Portland Fire Department History
Fire protection started in Portland on March 29th,1768 with the appointment of five “Fire Wards." These men had Police powers and had the authority to order citizens to help at Fire scenes. As the city grew so did the fires, and the Fire Department. In 1787 Portland’s first organized Fire Company was formed and was named the “Neptune”. More companies followed: “Vigilant” in 1794, “Cataract”, “Portland”, “Extinguisher”, and later the “Alert”. Hand Engines came into service starting with the “Deluge” in 1827 and the “Hydraulion” and “Niagra” in 1830. And in 1827 the “Washington Hook and Ladder” became the City’s first Ladder Company.
In 1831 the Portland Fire department was officially established by the Legislature . With increasing fires the Fire Companies became better organized leading to a numbering system starting in 1835.
In November 1859 Portland’s “Machigonne 1," a First-size Amoskeag, became the first steam engine in the City. On November 21 it also became the first Engine to respond as a permanent manned piece. A second steam Engine was placed in service in 1861, the “Falmouth Steam Fire Engine 2” and assigned to Congress St. at Smith St., but do to it’s weight and mechanical problems it was out of service more often than in service. In 1862 the “Cumberland Steam Fire Engine No.3” became the next commissioned steamer for the City of Portland and stationed in the City’s West End at 176 Brackett St. The Portland Co. built the next steamer in 1864, which was placed in service on Congress St. along with Ladder 1 as the “Casco Steam Fire Engine No.5”. The Steam Engines proved very useful to the PFD with Companies requiring only 15-20 men per company as compared to the 60 needed for the Hand Tubs. Even though the Steam Engines were well built, they required mechanically skilled Engineers at the Stations 24 hours a day.
July 4, 1866, the Portland was devastated by a Fire that destroyed a third of the City Mutual Aid was received from cities as far away as Boston, Massachusetts as the fire spread through the city. The next morning, 2 people were dead, 1500 buildings, including 3 Fire Houses, were destroyed and 10,000 people were left homeless.
The City and the PFD rebuilt after the fire. New stations were built, Congress St. and Market in 1866, and India St. in 1867. The PFD put the Alarm Division into operation in March of 1867. New Companies were formed, Eagle Ladder Co. 2 in 1874, Hose
Co. 6 in 1881, Bramhall Ladder Co. 3 in 1883, Chemical 1 in 1892, and in 1894 the PFD commissioned Engine Seven Fireboat. The Fireboat was fitted with a steam engine capable of discharging 1,800 GPM, and quartered at the Portland Pier from where it protected the City’s busy waterfront.
By the late 1890’s Portland’s Fire department had become a well respected Fire Department, well known throughout the North East for its skill in battling major fires and for its high fire activity .In 1899 Portland annexed the City of Deering, with that the entire firefighting force of Deering was incorporated into the PFD.
1915 brought change to the PFD again. This time it was motorized equipment. Chief Butler began with a motorized Chief’s car followed by a Deputy Chief’s car in 1916. 1916 also brought the first motorized apparatus, Hose 8. Ladder 5 and Engine 1 in 1917, Chemical 1 in 1918, Ladder 3 in 1919, and Engine 4 in 1920. 14 years after it began the PFD became completely motorized with the purchase of Engine 6, a 1929 Mack triple combination pumper.
The 1930’s through the 1960’s brought steady change for the PFD. Engine 7 Fireboat was replaced with a new “City of Portland” which had a pumping capacity of 6,000 gallons per minute (GPM). Ladder 3 became the PFD’s first steel Aerial in 1936. 1938 saw the creation of the Fire Prevention Bureau. Rescue 1 went onto service in 1943. And in 1963 Portland’s Bravest were the stars in a movie about Firefighters called “24 Hours”.
The 1970’s and 1980’s were a busy time for the PFD, as was it for many Fire Departments across the Country. With fire calls up the PFD put its first Snorkel into service in 1970. Air Rescue units were added in 1973. And in 1975 the Medical Crisis Unit (Medcu) was formed as a part of the Fire Department to handle the increasing need for EMS in Portland.
In 1990, the PFD added a third Medcu unit, and in 1993 the “Joseph C. Cavallaro.”, a 42 ft. Duffy, went into service as a Rescue boat for the waterfront and Portland’s Coastal Islands.
