Late Saturday afternoon forty-five years ago this weekend, two Co. 5 volunteers were busy performing a little building maintenance Station 5. One of the volunteers was carefully repainting the lettering above the front door. The other was painting the shingles on the bay window.
At about 5:15, Firefighter Fred Fletcher appeared outside on the ramp to critique to boys' paint job. Even though the men were supposed to remain in their khakis until the 6 o'clock change of shift, Fred was now back in his dress blues, all set to go home. He was jumping the gun.
Chomping his trademark cigar, Fred began eyeballng volunteer firefighter John Blasius, who was standing on a ladder, brush in hand, slapping fresh paint onto the front of the bay window. Looking down, John couldn't help noticing Fred in his dress blues.
"Hey Fred," shouted Blasius, "what the hell ya doing all dressed up like that? Don't you know that we're gonna have a 10-8 in fifteen minutes?"
Fred muttered something, dismissing Blasius' razzing with a wave of his cigar as he walked back inside the station.
At 5:37, Dispatcher Wilbur Baker sounded the alert bells in all stations. "Engine 9, Engine 5, Engine 4, Rescue 2, and Ladder 1, we have a report of a basement fire at 35 Huntington Circle." (Gotcha, Fred!)
New Haven Journal-Courier, Sept. 21, 1970 (Courtesy of Gil Spencer)
September 19, 1970
35 Huntington Circle
Hose crew meets the unexpected
while descending hatchway steps
The news article doesn't mention it, but Lt. Bill Hines and Ff. Dave Howe got a big surprise when they advanced an 1-1/2" hoseline down smoke-filled hatchway stairs to extinguish a basement fire at 35 Huntington Circle. After the second or third step, there were no more steps.
Hoseman Howe stepped into thin air, sailing toward the concrete basement floor. He was followed by Lt. Hines, who fell atop the much larger Howe. Fortunately (and amazingly) neither man was hurt.
For the last 45 years those who were at the scene have chuckled about what might have happened if, instead of Hines landing on Howe, the much larger and heavier Ff. Howe had fallen atop the thinner and slightly built Lt. Hines. Some speculated that a giant spatula would have been needed to scrape Bill up off the concrete basement floor.
We can chuckle about it now, but the incident was a sobering reminder to all firefighters to never assume anything when you can't see what's in front of you.
Ed Doiron, Jr. took this photo of Hamden's newest Rescue 1, on a GMC chassis, shortly after it was placed in service at Station 4 in April 1988. Gamewell Box 118 can been seen mounted between the bay doors. It was previously located on a utility pole at the southeast corner of Whitney and Dixwell Avenues. Hamden's Gamewell alarm system was removed from service ten years later.
Last Saturday's Annual Engine 260 Muster in Milford featured this fully restored 1906 Nott steamer powered by a 1916 American-LaFrance tractor belonging to the Village of Freeport on Long Island. According to the owners, the erstwhile horse-drawn Nott steamer, nicknamed "Jumbo," was purchased in 1906 for the Wide Awake Engine Co. No. 1. The American-LaFrance tractor was purchased ten years later for $4,250. It was a first line piece until it was replaced by a new 1928 American-LaFrance pumper.
According to literature that accompanied this pumper at the Engine 260 muster, "On January 30, 1938 after a major furniture store fire on Main Street, 'Jumbo' was pressed into service for the first time in ten years. After many hours pumping out the basement, 'Jumbo' blew her boiler tubes and never went back into actual fire service again."
Below is Westhampton Beach (Long Island) Fire Department's 1925 Brockway chemical truck, which was the main attraction of this year's muster. Pictured below the 1925 Brockway is Hamden's Mix District Volunteer Co. 7's 1918 Brockway chemical truck, which was at the muster 32 years earlier.
1925 Brockway, owned and operated by the Westhampton Beach Fire Department, Long Island
9/10/1983 - Co. 7's 1918 Brockway - L-R: Vic Mitchell, John Gustafson, Danny Wetmore, and Jim Wetmore at the wheel.
It's especially appropriate to conclude this website update with an incredible view of Chief John Tramontano celebrating the Town of Hamden atop Mt. Bowlen, nearly two miles above sea level, in the Valley of the Ten Peaks on the border of Alberta and British Columbia in the Canadian Rockies. The Chief made the climb with Capt. Bill Coppola in the summer of 1984.
Photo taken by Bill Coppola, courtesy of Chief Tramontano's daughter, Tara Tramontano Madison