According to the website of the National Weather Service, an F4 tornado on the Fugita scale is characterized by winds estimated at between 207 and 260 m.p.h. "Well-constructed houses leveled; structures with weak foundations blown away some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated." (http://www.spc.noaa.gov)
Connecticut isn't much like Oklahoma, or Kansas, or even Ohio, where F4 tornadoes occur now and then. But this week marks the 25th anniversary of the F4 tornado that devastated much of the Newhallville and Whitneyville sections of Hamden on Monday evening, July 10, 1989. The fire, police and public works departments mobilized to address the many emergencies resulting from the devastation, to open up roads, and to re-establish communications, among other things.
The Hamden Fire Department under the direction of Chief John Tramontano had its hands full. The tornado struck around 5:30, when the Platoon 3 day shift was being relieved by the Platoon 1 night shift. Many firefighters working the night shift had difficulty getting to work and many on the day shift could not get home. That really didn't matter much anyway because before long all available fire personnel were being ordered to duty.
At the recent Summer meeting of the HFRA, retired Deputy Fire Chief Clark Hurlburt recalled the afternoon of the tornado. "I'm probably the only guy in the history of the Hamden Fire Department to be ordered in to work by his mother!" Clark's mother, Nancy Hurlburt, was Hamden Town Clerk at the time.
Clark noted that right after the tornado struck Nancy drove through the affected areas trying desperately to find Mayor John Carusone, who was in Newhallville assisting the residents. Once the Mayor was located, the two returned to the Emergency Operations Center in the basement of the town hall. That's when Clark got the call from Mom.
Hamden's 1951 Maxim at Station 9
Whoever first said "extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures" could have been describing Hamden's fire apparatus situation on July 10, 1989.
Clark, who was a lieutenant at the time, reported to Station 9 in West Woods, the closest station to his Bethany home. On arrival he was joined by Lt. Dave Strawhince and Ff. Paul Durkin, who were also ordered in.
Engine 9 was out. Perhaps it was at the house fire on Westminster Street or assisting somewhere in the south end, but Engine 9 was not expected to return to quarters any time soon.
The only available piece of apparatus at Station 9 was the 1951 Maxim, Hamden's first post-WWII apparatus purchase and the pumper previously assigned to Volunteer Co. 9, which had disbanded four months earlier.
Clark said that once they washed all the dust off the ancient pumper they had to jump-start it from Strawhince's Ford pickup truck. It started! Since he was the only one who knew how to drive it, Lt. Hurlburt once again was able to assume the role of driver.
With Lt. Strawhince beside him and Ff. Durkin riding the tailboard, Lt. Hurlburt drove the 1951 Maxim to stand by at Station 4. Wisely, the crew left it running on the ramp.
The night of the tornado was undoubtedly the last time the 1951 Maxim ever saw active service. It was sold the following year. The venerable old Hamden pumper was last seen in 2007, rotting away in a field in Shelton.
Earlier this week, with the 25th anniversary only a few days hence, Channel 30 Meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan contacted the HFRA. "We would love to be able to interview one or two first responders live on the air about their memories . . ."
Hanrahan's request was forwarded to our online members and several phone calls were made. HFD Retirees Harold Mangler, Brian Forsyth and former Asst. C.P. Director Neil Gorfain stepped forward to share their recollections as first responders when interviewed at Rochford Field at precisely 5:40 p.m. on July 10, 2014.
Meteorologist Hanrahan had read about the Hamden Fire Department's response to the tornado and had viewed the day-after video on the HFRA website, which inspired him to contact the Association for potential interviewees. We thank Ryan Hanrahan and Connecticut NBC for helping to preserve our history.
In the days following the tornado, WTNH Action News 8 presented stories about how residents of the Whitneyville-Newhallville areas of Hamden dealt with the severe damage to their properties. One elderly lady whose house was built by her late husband in 1939 was somewhat philosophical and almost optimistic despite the damage to her home.
Two direct hits were the condos at the corner of Newhall and Augur Streets and a brand new condo that was completed only a few months earlier. On July 12, 1989, the Hamden Fire Department was able to provide Action News 8 with "BEFORE" video clips of both of these doomed structures, taped for a training video in October 1988.
WVIT Channel 30 News coverage - Monday, July 10, 1989
Souvenir for Service
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Town Clerk (1987-95) Nancy Hurlburt
The spate of tornados that hit the northeast on July 10, 1989 - there were seventeen in all! - was also an enormous challenge to utility companies.
