The “Hooks” of a Hook & Ladder

What did the “hooks” look like on the original hook and ladder trucks? Master historian Matt Lee included this picture in his 1997 book “A Pictorial History of the Fire Engine – Volume I.”[1]

It’s one of the best pictures and explanations that I’ve come across. Note that there are two of them, a curved hook and a flat hook. That’s a Seagrave factory photo, undated. Probably 1890s? Horse-drawn ladder truck with “T. F. D.” on the side.

He described the hooks as such:

“The curved hook is for pulling down buildings or portions of buildings in order to create a fire break. In the early days of wood buildings and row housing, the only way to effect a fire break was to tear down a dwelling or out building. The curved hook had ten feet of chain attached to it. At the end of the chain was a length of stout rope. The hook had a hollow handle so that a pike pole could be used to position the hook and chain on a burning structure. The end of the rope was attached to a team of strong horses and the building was pulled apart to facilitate a fire break.”

“The flat hook, with a pulley in its base, was for hoisting items over a roof or wall.”

Collapsing buildings to create fire breaks was a tried-and-true technique of early firefighting. Yours Truly wrote this about Raleigh’s volunteer Hook and Ladder Company, in an earlier retrospective:

“As most of the home of the time were constructed of wood, flames could easily jump between buildings. One method of preventing fires from spreading involved the using a “hook.” This large grab hook was attached to about fifty feet of chain and another hundred or more feet of rope. Members would throw the hook through a window and, with all hands helping, they would pull down the house. This was rarely done, however, with the property owner aware. Their fire company even had a slogan about this displayed on a big sign attached to their truck. It read “Say the word and down comes your house!”[2]

Explosives were also to blow up buildings and create breaks in the path of a spreading conflagration. Local examples abound.

In 1803, the City of Raleigh Commissioners were granted “full power to do what they may deem necessary to stop the progress of the calamity, even to the causing of adjoining buildings to be taken down or blown up, without being answerable for any damage to the owner or owners of property so destroyed.”

This method was used to help control the first major fire on record, that destroyed 51 buildings in the first two blocks of Fayetteville Street on June 11, 1816. “In [the fire’s] course northwardly, it crossed a street 66 feet wide; and was arrested finally by blowing up Mr. Stuart’s kitchen and by throwing water continually on his dwelling house, under cover of some trees” wrote the Raleigh Register account.

And 112 years later, during the great fire of New Bern in 1922, nearly 100 homes were dynamited, as well as six houses along Queen Street that were “pulled down by a large cable” attached to a steam locomotive, was was recounted by Dr. Joseph Patterson in a historical presentation in 1992, for the Memories of New Bern Committee. Read that transcript at newbern.cpclib.org/research/memories/pdf/Fire.pdf

Readers, what historical examples of fire hook or fire break blasting can you share?

[1] Mr. Lee has written three volumes of his pictorial histories. They were self-published in 1997 (Volume I), 1999 (Volume II), and 2005 (Volume III). They are easily the best books on fire apparatus history, totaling some 1200 pages of crisply reproduced photographs and expert explanations and presentations of the histories.

[2] From “Raleigh Fire Department 1880-1899”, created in 2009. Read that document at www.legeros.com/ralwake/raleigh/history/writing/1880-1899.pdf

Facebook Comments

Airport Orders Pierce Pumper – Update October 2019

October 10, 2019
Here’s a factory photo of the completed truck, as posted on this Pierce Flickr page:

October 30, 2018
News from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. They’ve ordered a Freightliner/Pierce pumper to replace CFR 1, a 2005 Ford F-550/4 Guys mini-pumper, 500/250/20. And it’s the first full-size pumper in the airport’s history.[1]

Continue reading ‘Airport Orders Pierce Pumper – Update October 2019’ »

Facebook Comments

Factory Photos of Cary’s Tillers

Here are factory photos of Cary’s twin tillers, a pair of 2019 Pierce Enforcer Ascendant 1500/200/107′ tractor-drawn aerials. New Ladder 1 and Ladder 3. Source is the Pierce Flickr page. Go there for larger versions. These are the town’s first tillers, and bump the Wake County TDA total to seven. Raleigh has four, Cary with two, and Wake Forest with a recently delivered training tiller. See prior blog post about the latter. 

