A history on the evolution of the town of Carlisle fire department - part 2

On October 1 in the Wilson Chapel at Green Cemetery, Deputy Fire Chief David Flannery offered this extensive historical commentary on fire protection in Carlisle, 1754 to 1979, during a special service to honor six 20-year veteran firefighters. This is the second and final installment of Flannery's commentary.

"A great deal of interest has been shown by the chief and the other members of the department and this interest should be nurtured and intensified by the support of the townspeople. The constant addition to the fire equipment of the Town will not only conserve property and possibly life but will tend to reduce insurance rates."

This was the year, 1927 , when Waldo D. Wilson was appointed forest fire warden and chief of the Carlisle Fire Department. At the annual Town Meeting in 1927 yet another committee reported on the investigation of a fire alarm system. Mr. James H. Wilkins stated there were two kinds of alarm, the siren and the bell striker, the estimated costs would be approximately $450 for the hand-controlled system and $600 for the electric-operated. Once again it was voted that no further action be taken under this article.

The following year, 1928, a new pumping engine with 1,250 feet of hose was made by the members of the department to carry the "Northern Pump." This is believed to be the rebuilding of the 1924 Ford rig. Residents were notified that in case of fire they should call 863-14.

In his annual report Chief Wilson noted that the town needed to replace the Ford truck which carried the chemical tanks. He reported that it was so lacking of power that it was impossible to drive it off the hardened road.

By 1930 the selectmen reported that the town was very much in need of more and up-to-date equipment for the fire department. There were 34 forest fires, 4 building fires and 5 chimney fires during the year. Chief Wilson reported that one building was lost but the department was able to save the barn and outbuildings. He felt this was a good demonstration of the merits of the recently acquired Northern Pump. At the Annual Town Meeting under Article 16 it was voted that a committee be appointed to investigate, obtain prices and information regarding the feasibility of erecting a water tower on the School House Hill, or other means of providing adequate water supply, installing a water main from the water tower to a hydrant which could be placed in the center of the town for fire protection. No sum had been appropriated and the committee was to report back at the next meeting.

It was now 1931 and Chief Wilson reported that the department had added a new Chevrolet truck with a booster tank. This was the purchase of the Chevy truck, affectionately know today as the "puddle jumper." This truck carried the Northern Pump and the two auxiliary water tanks. Two 40-gallon chemical tanks and 1,000 feet of new hose was purchased from Middlesex Garage in Bedford for $1065.05 and delivered on April 3, 1931.

Expanding on its ability to move water, the department purchased 400 feet of additional hose in 1934. In addition, two foamite extinguishers were purchased for use on oil fires.

It was 1936 and Edward Clark began his service to the fire department. This was the year that 21 chemical hand fire extinguishers were acquired. They were said to be forty times more effective than water. They were issued to various people around town to be used in case of fire near their location.

Fire alarm system

Finally, as we all know, nothing ever comes easily in Carlisle; 1937 brought the approval by the town for the installation of a fire alarm system, a compressed air whistle installed on the roof of the fire station with a control box in the center and the code transmitter at the chief's house (this original transmitter can be seen on the wall of the chief's office at the fire station -- still in service!). Phantom boxes for different streets in town were made and fire alarm cards distributed to every residence in town to show locations of the boxes.

Later that year a 100-gallon tank was added to the Chevy to replace the two 40-gallon tanks.

Chief Wilson installed a short wave radio in his home in 1940 in order to keep abreast of fire activity in the area. He noted in his report that this radio system had been accomplished at no cost to the town. There were 79 alarms in 1940, many incendiary in origin, and a committee was formed to combat this problem.

It was now 1941 and George Foss began his service. Two new water holes had been constructed and all water supplies suitable for fire purposes had been marked.

The forest fire patrol system was inaugurated in 1942 in conjunction with the department of conservation. This was the year that Chief Wilson reported that Sam Parisi and Francis Booth had left the department to join the armed services.

