Middletown Professional Fire Fighters Association
108 YEARS OF SERVICE
1893 - 2001
By the late 19th century, it had begun to take too long to get enough men to pull the fire apparatus. The village was growing, lengthening the distance that firemen had to pull the equipment. New fire fighting tools being developed took more room than the old hand drawn apparatus had available and the added weight slowed response even further. The introduction of horse drawn fire apparatus was eminent.
In May of 1893, five years after Middletown became a City, the Eagle Hose Company #2 purchased a two horse patrol and hose wagon. Carl A. Johnson was elected to drive and maintain the newly purchased wagon and team of horses. The Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company followed in 1895 and the Phoenix Engine Company in 1900 when they made the transition to horse drawn apparatus and hired paid firemen to drive and maintain them.
In 1909, the department began the move toward motorization when the Monhagens replaced their hand drawn apparatus with a motorized truck. By 1916, all seven fire companies had either motorized or horse drawn apparatus and all had paid firemen assigned to them. This was also the time that all paid firemen went on the city payroll. Prior to this, some were paid by the city while others by their respective fire company.
Carl Johnson left the fire department's employ after about a year and was replaced by Otis Hardenbergh. In 1895, for $600 a year, Hardenbergh gave the city 365 days of 24 hours daily service. He worked 20 months without a day off. Eventually he was allowed one day off every two weeks and two nights off a week. Hardenbergh went on to serve the Middletown Fire Department for 37 years before retiring in 1931.
In addition to being a fire truck, the Eagle Patrol and Hose Wagon served as a Police Patrol Wagon and an ambulance, with Hardenbergh driving in all capacities.
The Platoon System
The early paid firemen worked around the clock and virtually lived in the fire stations. This schedule continued in effect until 1920, when in response to state law, the fire department adopted a two platoon system. Under this system, which would serve the city for the next 36 years, two men divided the time between them each working 84 hours alternating days and nights. A further work week reduction mandated by the state required the adoption of a three platoon system in 1956.
In effect today is the 24 hour shift, adopted in 1965, and a four platoon system, adopted in 1972, again in response to a state law reducing the work week. Each platoon or "Group" works under the supervision of a shift officer or "Group Leader."
With the advent of fire horses and use of paid firemen, response time was decreased. It was no longer necessary for firemen to run to the firehouse as they were now manned around the clock. Also, horses were able to travel greater distances in faster time. Response time was recorded in newspaper articles as being extremely fast, sometimes as short as two minutes or "arriving at the box before the last round of bells had finished."
That response time has been maintained today, even though Middletown has become more urbanized, spread out and answers more alarms. Fire apparatus can still be on the scene within 2-3 minutes to most places in the city. This is critical as the vast use of synthetic home furnishings allow fires to spread faster, burn hotter and generate more toxic smoke.
Line of Duty Death
Alvin P. Bradford
The line of duty death of Paid Fireman Alvin P. Bradford occurred on December 12, 1924 while fighting a fire at the W. J. McCarter furniture store 100-104 North Street. Bradford, assigned to Engine 5, suffered a heart attack and collapsed by the side of the fire truck. He was removed to the nearest firehouse where he succumbed later that night. He was 38 years old.
Harold E. Holland
The line of duty death of Paid Fireman Harold E. Holland occurred on March 6, 1949. At 12:32 P.M. Box 57 was sounded for a car fire at Franklin Square. Holland was in the control room (dispatch center) when the alarm sounded and he ran over to the McQuoid truck to respond, and as he was stepping up into the truck, suffered a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and another fireman was called in to finish his shift. Holland never left the hospital and he died five days later on March 11, 1949. He was 52 years old.
Training in the early years was informal and mainly learned on the job from the veterans of the force. Many valuable contributions in the way of equipment modifications and innovative thinking came from the firemen of the 1940's, 50's and 60's. Middletown led the way in the emerging technique known as auto extrication, first through the use of hydraulic "porta power," hand pumped equipment, and later with power equipment such as hydraulic spreaders or "jaws."