Facebook Comments

The Driver Had the Hardest Job in the Service

 

He was the first man up in the morning, and the last one to bed at night. Three times a week the horses were taken out at 5 a.m. for exercise, unless they had run the night before. This meant the driver got up at 4 a.m. There were stalls to clean and horses to groom and harness to polish. This all had to be finished by 10 a.m. Otherwise 6 a.m. was the usual rising hour for all firemen. Upon rising, the driver curried and brushed his horses, while another scrubbed down the stalls with boiling water, and a third man took care of the harness. Still others took care of the specific feeding routine.

Each fireman who had the care of a horse went back to do his final chore for the day before retiring. He cleaned the stall floor, and bedded it with straw or peat moss. He filled the wire basket with hay, and put water in the basin on the left wall. Also, at 10 a.m., every morning there was uniform inspection, and examination of quarters, horses, and apparatus. During these inspections the men stood at attention, while the captain walked about. If all was satisfactory, the men were saluted and were released to go at will to quarters.

They looked forward to the leisure time after inspection. Unless they were called, their time was their own, to do as they wished. Some slept, others read, and almost always there was some kind of card game in progress.

They worked twenty-four hours a day under the old system, with only one day off each month. The hours were long and tedious. The driver had the day watch from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the lieutenant from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Then the night watch was given over to the regular firemen on four-hour shifts.

The main floor was dark save for a small lamp on the watch desk and the lanterns that hung, one on each side of the hose wagon, steam engine, ladder truck and chief’s carriage. The signal gongs and wall telephone that linked the firehouse to headquarters and to every corner and alley in the city, and the automatic switching, levers, and push buttons that operated the various alarms, release devices and house lights in the station, were all in the compact space against the wall toward the front of the room.

There sat the man on watch, at a tilt-top desk on which the journal lay opened and ready to take the record of the next alarm. He sat alone at the desk. The house rules kept all the other firemen upstairs or out in the yard, except when there was an alarm or fire, or when they had some station duty to perform.

Turned down boots stood waiting in pair about the floor, rubber coats, with insides up so the sleeve holes could be found in a hurry, hung conveniently over knobby parts of the apparatus. Between the hose wagon and the ladder truck was the chief’s black carriage, small, delicate. Over the dashboard hung the chief’s white coat and while helmet and the driver’s cap and jacket.

At unannounced times, the assistant chief made rounds of the house to look over the horses. He would pull a white silk handkerchief from his pocket, and rub it over the back, neck, and sides of the horses. Any slight soil on the silk was serious; a real offense. A complaint about the horse of the horses meant a fine of at least ten days’ pay. Cleanliness was important, but much attention was also paid to the feet of the animals. Without good, healthy feet a horse was useless. Shoes were changed approximately every four weeks.

A weekly inspection was held, in the old horse-drawn apparatus days, to determine how quickly horses could be harnessed to the engines. The battalion chief of the district stood with a stop watch in his hand and checked the time. A firehouse’s reputation was only as good as its horses and men.

If it took more than twelve seconds for the men to harness up and be at the curb line of the street, it was considered poor time. One might say here that they rolled out of quarters quicker with the horses than they do with the motor apparatus today. But today, of course, the time is made up on the road.

A competitive, or speed test was held on April 22, 1893, to ascertain the exact time in which one man could dress, harness the horses and have the engine in the street after the gong sounded. At this test, Lemuel Rudolph of No. 7 Engine, carried off the prize […] by making a hitch in 25 ½ seconds.

Selected excerpts from The Firehorses of San Francisco by Natlee Kenoyer. Published 1970 by Westernlore Press, Los Angeles, 94 pages. 

Photo – Engine No. 11, San Francisco Fire Department. A call out at night, April 1914. Courtesy San Francisco Fire Museum.

Facebook Comments

Rebuilding Raleigh Fire Station 6 – September Update

This is an ongoing blog posting about the rebuilding of Fire Station 6. 

See Legeros updates below. See also ongoing Legeros photos. And here’s the official project site from the city.

Contents

  • 9/27/19 – Ready for a Roof!
  • 7/25/19 – Then & Now
  • 6/25/19 – June Update
  • 1/1/19 – Construction Underway, Project Timeline
  • 6/30/18 – Delays Nearly Done
  • 12/28/17 – Site Preparation
  • 08/12/17 – Now Gone
  • 08/02/17 – Demolition started
  • 07/17/17 – Demolition starting soon
  • 05/30/17 – Now closed
  • 05/27/17 – Moving day is nigh!
  • 04/20/17 – Construction bid awarded, other updates
  • 03/11/16 – Comparing current and future station
  • 03/10/16 – 3D renderings
  • 03/04/16 – Another public meeting scheduled
  • 10/07/15 – Public meeting recap
  • 10/07/15 – Historical correction 

September 27, 2019
Ready for a roof!

