Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 9, Part II

By Holice and Debbie

Third District.--The Third Fire District shall embrace all that part of the city lying south of the First and Second District.

For the purpose of guiding the firemen more correctly to the fire, the districts are subdivided, and the district bells will be rung as follows. First District, first section, one stroke; First District, second section, two strokes; Second District, first section, three strokes; Second District, second section, four strokes; Third District, first section, five strokes; third district, second section, six strokes.

For assistance, the signal will be the continual ringing of all district bells, except that on the City hall, which will always rind the section in which the fire is raging.

Permission was granted (December 2, 184,) to Hugh Downing and Royal E. House to constrict a line of telegraph, by setting posts in the ground, and extending from Fort Washington to the Bloomingdale Road, thence along said road to Sixth Avenue, to the fire station at Jefferson Market, thence to the fire stations at Centre and Essex Markets, thence to the City Hall, to the Merchants' Exchange. This permission was coupled with a proviso that Downing and House should put up the necessary wire and apparatus, and keep the same in order, and give the free and perpetual use of the invention for communicating alarms of fire from the City hall to the different fire stations, and instruct the different bellringers in the use of said invention, and commence and continue the communication themselves, until the bellringers were instructed, in consideration of which they received from the city the sum of five hundred dollars.

The salary of the chief engineer was increased to two thousand dollars July 8, 1848.

The resignation of C. V. Anderson, chief engineer to the Fire Department, on November 22, 1848, was accepted, to take effect from the time a successor was appointed.

Alfred Carson was appointed to the vacancy of chief engineer of the Fire Department on December 7, 1848, and Clark Vanderbilt appointed as assistant engineer in place of Alfred Carson, promoted.

The fire limits (Act March 7, 1848,) were extended so as to embrace all of the city situate to the southward of a line drawn one hundred feet north of Thirty-second Street, extending from east to Hudson River. All dwelling houses, stores, storehouses, and all other buildings, after the passage of this act, to be built or erected within the fire limits, "shall be made and constructed of stone or brick, or other fire-proof materials, and shall be constructed with party or outside walls."

The Act (section 28) further provides:

"The duties and powers that were by law conferred upon the fire wardens * * * prior to the passage of an act entitled 'An Act for the Establishment and Regulation of the Police of the City of New York,' passed May 4, 1844, as well as the duties and powers of fire wardens conferred upon the police by the said act, and by the act to amen the same, passed may 13, 1846, are hereby conferred upon the assistant engineers of the Fire Department, and upon their successors in office."

The duties appertaining to assistant engineers are detailed at length. Their compensation, the act declared, should be fixed by the common Council, but should not exceed the sum of five hundred dollars per annum.

An office, denominated the Department of "Repairs and Supplies," was created by the legislature April 2, 1849, "which shall have cognizance of all repairs and supplies of and for roads and avenue, public pavements, repairs to public buildings, to fire engines and apparatus of the Fire Department, and the chief officer thereof shall be called the commissioner of repairs and supplies. There shall be four bureaus or branches in this department, and the chief officers shall be respectively denominated the 'superintendent of roads,' 'superintendent of repairs to public buildings,' 'superintendent of pavements,' and 'chief engineer of the Fire Department.'

The salary of the water register in the Croton Aqueduct Department, July 21, 1849, was fixed at one thousand five hundred dollars per annum; the salary of the deputy water register at one thousand dollars; and the salary of the water purveyor, in Bureau of Pipes and Sewers, was placed at one thousand five hundred dollars per annum. In October following the assistant engineers of the Fire Department, for the performance of the duties of fire wardens, were paid five hundred dollars per annum each.

In the summer of 1849 the condition of the Fire Department was such as to merit the confidence of the authorities and the community at large. For efficiency it had never been excelled, and the promptness, zeal and fidelity with which the members discharged their arduous and self-imposed duties drew forth the warmest encomiums from those in authority. The force at that time consisted of about one thousand six hundred men, three first-class engines, six second-class engines, twenty-four small engines, nine hook and ladder trucks, eighteen four-wheeled hose carriages, twenty-five two-wheeled hose carriages, and fifty thousand feet of hose. The city was divided into three districts, the lower on contained the greatest amount of valuable property, covering comparatively a small space of ground, while the limit of the other districts were bounded only by the extent of the island. That imposed upon the firemen in the upper districts an unusual and oppressive amount of labor, and it was consequently proposed, as being in accord with the best interests and the desires of the citizens residing in the upper part of the city, to form a new district, comprising all that part of the city north of Twenty-second Street.

A water tower was erected in this year on the rear of lots on the north side of Twenty-second Street, between first and Second Avenues, and a bell weighing eight thousand pounds placed therein.

A most appalling disaster occurred on the morning of February 4, 1850. A steam boiler exploded in a large building, 5 and 7 Hague Street, completely demolishing it, and burying beneath its ruin one hundred and fifty persons, of whom sixty-four were killed and forty-eight wounded. The Fire Department rendered valuable service in rescuing the imperiled people and in saving adjoining property from destruction by the fire which ensued, for which services they were the recipients of the sincere thanks of the common council. Details of this awful calamity will be found elsewhere in this book.

The Board of Fire Wardens organized, in compliance with the laws for the more effectual prevention of fires, passed march 29, 1850, were sworn in on April 30, 1850. They were divided into three classes by lot, drawn by the president of the Fire Department, Zophar Mills, as follows:

Class one, to serve for the term of one year; John Kettleman, Charles l. Merritt, Samuel Waddell, and John B. Miller.

Class Two, to serve for the term of two years; John Rese, Thomas Boese, Frank Waterbury, and Wm. Drew.

Class Three, to serve for the term of three years; Benjamin Cartwright, James Gilmore, Francis Hagadorn, and William B. Hays.

Their organization was completed on May 7, 1850.

The whole number of complaints of violations of the laws, made to the Board during the year ending April 1, 1851, amounted to six hundred and fifty-one. The number of old and dangerous buildings examined and reported to the chief engineer of the Fire Department as being exceedingly dangerous in case a fire should occur in either of them, forty-four. The quantity of gunpowder seized and delivered to the trustees of the Fire Department was on hundred and fifty-seven kegs and twenty cases; containing fifty canisters each.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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