In 1996 Medcu and the Portland Firefighters became one. Both were now grouped into one union, the IAFF Local 740. Paramedics were cross trained to become Firefighters. Most Firefighters are now licensed EMT's, and a group of Firefighters that are currently licensed Paramedics will be cross trained to possibly form a Paramedic Engine Company.
The Portland Fire Department is approaching its 240th year of service and protection of the citizens of the City of Portland. Over those years 20 Firefighters have given their lives for the protection of others.
A Look Back at the Twentieth Century
As we begin the twenty first century, it is only appropriate that we highlight some of the many improvements, changes, and dedicated efforts of progress in the Portland Fire Department that occurred over the last 100 years.
In March of 1899, as the twentieth century approached, the city of Deering was annexed to the city of Portland, a change that more than doubled the population and the geographical area of Portland. Overnight, the size of the Portland Fire Department nearly doubled from eleven to twenty fire companies. At that time, the Fire Chief was Melville N. Eldridge, and he was appointed the City's first Permanent Chief of Department. Chief Eldridge was well known for his organizational abilities and was well respected throughout New England as a fire service leader. Upon his appointment, he undertook a major reorganization of the entire fire department which included; renumbering the Deering fire companies, assignments to box alarms, establishing first alarm response districts, and disbanded three hose companies; Hose 10, Allen's Corner, Hose 13, Deering Center, and Hose 14, in Libbytown. Five companies remained in the centralized neighborhoods; Hose 8, Ladder 4 at Woodfords Corner, Hose 9 at Morrill's Corner, Hose 11 at East Deering, and Hose 12 on Pitt Street in the Oakdale area. Permanent Drivers were then appointed and horses were purchased. A new hose wagon was assigned to Hose 11 and a spare ladder carriage was reconditioned to replace the Deering ladder truck, which was deemed too light for fire duty, and given to the city of South Portland. The Peninsula was assigned as District-1 and the Deering area as District-2.
Upgrades were also made in the District-1 area, including the purchase of Munjoy Hill's first ladder truck and the overall improvements in daily operations of the reorganized Department. These changes created a strong foundation for the Portland Fire Department to build on as 1900 arrived. The succeeding one hundred years saw the following changes, improvements, and progress made in the Portland Fire Department:
1901 - Hose 11 was relocated to Ocean Avenue to a renovated barn, improving the long runs to North Deering.
1903 - Two new firehouses opened; Engine 6 on Park Avenue and Engine 9 on Arbor Street at Morrill's Corner. Two steam engines were rebuilt and reassigned, upgrading Hose Company's 6 and 9 to Engines 6 and 9.
1906 - Hose 12, located at 51 Pitt Street in Oakdale, was disbanded. Hose Co. 8 began covering Oakdale.
New quarters opened for Engine 7 Fireboat at the State Pier, and was berthed on the east side of the pier.
1908 - City Hall was destroyed by fire, including the third floor Fire Alarm Office. Four steam fire engines were purchased for Engines 1, 4, 9, and a spare engine. Two engines were rebuilt.
Two new stations opened; Engine 8 at Woodfords Corner and Hose 11 on Ocean Ave. in East Deering.
A reserve steam engine was reassigned to Woodfords Corner, upgrading Hose Co. 8 to Engine Co. 8.
1909 - A new Fire Alarm/Electrical Department building opened on Federal Street, improving communications.
The reduction of hours for the Permanent Firefighters from one day off in fifteen to one day off in eight.
1910 - Replaced four Call Assistant Engineers with a Permanent Deputy Chief (D-1) and a District Chief (D-2).
1911 - Chief Eldridge retired after fifteen years in office. Patrick H. Flaherty appointed Chief of Department.
Building inspections began and the City declared the ninth of November as the first fire prevention day.
Chief Flaherty's annual report recommends replacing horse-drawn equipment with motorized apparatus.
1912 - The P.F.D. produced a silent movie showing horse-drawn apparatus leaving and returning to stations.
1914 - Chief Flaherty's term in office expired, and Almus D. Butler was appointed Chief of Department in July.
1915 - First motorized vehicle (Chandler Roadster) in service, replacing Chief Butler's horse-drawn buggy.
