|Photo by John Mongillo Jr.
Some modern historians say that 1968 was a transitional year for America. On a somewhat smaller scale, 1968 was also a transitional year for the Hamden Fire Department.
At the time of the Fleming Company fire in January, Engine 1 was a 1938 Seagrave 600 g.p.m. pumper at Station 2 – the Department’s spare.
Engine 2 was a 1959 Maxim “cab-forward” 750 g.p.m. pumper.
Engine 3 was a 1954 Maxim 750 g.p.m. pumper.
Engine 4 was a 1965 Mack 750 g.p.m. pumper, the Department’s first commercial-chassis apparatus since the Diamond-T engines of the early 1940s.
And Engines 5 & 6 were identical 1951 and 1952 Maxim 750 g.p.m. pumpers.
In 1968, Hamden’s first paid Fire Marshal, Al Purce, and the first Superintendent of Alarms & Apparatus, Clem Wetmore, were both nearing retirement but were still on the job.
The Department’s only ladder truck was the aforementioned 1958 75-foot Maxim “Junior” Aerial at Station 2. The rescue units – this was three years before Hamden’s first group of EMTs – were 1958 and 1960 International Travelalls, similar to today’s Chevy Suburbans.
By the end of 1968, the Town had purchased two new identical Maxim S-model 1000 GPM pumpers that were placed in service at Stations 3 and 4. The 1965 Mack became Engine 2. The 1959 Maxim cab-forward became Engine 1, and the 1938 Seagrave "canopy-cab" was sold, regrettably, to a party who scrapped it for the value of its brass pump.
Hamden's first new fire station since the Hamden Fire Department was created under the Connecticut General Statutes in 1925 was dedicated on December 8, 1968. Station 9 opened with one paid man on each of the three platoons. "Paid" Engine 9 was the 1951 Maxim pumper.
By the end of 1968, Marshal Purce and Supt. Wetmore had retired. Their vacancies were filled by Captain Bob “Bubby” O’Donnell and Asst. Supt. Richard Lostritto, respectively.
Also in 1968, the Town and the Hamden Paid Firemen’s Sick Benefit Association, which had become the bargaining unit for non-management fire personnel, agreed on the implementation of a 42-hour workweek to commence on October 6, 1970. Since 1951, line personnel had worked an average of 56 hours a week (four days on, two days off, etc.).
Two years later, old Station 3 on Putnam Avenue and Station 6 on Merritt Street were both closed when “new” Station 3 opened at Hartford Turnpike and Ridge Road in September of 1970. The new station housed Engine 3, Engine 6, Rescue 1, the Deputy Chief (shift commander), and a second truck company, Ladder 2, a new 1970 Maxim 100-foot aerial truck.
When they were delivered in the late 1950s, the 1958 Maxim aerial ladder truck and the 1959 Maxim “cab-forward” pumper were both painted white, the Hamden Board of Fire Commissioners being somewhat enamored of the New Haven "look." But in 1971, five years after a charter revision put the fire chief squarely in charge of the Department, the 1958 Maxim ladder and the 1959 Maxim pumper were repainted red. The truck also received a new convertible-type soft top that kept the rain off your head, but did little to abate the frigid winter temperatures.
The '58 Maxim aerial ladder truck remained at Station 2 until April 9, 1976, when it was transferred to Station 5’s new annex built the previous year. In November of 1984 the truck was transferred once again, this time to Station 9. The following year, it was removed from service and redesignated "Truck 2." The 1970 100-foot aerial ladder truck, now designated “Truck 1,” became the Department’s only truck company. Both trucks were retired in early 1990.
The two white International rescue trucks were removed from service in 1971 when the Department’s first “modular” unit, Rescue 1, was assigned to Station 4. The ornate gold leafing that decorated the new bright red 1971 Ford cab and box resulted in the somewhat whimsical, if not affectionate nickname, “the Circus Wagon.”
For the next several years, Engine 2 handled all rescue calls in the south end of Hamden. With the introduction of paramedic service, Rescue 2, on a 1975 Ford chassis, went in service at Station 2 on April 9, 1976.
Engine Co. 6 at new Station 3 was deactivated in 1974. The 1959 Maxim “cab-forward,” which had been Engine 1 from 1968 to 1974, was moved to Station 3 and became Engine 6, the Department’s permanent spare pumper. In 1981, it was repowered with a new diesel engine and remained in reserve until the early 1990s.
Hamden Fire Department (Ret.)
January 8, 2008
Originally posted on the Local 2687 website - 1/12/08