On this day. . .January 1st
One hundred years ago. . .1908-The Allison Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 was officially admitted and activated into the Harrisburg Fire Department as its twelfth company. Interestingly, the company was first organized on October 19, 1905. Although the city had not officially recognized the new organization, it evidently had some thought of doing so in mind, for on January 22, 1907, City Councils passed an ordinance appropriating money for the purchase of a new combination wagon that was to be located in the eastern section of the city. The Allison lads on hearing this, officially tendered its services to the city for fire duty on February 13, 1907, but Councils still refused to recognize the new organization. However on March 30th, Councils did authorize the start of construction of a new station for the Allison Company, and provided $3,000 in payment thereof. Because of some friction between the members of the company and some members of Councils this money was left lay idle for the time being and the company was still without adequate quarters or official recognition. During this time the company held meetings at different locations near Thirteenth and Derry and began raising money on their own for the building. On June 11, 1907, the company trustees were given the power to negotiate a loan of $1,200 for the purpose of securing a plot of ground on the east side of South 14th Street south of Kittatinny Street. The plot secured had a front footage of 72 feet and ran eastward to Daisy Street a distance of 151 feet. This lot actually cost $1,800. The company after securing the above plot, donated a section of it with a 40 foot front to the City with the proviso that they would construct a new station for the Allison Company on the donated ground. The City was agreeable to this and on November 20, 1907, accepted the ground. By November, 1907, the city temporarily placed a wagon (not a fire wagon) in service in a stable on the lower side of Mulberry Street because of the construction of the new Mulberry St. Bridge. This route was a major access to the Hill area and since it was closed fire protection was limited to only the Mt. Pleasant Engine Company No. 8. The Allison Company was asked to man this rig. Very late in 1907, Mayor Meals and Councils formally recognized the new company and on January 1, 1908, Fire Chief Charles Garverich placed the Allison Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 in city service for fire duty, with a remodeled one horse hitch hose wagon formerly used by the Citizen Engine Company No. 3. Being the twelfth company in the department that number was designated to the unit. The running quarters at this time was in Wallis' Livery Stable at Haenhlen and Prune Avenues, and an agreement was made with Mr. Wallis to use one of his horses to draw the wagon when answering alarms. At 7:07 p.m., March 23, 1908, the Allison answered their first fire alarm, responding to Box 34, then at 16th & Derry Streets for a minor fire in a dwelling at 1524 Vernon Street. Sadly there is not much left of the Allison today. The once proud fire station, vacated in 1980, now owned by the few living members of the company is boarded up in looks rather forlorn. (For further indepth reading I suggest my too books, History of the Harrisburg Volunteer Fire Dept, and We Can See It From The Bridge both available thru me or at the Fire Museum)
- 1912-A little after 8:30 in the morning smoke was discovered issuing from the row of three story frame houses at Eighteenth and Elm Streets. The person discovering the fire high tailed up Eighteenth to the newly installed fire alarm box North Street . Box 18 began registering on the firehouse gongs at 8:45 a.m. The fire was caused by a defective flue at 112 N. Eighteenth Street igniting interior walls traveling upward and into the loft. The homes at 110-12-14 were all damaged to some extent with a loss of $1,800. At the sound of the gongs, all of the city’s fire horses exited their stalls and trotted to their assigned positions in front of the apparatus. This procedure was done in all fourteen firehouses regardless of what alarm assignment the company was on. At the three year old Allison Hook & Ladder No. 2 house on S. Fourteenth Street this procedure was done with their usual speed and efficiency. The combination hose and chemical wagon was positioned in front of the 65’ Hayes aerial ladder with the four horse stalls along the walls flanking each rig. The harness was suspended from the ceiling on quick release hangers. The bay doors on firehouses in those days were generally spring loaded to help swing open the huge heavy wooden doors. Some in the city were equipped with electric release mechanisms, but I’m not exactly sure as to how many. I would assume the one at the Allison was so equipped. Some companies prided themselves on hitching their horses and getting out the door in fifteen seconds or less. The newspaper accounts of the fire reported that the bay doors at the Allison failed to open and that the wagon horses Frank and Alfred, “crashed through the doors.” Old photos of the firehouse at that time reveal that the doors were solid wood panel doors on the bottom and large glass panels on top. It is assumed the horses went through the glass and not the wood. Both horses were cut and badly frightened. Since the h ouse only had one apparatus door, neither the truck nor the wagon made it to the fire. The weather was bitter cold and the streets were icy and quite possibly the doors might have been frozen shut. The department was in service at the fire over an hour and a half.
- 1968- By Departmental order of Fire Chief Elmer “Monk” Shover effective this date at 8:00 a.m. a squad composed of at least five men would operate from the quarters of Engine No. 11(the old Shamrock No. 11) using the former “Foamite and High Pressure” wagon as a means of transportation and fire fighting purposes. This rig was a 1942 Dodge combination hose and chemical rig that had seen service as the Washington No. 4 and was commonly referred to as “the Washie Wagon.” This squad would augment the fire fighters on the street and would answer all alarms and telephone calls designated by fire headquarters. This company would be called Squad 1. The Battalion Chief on duty was transferred from the Hope No. 2 to the Shamrock No. 11 with the Squad. The response of the three ladder companies that formerly augmented engines on minor fires for manpower was now to be discontinued with full reliance on Squad 1. This however lasted but a short time. Also at this time a full department training program under Assistant Chief Charles A “Chet” Henry was begun. This was another major step in the transition to handle the increasing number of working fires of “The War Years.”
- 1984- Seven minutes after the 0730 morning change of shift B Platoon got sent out to a report of a building fire at 2127 Penn St . Arriving units found heavy fire in the first floor of the three story brick occupied duplex. Fire traveled through the balloon frame walls to the roof . The fire was knocked down in about a half hour. Cause was careless smoking. Total loss $6,000. Check for extension damage to walls and ceilings incurred to 2129. B Platoon, second alarm.