1916 - Second motorized vehicle (also a Chandler) went into service for District Chief Read in District-2.
First motorized fire truck (American LaFrance hose & Chemical) in service as Hose 8, at Woodfords.
1917- Third Chandler car in service. Chief Butler's 1915 car was reassigned to Deputy Chief Parker, District-1.
First motorized ladder truck in service (Christie tractor), attached to Ladder 5's 1887 85 ft. aerial trailer.
First motorized pumper (Seagrave 750 gpm) in service at Engine 1, replacing a steam engine & hose cart.
1918 - Chemical 1 was motorized with an Indiana chemical squad truck, replacing two more horses.
Permanent Firefighters joined the new International Association of Firefighters as L-133, later disbanding.
1919 - Ladder 3 on Brackett St. was motorized with a McCann/Indiana city service ladder & chemical truck.
1920 - Engine 4 on Spring St. motorized with a Seagrave 750 gpm pumper, replacing the steamer and hose cart.
1921 - Hose 6-Park Ave., Hose 9-Arbor St., and Hose 12-Peaks Island motorized (Reo hose & chemical trucks).
1922 - Ladder 4 on Arbor St. was motorized with an American LaFrance city service ladder & chemical truck.
1923 - Ladder 5 on India St. received a Seagrave tractor, replacing the Christie, and attached to the 1887 trailer.
Chief Engineer Almus D. Butler retired in December after nine years in office.
1924 - Ladder 1 at the old Central Station motorized with an American LaFrance city service ladder & chemical.
Oliver T. Sanborn appointed Chief of Department, and begins overseeing the building of Central Station.
Old horse-drawn Ladder 1 was rebuilt, and assigned to Park Ave. as Ladder 6, quartered with Engine 6.
Engine 3 was motorized, when the 1917 Christie tractor (old L-5) was attached to an old steamer (E-4)
Engine 5 was motorized with an American LaFrance 750 gpm pumper, replacing a 1903 horseless engine.
New Central Fire Station opened November 10th, housing Engines 1 and 5, Ladders 1 and 5, Chemical 1, and the Chief's office. The India St. station closed and the 1867 Central Station on the corner was razed. The P.F.D. Repair Division was created, and a motor mechanic was appointed to maintain all apparatus.
1925 - A warning bell now preceded a box alarm, and the first 4-digit box alarm was rung in by Fire Alarm.
Hose 11 in East Deering was motorized with a 1924 Reo hose & chemical truck, built in the P.F.D. shop. A Mack chemical & squad truck went into service. The 1918 Indiana motor truck became a hose tender. Dedication of Central Fire Station was held August 4th, with throngs of citizens attending the open house.
1926 - American LaFrance 1,000 gpm pumper in service at Engine 8. Old H-8 assigned to E-6 w/350 gpm pump.
1928 - New Seagrave trailer with an 85 ft. wooden aerial went in service for Ladder 5 to replace the 1887 trailer.
1929 - Four new trucks went into service; a Seagrave 1,000 gpm pumper for E-4, a Seagrave tractor-drawn 75 ft. aerial ladder truck for L-6, a Mack 1,000 pumper for E-6, and a McCann 1,000 gpm pumper for E-2.
Horse-drawn Ladder 2 on Munjoy Hill was decommissioned because of improvements to Ladders 5 and 6.
Engine 4's former 1920 Seagrave pumper was reassigned to Engine 3 on Brackett Street, retiring the last pair of fire horses, and the Portland Fire Department became completely motorized.
Former Governor Baxter purchased the two horses from Hose 3 for light work on his Baxter Island farm.
The Training Division was established and a Drill Master assigned, trained by the Boston Fire Academy.
1931 - A new 6,000 gpm fireboat went into service replacing the old first fireboat, which was purchased in 1894.
1932 - The first Fire Officer's School was conducted in the Training Division.
1936 - First steel aerial ladder truck (Seagrave 65 ft.) in service at Ladder 3, replacing L-3's city service truck.
1938 - Hose 11-East Deering and Hose 12-Peaks Island upgraded to engine companies with 500 gpm pumpers.
Ladder 6's trailer retrofitted with a 85 ft. steel aerial ladder, and L-6's 75 ft. wooden ladder placed on L-5.