In 1943 Chief Wilson reported that two additional members, George Foss and Charles Little were in the armed forces. Sadly, 1944 saw the death of Deputy Chief Kenneth W. Duren. George I. Otterson was appointed and member Edward J. Clark was now in the armed services too.

V. J. Day

At 7:01 a.m. on August 14, 1945 V.J. Day was proclaimed officially from Washington D.C. and 8 rounds of 2-2-2 were blown on the fire horn.

In 1946 Carl Swanson began his service to the department. The chief reported that the department had lost two of its members during the year, Fred Daisy and Joseph Booth. He said that both were good firemen and never missed a fire if it was possible for them to get there.

Records show that Richard Bates signed on with the fire department in 1947 and this was the same year the American LaFrance known as Engine 2 arrived and was put into service. It had a 500-gpm pump and carried 500 gallons of water with 1,000 feet of 2 - 1/2 inch hose. The total cost for this truck fully equipped was $4,535. Underwriters came out, conducted tests and certified this apparatus. This was truly a milestone in the fire department's history. Mutual aid agreements were reinforced as the last adjoining town was now part of the agreement.

Deepening and cleaning of water holes continued in 1948. The use of town doctors at emergency scenes was instituted. This practice became routine for emergency calls in the years ahead.

In 1949 five new water holes were constructed and six cleaned. Red Cross first-aid training was given to the members, two new gas masks and an Emerson Resuscitator were purchased. In June painters using a torch to remove old paint on the side of the Highland School started a fire. George Foss and Rick Bates responded.

Nineteen-fifty rolled around and a new tank truck was purchased with 1,250 gallons of water capacity. Delivered in this year it was known as the new Engine 5. An airplane crashed in Towle Field on the evening of July 9, killing two men. Then in October the inhalator was sent to the Concord River, one man had drowned but two were saved.

Joseph Macone joined the department in 1951 and two lighting units were added. Additional communications equipment was obtained. The oil burner exploded at Lawrence Sorli's hen house in April.

Expansion of fire station

Improvements and expansion of the Lowell Street station were completed in 1952. Department members had undertaken much of the work. The Ford pickup truck was now being used as a brush truck.

The chief told the town in 1953 that the dry summer had shown the need for another tank truck.

Considerable time was spent after two hurricanes in 1954 and part of the department had been supplied with boots and rain coats. Town Meeting also approved $3,500 to purchase another Ford tank truck; this would be Engine 3.

A metal boat was purchased and added to the department's rescue apparatus in 1955. The boat, complete with motor and trailer, was purchased for $650. In addition a portable pump was purchased.

In 1956 Town Meeting voted $2,000 for hose. The chief reported to the town that you could now call EM9-4242 for emergencies and for other business EM9-2242.

A mutual aid agreement for use of Concord's ambulance was made in 1957. The department purchased the Porta-Power rescue tool and the service truck was now equipped with lighting and rescue tools. The department's radio equipment was put on new frequency with adjoining towns.

It is 1958 and George W. Foss was now deputy chief.

In his report to the Town in 1959 Chief Wilson said that the department roster was now at 16 men. A new radio base station had been purchased and the 1930 forest fire truck had been retired as it would not pass the state inspection. The chief was now asking for funding for its replacement.

In the next year, 1960, the Town Meeting voted $6500 for a new forest fire truck, a 1960 international with 500-gallon tank, 4-wheel drive, and radio-equipped, the new Engine 6.

The department answered 87 calls in 1961 and Robert Koning attended his first fire.

In its continued support of improving the Fire Department's capability the 1963 Town Meeting voted $8,000 for a new tank truck (Engine 3) that carried 1,450 gallons of water. This truck replaced the old Engine 3, the 1954 Ford.

There were 134 calls in 1964 and Robert Koning was now officially appointed as a firefighter on May 1.

