Rekindles: February 2006

Feb. 1, 1906: SAN FRANCISCO - A smoldering fire in the hold of the transport ship Meade while moored at the Folsom Street dock took the lives of three people, including two firemen. The fire was discovered in the starboard side of the first hold and was confined to a six-foot area. The ship's captain and two officers descended into the hold. The captain was immediately overcome and carried out by the officers, who then re-entered and began fighting the flames until they too passed out. Arriving firemen rescued them (one officer later succumbed), then moved into the fire area. Two firemen, Captain Charles Dakin and Hoseman Thomas Hennesy, were both overcome and drowned in the hold. Damage to the ship was slight and it sailed to Manila the next day.

Feb. 2, 1906: CLEVELAND - Flames broke out on the sixth floor of the Rich & Company knitting factory on Payne Avenue and 17th Street and spread quickly. Firemen faced hundreds of workers evacuating the building as the flames spread to nearby dwellings. The original fire building and 21 dwellings were destroyed.

Feb. 3, 1906: EAST ST. LOUIS, IL - The Union Elevator, containing one million bushels of wheat, erupted into flames and the fire spread to the adjoining stables of the St. Louis Transfer Company. The entire stable building, including 200 horses and 200 wagons, was lost.

Feb. 4, 1906: NEW YORK CITY - One of Harlem's landmarks, the Saint Nicholas Inn on the corner of 110th Street and Lenox Avenue, was destroyed as a fire in a fruit stand near the rear entrance ignited the wooden hotel and spread quickly. A brave newsboy, Frank Raffield, dashed into the burning fruit stand and rescued the badly burned fruit vendor, then ran into the blazing hotel and roused sleeping tenants.

Feb. 4, 1906: RENNES, FRANCE - Twelve people were killed as fire swept through a home for the aged run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. The chaplain fell off a ladder while attempting to rescue several women. His condition was listed as serious.

Feb. 5, 1906: ASBURY PARK, NJ - An early-morning fire destroyed the new Hotel Doll on Cookman Avenue and threatened the entire hotel district. Firemen battled the flames as they ignited fires in a three-story house, the Hotel Astoria, the Gates Chop House and the Arcade.

Feb. 6, 1906: JERSEY CITY, NJ - Seventy-five people were in a prayer meeting at the Bethel African Methodist Church at Bergen and Virginia avenues when a fire broke out in a closet. The minister closed his prayer and the congregants marched out in a quiet fashion with several helping to carry the church's organ. The one-story building was destroyed.

Feb. 16, 1906: RUTLAND, VT - Six large brick structures filled with flames in the early-morning hours. Discovered in the Ripley Building on Merchants Row, the fire soon spread around the corner and ignited building after building. Firemen struggling with an advanced fire and frozen hydrants made a valiant stand. After about four hours, a wall on Willow Street collapsed, injuring several firemen.

Feb. 20, 1906: TUNNEL HILL, PA - A mother and her three children perished as fire raced through their home. Three other family members jumped to safety from upper-floor windows, but were unable to re-enter the blazing home.

Feb. 24, 1906: GAMBIER, OH - Three students were killed and nine were seriously injured in a fire at Kenyon Military Academy. The fire started at 4 A.M. in the Delano Hall, a dormitory filled with 85 boys. Thick smoke caused a panic and many boys jumped from windows into blankets used as nets. The fire spread to two other dormitories.

150th Anniversary
Hutchinson Hose Company Williamsville, NY

Located in suburban Buffalo, NY, the Hutchinson Hose Company is the oldest all-volunteer fire company in New York State north of the Hudson Valley. It was established in 1856 as "Rough and Ready Fire Engine Company No. 1" just six years after the Village of Williamsville was incorporated. It has protected the village as well as a portion of the surrounding Town of Amherst continuously since then. Organized fire protection in western New York State was rare in 1856; in fact, only the City of Buffalo had a true fire department at the time. The appropriately named Rough and Ready volunteers made countless runs to other neighboring towns that did not have fire departments. They responded with a hand pumper and hose cart for more than 60 years until they purchased a specially equipped 1917 Model T - the first piece of motorized fire apparatus in Amherst.

Williamsville's earliest business community was composed primarily of mills, furniture factories and stores. Some of the fire company's first big fires were at a nearby lime kiln complex (1879) and an egg case factory (1889). A member of Rough and Ready, Henry Dodge, died in the line of duty in 1894 while trying to save his own feed mill from a raging fire.

The volunteers used an innovative approach to getting their apparatus to a fire a few miles west of the Village in 1906. Members loaded the hose cart on a flatbed rail car and boarded a passenger car for the run to the corner of Main Street and Harlem Road. Help also came from the Buffalo Fire Department.

"The Buffalo hose was attached to the Williamsville hose and attention was directed to Kabel's barn. Through the efforts of the Williamsville and Buffalo companies, the flames were soon under control but there was fire enough to keep the valiant firemen busy a number of hours," according to an account in the local newspaper, The Amherst Bee. The organization was renamed in 1908 in honor of Edward Hutchinson, a member of a prominent Buffalo family who donated land and money for a building that served as both the fire hall and the Village Hall.

Over the years, some members have given even more of themselves. At least one charter member of Rough and Ready served in the Union Army during the Civil War: John Blocher, who later established a home for senior citizens that is still in operation. The company's second line-of-duty death came in 1970 when Frank Wilkinson collapsed while assisting at a call at a flooded building. During World War II, U.S. Army Technician Edgar Pope lost his life over the English Channel.

Hutchinson Hose members have distinguished themselves in other ways as well. Alfred Beiter served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Albert Herman led the community as Williamsville fire chief for 25 years as well as Amherst Town Supervisor for eight years. More recently, Bill Wutz was named "Firefighter of the Year" in 1998 by the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Today, Hutchinson Hose protects a population of 11,000 from two stations. Apparatus includes three pumpers, a 100-foot ladder tower, heavy rescue truck, two first aid-rescue vehicles and three chiefs' vehicles.

David F. Sherman, Past President, Hutchinson Hose Company