Continue reading ‘Rebuilding Raleigh Fire Station 6 – September Update’ »

Facebook Comments

Renovations to Station 11 – September Update

This is an ongoing blog posting about the renovation of Fire Station 11. 

See Legeros updates below. See also ongoing Legeros photos. And here’s the official project site from the city.

Contents

  • 9/27/19 – Doors Have Been Added
  • 6/25/19 – Interior Work Has Started
  • 5/29/19 – New Bays Nearly Complete
  • 3/23/19 – Construction Has Started
  • 12/7/18 – Rendering Added
  • 12/6/18 – Companies Moved
  • 10/12/18 – Site Plans, Floor Plans

September 27, 2019
Doors have been added! 

Continue reading ‘Renovations to Station 11 – September Update’ »

Facebook Comments

North Carolina Firefighters to be Honored at National Fallen Firefighters Memorial

The 38th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service will be held in Emmitsburg, MD, on Sunday, October 6, 2019, to honor 92 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2018 and 27 firefighters who died in the line of duty in previous years.

The North Carolina firefighters being honored are:

Michael Gene Goodnight
West Liberty VFD
Died 2018
firehero.org/fallen-firefighter/michael-gene-goodnight/

Jeffrey Newton Holden
Orange Rural FD
Died 2019
firehero.org/fallen-firefighter/jeffrey-n-holden/

Michael Eric “Bubba” Pennell
Central Alexander FD
Died 2017
firehero.org/fallen-firefighter/michael-eric-bubba-pennell/

Romulus S. “Tony” Spencer III
Englehard FD
Died 2018
firehero.org/fallen-firefighter/romulus-s-spencer-iii/

William Perry Willis
Asheville FD
Died 2018
firehero.org/fallen-firefighter/william-p-willis/

For full Memorial Weekend information, see firehero.org/events/memorial-weekend

For media information, including state-by-state listings, see firehero.org/about-us/media-center/press-release

Facebook Comments

Wake Forest Plans Merger with Town

The Wake Forest Fire Department is planning a merger with the Town of Wake Forest, effective July 1, 2010.

From this web page:

Like many communities in North Carolina, the Town of Wake Forest is experiencing significant transition and growth in service demand, thereby increasing the challenges of providing core local government functions, including fire and rescue services. These “growing pains” are a natural progression of the maturation of a unit of local government and are not unique to Wake Forest.

However, when dynamics change, so too must the infrastructure and systems that enable and support those basic functions.

At the request of the Wake Forest Fire Department Board of Directors (a private not for profit corporation), the Town of Wake Forest is considering consolidating and unifying the Wake Forest Fire Department into the Town government.

As part of its due diligence, the Town requested specialized assistance from EnviroSafe, a NC management consulting firm that specializes in local government public safety services and serves as the sole fire consulting provider for the NC League of Municipalities. In February 2019, EnviroSafe began conducting a feasibility study to encompass several aspects of this potential unification of the Wake Forest Fire Department, Inc. into a department of the Town of Wake Forest. The complete timeline is provided below.

Board of Commissioners Presentation – Sept. 3, 2019

Executive Summary & Recommendations

Feasibility Study 

Study Purpose

Continue reading ‘Wake Forest Plans Merger with Town’ »

Facebook Comments

Wake County Fire Commission Meeting – September 19, 2019

September 22
The audio recording of the meeting has been posted. How to play the recording:

1. Navigate to http://www.wakegov.com/fire/commission
2. Click Fire Commission > Minutes & Agendas across the top row navigation options.
3. On the left side of the page, under Minutes, click 2019.
4. On the left side of the page, under Minutes, click 09-19-19.
5. Click audio file.

September 15
The next meeting of the Wake County Fire Commission will be held on Thursday, September 19, 2019, at 7:00 p.m., at the Wake County Emergency Services Training Center, which is located in a warehouse building at 220 South Rogers Lane, in Suite 160.  

This is the first meeting since the March 21 (regular) and April 25 (special called) meetings. 

Agenda is below. View the meeting documents.

