THE HISTORY OF ENGINE 255
ORGANIZED AS ENGINE 55 OF THE BROOKLYN FIRE DEPARTENT DEC. 15, 1897.
JANUARY 28, 1898
ENGINE 55 OF BFD BECAME ENGINE 55 OF THE BROOKLYN & QUEENS FIRE DIVISION OF THE F.D.N.Y.
APRIL 15, 1898
ENGINE 55 IS REORGANIZED AS A COMBINATION COMPANY WITH AN ENGINE, HOSE WAGON AND LADDER TRUCK.
OCTOBER 1, 1899
COMBINATION ENGINE 55 WAS RENAMED TO COMBINATION ENGINE 155.
JANUARY 1, 1913
COMBINATION ENGINE 155 RENAMED TO COMBINATION ENGINE 255.
NOTE: EVEN THOUGHT IT WAS A COMBINATION COMPANY IT WAS REFERED TO AS JUST ENGINE 255.
THE HISTORY OF LADDER 157
ORGANIZED AS LADDER 25 OF THE BROOKLYN FIRE DEPARTMENT DEC. 15, 1897.
JANUARY 28, 1898
LADDER 25 OF BFD BECAME LADDER 25 OF THE BROOKLYN & QUEENS FIRE DIVISION OF THE F.D.N.Y.
APRIL 15, 1898
LADDER 25 IS DISBANDED AS A INDIVIDUAL COMPANY. THE LADDER TRUCK WAS ASSIGNED TO ENGINE 55 MAKING THAT COMPANY A COMBINATION COMPANY.
FEBRUARY 1, 1927
COMBINATION ENGINE 155 IS REORGANIZED AS A REGULAR ENGINE COMPANY.
LADDER 157 IS ORGANIZED
LINE OF DUTY
FIREMAN THOMAS F. SHORTELL LAD. 157 Mar 8, 1945 IWO JIMA USMC, KILLED IN ACTION
CAPT. JOHN T. ROKEE DEC. 16, 1962 1963 PRENTICE ASSIGNED TO DIV. 12 AND DETAILED TO LAD. 157
FF. LAWRENCE J. FRAKER DEC. 16, 1962 1963 BROOKLYN CITIZENS
FF. ROBERT L. TYRRELL APR. 24, 1968 1969 HISPANIC
FF. ROBERT L. TYRRELL APR. 24, 1971 1972 CONRAN
FF. ROBERT A. BRILL FEB. 25, 1975 1976 PULASKI
FF. ROBERT L. TYRRELL MAR. 12, 1976 1977 LANE
FF. LAWRENCE MURPHY SEP. 12, 1981 1982 DOLNEY
CAPT. STANLEY FONER, JAN. 8, 1984 1985 UFOA
FF. HARVEY L. HARRELL MAR. 12, 1986 1987 THIRD ALARM
FF. GARETH S. NIESEN APR. 5, 1991 1992 THOMPSON
LT. JEREMIAH P. COLLINS SEP. 25, 1991 1992 FIRE CHIEFS
FF. DANIEL J. DEMPSEY APR. 16, 1992 1993 BROOKLYN CITIZENS
LT. ROBERT BOLKER OCT. 24, 1992 1993 MC ELLIGOTT
LT. JOHN J. PRITCHARD MAR. 27, 1992 1993 LA GUARDIA
LT. JAMES M. AMATO JAN. 29, 1993 1994 FIRE BELL CLUB ASSIGNED TO B-58 AND DETAILED TO LAD. 157
FF. THOMAS J. GARDNER NOV. 7, 1993 1994 GOLDMAN
FF. THOMAS E. CLAIR III OCT. 14, 1994 1995 THIRD ALARM
LT. ROBERT J. BOLKER DEC. 13, 1994 1995 DOUGHERTY
FF. ANTHONY ROCCO, JR. OCT. 8, 1990 1991 LAUFER
IN THE NEWSPAPERS
DECEMBER 15, 1897
The day is a Wednesday. The weather is cloudy, clearing tonight, the winds are westerly to southerly.
Property taxes are due today at the Brooklyn Tax Office. Property owners will pay around 5 million dollars and stand in long lines waiting to pay the tax. Most would rather pay in cash and not by check.
The fourth and last caisson of the new East River Bridge was launched at 1:35 P.M. today. Over 1000 people showed up to watch the 79 foot by 63 foot, 5 foot high caisson being dropped. The launching site was at the foot of S. 5th Street in Brooklyn. The caisson sent up a big splash when it enter the water. It would be floated into position and sunk later this afternoon.
