Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
 Elmira, Chemung County, NY
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Historical Events of the Elmira Fire Department
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The Postcard at right, dated 1912, 
is from the collection of Joyce M. Tice
Joyce's Search Tip - February 2010 
Do You Know that you can search just the 700 pages of Clippings and Scrapbooks on the site by using the Clippings button in the Partitioned search engine on the Current What's New Page?  
You'll also find obituary and other newspaper clippings using the three county-level Obits by Cemetery buttons. Additional clippings can be found in the Birth, Marriage, and some other partitions. 
The following Elmira Fire Department historical events were taken from papers collected by retired Elmira Fire Department Captain William Gordon Cady and sent to a cousin Ken Sullivan in January, 1998. Bill obtained them from a fellow fireman who had compiled major events in the history of the department up until 1981. The text is presented in its original form, unedited and was chronicled until early 1982. Any reference herein to the present day are as of 1982. William Cady is a lifelong resident of the Elmira area with Cady family roots in Corning, Steuben County dating back to 1828 and Gordon family roots in Wells, Bradford County, beginning in 1832. He has lived his entire life in Elmira, with the exception of a four year absence when he served with the United States Army in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

Submitted by Ken Sullivan for Tri-Counties

 SEE ALSO - 1879 Four County History Ch. 46

1866 Certificate sent in by Richard Edgerton
Independent Hose Company No. 3
1828 The Village of Elmira was incorporated.
  On May 23rd--John Arnot, Elisha Briggs, and William Dunn were appointed Fire wardens for the Village.
Oct. 29th--Resolution adopted: “There shall be no tossing or throwing of fireballs, or firing of any squibs, rockets or crackers in said village, and any person guilty of said violation of this ordinance or in any manner siding or abetting or assisting therein, and the parent or guardian or master of any child under his care, under 15 years of age, who shall violate the same shall pay a fine of one dollar.
  The owners or occupants of buildings were required to furnish “good and sufficient ladders of suitable length to reach the roof”, and in case of removal of said ladder, they would be fined. They should also provide fire buckets, one for each floor or again be fined.
1829 The Fire Wardens of the Village shall be allowed as a compensation for their services one dollar per day for each and every day spent by them respectively in performing the duties of their office”.
1830 Other Fire Wardens were appointed - Miles Covell, John Arnot, and Abraham Riker were named. Appointment of twenty-three fireman which constituted the fire company of the Village.
1833 Opening of the Chemung Canal.The fire alarm system consisted of the ringing of first the bell of the Presbyterian Church. 
1834 The Village voted to purchase an Engine for the use of the company, and ladders, firehooks and buckets. Four hundred dollars was voted by tax towards these purchases and with delivery in 1835 of a pumper, dubbed “old Gooseneck” at a cost of $250 Elmira’s first volunteer fire company was installed. Made up of 20 of the leading citizens of the Village. It was called Torrent Hose and Engine Co. #1.
$50 was voted to pay the services of the alarm ringer.
1835 Delivery of the first pumper “old Gooseneck” to the Village.
1841 Water St. Fire - Destroyed both sides of the street between Baldwin and Lake Sts. 18 Buildings destroyed. The Neptune Co. pulled its Button Machine across the Chemung River in order to save buildings on the south side of the River.Lake St. Bridge, then built of wood, was consumed by fire.