Chief Wilson reported in 1967 that the department now had three hospital beds available for residents' use, and a new pick-up truck which replaced the 1950 model. This truck was equipped with a pump and 200-gallon booster tank and also carried a portable pump and rescue tools (Rescue or Carlisle 4, now called Carlisle 10).

In 1967 the annual town report was dedicated to Chief Waldo D. Wilson, honoring him with over 40 years of public service.

During the year 1970 Roger Davis was selected to be deputy chief.

The year 1974 saw the first emergency medical technicians trained. Bill Maloney, Ralph Metivier, Richard Defelice, and Roger Stone were now certified. David Flannery was an EMT in training and Robert Koning was now deputy chief.

1975 saw three more firefighters complete their EMT training. EMTs were now responding with the police to medical emergencies, using the pickup truck to get to scenes and the police cruiser station wagon as an ambulance.

First ambulance

In an extremely controversial issue, voters at the 1977 Town Meeting approved Carlisle's first fire department ambulance. Emergency medical services would now be provided as a service by the fire department. In addition, this was the year the fire department purchased its first tone-alert paging system. The ring-down telephone was now a thing of the past.

The end of an era came in 1978 when Chief Waldo D. Wilson retired after 51 years of service to the fire department and town. His wife Esther continued in her faithful capacity of dispatcher until June 1979, when the town established an entire department with several full-time people to replace her.

Koning becomes chief

Finally, in January of 1979, the selectmen appointed Robert J. Koning to be the new chief of the Carlisle Fire Department. This was the year I was appointed to the position of deputy chief.

I'd like to go back to 1927 for a minute to what the board of selectmen said at that time, because three quarters of a century later it remains so true:

"A great deal of interest has been shown by the chief and the other members of the department and this interest should be nurtured and intensified by the support of the townspeople. The constant addition to the fire equipment of the Town will not only conserve property and possibly life but will tend to reduce insurance rates."

Over the years the fire department has undergone and seen many changes:

· we have gone from buckets and brigades to tankers and pumpers

· horse-drawn wagons to gasoline and diesel engines

· manual gearshifts to automatic transmissions

· 50 feet of one-inch hose to 4,000 feet of five-inch large diameter hose

· gas masks to self-contained breathing apparatus

· metal helmets to polycarbonate

· we now have carbon monoxide detectors and infrared thermometers

· we have gone from the fire whistle to the ring-down telephone and now the tone-alert pager

· from wooden ladders to aluminum and vacuum tube radios to solid state

· wagons that carry 80 gallons of water to a beast that carries 3,500

· first-aid training to emergency medical technicians

· and from inhalators to defibrillators.

Improvement equal greater safety

All of these changes and improvements brought greater safety, effectiveness and efficiency and greatly improved the service of the fire department. One thing, however, has not changed over the last century and a half the character of the people who came forward and who volunteered to serve on the fire department. Their hearts remained the same. Each of these dedicated individuals whom we honor today gave over 20 years of their lives and made many sacrifices to serve their community. They truly understood the meaning of commitment. And they were loyal to their duty. Although these men perhaps never took a pledge, their lives clearly showed over the many years of their service their concern for others, their willingness to help all those in need, courage to face and conquer their fears and courage to share and endure the ordeal of those who needed them. They possessed the strength of heart to bear whatever burdens might be placed upon them and the strength of body to deliver to safety all those placed in their care. We know that they had the wisdom to lead and the compassion to comfort, and finally, the love to serve unselfishly whenever they were called.

We are here today to remember their dedication and service and to honor them. It is fitting and proper that we mark the site of their final resting place in the town they loved so dearly and to which they dedicated their lives. We need to be ever grateful that there have always been a few extraordinary individuals in our town who are willing to give of themselves, their time, energy and life to this service of the highest calling. It is fitting that we pause for a short while today to recognize them and remember their lives and especially their contributions. It is fitting that we pause today and honor each of them in this very small way. Thank you.