by Mrs. Harry, (Judy) McCann and F. William Cope
by Mrs. Harry, (Judy) McCann and F. William Cope
The earliest recorded fire for our vicinity was in 1809, when David Kirkbridge’s farmhouse was destroyed. But it wasn’t until after the fire at Crispin Blackfan’s house on East State Street, in 1822, that action to organize fire fighting began in earnest. The Doylestown Fire Engine Company held its organizational meeting in January 1825, and a subsequent issue of the Patriot reported that an engine and equipment were ready for any emergency. Unfortunately, this organization was short lived and was succeeded by the Friendship Fire Co. By the fall of 1845, Friendship’s assets had been transferred to the Borough as they too had become defunct. in 1868, the Doylestown Engine Co. formed and accepted the new No.1 fire engine, leather hose and cart, and equipment from the Borough.
Our present organization, Doylestown Fire Company No. 1, was originally organized August 4,1879, with 25 charter members. This company also went through a reorganization. A new constitution and by-laws were adopted in October, 1893, and, by year’s end, a new ladder wagon was ordered. Our articles of incorporation were approved by the county court on January 14, 1895, and we have continued to serve the community ever since.
The land for our firehouse on Shewell Avenue was purchased in 1900, only two years after the street opened. Plans for the Fire House were drawn by Oscar Martin, a Doylestown architect, during the spring of 1902, and the cornerstone laid on August 20. Our house warming was held on January 26, 1903. The project cost just over $8,000 including plumbing, heating, gas lights, and fire bell.
Early firefighting equipment consisted of horse drawn wagons, ladders and hooks, horses, and buckets and a lot of manpower. The engine in use during the late 1840’s required at least eight men to work the hand pump. If a fire scene was nearby, the firefighters would sometimes pull the equipment by hand rather than take the time to harness a horse. Some of our old firefighting apparatuses were donated to the Bucks County Historical Society and are housed at the Mercer Museum, in Doylestown.
Horse drawn equipment was slowly phased out in the early years of the 1900’s. Our first motorized apparatus was a 1914 Simplex chemical truck. The second was an auto-pumper that was placed in service in early 1915. The pumper was capable of 500 gallons per minute and was manufactured by the Waterous Company. Both trucks were built up locally by John Rufe & Sons. Today, our modern pumpers are capable of 2000 gallons per minute and are still equipped with Waterous pumps.
In 1923 we purchased our third motor-driven fire truck, an Ahrens-Fox, capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of water per minute, for $13,400; a new pumper now can cost over $375,000 fully equipped. Our “Fox” is still in our inventory and can still pump 1000 gallons a minute all day long.
Other trucks have come and gone over the years as we have continued to upgrade our capabilities. One to note is the 1938 Hale Fire Truck that is still owned locally by the Tilley family. It served operationally with us for more than 30 years and joins us at parades and other fire company events.
In 1950, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Doylestown Fire Company was formed to financially assist and aid the fire company. Their fund raising activities include pancake breakfasts, catering dinners, and a Christmas bazaar. In 1994, “Ladies” was dropped from their organizational name. The Auxiliary operates a canteen step-van capable of serving meals at major fires and disaster scenes, and provides day-to-day help around the fire house.
A major change in fire fighting communications came about in 1955 when the company acquired the first mobile radios. Our base station went “on-the-air” with the call letters KGD-655, and two of our trucks received mobile radios. Today all of our apparatus have radios in them.
Looking to the future, as the rural nature of the area surrounding Doylestown continued to be developed, the company graciously accepted donations of land on Warden Road from Mr. George Hart and Mr. and Mrs. David Burpee. Our Warden Road Station, Station 79, was dedicated September 9, 1978, and operates as our second, first-out station.
Fire fighting and rescue work has become a family tradition with many of our volunteers. Today, we have second, third and a few fourth generation members in the Company. Our membership is limited to 70 active members, including ten positions for fire police. We also have a life member category to honor those members who have faithfully volunteered their time to our cause for more than 25 years. our total membership of some 135 unpaid volunteers, include active, life, and auxiliary members, stands ready to respond at a moment’s notice any time of day or night, in the proud tradition of American volunteerism.