Rufus Terry and William Woodill, members of the Purification Society are seeking warrants for the arrest of Boxers McCoy and Creedon. The two contestants will be fighting for the Middle Heavy Weight Championship of the World in Long Island City on Friday night. The Horton Law allows gloved matches but does not allow 20 round fights or purses of $7,500, which this one will be. Mayor Gleason and the Police Chief will not interfere with the fight in any way.
The plans for the new Erasmus Hall High School were pouring into the Board of Education this morning. About thirty architects have dropped off plans and models. The architect who wins the contest will be awarded $350.
The villagers of College Point have voted $45,000 for improvements of the streets. The vote was 122 for and 92 against.
The Treasury Department is starting a new policy at the Post Offices around the country. Clerks that are over 70 years of age will have their pay reduced to $900. a year. In Manhattan there are eighteen clerks that over 70, with the oldest being 81 years old.
The barn of Edward Buel, located in the rear of his house at 248 E. 19th Street is to be dedicated tonight at the Flatbush Chapel.
Prices for food items at the Wallabout Market, fancy butter .25 per lb., eggs .25 per doz., beef hind quarters .11 per lb., chickens .08 per lb., cod fish .03 per lb., large lobsters .10 per lb. and oranges $3.00 per box.
Abraham & Straus are selling men suits, single breasted, slacks and some with vest in fancy wool and black or blue cheviots, guaranteed for two seasons. Sale price $9.75 each. Flannel pajamas .98 for each set. Flannel pajamas with silk cord and tassel around the neck, $1.25 each. Triumph sewing machines with two-drawer work bench, $17.49.
The Brooklyn Furniture Co., at 553 to 571 Fulton Street has desks on sale during the Christmas season, antique oak $3.00, regular $5.00, Mahogany inland French Design $12.00, regular $20.00. Open evenings.
The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper sells for three cent a day or $6.00 for a year.
1897 LaFrance 4th size #390 12-15-1897
1886 Woodhouse 2nd size hose wagon #5B 12-15-1897
1897 Holloway Combination chemical, 50 city service aerial # 11B 12-15-1897
1890 Hayes/LaFrance 75 aerial #103 8-12-1903?
1893 Marlbourgh hose wagon #17B 1909-1912
1896 P.J. Barrett hose wagon #47B 1912-1915
1915 Mack/Boyd hose wagon #76 4-6-1915
1898 American/1915 tractor (9-3-1915) #2617 12-1915
1918 Van Blerk/Combination Ladder city service ladder 10-14-1921 to 11-14-1924
1921 White/Pirsch city service ladder #195 10-30-26?
1925 Alfco 700 gpm #5291 12-12-25
1946 WLF 750 gpm #2191 9-6-46
1959 Mack 750 gpm #1094 7-3-59
1970 Mack 1000 gpm #MP7055 5-8-1970
1978 Mack 1000 gpm #MP7809 4-13-1979
1979 Mack 1000 gpm #MP7979 11-26-1980
1984 Mack/Ward 1000 gpm #MP8414 12-18-85
1994 Seagrave 1000 gpm #SP9409 7-13-94
1913 Alfco 65 #121 before 12-8-21
1914 Alfco/1927 FWD tractor 75 #140 11-1-1927
1938 FWD 85 #340 10-12-1938
1956 Alfco 85 metal aerial #412 8-29-1963
1973 Mack 75 TL MP7303 4-16-1973
1981 Mack 75 TL MP8103 6-18-1982
1981 Mack 75 TL MP8107 3-5-1992
1994 FWD/Baker 75 TL SP9401 8-16-1994
100 YEARS OF THE JOLLY ROGERS IN FLATBUSH
ENGINE 255 & LADDER 157
One hundred years ago in a section of Brooklyn known as Vanderveer Park, two new fire companies were placed in service. Engine 55 and Ladder 25 were organized in a new house on December 15, 1897. These two companies, along with Engines 51 and 57 were also placed in service on the same day, Engine 51 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Engine 57 in Canarsie. Engine 55 and Ladder 25 would serve only seventeen days with the City of Brooklyn before being taken over by the City of New York. In the past century many things have changed besides the annexation of Brooklyn, horse drawn, two tone green colored apparatus, and name changes.
Vanderveer Park was the northern most part of the Town of Flatlands, which was annexed along with the Towns of Flatbush, New Utrecht and Gravesend in 1894. Today Vanderveer Park lives only in name at the Vanderveer Park Houses on Foster, to Newkirk Avenues between Nostrand and Brooklyn Avenues. Other than the housing projects the name is lost in history and the area is now the junction of Flatbush, Farragut and Midwood.
