Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 53, Part I

By Holice and Debbie



Chief Shay. -- Assistant Chiefs. -- Chiefs of Battalion. -- Foremen and Assistant Foremen. -- Their Duties and Responsibilities. -- Boundaries of Fire Districts. -- Location of Engine Companies.

The Bureau of the Chief of Department consists of the uniformed force of the Department, and is charged by law "with the duty of preventing and extinguishing fires, and of protecting property from water used at fires." A number of rules specify the duties of the uniformed force; rules which are enforced with all the power of rigid discipline. Summarized, these rules are as follows:

The force are required to devote their entire time to the service of the Department; to attend all fires or alarms at stations to which they are assigned; to exert their greatest energy and best ability to do their full duty under any and all circumstances. Obedience must be prompt, implicit, unqualified, and unequivocal. Each member of the force is held responsible for any want of judgment, skill, neglect, or failure on his part which may cause unnecessary loss of life, limb, or property; to remove all persons in danger in the burning of adjoining premises; to endeavor to detect incendiaries; obtain evidence to convict person bringing or sending false alarms. The use of obscene, immoral, disrespectful, impudent, or other improper language, is prohibited, while it is required that each and every member of the Department must always be respectful and gentlemanly to his superiors, equals, and citizens, and courteous to subordinates. The rules prohibit the use of spirituous, malt, or intoxicating beverages. Conduct unbecoming an officer or gentleman, or in any manner prejudicial to the good reputation, order, or discipline of he Department, will not be tolerated.

The Chief of the Department has control and direction of his bureau and of all clerks assigned to duty therein. He is held responsible to the Board of Fire Commissioners for the conduct and management of his bureau, and of the uniformed force. The chief is likewise required to see that all laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, orders and directions for the government of his bureau, are promptly enforced.

Assistant Chief of Department, under the Chief of Department, has command of the First, Second, third, Fourth, and Sixth Battalions. The commanding officers of these battalions send their company, fire and consolidated morning reports, and all other papers, heretofore sent to the Chief of Department direct to the Assistant Chief of Department, so as to have them in his possession at or before 10 o'clock A. M.; forwards such papers. With proper endorsement and recommendation noted thereon, to the Chief of Department not later than 12 o'clock M., each day, unless actual duty at fires, or fatigue caused thereby, should prevent.

Second Assistant Chief of Department, under the Chief or Acting Chief of Department, has command of the Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Battalions. The commanding officers of these battalions send their company, fire , and consolidated morning reports, and all other papers heretofore sent to the Chief of Department direct, to the Second Assistant Chief of Department, so as to have them in his possession at or before 10 o'clock A. M., and forwarded, with proper endorsements and recommendations noted thereon, to the Chief of Department, not later then 12 o'clock M., each day, unless actual duty at fires, or fatigue caused thereby, should prevent.

Chiefs of Battalion, under his command, are responsible for promptness in the discharge of their companies under them; also for the condition of their companies in or out of quarters, and for any neglect in carrying our fully and minutely the "bill of dress" order, and each and every order, rule, law, or ordinances governing the uniformed force; and when he may learn of any violation or dereliction, he shall report or cause to be reported to the Board, through the regular channels, by proper and well-sustained charges, any and all delinquents.

The Chiefs of Battalion are required to be on duty day and night at their respective headquarters, except when necessarily called elsewhere on Department business, or on leave of absence; to attend all fires at stations to which they may be assigned, and promptly report their arrival at fires to the officer in command; the first at a fire assumes command, and has full control until the command is assumed by the Chief or Assistant Chief.

Foremen of companies have absolute command and control of their respective companies, the house watchman, engineer and assistant engineer of steams, drivers, and tillermen, who shall obey orders implicitly.

The Assistant Foreman, in the absence of the Foreman, assumes all the latter's functions and responsibilities. When the Foreman is present the Assistant obeys his commands promptly and cheerfully.

Any officer or member of the uniformed force, or any employee of the Department, found guilty of transgressing any law, ordinance, rule, resolution, regulation, circular, orders--general, special, or verbal--may be reprimanded, fined, reduced in grade and pay, suspended from pay and duty, or be dismissed from the service of the Department, as the Board of Commissioners may determine, and any person so dismissed shall not, under any circumstances, have his case reopened, or again be a member of the Department.

CHARLES O. SHAY, chief of the New York Fire Department, was born on October 22, 1834, in the Eighth Ward of new York City. by trade he was a carpenter. He entered the volunteer Department. In 1858 was a member of Hook and Ladder Company No. 14, remaining an active member until the Paid Department came into existence. Under the New system, he was appointed foreman of Hook and Ladder company No. 5. On June 1, 1869, he was promoted to the position of district engineer. He commanded the Sixth, Third, and fifth Districts respectively. May 19, 1873, he was appointed assistant chief of the Department, and on May 1, 1848, to his present office.

HUGH BONNER was born in Ireland on June 14, 1830. He arrived in this country when he was eight years old. His connection with the Volunteers dates from the night the Columbia Foundry was destroyed by fire, December, 1853. He joined Lady Washington Engine Company No. 40. He was elected assistant foreman of his company in April, 1861, and was foremen in 1863, 1864, and 1865. While foreman of Lady Washington company he was notified of his appointment to the same post in the Metropolitan Fire Department, and assigned to the command of Engine Company No. 20.

While in command of this company Foreman Bonner was given charge of and operated the first self-propelling steam fire engine and chemical engine ever introduced in the New Department. Bonner was promoted to be chief of battalion on May 21, 1873, and was assigned to the command of the Second Battalion, remaining in this command during the next ten years. During this period he operated successfully the first water tower ever introduced in any department.

In 1875, at a fire in a dwelling on Bayard Street, on approaching the building, Chief Bonner saw a woman hanging from the gutter of the roof. He ascended through the building to the attic floor, which was found densely charged with heat and smoke. Passing through the room he found the window near which the woman was hanging. He reached out, caught her, and carried her to a place of safety. At the fire in the Frankfort House in 1874 he effected another rescue. The fire originated in a store room, and extended to the hallway on the sixth floor, cutting off all means of escape. Six or eight lodgers were imprisoned in these rooms. By the greatest effort, and with the aid of several men, he finally reached the poor people, all of them were partially suffocated, and placed them in safety.

He was promoted second assistant chief January 4, 1883, and assigned to the district north of Fourteenth Street. While in this position he was directed to recommend a plan of organization for a school for instruction, and he was assigned as instructor to the school. He was promoted assistant chief of the Department May 1, 1884, and assigned to the duty of generally supervising the several apparatus with life saving appliances. He was appointed by the Mayor civil service examiner for the Fire, Police, and park Departments of this city. He is the designer and inventor of several of the most useful and important implements at present in use by the Department for opening buildings.

FRANCIS J. REILLY was appointed a member of the Fire Department in September, 1865; promoted assistant foreman in October, 1870; foreman in July 1, 1871; chief of battalion February 1, 1880. On the dismissal of John McCabe, second assistant chief, for incompetency, in July, 1886, the Board of Fire Commissioners order the chief and assistant chief to present the name of the chief of battalion who in their judgment was most competent to fill the vacancy; a few days later they presented the name of Francis J. Reilly. He was confirmed, and is now the incumbent of that office, with his headquarters in the house of Engine Company No. 1, No. 165 West Twenty-ninth Street.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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