New Haven Fire Department Marks 150th Anniversary, Welcomes Home 1909 Antique Pumper
(10/11/2012) Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Fire Chief Michael Grant and former Fire Commissioner William Celentano led a celebration Thursday marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the New Haven Fire Department and the dedication of a fully restored 1909 pumper, to be displayed permanently in New Haven City Hall. The celebration coincides with National Fire Prevention Week, and a classroom of John C. Daniels School kindergartners were present to visit the fire truck and learn about fire safety.
The New Haven Fire Department dates back to December 29, 1789, when then-Mayor Roger Sherman organized a team of brave volunteers into the City’s first Fire Department. The department transitioned to a full-time professional operation in 1862, becoming the first professional fire department in the state. Since then, only 15 fire chiefs have led the department.
“New Haven firefighters have worked tirelessly for the past 150 years serving the citizens of New Haven, placing themselves in great danger to protect the lives and property of others. Their courageous efforts have not gone unnoticed. This anniversary is an important moment to reflect on and honor the tremendous work of the New Haven Fire Department. Installing the antique pumper in City Hall is a fitting reminder for all who visit of the proud history of the department and the brave work that continues today,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
“There is no doubt in my mind if a member of the 1862 department were to return today, they would be in awe of how different the mission of the fire service is today. One thing that hasn’t changed, that the founders of the fire department would still recognize, are the traditions of this department of courage, commitment and dedication to the saving of lives. That’s what the profession is all about and that hasn’t changed since day one,” said Fire Chief Michael Grant.
The horse drawn gasoline pumper was built for the City of New Haven in May of 1909 by the Westinghouse Company of Schenectady, New York. Described in its day as the “Cadillac” of fire engines, the pumper is a four cylinder gasoline powered apparatus capable of pumping up to 600 gallons a minute. The pumper was drawn by two horses and carried 1,000 feet of hose, two ladders, two pony extinguishers and two firefighters.
Until sometime in the 1940s, the pumper was located at Engine Company No. 9 on Ellsworth Avenue. Once retired, it was showcased on the New Haven Green. It was later purchased by James Filleul of Manchester, New Hampshire who acquired it for a fire museum. After Filleul’s passing in 1962, the pumper was acquired by the fire chief of Townsend, Massachusetts. The pumper remained in Townsend until it was located by former New Haven Fire Commissioner William Celentano, who arranged to have it returned to the City of New Haven.
The pumper has been refurbished by Donald “Earl” Fitzgerald, National Director of the Historical Construction Equipment Association. The pumper is back in New Haven, pictured here at Fire Department headquarters. It is now in its final home in New Haven City Hall for all to view.
“When I got the truck back to New Haven in 2008 I had no idea where this project was going to go. I’m indebted to Mayor DeStefano and Chief Grant for their enthusiasm. It never would have been done otherwise. They helped get the ball rolling. It’s been a four year process. It’s pretty exciting. I call it the eighth wonder of the world,” said former Fire Commissioner William Celentano.
For more information on the history of the New Haven Fire Department, visit www.box22.org.
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