Shortly after the dust settled, but before the storm was officially declared a tornado, Appaloosa Custom Products of Milford produced special commemorative belt buckles for the utility workers who spent tens of thousands of man-hours to get things back to normal. Complimentary paperweights of the same design were given to town officials. The paperweight that was presented to Town Clerk Nancy Hurlburt is pictured above.
First Anniversary T-Shirt (CLICK to enlarge)
As a 1970s CETA employee, Vic Mitchell served both in the Shop and the Alarm Room. As a Hamden volunteer firefighter for over 40 years, Vic also served with Cos. 5 and 7. Vic brought this brand new, never-worn Hamden tornado first anniversary commemorative T-shirt to the recent retirees meeting. They were sold at a reunion gathering of Whitneyville-Newhallville residents at Rochford Field in July 1990.
Five years ago on the 20th anniversary of the tornado that devastated parts of southern Hamden, WTIC FOX 61 News featured a remembrance during its nightly weather forecast. Meteorologist Joe Furey did not mince words, "In Connecticut history, this is the worst tornado outbreak ever, by far."
Some of the Hamden video in this
FOX 61 presentation was supplied by the HFRA.
Day After the Hamden Tornado Tuesday, July 11, 1989
(originally posted 7/3/2009)
An F4 tornado ripped through southern Hamden, leaving damages in the millions of dollars. The 1989 tornado was an incredible challenge for the department.
While tape rolled, commentary was added occasionally to establish exact locations because many areas were unrecognizable.
Dolores Fortuna (center) flanked by daughter Anna-Marie and husband Tom.
Sears Building Proved a Safe Haven in '89
Dolores Fortuna's memory of the event is a vivid as anyone's. It was approaching five in the afternoon and she was about to leave the Hamden Sears store, where she worked in the accounting department. Her father was supposed to pick her up, but he was still at the H.A. Leed Company on Leeder Hill Drive.
It was getting very dark as Dolores waited for her dad by the plate glass doors. She says that she remembers that the doors and windows were rattling something awful, and she wanted to get out of there fast. Just like everyone else in Hamden that afternoon, Dolores could not have imagined that an F4 tornado would be ripping up the south end of town at that very moment - and the H.A. Leed building was among its many casualties.
Fortunately, noted Dolores, her father was in that part of the Leed building that withstood the estimated 200 m.p.h. winds, although his car was totaled out in the front parking area. As for Dolores, she probably could not have had any better protection than the Sears building. Five years later, it would take a lot more than high winds to bring that baby down.
Originally Posted 8/18/12
March 2013 Display at Peabody Museum - May Still be There
Hamden firefighters of Platoon 3 responded to a fully involved garage fire at 11 Notkins Street last Monday. The garage was destroyed and radiant heat caused some damage to adjacent structures. A couple of retirees showed up and took some photos. CLICK on the photo below.
Yeah, it's Ralph Pascale from Public Works. When leaving the fire on Notkins Street last Monday, we met up with Ralph and his wife, Pasqualina, who were watching the action from their front steps.
Ralph and his public works colleague Tommy, a duo affectionately known around 4's as "Cheech and Chong," were familiar to anyone who worked at Station 4 a few years back - and especially to the staff fire personnel who occupied basement offices at town hall in the 80s.
Ralph, who looks great, has been happily retired since 2000 (which is probably why he looks so good).
Firefighters Kurt Vogt, Larry Bowden, Kevin Martin and Brett Rinehart
Lt. Joe Anderson and Ffs. Larry Bowden and Casey Blake
The 2014 HVFF Fireworks was a complete success thanks to the contributions of many Hamden businesses, individuals and organizations, including the Hamden Professional Firefighters Local 2687 and the Hamden Fire Retirees Association.
JUNE 27, 2014
Hamden's Forgotten Fire Company
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Nearly 50 years ago, Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Co. president R.K. Spencer was questioned by a new member: If the Mt. Carmel volunteers were "Company 5," then why did the company's by-laws show a different numerical designation?
President Spencer explained to the young member that many years earlier there were actually two Mt. Carmel fire companies.
Mt. Carmel's “other” fire company had been located further north, in the vicinity of Tuttle Avenue.
The fire company later known as "Company 5" was established first, in November 1911. So when the company applied for incorporation the members wanted that fact to be reflected in the name of their fire company.
On March 28, 1912, the State of Connecticut issued corporation papers to the "Mount Carmel Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, Incorporated," which remains the official name of that fire company to this day.
For over a century, that "No. 1" designation on Mt. Carmel's corporation papers was the smoking gun that suggested another, long forgotten fire company had once existed. Then, several years ago, photocopies of minutes from several 1914 meetings of "The North Hamden Improvement Society" turned up at the Hamden Historical Society. References to members with the titles of "chief" and "captain," as well as references to other Hamden fire companies suggested pay dirt had been struck. But little else was known about this fire company. When was it organized, and by whom? How long did it exist?
