Dozens of on and off-duty members of the department gathered today in the auditorium of Hamden's Memorial Town Hall to offer their best wishes to training officer Capt. John Grasso, who retires this afternoon after nearly nineteen years on the job. John will be sworn-in next Monday as Chief of Department in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
John joined the Hamden Fire Department in August 1998, after having served as an Orange police officer for several years. Following recruit training, he was assigned to Station 2 on Platoon 4. He was promoted to lieutenant in September 2006 and Training Officer in 2013. In July of 2015 he returned to the line following his promotion to captain, but resumed his training officer duties the following December.
The members of the HFRA congratulate Chief-designate Grasso and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
Chief Tim Sullivan and Dep. Chief Ed Badamo with brand new 3D-HME pumper
Now serving temporarily as Engine 5, this 1999 3D-HME pumper was the brand new Engine 4 when it was photographed on February 23, 1999 in front of the old one-room schoolhouse that had served as quarters for the West Woods Volunteer Fire Association from 1957 until 1988 and as Hamden Fire Headquarters for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s.
There was a time when the Town of Hamden honored employees on the 25th anniversary of their employment. In late February 1979, Deputy Chief Joe McDermott and Lieut. Gil Spencer were among four employees so recognized in a brief ceremony in the old Council chambers in the basement of town hall. A third guardian service employee, Hamden Police Department Lieut. Charles Atzbach, was also honored for his 25 years of service.
Dep. Chief McDermott joined the department in 1953. Lieut. Spencer joined in 1957, having worked since 1953 for the Dept. of Public Works. Joe retired in September 1991. Gil, like Joe, attained the rank of shift commander and retired the following year. Joe McDermott and Gil Spencer are members of the HFRA.
Article scanned from The Hamden Chronicle, February 20, 1947. (Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
CLICK to enlarge for IDs
In February 1947, members of the Highwood Volunteer Fire Association celebrated their 50th anniversary a couple of months late. According to the news article from The Hamden Chronicle, two charter members were in attendance.
Arthur and Jules Norman, David F. Howe, Rowland Ruwet, and James Shea were present and were among the Highwood volunteers who went on to become career members of the department. Although he was an unpaid volunteer, Charles Loller served as the department's first chief for seventeen years.
In 1969, the members of Co. 5 purchased a dark blue 1960 GMC half-ton pick-up truck from the Town of Woodbridge. They painted it red, equipped it with a 150-gallon tank, a two-cycle portable pump, and an array of ground cover firefighting equipment including Indian tanks, brooms and shovels.
Its four-wheel drive capability made Car 55 ideal for getting into off-road situations that would have been impossible for conventional fire apparatus. It also was the first time the volunteers at Mount Carmel had a response vehicle of their own since the "patrol wagon," built on a 1921 Packard Twin-Six chassis, last occupied the south bay of the fire station in the mid-1930s.
Car 55 - May 1978
1975 Memorial Day Parade
Years ago, Co. 5 Captain Don Steele recalled how he was working on a minor radio repair in the cab of Car 55 when he actually dozed off. It was February 24, 1970. At 1:45 p.m. Don was roused from his impromptu catnap by the striking of the Gamewell alert bell heralding a dispatch. From the Alarm Room at Headquarters, Firefighter Russ Norman dispatched Engines 5 and 9 to a large brush fire at the corner of Brooksvale Avenue and Farmington Drive.
Co. 5's volunteers were "toned out." Following procedure, Don went to the watch desk, rotated the crank on the alarm "house phone" several times and, once all stations had acknowledged, he announced that Car 55 was available to respond. Thus Don Steele became the first person to respond to an alarm with Car 55.
For the next eighteen years, that little "brush truck" responded on dozens of calls, sometimes with a career member at the wheel when no volunteer was available to drive it.
After the truck was painted and being prepared for service, the volunteers removed the "G" in the "GMC" logo from the grille, leaving only the "M C" to denote Mount Carmel at a time when no HFD apparatus were permitted any sort of company identification. The "M" and "C" even found their way onto the 1950s Dodge power wagon that replaced the GMC pickup in the late 1980s. The "G" was seen in various places in the fire station for many years and was finally discarded.
Car 55, later designated as "Brush 5," remained in service until the late-1980s. It was eventually sold to future Dep. Chief Clark Hurlburt, who still owns the truck.
Significant structure fires on the platoon's second and third nights
Firefighters were challenged by extremely cold temperatures as two nasty structure fires occurred a day apart on February 23 and 24, 1972. Platoon 3 was working the night shift. The response on the first blaze, at Mulberry Hill Road, was Engine 3, Engine 6, Ladder 2, and Car 30, all out of Station 3. Engine 4 and Rescue 1 were called in shortly thereafter. Thirteen years before Nomex hoods were introduced on the department, Firefighter Paul Reutenauer of Rescue 1 sustained a burned ear when a gas from a ruptured pipe ignited.
New Haven Journal-Courier, February 24, 1972
New Haven Journal-Courier, February 25, 1972
The second fire was at an apartment house occupied by SCSC students at 143 Cherry Ann Street, on the Hamden-New Haven line. The fire originated in a third-floor apartment that was extensively damaged, but fortunately there were no injuries.
Platoon 3 personnel would be busy again four days later, when fire broke out at 32 Cumley Street, about thirty minutes before the start of their first day shift.
The news article at left states that the day of the fire was Tuesday. Records confirm that the fire actually occured on Wednesday, February 23rd. This is reinforced by the second article, which states that firefighters were busy for "the second night in a row."