Researched, Written & Updated By:
Eugene Prochniak, Stanley Leja,Normand
Bacon, Emile Faubert, Roger Martin
Ralph St. Germain,
Kenneth Roberts, Sherman Mann,Alfred Falcioni, Bernard Kogut, Charles O'
Russell Rielly, Normand
Dextraze, Rose Zariczny
In 1835, the village of Woonsocket had the "Great Fire" at Canal Square.
It swept away, unhampered, the post office and several mills, stirring the
populace into serious thoughts of future fire protection. An organized Fire
Department and Hook and Ladder company might have saved much property. Steps
were taken to incorporate a fire department. At the June session of the
General Assembly, an Act was passed to incorporate a fire department. A
Charter was granted and on September 29, 1836 a meeting of the citizens was
called at Whitcomb's Hotel. This meeting has since gone down in the annals
of fire department history. The Charter was accepted, bylaws adopted and
officers appointed. With Smith Arnold as chairman and Peter J. Cooke as
secretary, the Charter was augmented and the following officers elected to
protect the Village of Woonsocket against further conflagrations. Trustees
of the organization were Lyman A. Cook and William Holden. Also named was
Helvill Knapu, Fire Warden; Smith Arnold, First Warden; Willis Cook, Second
Warden; and Justin D. Arnold, Third Warden. Assessors (whose duties were to
levy the tax for fire protection) were George C. Ballou, Peter Cook and
Edward Harris. Aaron White, Jr. was collector with Pardon Sayles as Guardian
of the Gold". With this the Fire
Corporation of the Village of Woonsocket was formed.
On November 9, 1839, a Hook and Ladder
Company was organized with Captain William Shackleford, Vice Captain Whipple
Metcalf, clerk Bethuel Slocomb and Treasurer William Metcalf. Application
was made for a house and carriage for the use of the Hook and Ladder
Company. It was voted to appoint a committee to erect a building and secure
a carriage. Dexter Ballou, Jarvis Cook and Whipple Hetcalf were on the
committee. On December 2, 1839, the Fire Corporation voted that the
committee appointed in November had failed to provide the building and
elected a new committee: Willis Cook and J.A. Oiney.
Prior to 1844, the Fire Corporation held its
meetings at Whitcomb's Hotel and Richard's Hotel. Richard's Hotel was also
called Central Hotel, owned by Lysander Elliot, and stood where the R.I.
Hospital Trust Building is today.
The Village of Woonsocket was then divided
into 5 districts with a mill in each district which used its own force pumps
and stored fire hose within. The districts were 1) Woonsocket Furnace
Company, 2) Justin Ballou Mill, 3) Clinton Mill, 4) Smith Arnold Mill, and
5) Woonsocket Manufacturing Company.
There must have been a great deal of
discussion as to the best location to build an Engine House. The records
mention High Street as a desirable place, but there is reason to believe
that the Engine House was first built at or near the old No. I Fire Station
(Eagle Manufacturing Company). For the
first time, records of the Fire Corporation show that in February, 1844, the
meeting was held at the Engine House, but do not state where it was located.
On November 4, 1848, a committee was appointed to draw up a set of bylaws
for the Hook and Ladder Company and adopt- ed November 14, 1848.
On December 14, 1856, it was voted to erect a
Hose House at Mechanics corner. However, the first engine purchased by the
Corporation was purchased by Lyman A. Cook in 1840 and was placed under the
care of members of Pumper No. 1. It was called Hydraulion No. I and later
changed to Rescue Hose No. 1.
In 1857, the new building at Mechanics corner
used gas light- ing for the first time in Woonsocket. Up to 1867, the Hook
and Ladder rendered its annual report to the Fire Corporation through Rescue
Hose No. 1. They had fifty men in the company as of May 1869. The Charter
granted in 1836 was amended around this time and the name of the Corporation
was changed from the Fire Corporation of the Village of Woonsocket to the
Woonsocket Fire Corp. The Village was also granted a Charter creating the
Town of Woonsocket, separating it from the Town of Cumberland in 1867.
During this time, the mill corporations were
very active and supplied apparatus of their own. This equipment was placed
at the disposal of the Fire Corporation.
On June 29, 1872, the
Corporation purchased its first Steam Fire Engine at a cost of $4,000.00.
Built by Jeffers, they called it Jeffers Engine Company No. 1.This
Company had previously been organized as the Eagle Hose Company. A few years
later another Steam Engine manufactured by Cole Bros. of Pawtucket was
purchased by the Social Mfg. Company and was manned by the Corporation as
Steam Engine No. 2 or the Social Steamer.
There was also a Hose Company, a Hook
and Ladder Company and a Company to man the force pumpers. in 1887, one year
before Woonsocket became a city. The Evening Reporter published an article
stating that the Corporation was to form a Permanent Fire Department, in the
early days, there were two classes of firemen; Permanent and Call men.
In January 1889, the Fire Department
moved into its quarters at the Town Hall and Armory on Bernon Street and
called it Station No. 1. Woonsocket Hook and Ladder No. I and Monument Hose
No. I were placed here. in 1889, George Batchelor was named First Marshal.
In the early 1900's. Jay Niel was named First Permanent Chief. The
Department now had fifty-eight men and four horses. This was known as a one
Around this time, something else began to form in this
City. The newly chartered Town of Woonsocket purchased -the Woonsocket Water
Works Company for $298,612.62 in April of 1885. The Town of Woonsocket was
incorporated as a City in 1888.