Today, probationary fire fighters appointed to the paid force are selected from the top of a Civil Service list after taking a statewide written examination, passing physical, agility, and medical exams, and successfully completing a basic training course. They receive about 240 hours of local training in dispatching, apparatus operation, and use of department equipment. This is followed by 229 hours of Basic Fire Fighter Training at the New York State Academy of Fire Science with fire fighter recruits from other cities across New York. This training consists of courses in Essentials of Fire Fighting, Pump Operator, Ladder Company Operations, Arson Awareness, Code Enforcement, First Aid, Initial Fire Attack, Rescue Skills, Auto Extrication, Wild land Fires, Hazardous Materials and Radiation Safety, and the use of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus. An additional full week of "First Responder" medical training was added to the Basic Training Program in 1993.
Each year, 110 hours of on duty in-service refresher training in the above mentioned subjects is given by the shift officers to all fire fighters. Additionally, all members of the paid force are certified in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation, and many are Emergency Medical Technicians. Many lives have been saved through quick intervention in medical emergencies and the instantaneous response to fire alarms.
Today's fire fighters are state certified and trained to the same level as municipal firefighters in the major urban areas of the state.
Advancements Over The Years
The paid firemen in New York State were successful in getting a 25 year retirement plan in 1937. This remained for the next 30 years when in 1967, the State of New York adopted the 20 year retirement plan currently in effect.
In 1942, the Civil Service job title was changed from Fire Driver to the more accurate Fireman, and in 1971 to the gender correct Fire Fighter.
Although Fire Inspectors have been around since the turn of the century, it wasn't until 1971 that the position became a competitive Civil Service promotional class.
In 1983 the promotional position of Group Leader was created. The Group Leader supervises the on-duty shift and day to day activities of the paid force. He also gives the state mandated training.
In 1947, seeking a stronger voice in city and state issues, the firemen formed the Paid Drivers Social Club. This in turn led to their affiliation with the International Association of Fire Fighters in 1949. As an organized body, they were more equipped to lobby for pay raises and improvements to the job. Today, under the provisions of the Taylor Law, the Middletown Professional Fire Fighters Association is the sole bargaining unit for all of the professional fire fighters.
In 1948, Life Magazine did a five page feature story on post war fire apparatus. The article featured 1947 American LaFrance fire trucks that were considered to be state of the art in modern fire apparatus. Not only were three of Middletown's fire trucks featured, but also the paid firemen assigned to them.
In 1966, the paid fire fighters developed their first fire prevention program for the public schools and have been at the forefront of fire prevention ever since. Each year, they visit Pre-Schools, Day Care Centers and Elementary Schools throughout the city to promote Fire Safety. These visits and fire station tours reach over 3500 children and 200 adults each year.
Their fire prevention program has received national recognition by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) winning Second Place in 1971, Third Place in 1966, and four Honorable Mentions in NFPA sponsored Fire Prevention contests.
Other community activities include sponsoring a Little League team every year since 1978 and working to raise money for many local and national charitable organizations. Five times they have won the "Dedicated Community Service Award" from the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
The paid force and seven fire companies of the department worked together to battle many serious fires and protect a growing city. As the population of Middletown increased over the years, so did the alarms. In 1953, there were 248 alarms; in 1963 there were 388; 1973 - 549; 1983 - 706; 1993 - 735; and in the year 2000 - 889 alarms.
Today, the paid fire fighters are organized collectively as the Middletown Professional Fire Fighters Association and consist of 33 well trained and dedicated fire fighters. They remain affiliated with the International Association of Fire Fighters and the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association. Their members are involved in various state and national organizations devoted to fire fighting issues. They continue to work to maintain and improve working conditions, health and safety regulations, and further the education of it's members. Over 550 years of fire fighting experience is available to the residents of the city from their professional fire fighters.
Current officers are Joseph Myers, President; Bill Imholz, Vice-President; Dave Guattery, Secretary/Treasurer and Ed Porch, Sergeant at Arms.
The Middletown Professional Fire Fighters look forward to serving the citizens of the City of Middletown in the 21st Century. The small cost involved (less than 20 cents a day) is paid back many times over in lives saved and property protected. The city's Class 3 ISO rating provides a relatively low cost for fire insurance for local businesses, essential for attracting people to Middletown.
We are, as our motto states:
"Proud and Ready to Serve Our Community"