Most of these questions were answered recently when local historian Mary Jane McGaffin discovered meeting minutes dating from 1911 to 1926 of an organization that began as the "North Hamden Fire Company" and later adopted the name "North Hamden Improvement Society."
As we sift through these newly found records, the website will feature more stories about the North Hamden Fire Company in future website updates. The first installment is below.
NOTE: Most area residents today probably consider the center of Mt. Carmel as the immediate vicinity of Whitney Avenue and Ives Street. However, a century ago, the area between Mt. Carmel and Tuttle Avenues was known as "Mt. Carmel Center."
The North Hamden Fire Company
According to the minutes, an organizational meeting was held in the office of the Liberty Cartridge Company on Saturday evening, December 2, 1911 "for the purpose of perfecting an organization looking to the betterment of conditions in the northern part of Hamden and Mt. Carmel Center in particular."
Organized just one month after the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Company, then located on Ives Street, Mt. Carmel's newest fire company was initially called the North Hamden Fire Company. The organizers included Judge Willis Cook, A.J. Ralph, Howard Yale, E.M. Funk, and several other prominent citizens of Mt. Carmel Center.
The organizational meeting minutes continued, "Various subjects were discussed and it was decided that at present our greatest need was that of fire protection." Judge Cook made the motion to organize a fire company for the protection of North Hamden.
At the new organization's second meeting, held on December 8, 1911, the following officers were elected: Judge Cook, Chief; A.J. Ralph, Deputy Chief; Robbin Spencer, Captain and F.B. Kimball, Secretary-Treasurer.
This fire company was formed when all Hamden fire companies were fairly autonomous, each having their own nomenclature for its officers. The individual fire companies were brought under the control of the Hamden Fire Department when it was created in 1925.
Within a few months the organization became the North Hamden Improvement Society, with the North Hamden Fire Company remaining as a part of the Society. In addition to providing fire protection, its membership was also concerned with other issues affecting the residents of northern Mount Carmel, including trolley fares, monitoring the condition of the roadways, and obtaining sidewalks, among other things.
In 1915, members organized a rally of Hamden telephone subscribers at the town hall to protest toll charges on calls to New Haven that were imposed by the Southern New England Telephone Company once a new Hamden telephone exchange was established. The Society also embarked on a campaign that proved influential in the eventual cessation of quarrying operations on Sleeping Giant. But the principal purpose of the Society during the 19-teens was to provide at least a modicum of fire protection for the residents of the area.
The members of the North Hamden Improvement Society voted to disband the fire company portion of the organization at the May 7, 1920 meeting, donating their firefighting assets to the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, located one mile south. But the Society continued meeting to monitor and act on other community issues until at least 1926.
Eventually the North Hamden Fire Company will be included with Hamden's other nine volunteer fire companies as further information about its organization, operations, assets and activities is extracted from these newly obtained documents. We'll keep everyone posted.
Mt. Carmel Upper Axle Works building, where the Liberty Cartridge Company located in 1911. It eventually burned down. (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
According to Rachel Hartley's A History of Hamden Connecticut-1786-1936, published in 1943 by the Hamden Historical Society, in 1911 the Liberty Cartridge Company moved into the building that had once housed Mt. Carmel's Upper Axle Works, located on the east side of Whitney Avenue, several hundred feet north of Mt. Carmel Avenue.
Mrs. Hartley wrote, "During the occupancy of the Axle factory by the Liberty Cartridge Company who came there in 1911, the building burned." It is not clear exactly when after 1911 the building did burn. References to the cartridge company are found in the association's minutes as late as 1917.
Hamden Fire Department Apparatus Inventory 1924 Highwood – Dixwell & Morse Highwood Co. 1 organized December 10, 1896 1918 Stewart Chemical Truck - Delivered February 1918 - $1,800 Hand drawn ladder truck Humphrey – 71 Circular Avenue Humphrey Co. 2 incorporated March 1908 1919 Seagrave 750 g.p.m. pumper - Delivered April 1919 - $12,500 Whitneyville – 39 Putnam Avenue Whitneyville Co. 3 organized December 2, 1910 1915 Maxim 500 g.p.m. pumper/chemical truck - Delivered June 1915 - $5,500 1910 Locomobile chemical truck - Donated by WRACo. 1915
Centerville - 2374 Whitney Avenue Centerville Co. 4 incorporated October 6, 1905 Mt. Carmel – Ives Street Mt. Carmel Co. 5 formed November 8, 1911 1918 Stewart Chemical Truck - Delivered 12/24/18 - $1,900
Whitneyville Annex – 21 Merritt Street Merritt Street Co. 6 organized on April 13, 1921 as the Whitneyville Annex Fire Company 1924 Stutz 350 g.p.m. pumper - Delivered 4/24 - $7,150
Mix District – 905 Shepard Avenue Mix District Co. 7 formed November 20, 1924 Hose cart
JUNE 20, 2014
Hamden's Forgotten Fire Company
Astronomers will sometimes speculate about the existence of an unseen heavenly body when a nearby visible heavenly body does something unusual. That scientific phenomenon is an analogy for what might be called "Hamden's forgotten fire company."
