All Fired Up About History

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Hampton Fire Department Presented History

By Liz Premo

Atlantic News, Thursday, February 1, 2001

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]
Fire Dept. History presented
A HOT SPOT IN HISTORY — Lane Memorial Library's Hampton History Volunteer John Holman (left) looks on as the library's Assistant Director, William Teschek (right) presents Hampton Fire Chief Hank Lipe with two albums containing a documented history of the town's fire department, as compiled by Mr. Holman. The event, which took place Tuesday morning in the library's 'New Hampshire Room', included a presentation on "a brief history of the fire department from 1906-1936, read by Mr. Holman. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON — During a brief ceremony held on Tuesday morning in the New Hampshire Room of the Lane Memorial Library, Assistant Library Director Bill Teschek and Hampton History Volunteer John Holman presented Hampton Fire Chief Hank Lipe with two albums containing chronologically-organized material related to the history of the town's fire department.

The albums, bound in an appropriate shade of fire-engine red vinyl, held page after page of news articles and photographs from area newspapers such as the Atlantic News, and from other sources. The graphics and text documented what Holman referred to as the "history of the department" and the great conflagrations at Hampton Beach in 1915, 1921, 1950 and of course, the large fire on June 16, 1999 when six businesses were destroyed."

In the 2-1/2 years that Holman has been researching, compiling and organizing "facts of Hampton History for the Library's website," he had come across "quite a bit of material" on the fire department which helped pique his interest on the subject. The two albums were the culmination of that particular portion of Holman's task, of which he has been "enjoying every minute."

Prior to Chief Lipe receiving the albums and chief's heartfelt remarks of appreciation, Holman read what he titled "a brief history of the fire department from 1906 through 1936. His remarks are included here:

"The citizens of Hampton Beach's area gathered together in 1906 to draw up a petition to be presented to the General Court of the State of New Hampshire for the right to form a precinct.

"The main objective was to have their own fire department. In 1907, the petition was granted. The department was then organized under the supervision of the Hampton Beach Fire Commissioners. The first firefighting equipment was purchased by the commissioners in 1908, which consisted of three hand reels drawn by members of the department. Elmer C. King was the first fire chief of the Volunteer Department, and submitted the first annual report for the year ending February 1, 1913.

"The first major change was made in the Spring of 1916 after the citizens of the beach became alarmed after the serious fire which occurred in September 1915 on the corners of "B" Street and Ocean Boulevard which started about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and swept more than four blocks, doing thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage. The local department at that time was not equipped to fight such a fire, and help was called from nearby towns.

"So, in the spring of 1916, a reorganization was made and the commissioners appointed Alex H. Brown as the first permanent chief. They also ordered the first motor apparatus for the department, which was a Keissel combination hose-and-chemical truck. This was kept in the office building of the Casino garage.

"In 1917, the following year, a telegraph box system was purchased from the Gamewell Underground Telegraph Company of Upper Newton Falls, Massachusetts. This system was installed by Chief A. H. Brown under the supervision of the telegraph company. It consisted of five boxes; in 1936 there were more than 32 on the whole beach.

"In 1922, the first firehouse was built, also under the direction of Chief A.J. Brown. In the same year, an Aherns-Fox pump-and-ladder combination was put into use, making two motor-driven fire engines.

"In 1923, the firehouse was burned down. Immediately, the work was started to rebuild a fire station of modern design, and soon there was a two-story stone structure of a cement base, and has a capacity of housing five modern firetrucks with a three-door run. It was rebuilt on the site of the first firehouse on Ashworth Avenue where it still stands. In the month of March 1924, Chief A.H. Brown resigned his office after having been with the department for over nine years of active service.

"The following month, Homer B. Whiting was appointed chief of the department. The same year, the Town of Hampton purchased a Reo 2?' combination hose-and-chemical truck, after having been consolidated with the precinct.

"In 1925, the Hampton Beach fire commissioners purchased a White Ladder Truck, city service type; and also a Reo Touring Car to be used by the chief for official business. In 1926, a Packard triple combination was also ordered and put into service. From then, until 1929, nothing happened of any importance. When in 1930, a Chevrolet hose wagon was put into service which was later changed to a pumping engine.

"In 1932, the members of the department built a trailer-type water tower which is used for high pressure work. In 1934, the fire members of the department started construction of a drill tower which is 35 feet in height and is used to train members and practice in the use of firefighting.

"In 1935, a two-wheel trailer portable forest fire pump was also built by members of the department for use in fighting forest fires. This can be attached to the chief's car and can be carried to the scene of the fire from the road.

"The present members of the department were: Chief Homer B. Whiting, with the department since 1924; Deputy Chief George H. Lamott; Lt. G. Harold Irwin; Pvts. Perley George, Arthur B. Collins, Victor Bogrett and 29 men on-call."

Today, the Hampton Fire Department stands out as one of the most efficient and modern equipped department of any of its kind in New England.

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