Franklin Fire Department at 150 in Focus at Museum Today
Above, restored antique hose cart may make an appearance at the museum, weather permitting.
The Franklin Fire Department was recently honored with ISO certification, one of only a handful of districts to be so honored in the whole state. It is a force that is well equipped and now linked through the Metacomet regional dispatch service to neighboring departments for seamless and rapid mutual aid
But it evolved from haphazard local efforts and only became a formal town department on June 17, 1872. That was a tough year to begin. Most infamously, the nearly new Dean Hall burned to the ground.
The department reported laconically on the year in the Annual Report:
The fires this year have been quite disastrous, especially in the center of the Town. The first Alarm was at Dean Academy on the night of July 31st. Engine 1 was on hand promptly. No. 2 was notified and arrived with commendable promptness but owing to the height of the building where the fire originated, it was impossible to stay the devouring flames or save the building. In that direction all efforts made were frustrated...
But the Gas House and building adjoining were saved by the exertions of the fireman. The next alarm was in the woods and the firemen of Engine No. 1, with the citizens, were the means of saving a large amount of wood, and stopping the fire. The cistern near the head of the Common, has been put in good order and is nearly full of water. The one near the Town House is in good order and nearly full of water.
That year, its equipment included:
- Franklin Engine No. One
- >One Engine hose, one hose carriage, 100 feet Leather, 148 Feet of Rubber hose, one axe, two rubber buckets, 12 spanners, 8 Lanterns, 2 Stoves, 3 Lamps, 3 Tables, 9 settees (?)
- >2 Wrenches, 1 gallon of Oil, 1 Oil Can, 1 Wheel Jack, 5 Parade Hats, 8 Belts, and one Trumpet
- One Hook and Ladder Carriage
>7 Ladders, 28 Rubber Buckets, 1 Axe, 4 Poles, 1 Iron Bar, 8 Hooks and Chains and 1 Brake
- Cataract Engine No. Two
- One Engine House
- One Hose Carriage
>one hundred ft. Leather and 25 feet Rubber Hose, 1 Signal, 4 Lanterns, 10 Spanners, 2 Axes and 1 Trumpet
Perhaps goaded into action by repeated large fires and the Sanford Company “Fire Maps,” which assessed Franklin’s fire fighting capabilities to be deficient, especially with regard to a water supply, the town moved ahead and finally created a pubic water supply and hydrants beginning in the 1880s.
And it gradually replaced hand pumps with motor-powered pumps – and established several small fire stations around the center of town.
Finally, thanks to the generosity of the Ray family, the large, centrally-located Ray Memorial Fire Station was opened in the 1920s and Franklin was firmly in the modern age!
[A slide show and discussion on Franklin Fire Department History will be held Sunday, June 12, at the Franklin Historical Museum, 80 West Central Street. Doors open at 1 pm and the presentation begins shortly thereafter.]