An early Hamden volunteer fire company located in a remote part of town was supposedly organized in the second decade of the 20th century. However, except for stories by old-timers and an occasional reference in the early minutes of another fire company, there was no real proof that the mysterious fire company actually existed - only speculation.
Speculation over Hamden's forgotten fire company ended earlier this week when local historian Mary Jane McGaffin contacted two members of the HFRA through the Hamden Historical Society. While looking through some old files, Mrs. McGaffin discovered numerous meeting minutes of the forgotten Hamden fire company, spanning the years 1911 to 1926. Below is a portion from the fire company's organizational meeting.
From the December 2, 1911 organizational meeting. Minutes were taken until at least 1926.
The full story in next Friday's update.
Grave Markers - Once a Tradition
Numerous fire department grave markers representing Hamden fire company Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 7 can be found in Whitneyville Cemetery at the corner of Treadwell Street and Whitney Avenue. At left is the Co. 3 marker by the headstone of career Firefighter Ralph Rosson (1887-1972), who was assigned to and was also a member of Company 3 for many years until his 1957 retirement.
HFRA thanks to Co. 7's Matt Erff and Justin Wetmore for discovering these markers while placing flags over Memorial Day weekend.
Are fire department markers like these found in other Hamden cemeteries? The "H.V.F.A" marker at the grave of E. (Edward) A. Austin, who was a Whitneyville resident, suggests that prior to the official formation of the Hamden Fire Department, there may have been a Hamden Volunteer Firemen's Association.
68 years ago!
The Hamden Chronicle, September 20, 1946 (Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
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FIREWORKS NEXT FRIDAY!
The 35-Piece United States Navy Band Northeast will perform next Friday evening, July 27th, at the 21st Annual Hamden Volunteer Firefighters' Fireworks at Town Center Park. Rain date is Saturday, June 28th.
One of Hamden's longest serving pumpers, this Maxim 600 g.p.m. model, was delivered to Company 5 on January 6, 1930. It served as Engine 5 until 1952, when it was transferred to Station 6. In November 1960, the pumper was traded to O.B. Maxwell for $300 worth of credit. This photograph was snapped by Chan Brainard on State Street opposite Ridge Road around 1954.
JUNE 13, 2014
The Hamden Fire Retirees' Association's website got its first hit on June 16, 2009. During the past five years hundreds of photographs and scores of articles have been published here thanks to the generous contributions of our retirees, active HFD department members, and our website fans. The members of the HFRA are grateful for your interest and appreciate your contributions. Thank you!
This remarkable 1943 photo by Don Steele was scanned from a 35mm slide that Don took of Hamden's 1941 Diamond-T ladder truck as it passed by the town hall on Dixwell Avenue. This is the oldest color photograph posted thus far.
During the week of Flag Day 1996, a number of historic flags were displayed outside Station 4 at Memorial Town Hall. Every day from Flag Day until July 4th, a different U.S. flag design was flown from the pole between the bay doors.
L-R - Ff. Paul Turner, Ff. Roberta Angiletta, Ff. Jim Dunlop, Ff. Ron Desroches, Lt. Frank Critchett, Capt. Paul Wetmore, Jr., B/C Bill Coppola, and Ff. Mark Barletta.
The flag of the United States of America is unique among all other flags of the world. No other national flag has undergone as many design modifications, and all of them for a very good reason.
In the 237 years since the American Flag was adopted by resolution of the Second Continental Congress, it has been modified twenty-six times, each modification signifying the admission of a new state, or states, to the Union.
The first modification to our flag came in 1795, several years after Vermont and Kentucky became the 14th and 15th states. Two stars and stripes were added, making a total 15 stars and 15 stripes. In 1818, five more stars were added, representing states admitted since 1795. But the number of stripes was permanently reduced to thirteen, to represent the original thirteen states.