1844 Lancer Co. #4 was organized in January, of this year.
1846 Ladder Co. #1 disbanded under peculiar circumstances.
1847 ”Resolved that the present Hook and Ladder Company and the two Engine Companies of the Corporation be paid $50 each. Provided that such Company be duly organized by the first day of July next.”
1848 Red Rover Fire Company #3 was organized in August with headquarters on Water St about opposite the site of today’s Chemung Canal Bank.
1849 Sept. 3rd - Eagle Tavern Fire - between Baldwin and the Chemung Canal, now State St. More than a dozen buildings burned.
1851 Fireman’s Festival at Elmira.
1854 Young America Fire Engine Company was composed of many of the “young blades” of the Village. They often challenged the other Companies to feats of skill and tests to see who could throw water the farthest.
1855 Young America Fire Engine Company received a diploma from the State Fair, and a splendid silk banner was presented by the young ladies of Elmira.
1856 Rescue Hook & Ladder Company #6 was authorized.
1857 The Smith Fire Engine became the property of the Young America Fire Engine Company and is said to have never been beaten by any machine with which they competed.
  A bell tower of brick was built on Market St., near the site of the former Central Station.The tower was 79 feet high, with a bell weighing 1 1/2 tons mounted at the top. There was a cat-walk around the top, and a room just beneath in which resided the bell ringer.
1859 A charter was granted to the Village by the State to organize the Elmira Fire Department. It was kept a volunteer organization but the various headquarters covered the more vulnerable spots.
1861 Hydrants were placed in the Village.
1862 Fight between members of #1 Company and Young America Fire Company.
  The Fireman’s Lot was purchased in 1862 in Woodlawn Cemetery and donated by the board to the Fire Department.
1864 Southern Tier Sanitary Fair. First Presbyterian Church. Fair had been a great success, building gutted. Two lives lost.
1865 The first steam engine, an Amoskeag, was assigned to the Neptune Co. The effectiveness of this machine, costing $4,000 was very evident.
1866 All of the fire companies except #5 ceased operations, a form of “strike”, because the taxpayers refused to vote monies to replace the rotted fire hose with which the machines were equipped. The citizens became alarmed when they realized their fire protection had disintegrated and voted money for a new supply. 
1867 Lake St. Fire - Both sides of the Street between Water and Carroll St. 26 stores.
1868 ”Ours 4” Hose Company, so named by Mark Twain, came into being.
1870 Goodell Hose Company #5 - many of its members worked in the old Elmira Rolling Mills.
1875 Water St. Fire- from Exchange Place to Railroad Ave. Both sides of the street. $285,000 loss. 42 stores destroyed.
1876 Elmira Hose Company #1 organized.
1878 Elmira’s paid fire department came into being.
  May 4th - Volunteer fire department disbanded.
  Upon the disbanding in 1878 of the volunteer fire companies, some of the men were retained by the paid department. Miles Trout, a former volunteer, became the first chief of the new department.
1879 Elmira Fireman’s Association formed - its object being to “perpetuate the memory and history of the volunteer fire department of the city”.
1884 The Legislature passed an act authorizing the Mayor of the City of Elmira to appoint two Fire Commissioners. They, with the Mayor, constituted the Board of Fire Commissioners.
Oct. 1st - The City accepted a fire alarm system installed by Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Company of New York City and Boston. There were 41 alarm boxes about the city.
1887 John H. Espey was appointed to the department as a call fireman.
1888 Advertiser Fire - $180, 000 loss. One fireman and one civilian die. J. A. Campbell became Chief of Department.

