Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 6, Part III

By Holice and Debbie

The Fire Department (Act. April 12, 1816), was continued as a body corporate and politic, in fact and in name, until the first day of May, 1838," with all the rights, powers, and privileges, and subject to all the provisions, restrictions, limitations, and conditions mentioned and contained in the act entitled 'An act to incorporate the Firemen of the city of New York.'"

The fire engine companies kept importuning the corporation for an increase in their membership, and it was, in consequence, found necessary in August, 1816, to make a regulation that all companies having engines of sic and one-half inch caliber should have twenty-six men, and those that had a greater number be reduced to conform thereof, except the companies in the out wards, as to the strength of which the chief engineer should determine. Among the appointments made in this month are these:

Alexander Wiley, Jr., 98 Greenwich Street, to Hook and Ladder No. 1. Vice William Sterling, resigned. John R. Lecount, grocer, to Hook and Ladder No. 2, in place of Samuel Weeks.

Rowland Gardner, hatter, 38 Chatham Street, to Fire Engine Company No. 5, vice John Matthews. John Van Houten, carpenter, to Fire Engine No. 29, vice Joseph Simmons, resigned.

In September: Ephraim Badeau, hatter, 6 Bowery lane, and Benjamin Scribner, accountant, Catherine Street, to Hook and Ladder Company No. 2. John Hitchcock, merchant, Peck Slip, to Engine Company No. 7. Richard Townley, merchant, to the same company.

At the fire in John and Water Street in December, Isaac Skaats, George Herrick, and John Talman had their limbs broken, incapacitating them from further duty. In April, 1817, the Common Council ordered that the sum of three hundred dollars be distributed among them.

These fires and a fire in Mott Street at about the same time, were of incendiary origin, and Jacob Hays, one of the city marshals, was mainly instrumental in bringing the miscreants to justice, for which service he was awarded a sum of thee hundred dollars.

The number of engineers was increased, on December 23, 1816, from eight to ten.

The first hydrant ever used in New York was located in front of the dwelling house of Mr. George B. Smith, of Engine Company No. 12, in Frankfort Street, in the year 1817. This was the origin of the hydrant system in this city.

Any fireman, while in the performance of his duty as such, who should so maim or injure himself as to render him thereafter unable to perform the duties of a fireman, or who should have do maimed himself since the fifth of the preceding May (Act, February 28, 1817), was entitled to the benefit of the law passed the twelfth of April, 1816, fixing the time of service of firemen at ten years.

The leading features of the ordinance, passed May 5, 1817, are as follows:

The Fire Department to consist of a chief engineer, who shall have an annual salary of eight hundred dollars, payable quarterly, and as many other engineers, fire enginemen, hosemen, and hook and ladder men, as may from time to time be appointed by the Common Council. The chief engineer had the sole and absolute control and command over all the engineers and others person of the Fire Department. It was his duty to examine--twice in every year--into the condition and number of the fire engines, fire buckets, and other fire apparatus, and fire engine houses belonging to the corporation, and report the same--once a year--to the Common Council, together with the names of all the members of the Fire Department, and the respective associations to which they belong; to cause all the private fire buckets which may remain after an fire is extinguished, to be collected and conveyed as soon as possible to the city Hall, to be there deposited, in order that the citizens in the city may know where to find them; to report in writing all accidents by fire that may happen in the city, with the destroyed or injured, together with the names of the owners and occupants, to the city inspector, who shall keep a faithful register of the same. As many of the freeholders, or firemen of the city, as the Common Council may deem proper, shall, from time to time, be appointed in each of the wards, to be denominated fire wardens; each of whom each of whom to be assigned and attached by the mayor to such company of firemen, having charge of a fire engine, as he shall think proper, and shall report himself to the chief, or other engineer, at every fire. The fire wardens of each ward to form a separate company, and each company to choose out of their own number a foreman and clerk, to make rules, regulating the time and manner of conduction their elections, etc. It was the duty of the said fire wardens, immediately on the alarm of fire, to repair to the place where it may be, and aid and assist in procuring supplies of water to the fire engines to which they are respectively assigned; and to such other fire engines as the chief engineer or other engineer may direct them to attend; to prevent the hose from being trodden on; and to keep all idle and suspected persons at a proper distance from the fire, and from the vicinity. Other duties were also imposed on the fire wardens, namely; twice a year, in the months of June and December, and as much oftener as they should think proper, to examine the dwelling houses and other buildings in their respective wards, to see that they are properly furnished with fire buckets; to examine the fireplaces, chimneys, stoves, and pipes thereof, ovens, boilers, kettles, or apparatus which, in their opinion, may be dangerous in causing or promoting fires, and the places where ashes may be deposited; * * * to enter into and examine all buildings, livery, and other stables, hay boats or vessels, and places where any gunpowder, hemp, flax, tow, hay, rushes, firewood, boards, shingles, shavings, or other combustible materials, may be lodged; * * * to make report whether any, or what cases of violations of the laws of this state, prohibiting the construction of wooden buildings within certain limits, etc.