Thereafter, new stars were added on the Fourth of July following the admission of new states. The last modification to Old Glory became official on July 4, 1960, when a fiftieth star was added following the admission of Hawaii in August 1959. Alaska, admitted in February 1959, resulted in a 49-star flag that was a current design for only one year.
The present 50-star flag has served as America's longest current design, although any older flag design, regardless of the number of stars, is considered an official flag and may be flown as such.
The Wallace-Davis Company, situated approximately where One Evergreen Avenue is today, manufactured "baby anchors" - baby anchors? - and swimming pool filters. Just before 7 a.m. on Friday, August 29, 1958, a West Haven truck driver drove to the nearby police headquarters to report smoke coming from the building.
According to newspaper accounts, the fire was the result of spontaneous combustion of discarded waste paper in a first floor barrel. Engines 4, 5 and 2 responded, along with the hook and ladder truck and the squad. Firefighters were forced to don Scott air packs to enter the basement, where plastic materials had ignited. Although the fire did "extensive damage" to portions of the building, it was not considered a total loss and remained standing for many years thereafter. The incident was commanded by Battalion Chief Paul Leddy, who would be appointed Chief two years later.
New Haven Evening Register, Friday, August 29, 1958 (Courtesy of Chan Brainard) - CLICK to enlarge
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The newspaper account stated, "The building is situated on the corner of Evergreen and Old Dixwell Avenues, but has a Dixwell Avenue address," which means that the building was there before Dixwell Avenue was straightened sometime before 1934..
When Dixwell Avenue was straightened (in YELLOW), the resulting dogleg (in RED) became Old Dixwell Avenue. Making things even more confusing, the beginning of Evergreen Avenue was moved from the "X" out to "new" Dixwell Avenue. As a result, the building at #2813 Dixwellk Avenue now fronted on Evergreen Avenue, but kept its Dixwell Avenue address.
This 1965 aerial view courtesy of the Connecticut State Library Digial Collection shows that #2813 Dixwell Avenue was still standing seven years after the fire. It was eventually razed in the mid-1970s for the construction of One Evergreen Avenue which, ironically, actually fronts on Old Dixwell Avenue (go figure).
The original path of Dixwell Avenue (RED) before it was straightened (YELLOW) prior to 1934. In this 1965 view, #2813 Dixwell Avenue still stands on what is now the first block of Evergreen Avenue - CLICK to enlarge
Only one building in this 1898 photo still stands in 2014, but not where
it's pictured in this photo of the crossroads of Whitney and Dixwell.
1898 - Dixwell and Whitney looking west before Dixwell was straightened. Grace Episcopal Church was moved to the south side of Dixwell in 1966, where it remains today. According to the church's website, the tall steeple in this photo blew down in 1915 and was replaced by a shorter one in 1921.
You have wisdom to share. Wehave children who need it. Experience Corps needs people age 50+ to tutor literacy in Hamden and New Haven elementary schools 3 mornings a week. Volunteers also participate in fun community events to encourage reading. Training, a small stipend and college tuition/loan help for your child/grandchild provided. Interested?
AARP Experience Corps - Greater New Haven is a program of the Agency on Aging of South Central and a proud member of the National Service Network. For more information, please visit www.experiencecorps.org
45 Years - Film of Hamden's 1969 "Firemen's Field Day"
From 1964 until the mid-1970s, the four Hamden volunteer fire companies organized an annual field day at Brooksvale Park on the second Saturday of June. Hamden's volunteer and paid personnel assembled teams to compete in various events based very loosely on certain fire service activities. Trophies were awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each event.
Clem Wetmore, father of retired Chief Paul Wetmore, Sr., was the department's Supt. of Alarms and Apparatus until his 1968 retirement. A founding member of the Mix District Volunteer Fire Co. No. 7, Clem often took home movies of the field day events. Clem's son, Jim Wetmore, recently lent Clem's film of the 1969 field day to the HFRA for digitalization.
For the 45th anniversary of the Hamden Firemen's Field Day held June 8, 1969, an eight minute compilation of the film has been posted on YouTube. Many of the retirees, past and present, can be recognized in the film Enjoy.
A sobering video for everyone: HFRA member Jeff Stoehr sent this link to a recent YouTube posting recorded by a civilian dashcam in Russia.
About the video Jeff wrote, "Think about it the next time you are following a truck loaded with gas cylinders. I certainly won't hang around one! Stay with the video - - - it gets worse - - - you won't believe it!"
O'Connell's Lawn Mower Shop
923 Dixwell Avenue
Monday, June 2, 1969
From The New Haven Register, Monday, June 2, 1969 (Articles courtesy of Chan Brainard)