  • Meeting Called to Order – Chairman Keith McGee
    • Invocation
    • Pledge of allegiance
    • Roll of Members Present
  • Items of Business
    • Adoption of Minutes for March 21, 2019 Regular and April 25, 2019 Special Called Meetings
    • Approval of Agenda
  • Public Comments
    • Comments from the public will be taken at this time. Members of the public are invited to make comment to the Commission, with a maximum of three minutes per person. A signup sheet for those who wish to speak during the public comments section of the meeting is located at the entrance of the meeting room.
  • Regular Agenda
    • Rules of Procedure Wording Changes
    • Committee Appointments
    • Job Reclassification Request for Eastern Wake Administrative Assistant
    • Review of Eastern Wake Interim Chief Agreement
  • Information Agenda
    • Fire Tax Financial Report
    • Standing Committee Updates
      • Administrative
      • Apparatus
      • Budget
      • Communications
      • Equipment
      • Facility
      • Training
      • Volunteer Recruitment & Retention Committee
    • Chair Report
    • Fire Services Report
  • Other Business
  • Adjournment – Next Meeting – November 21, 2019 Emergency Services Education Center
Facebook Comments

Master List of North Carolina Tillers


Photo credits, left to right, top to bottom: KME, Mike Legeros (x2), TBD, Courtesy High Point FD, Mike Legeros, Courtesy Raleigh FD (x2), Joel Woods, Wake Forest FD, TBD, KME

Here’s a master list of all tillers past ‘n’ present in North Carolina. Will update going forward, with newer deliveries. May expand with models and other details:

Asheville
1923 American LaFrance Type 17-6, 75-foot
2018 KME, 101-foot

Beaufort
1997 Seagrave, 100-foot (added 2017, ex-Hillandale VFD in Montgomery County, MD)

Boone
1942 Seagrave, 100-foot  (added 1976, ex-Easton, PA)

Cary
2019 Pierce Enforcer Ascendant, 1500/200/107-foot – 1 of 2
2019 Pierce Enforcer Ascendant, 1500/200/107-foot – 2 of 2 (delivery soon)

Charlotte
1917 American LaFrance Type 17-6, 75-foot
1974 Ward LaFrance Diplomat/LTI, 100-foot

Civietown (Brunswick Co.)
1979 Mack/1958 American LaFrance (added 2006, ex-Raleigh, ex-Wendell)

Cornelius-Lemley (Mecklenburg Co.)
1989 Seagrave, 100-foot (added 1999, ex-Richmond, ex-Bedford, VA)
2016 Seagrave, 100-foot

Durham
1926 American LaFrance Type 17-6, 75-foot

Greensboro
1920 American LaFrance Type 17-6, 75-foot

High Point
1924 American LaFrance Type 17-6, 75-foot
1967 Seagrave KT, 100-foot
2004 Pierce Dash, 1500/200/100-foot (reserve)
2019 Pierce Arrow XT, 107-foot

Providence (Union Co)
1953 Pirsch, 100-foot (bought used, what year?, ex-Oakland, CA)

Raleigh
1916 American LaFrance Type 17-6, 75-foot
1939 American LaFrance 500 Series tractor
1958 American LaFrance 700 Series, 100-foot
1979 Mack MC tractor
2004 Pierce Arrow XT, 1500/300/100-foot (retired after rollover accident in 2009)
2010 Pierce Arrow XT, 1500/300/100-foot
2015 Pierce Arrow XT, 1500/200/100-foot
2017 Pierce Arrow XT, 1500/200/100-foot
2018 Pierce Arrow XT, 1500/200/107-foot

Rocky Mount
1919 American LaFrance Type 17-6, 65-foot
1956 American LaFrance 700 Series, 85-foot

Wake Forest
2007 Crimson/Spartan, 103-feet (added 2019, for training, ex-Boise, ID)

Wendell
1979 Mack/1958 American LaFrance (added 1999, ex-Shallotte, ex-Raleigh)

Wilmington
1917 American LaFrance Type 17-4, 75-foot
1963 Seagrave
2014 Pierce Velocity PUC, 1500/300/100-foot

Winston-Salem
1937 Pirsch, 85-foot
1955 Seagrave
2018 KME, 2000/0/101-footer

Plus a couple horse-drawn tillers, way back when…

Big thanks to Andrew Messer, for his western/central NC apparatus data.  

Facebook Comments