The duties of firemen are thus defined:

As often as any fire shall break out in the said city, to repaid immediately upon the alarm thereof, to their respective engines, hose wagons, hooks and ladders, and convey them to or neat the place where such fire shall happen, and there in conformity with directions given by the chief engineer or other engineer, shall work and manage said engines, or apparatus and implements, with all their skill and power; and when the fire is extinguished, shall not remove therefrom but by the direction of an engineer; when they shall return their respective hose wagons, hooks and ladders, engines and apparatus, well washed and cleaned, to their several places of deposit: * * * the penalty for neglect of duty was as follows: for neglect to wash and clean the fire engines at stipulated times, for every default, one dollar; for neglect to attend at any fire, or leave his fire engine or other apparatus while at any time, without permission, or shall neglect to perform his duty on such occasion, without reasonable excuse, for every default, three dollars; exercising, managing, trying, or using the said fire engine, or other implements, or apparatus for extinguishing fires, every such person shall, besides the fines and penalties aforesaid, be removed and displaced from his station.

The ordinance further recites:

In order that the members of the Common Council, engineers, and fire wardens may be readily distinguished at fires, the mayor, recorder, aldermen, and assistants, shall severally bear, on those occasions, a wand with a gilded flame on the top; and each of the engineers shall wear a leathern cap, painted white, with a gilded from thereto, and a fire engine emblazoned thereon, and shall also carry a speaking trumpet, painted black, with the words 'Chief Engineer,' 'Engineer No. 1.' etc., as the case may be, in white, which shall also be painted black, the crown painted white, with the city arms blazoned on the front, and shall also carry a speaking trumpet, painted white, with the words 'Warden,' in black painted thereon.

The firemen, when on duty, shall wear learthern caps, in the form heretofore used; and the said caps (except those worn by the Floating Engine Fire Company) shall be painted and distinguished in the manner following, viz.: the foremen of each of the fire engine companies (excepting the Floating Fire Engine Company) shall wear a cap, painted black, with a white frontispiece, and the word 'Foreman,' with the initials of his name and the number of his engine painted thereon in black; and the firemen of the said fire engine companies (except as above excepted) shall wear a cap, painted black, with the initials of their names and the number of the engines to which they belong painted in the front thereof, in white. The foreman of each of the hook and ladder companies shall wear a cap, painted black, with a white frontispiece, and the word 'Foreman,' and the initials of his name, and the number of the company to which he belongs, and a hook and ladder painter thereon, in black; and the members of the hook and ladder companies shall wear a cap, painted black, with the initials of their names and number of the company to which they belong, with a hook and ladder painted in the front thereof in white. And the foreman of each of the fire hose companies shall wear a cap, painted black, with a white frontispiece, and the word 'Foreman,' and the initials of his name and the number of the company to which he belongs, and a coil of hose painted thereon, in black; and the members of the aid fire hose companies shall wear caps, painted black, with the initials of their names and the number of the company to which they belong, with a coil of hose painted thereon, in white. And the assistants to each respective company shall wear caps, painted in the same manner as that of the foreman of the company, with the word 'Assistant,' in lieu of the word, 'Foreman.'

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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