November 29 - Hamden Deputy Fire Chief Bob Surprise is retiring today after nearly 33 years on the job.
Bob was one of eight new recruits hired in January 1981, a group that included Jay Connolly, John Longo, Harold Prescher, John O'Dea, Tim O'Flynn, Bob Stacy and Paul Wetmore, Jr. Firefighter Connolly, now second in department seniority, is the only member of that class still on the job.
When Bob came on the job he was a paramedic assigned to Platoon 4 at Headquarters. He earned promotions to lieutenant in 1988, captain in 1999, and battalion chief in 2006. A highly respected department officer, Bob was appointed by Mayor Scott Jackson to be the department's deputy chief in March 2010, the first time that position was filled by a department member who had previously served in all other lower ranks.
The HFRA wishes Bob a very long, happy and healthy retirement. He has informed us that he will be attending the Winter HFRA meeting on Thursday, January 9th at the Elks.
Since 1988 the title "Deputy Chief" (four trumpets) has denoted the Department's second-in-command, previously "Assistant Chief." From 1961 until 1984, "Deputy Chief" was the same HFD rank that is now "Battalion Chief" (three trumpets).
Dedication Plaques Last Surviving Vestiges of Bygone Hamden Apparatus
1938 Seagrave Dedication Plaque
1938 Seagrave 600 GPM Pumper (I.A. Sneiderman)
On Saturday, May 21, 1938, one month after the delivery of Hamden's brand new Seagrave 600 GPM pumper, Hamden Fire Commissioner James A. Gillies passed away suddenly at the age of sixty. Cmmr. Gillies had served on the Board of Fire Commissioners since 1930.
A handsome silver-plated plaque was purchased by the department and mounted on the starboard side of the pumper. The engraved plaque dedicated the new apparatus in memory of Commr. Gillies, noting his term of service on the Board. It remained on the Seagrave until, sadly, the pumper was sold for junk thirty years later.
Fortunately for department preservationalists, Cmmr. Gillies' memorial plaque and several other apparatus dedication plaques have survived. These plaques are tangible reminders of the apparatus on which they were mounted, as well as the town and department leaders who were in office when the apparatus were purchased.
The HFRA is grateful to Deputy Chief Bob Surprise for finding these memorial plaques and donating them to the HFRA archives for preservation. The website will post additional photos of these "survivors" with photos of their apparatus during the coming weeks.
Dedication Plaque on 1938 Seagrave (Photo by Chan Brainard)
"Well done, thou good and faithful servants."
In 1982, Platoon 4 Firefighter/Paramedics Bob Surprise and Howie Hurlburt, Jr. were usually assigned to Rescue 1, with only occasional respites on Engine 4. This week, after a 33 year career with the Hamden Fire Department, Deputy Chief Robert Surprise hangs up his helmet for we all hope will be a very long, happy and healthy retirement.
Put your thumb over the face of the guy on the right and show this photo to anyone who knew him and they'd say, "That's gotta be Howie!" Howie Hurlburt, Jr. was one of a kind, and a fine firefighter and paramedic. At the end of next week on Saturday, December 7th at 1 p.m, a memorial service for Howie will take place in Bethany at Lakeview Lodge on Rt. 42, west of Rt. 63. Howie passed away on November 20th in Arkansas where he had resided for many years following his retirement in 1993.
A Memorial Service for is planned for Saturday, December 7th at 1 p.m. Full details when available.
55 Years Ago
Sunday, November 30, 1958
Major house fire on Armory Street was but one of three that kept Hamden firefighters busy that day.
New Haven Journal-Courier, Monday, December 1, 1958 (Courtesy of Chan Brainard)
On Monday, December 1, 1958, the same day the above article appeared in The New Haven Journal-Courier, ninety-two children and three nuns died in one of the worst school fires in U.S. history. A fire of undetermined cause consumed the fully occupied, 48-year old Our Lady of the Angels parochial school in Chicago.