1940 - A Fire Prevention Bureau was established, with a Captain appointed to head the new Division in August.
1942 - Portland Firefighters' rejoined the International Association of Firefighters Union as Local-740, I.A.F.F..
1943 - A new fire company was established (Rescue Co. 1), phasing out the former Chemical Squad Company.
1945 - Two 65 ft. steel aerial ladder trucks purchased for Ladders 1 and 4, replacing city service ladder trucks.
1946 - A two-platoon system was created, as firefighters worked one-day on and one-day off (84 hrs. per/week).
1947 - Engine 3's Brackett Street firehouse (built in 1850) closed and Engine 3 temporarily relocated to Central.
1948 - A volunteer fire company was established on Long Island as Engine 14.
1949 - A volunteer fire company was also established on Great Diamond Island as Engine 13.
1950 - The city of Portland was upgraded to a Class A rating from the National Board of Fire Underwriters.
1951 - A new firehouse opened on Stevens Ave. in the Rosemont area, relocating Engine 3's "Quad" truck there.
1952 - A volunteer fire company was established on Cliff Island as Engine 15.
1954 - Chief Engineer Oliver T. Sanborn retired after 30 years in office. Harry Marr appointed Chief of Dept.
The first engine with a cab-over roof in service (American LaFrance 750 pumper), assigned to Engine 9. 1956 - Chief Engineer Harry W. Marr retired at the end of December.
1957 - Carl P. Johnson appointed Chief of Department.
New firehouse opened on Ocean Ave., East Deering for Engine 11 on the same spot as the 1902 fire barn. Fire Prevention Bureau receives 1st place National awards in its class for fire safety over the next 7 years.
1959 - A new 65 ft. all-steel fireboat with a pumping capacity of 7,000 gpm was placed in service at Engine 7.
1960 - The second ladder company at Central Station, Ladder 5, was decommissioned and covered by Ladder 1.
1961 - First 100 ft. aerial ladder truck in service, assigned to Ladder 6 on Park Ave. (Seagrave tractor-drawn).
1963 - Movie called "24 Hours" produced, showing the average day in the life of the Portland Fire Department.
Received national awards for fire prevention and education efforts and activities, including the movie.
A third platoon was implemented, with the reduction in work hours to a 56 hour per/week schedule.
1964 - Munjoy Station closed two days in April (E-2 decommissioned), reopening with Engine 1 relocated there. First Scott Air Packs were purchased for use, and located in the compartments on the trucks.
1965 - Chief Engineer Carl P. Johnson retired after eight years in office. Joseph R. Cremo appointed Fire Chief.
1966 - Bramhall Square Station opened. Engines 4, 6, Ladder 6, and the District 1 Chief were relocated there.
Spring St., Park Ave., and Brackett St. firehouses closed. Ladder 3 relocated to Ocean Ave. with E-11.
1967 - North Deering station opened and Engine 8 & D-2 Chief relocated there, closing the Woodfords station.
1970 - New type aerial truck in service; an American LaFrance 80 ft. articulating boom snorkel truck (Ladder1).
1971 - The first woman to work in the P.F.D. was hired and assigned as a secretary in the Administrative Office.
1972 - Stevens Avenue firehouse expansion completed, and Ladder Co. 3 was relocated there with Engine Co. 3.
Riverton firehouse opened, relocating Engine 9 and closing Arbor St. station. Ladder 4 relocated to E-8.
1973 - Jetport fire station opened and airport foam trucks were acquired, two from Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Fire Alarm/Electrical Division Office closed, relocating to the new Public Safety building on Middle St.
1974 - A forth platoon was added when the new forty-two hour per/week work schedule was implemented.
1975 - Chief Engineer Joseph R. Cremo retired after ten years in office. Clement O. Dodd appointed Fire Chief.
The Medical Crisis Unit (MEDCU) was created in a new Public Safety Department to answer EMS calls.
1976 - Rescue Co. 1 was decommissioned, and the truck taken to fires-only by an assigned engine company.
The 1864 Munjoy Hill firehouse closed, then razed. Engine 1 temporarily relocated to Central Station.
First new Aircraft firefighting foam truck (Walters 1,500) in service at the Portland International Jetport.
Chief Engineer Clement O. Dodd retired in September. District Chief John J. Flynn was appointed Acting Chief, then he also retired at the end of December.