Elmira Fire Department Pumper at the 1888 Advertiser fire. (Photo submitted by Tom Brace)
1889 John H. Espey was sent to New York City with Captain McCarthy to take a six weeks course in the Pompier Life Saving School.
1890 John H. Espey was department plumber with a rank of foreman.
  The old fire station on Market St. was razed and Fire Headquarters was built on East Market St. opposite Exchange Pl at a cost of $33,000.
1892 Station # 2 was built at the foot of College Ave. on West Water St. This is now the site of the present Elmira Water Board.
  The same year Station # 3 was erected at the west intersection of South Main St. and Pennsylvania Ave.
1894 Station # 4 was built on a plot at Maxwell Place and Grand Central Ave. The land was given by the George M. Diven family.
1896 Elmira Exempt Fireman’s Association was formed.
1902 C. H. Riggs was appointed Chief of the Elmira Fire Department.
1903 A monument, erected through popular subscription, under auspices of the Elmira Exempt Fire Association, was dedicated on Oct. 14th. The statue was a lifesized figure holding aloft a lantern, and in his left arm a small child.
1904 John H. Espey was appointed Chief of the Fire Department.
  Lycium Theatre Fire and other buildings on Lake St. burned.
1905 There were 76 alarm boxes, 14 were knob boxes requiring nothing but the turn of a handle, known as the Tucker Keyless box, 25 were glass front boxes with a glass guard and the rest were the ordinary alarm boxes requiring a key which was kept in a convenient place. There were 467 hydrants in the City.
1909 Elmira City Hall Fire.
1911 Station # 5 was built on Roe Ave.
1913 State St. Fire - “Amusu” Theatre, Connelly Grocery, Wholesale House of New Jersey, Thompson, Elmira Sunday Telegram, Knights of Columbus rooms. All totally destroyed.
1914 Masonic Temple Fire - Lake & Market St. Very spectacular.
1922 560 hydrants within the city limits. Departments equipment was completely motorized and fire prevention education in the schools was emphasized.
1923 Will Y. Ellett was Superintendent of Fire Alarms.
1924 Wychoff Building Fire - $200,000 loss. Thought caused by defective wiring or arson.
1928 Dec. 11 - Four people lose their life in a house fire at 310 Sutton St.
1929 Chief Espey promoted a training school for fire departments of the Elmira Zone and 32 Cities and Villages responded.
1931 Chief Espey recommended that an arson squad be established, but the city fathers were not in favor of it.
1934 The wooden Bell Tower was razed, and a campaign was started to place the bell as a fitting memorial to the firefighters in Brand Park. The campaign to raise money for this memorial never got off the ground, and later the bell disappeared. Station # 2 was closed.
1937 Chief Espey dies and Daniel Collins is appointed Chief of the Fire Department.
1942 Louis Mosher is appointed Chief of the Fire Department.
1945 Dec. 14. Three children die as the result of a fire at 1137 Woodbins Ave. in Southport which is part of the City’s coverage.
1946 June 11. Three children died in a fire caused by an oil stove explosion at their home at 242 Roberts St. They were 6 weeks, 18 months, and 30 months old.
1950 The Kindergarten class of Coldbrook Park Elementary School visits the Fire Dapartment on Pennsylvania Avenue. Joyce M. Tice, class member, recalls that the boys were allowed to slide down the pole, but not the girls. I hold a grudge, and I have never driven by there without remembering that, even since it became a parking lot. (Reason was that girls were required to wear dresses and the pole would have burned our legs)(Sorry, I stuck this in here - JMT)
1952 Jan 2. Three children and an adult die in a fire at 1647 Water St in West Elmira which is also part of the City’s coverage.
  The City of Elmira ends coverage at Southport and they start their own Volunteer Department.
1955 Nov. 17. Four children and a babysitter burn to death in a fire in Horseheads. The Elmira Fire Department is called in for mutual aid.
1957 May 8th. A fire at 463 Falck St takes the lives of the three Potter children.
1959 July 11th - Fire at 116 1/2 Washington St. takes the lives of the seven children of the Shusko family. This fire is the greatest fire death toll in the city’s history.
  Louis Mosher retires and Benjamin Prall is appointed Chief of the department.
1962 May 12th - A fire at 655 Davis St. kills a mother and her two daughters age fifteen and sixteen. The oldest daughter went back into the house after her Prom Dress and the other daughter and mother followed.
1963 Sept. 13th - Moore Business Forms Warehouse fire at Fox & Carroll Streets. $567,000 loss to the company.
1964 The new Central Fire Headquarters is built on W. Second St. This is the city’s first new fire station in 52 years.
1967 Jan. 1st - Chief Prail retires and Edward Ryan is appointed the new Chief of the Fire Department.
  Jan 2nd - A fire at 112-114 DeWitt Ave. takes the lives of five persons. Charles Farmham and two sons Wayne, 4, and Douglas, 3, and two babysitters Helen Decker,12, and her sister Louise, 15. Mr. Farham’s wife threw the baby out the window and the baby was caught by two men at the scene. The mother either fell or jumped from the window landing on a concrete railing.
  Jan 6th - Cash Electric Fire, destroyed two buildings at 241-243 W. Water St. Damage $100,000 blamed on an electric overload.
1968 Sept 22nd - - Bond Paper Co. Fire - Fire burned S. W. Flickingers warehouse and the Bond Paper warehouse to the ground. Arson was suspected. 
1972 June 22nd -Flood hits the city and three of the City’s four Fire Stations are under water. 936 calls were handled by the department in a 60 hour period.
1974 Edward Hintz is appointed as Chief of the Fire Department.
1978 The new Fire Station # 3 is built on Miller St. on the Southside and the old station is razed.
1979 The Fire Department is cut one ladder Company and the department’s size is cut to 106 men.
1981 The first female firefighter is appointed to the Department on September 14.

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 6/12/98
By Joyce M. Tice & Ken Sullivan

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