Firefigher Joe Rahl was one of a kind. He started his fire service career at the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Co. on March 12, 1942, serving as captain from 1947 to 1948 and again from 1954 through 1956, when he was appointed to the career department, something he had eargerly hoped to accomplish. He served as a career firefighter for 33 years, until his retirement at the end of 1989.
Joe was a well-liked and well-respected member of the department. He served many years as the secretary of the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association, the predecessor of today's Local 2687. He was a founding member of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association when it was organized in 2009, and was its oldest member when he passed away on December 23, 2019.
In addition to being an outstanding firefighter, Joe had a penchant for pranks, as the reader will no doubt infer from what's written much further down.
He is missed.
c. 1954 - On the ramp of the Mt. Carmel fire station, (L-R), Firefighters Fred Fletcher, Jack Laffin, and Co. 5 volunteer captain Joe Rahl with Engine 5, the 1942 Diamond-T 600 GPM pumper.
1962, at the Hull's Rathskellar on Congress Avenue in New Haven. Left to right are Dick Carney, Joe, Dave Herrmann, Clem Kammerer, Carmen Amarante, and Tom Doherty.
New Haven Evening Register, Thursday, August 4, 1960 - CLICK on this photo to read the entire article on the July 25, 2014 HOME page.
1962 Ball Committee - Left to right are John O'Hare, Ray Carofano, Wayne Butterworth, Joe, and Al Ramelli.
Joe Rahl (in work hat) and Dick Carney (in turnout gear), on Rescue 1 (Putnam Avenue), demonstrate administering O2 to youngsters at Dunbar Hill School in the summer of 1966.
July 31, 1987 - Lieut. Dave Strawhince assists Joe with a fresh Scott bottle at a haz-mat incident at the Superior Printing Ink Co. on Sherman Avenue. CLICK on this photo to read the entire story.
June 2011 - Joe and Tom Doherty, who both got their start at Mt. Carmel, at Co. 5's 2011 Centennial Picnic at Brooksvale.
Joe at Station 9 with the 1973 Maxim 1000 GPM foam truck, that was refurbished by Pierce in 1985.
Co. 5 Centennial Reunion - April 26, 2011 - Co. 5 Past Captains - L to R: Joe Rahl, Tom Doherty, Don Steele, Dave Johnson, Jim Beirne, Karl Olson, and Mike Bessette. CLICK to enlarge.
Co. 5 Centennial Reunion - April 26, 2011 - Joe is flanked by Bill Bossoli and Richie Lostritto, both of whom came on the department in September 1950. CLICK to enlarge.
The Hamden Chronicle, September 4, 1952
Chief Spencer and His Cigars
When we spotted this item in a 1952 edition of The Hamden Chronicle, we knew it was time to finally relate a true story - yes, it is TRUE! - about Chief Spencer, a cigar, and a guy named Fred. Enjoy!
Joe Rahl had just finished his night shift at Headquarters. He was relieved by Fred, who was coming in to work on the day shift.
Just before leaving the station, and ever the prankster, Joe handed three special cigars to unsuspecting Fred.
Fred carefully slipped Joe's gift cigars into his breast pocket, saving them for after lunch.
Chief Spencer, a well-known cigar lover himself, arrived at Headquarters just before lunch to deliver the weekly paychecks.
Never missing an opportunity to ingratiate himself to the boss, Fred pulled one of Joe's cigars from his breast pocket. "Here, Chief, have one of these."
The Chief smiled and graciously took Fred's cigar, lighting it up in the car as he pulled out of Headquarters on his way to Station 2.
They say that Chief Spencer was puffing away on Fred's cigar at the traffic light in front of the high school when . . .
We've been told that the Chief was pissed off, mostly because he had to get out of his car to brush the hot ashes off his uniform in front of a bunch of kids waiting for the bus.