor were among the most dominant in town and this block housed many offices of lawyers and doctors. Also destroyed was an 82-piece set of the work of one of Manchester’s most famous sculptors, John Rogers. The Rogers groups were stored in the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences. The entire building was reduced to rubble, with a loss of over $500,000.
The Massabesic Hotel located at Massabesic Lake, a 100 year old landmark, was destroyed by an arsonist on May 14,1903. A postcard was mailed to Chief Lane stating that the hotel would burn that night. On that very day, a spectacular fire burned the massive set of buildings that made up the hotel; the fire could be seen for miles.
After the turn of the century, progress again challenged the fire departments throughout the country and Manchester was no exception. Was the new motorized apparatus going to replace steamers? In the year 1910 when the Manchester Fire Department accepted the challenge. A four cylinder Knox with a chemical tank, booster line, and hose bed was purchased and placed in service. The company was known then as "The Flying Squadron", and in August of 1937 as Engine Company 11. The squad, which responded to all fires, was led by Captain Harvey. This squad engine served from 1910 to 1919 and proved that horses were obsolete.