In 1886, the Fire Department installed its first
electric fire alarm system. A fire tower was also built at Church and Boyden
Streets and provided with a large bell. In 1889, the Fire Alarm consisted of
fifteen miles of wire, three electric bells, one 15" gong, one indicator,
three electromechanical tappers, three direct action tappers, twenty-three
public and four private pull boxes. George Worall was the first Fire Alarm
The purchase and extension of the water works made it
possible to extend lines for the Fire Department, thus insuring greater fire
protection for the citizens of Woonsocket. in 1889, $12,000.00 was provided
for maintenance and improvement of water service. There were 349 hydrants
throughout Woonsocket that year.
In 1901, Augustine Cote joined the Fire Department.
Arriving from Canada, he replaced one of the members of Engine No. 2. His
interest and insight proved invaluable. He became Call Chief on January 6,
1908 and permanent Chief in 1913.
In the year 1903, Fire Station No. 4 was constructed
on South Main Street. One Engine was placed in this station.
Station No. 5 was built on Social Street in 1912.
In 1913, Chief Cote had to motorize his equipment. The
Department purchased a Knox gas Engine for $1700.00. This piece was kept in
service for twenty-three years. In 1914, a complete machine shop was added
to Station NO. 5. in 1920, another Engine was added a White Pumper.
The year 1926 showed a reorganization of the Fire
Department as a result of the City's growth. Station No. 2 was built on
Cumberland Hill Road and became Fire Alarm Headquarters. Station No. 3 on
North Main Street was also completed this year. In 1922, the Department went
to an 84 hour week/2 platoon system. In 1927, a new innovation was added to
the area. Chief Cote, knowing that training was important, had a drill tower
constructed at Station No. 5 to teach the firemen climbing skills as well as
hose handling, in 1928, Station No. 6 was built on Fairmount Street. As this
station was completed, the age of gas driven Engines became a reality. The
phasing out of all hand pumps and horse drawn vehicles was completed.
In 1932, the Chief felt that a new type of protection
for the citizens of Woonsocket was needed, so the men built a new type of
truck. It was to be called Rescue No. I and created interest all over the
East. Departments from afar came to see this piece of equipment, the first
of its kind in the area.
By 1934, all equipment was improved. Some trucks were
purchased and were rebuilt in the shop by the men on duty.
In the years of 1936 and 1938, disaster came to the
City in the form of flood and hurricane, in 1945, the Department again went
to shorter hours, 70 hour week/2 platoon system. At this time, there were
six Engines, three Ladder Companies, one Rescue and one Fire Alarm truck.
In 1951, the Department went to a 56 hour week/3
platoon system with 129 men. Shortly thereafter. Chief Cote retired and was
succeeded by Chief Roy on April 10, 1954.
During this time, a new Rescue was purchased to
replace the original one built in 1932. in 1955, the "Great Flood" of
Woonsocket hit and the Department worked long hours helping the needy.
In 1956 and 1957, new equipment was purchased to
replace old trucks. A 750 gpm and 1000 gpm Ward LaFrance and an 85'
hydraulic ladder (American LaFrance) were purchased.
Chief Roy retired November 1, 1959 and Chief Mongeon
took this position on March 20, 1960.
In 1961, the stations built in 1845 and 1903 were
replaced and relocated to Station No. I on Providence Street and Station No.
4 on Mendon Road. Also, two Ladder trucks and a Pumper were bought in a
total bond program. The next new piece was purchased in 1965 (another Ward
1000 gpm) and then a 1969 Maxim Foam Pumper.
In 1970, the Department went to a 50 hour week with a
Kelly day off. in 1971, to a 46 hour Kelly. The total complement was 131
men, six Engines, two Ladder trucks (with one spare), one Rescue, one Fire
Alarm Truck, one Fire Prevention car, one Training Director's car, one
mechanic's truck, one Deputy Chief's car and one Chief's car.
In 1972, the Department went to a 42 hour week/4
platoon system consisting of two 10 hour days and two 14 hour nights, in
1974, Chief Mongeon was overcome at a fire on Mill Street and subsequently
retired on February 27, 1974. Gerald P. Landry was named Chief on April 24,
In 1975, the City Purchased a new Hahn 1250 gpm pumper
replacing a 1945 Seagrave V12. Another pumper was added in 1976, a 1250 gpm,
replacing the 1956 Ward LaFrance 750 gpm pumper. in 1977 a Hahn 1250 gpm was
added, replacing the 1957 Ward LaFrance 1000 gpm. In 1980, a cost saving
program affecting the City made it necessary to decommission Engine No. 5,
thus reducing the Department to five Engines, two Ladders, one Rescue and
In 1983, Station No. 5 on Social Street was sold to
Woonsocket Housing Authority and Station No. 2 underwent extensive
renovations. Ladder No. 2, Rescue I and headquarters were then transferred
from No. 5 to No. 2 Station.
In 1984, amid much controversy, a second Rescue was
added to the Department and stationed at Station No. 3. The Rescue Division
now included privates serving as one Rescue Captain, eight Rescue
Lieutenants (EMT-C qualified) and eight Rescue Drivers (EMT qualified). One
Rescue Lt. served as Rescue Training Officer to maintain the skills obtained
through R.I. State training and licensure. Added to the Department to
augment Rescue 2, were two Roving Firefighters who could be assigned at the
Deputy's discre- tion to cut overtime costs. The Chief's Aide position was
de- classified to Fire Clerk and the first female was accepted into the
Department. This brought total personnel to 137.