1977 - Joseph E. McDonough was appointed Chief of Department.
New Munjoy Hill Firehouse/Community Center opened, and Engine 1 was relocated back to Munjoy Hill.
1978 - First Fire Recognition Day held in Monument Square to demonstrate firefighting techniques.
Engine Co. 12's staffing on Peaks Island was transferred from the P.F.D. to the Public Safety Department.
The first ladder truck with a cab-over roof went in service, assigned to Ladder 6 at Bramhall Station.
1979 - Central Station closed, and E-5 and L-1 relocated to Munjoy and Headquarters to Public Safety building. A new vocal alarm system in fire stations went into service, relegating the bells to be a back-up system.
1981 - Ladder Co. 4 on Allen Avenue in North Deering was decommissioned on January 28th.
1982 - A quint truck (combination engine/ladder) in service as Engine 8 in North Deering to replace E-8 & L-4.
1983 - A second quint truck was purchased for Engine 3 on Stevens Ave., and Ladder Co. 3 decommissioned.
1986 - Rescue Co. 1 was recommissioned and assigned with Engine Co. 4 at Bramhall Station.
The civilian Public Safety Department was disbanded and MEDCU was assigned as a division of P.F.D..
1987 - Central Station reopened after extensive repairs by members. E-5, R-1, and Headquarters moved back.
The 1898 Firemen's Monument was moved from Evergreen Cemetery to Central Station's front lawn.
1988 - Computers were purchased and placed in all stations, upgrading and improving paperwork and reports.
1989 - First 4-door closed cab pumper (Engine 5) and First 4-door closed cab ladder truck (Ladder 6) in service. Chief Engineer Joseph E. McDonough retired after twelve years in office. Carleton E. Winslow, Jr. was appointed Chief of Department in July.
The services of a Department Chaplain was improved with the appointment of Rev. John R. Hilbelink.
1990 - A Portland Fire Department Color Guard was organized.
A third Paramedic EMS Unit went into service at Engine 8 in the North Deering section of the City.
A safety officer was established to improve operations on the fire ground and at other emergencies.
1991 - Chief Engineer Carleton E. Winslow, Jr. retired at the end of the year.
1992 - Joseph E. Thomas, Jr. was appointed Chief of Department.
1993 - A Island Liaison Officer was created improving training and communications with island fire companies.
1994 - First Annual Merit Awards Ceremony was held to recognize Firefighters, Paramedics, and civilians.
The Plymovent air removal systems were installed in stations to remove exhaust fumes from apparatus.
1995 - Fire companies began responding to more medical emergencies, assigning an EMT per/Company.
1996 - The MEDCU Division was integrated into the Portland Fire Department as the EMS Division.
A community Liaison Officer was created to improve fire safety training and education to the community. Automatic defibrillator units (AED's) placed on engine companies to improve life-saving for heart attacks.
1997 - The annual report of the fire department was again published, after an absence of twenty one years.
Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) was written to establish more consistent operations on the fire ground.
First two women firefighters were appointed in the fire suppression division of the P.F.D.
First Firefighter drill school to Cross-train MEDCU Paramedics in the EMS Division as firefighters.
1998 - A thermo-imaging camera was donated to the Department for use in assisting with rescue operations.
First Paramedic Engine Company was established in August at Engine Co. 9, in the Riverton section.
A Computer Aided Dispatch system (CAD-III) went into service, improving communications at Fire Alarm.
1999 - An 800 Mhz radio system went on line early in the year.
New Policies and Procedures Manual went into effect, revising the 1981 Rules and Regulations book.
A "Fast Team" was established to meet OSHA mandates, improving firefighter safety on the fire ground.
New computers placed in all firehouses/Divisions with E-mail, internet, and new Microsoft fire programs.
These improvements over the last century gives the Portland Fire Department an even stronger foundation to build on, and sets the course, as we begin the twenty-first century in the new millennium.
We present members look forward to continue building on the Portland Fire Department's proud past in the twenty- first century, in protecting and caring for our great city and its citizens, as our predecessors have done, a tradition they began, and continues.
"Answering the bell, ... Since1768".
Firefighter Michael A. Daicy, Engine Co. 11
Portland Fire Department Historian