Department reorganization progressed with the promotion of seven new company officers
"Unity of command" and "span of control" were oft repeated phrases as Chief John Tramontano made his case for an increase in the number of company officers to Hamden's politicians during his first few months as chief. At the beginning of 1984, the number of officers on each platoon had remained unchanged for over twenty years. The number of firefighters had increased significantly, of course, but the number of company officers had remained static - one captain and two lieutenants per shift.
The dramatic increase in the number of firefighters since 1963 had reduced the ratio of company officers to firefighters to a mere 1:9, which made individual fire company unity of command and span of control problematic on the fireground. Stressing fireground safety as the primary factor, Tramontano prevailed. The Council funded four new lieutenant positions from existing firefighter positions in the 1984-85 budget.
November 2, 1984 - Lt. Howard Hurlburt, Jr., Lt. Dennis Baker, Lt. Robert Viglione, Chief John Tramontano, Asst. Chief Walter Macdowall, Lt. Robert Kelo, Lt. David Strawhince and Lt. Robert Mordecai
Another phase in the reorganization of the Hamden Fire Department following John Tramontano's appointment as fire chief began thirty years ago this past week with the promotions of seven veteran firefighters to the rank of lieutenant and some changes in apparatus assignments.
Promoted were Dennis Baker, John Calamo, Howard Hurlburt, Jr., Robert Kelo, Robert Mordecai, David Strawhince and Robert Viglione. Calamo is not pictured in the photo above, possibly because he was on-duty and responding on a call when the photo was taken in the Town Hall auditorium.
Three of the new officers replaced three lieutenants who had been promoted to captain during the previous two months. The other four filled new slots for one additional lieutenant on each platoon. It was the first time since 1963 that a new company officer had been added to each shift. Station 9 in West Woods would now have a company officer, leaving only Station 5 in Mt. Carmel station without an officer.
Also included in this phase of the reorganization was the transfer of Truck 1 from Station 5 to Station 9, where it would respond on all box assignments in the north end. On still alarms, the officer had the option of either having the truck respond with Engine 9 or having both truck personnel respond on Engine 9, leaving the truck out of service for the duration of the incident. This arrangement was phased out a year later when Truck 1 was taken out of service altogether and the number of Station 9 personnel reduced to the one officer and two firefighters.
To say that the department was in "a state of flux" during this period would have been an understatement. It seemed that a new personnel roster was being issued just about every month because of retirements and promotions, as well as the need to fill some new positions.
Before the end of 1984, the new positions of Mechanic and Asst. Fire Marshal were created, to which Lt. Hurlburt and Lt. Robert Westervelt were respectively appointed. Firefighters Don LaBanca and Charlie Esposito were promoted to fill Hurlburt's and Westervelt's lieutenant vacancies on the line. Capt. Luke Tobin retired after 35 years of service and his vacancy on Platoon 1 was filled by Lt. Jim Leddy.
By the beginning of 1985 two new pumpers would go into service at Stations 2 and 4. Shortly thereafter, the 1973 Maxim Telesqurt and 1973 Maxim foam truck would be rebuilt by Pierce in Appleton, Wisconsin and returned to service as Engines 3 and 9.
One other sign of the new fire administration can be seen in the photo. Both chiefs were now wearing the traditional firefighter's round dress hat or "bell cap." By the end of 1984, the old eight-point dress and work hats were replaced by the bell caps. New baseball-type work hats were ordered for all line personnel, although officers had the option of wearing their dress caps with their work uniforms. The New Haven Fire Department followed suit in recent years under the leadership of recently-retired Chief Michael Grant.
November 6, 1984 (CLICK to enlarge)
Two Station 4 firefighters were assigned to Station 5 at
the discretion of the shift commander and Station 4 officer.
December 1, 1984 (CLICK to enlarge)
Out with the old . . .
How and why the traditional round firefighter dress caps were
finally adopted by the HFD will be told in next week's Friday website update.
Fifteen years ago, Shirley Mangler, the department's photographer for a number of years, shot these photos of firefighter hubby Harold and Ff. Kevin St. John as they practiced with Tower 1 outside Station 3 in the waning hours of daylight. The HFRA has a large number of Shirley's photos and is expect to receive more, which will be shared with website visitors in the coming weeks and months.
Ladder Practice in 1973
August 1973 - Lt. Gil Spencer, Ff. Tom Mikolinski (sitting in the background) and the late Steven Blennhassett, a Co. 5 volunteer firefighter, are pictured in front of the Mt. Carmel Congregational Church at Whitney and Sherman (when Sherman exited onto Whitney between the church and the parish house). Gil was doing some aerial ladder training with the volunteers. (Ed Doiron photos)
Chan Brainard sent this pre-delivery factory photo of Southington's 1959 Maxim Model F open-cab cab-forward pumper. Given that Hamden's '59 closed-cab cab-forward Model F pumper was among Maxim's first of that design, could Southington's '59 pumper be Maxim's first open-cab Model F? Anyone know?
Southington's 1959 Maxim cab-forward - Might this be Maxim's first open cab cab-forward? (Courtesy of Chan Brainard)
Benham and Bantz
Retired Dep. Chief Clark Hurlburt and fellow retiree Bob Slater both wrote to opine that the firefighter at the dispatch desk in the 1960 photo posted last week is most likely Firefighter Raymond Bantz, who served on the department from 1956 until he left about ten years later for work in the private sector. One dissent came from Gil Spencer, who thinks the guy is Milner Benham. It is definitely not Wilbur Baker in a toupee.
Bantz and Benham both joined the department on December 18, 1956. Milner retired in December 1981 and is presently living in New Hampshire. Ray had been a volunteer firefighter at Co. 5 before joining the career department. He passed away in 1988.