The fire protection in these four towns were provided by volunteer companies. These companies would continue to provide the protection until the City of Brooklyn could replace the volunteers with paid companies. Each of the volunteer departments would receive $1000 a year for the upkeep and maintenance of the department. The Town of Flatlands was the last department to have its volunteers replaced. Before Engine 55 and Ladder 25 were established, Brooklyns Engines 48 (248), 49 (249), 50 (250) and Ladders 22 (at Engine 48), 23 (now Ladder 113), & 20 (at Engine 50) would cover this area.
Located at 1367 Rogers Avenue, the new firehouse is near Farragut Road and the center of Vanderveer Park. It was built on a lot purchased from the Germania Real Estate & Improvement Company for $800 on January 20, 1887. The lot is 40 feet x 102 feet deep. The two story firehouse was built by the Leonard Brothers who had been building firehouses in Brooklyn for the past several years. The front of the building consists of limestone and Harvard brick, while the foundation is of granite. Above the three apparatus doors are three large rounded windows with an iron balcony across the center window. The first floor has room for a steam engine, hose wagon, and a ladder truck along with stables for six horses. In the rear of the apparatus floor was a circular staircase to the second floor. On one of the walls were racks that could dry up to 500 feet of wet hose. The second floor had room for the officer in the front along with a room for lounging between alarms which included a library room. In the center was a dormitory that contained sixteen beds and wood lockers. In the rear was room for the assistant foreman, and a large, well-lighted bathroom. All the wood through the building was of North Carolina pine that was highly polished.
At 8 AM on December 15, 1897, three officers and fourteen firemen placed Engine 55 and Ladder 25 in service. The officers assigned from other Brooklyn companies were; Foreman Charles E. Rikel (Engine 26), Asst. Foremen, Charles Heath (Engine 31) & Alexander Johnston (Engine 35). The rest of the first crew were; Joseph J. Mahoney, Daniel W. Warner, John H. Kraft, Henry Van Houten, Charles F. Tederiman, Henry J. Foster. Arthur Morrall, William Thomas, Samuel Collins, George Miller, Charles Merk, Julius H. Bokenkamp, Peter L. Bullwinkel, and John Kraft. The fourteen man crew were picked from the former members of the Flatlands Volunteer Fire Department. Only sixty of the 200 members applied for these positions.
The working conditions of the fire department 100 years ago was hard compared to todays standard, but back then it was a good job. The work week was six, 24 hour days in a row with one day off. Each fireman went home for meals twice a day for 2 hours at a time. A fireman could be detailed to another fire house for a day to cover somebodys day off. A salary of $900 a year was considered excellent for that time. Most other jobs were working five and half days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, for less money.
The first run for the companies was on December 18 at 9:10 in the evening. Engine 55 and Ladder 25 responded to Box 617, Vernon Avenue and Prospect Street (now Tilden Avenue & Veronia Place). The fire was in the rear of 120 Vernon Avenue in a 2 story frame building occupied as a stable and owned by James Hackett. Engine 55 was third due and ordered returned to quarters by the Chief. Total time out of quarters was 30 minutes. Ladder 25 responded with four men and removed hay and straw from the barn. Ladder 25 was placed back in service at 10:11 that night.
The second and last run for 1897 was the next afternoon. It was back to Box 617, Vernon Avenue and Prospect Street for a one story tool shed in the rear of a new building on the corner. The cause of the fire was an overheated stove. Like the first run, the engine was returned without doing any work and the ladder overhauled the shed. The total time out of quarters 38 minutes. Ladder 25 responded with only an assistant foremen and two men, the engine responded with the foreman and five members.
The first real working fire for both companies was on January 4, 1898 and it was the first run of the new year. The Box was 798, Flatbush Avenue near Kings Highway and took both companies 4 minutes to hitch the horses and arrive at the location. The fire was in a barn and wagon house, a 1 story frame building the cause was unknown and the building was destroyed. The 35 gallon chemical tank of the ladder was used and it was recharged twelve times to extinguish the fire. The engine operated five hours and nine minutes while the truck operated five hours and forty minutes.
Some other runs included Ladder 25 being special call back to Box 798 the next night to put water on some of the smoldering remains of the barn fire. On January 8th both companies responded to Ryder Lane and Kings Highway for four barns burning. It took the companies ten minutes to arrive at the fire. The next run was on January 17 to E. 72nd Street and Avenue U, taking twenty minutes to arrive. Both companies were ordered to return to quarters without doing any work. It was also on this run that the first member was injured. Fireman Kraft had his foot step on by one of the truck horses, smashing the big toe and tearing the nail off. He was tended to and when back at quarters was placed on sick leave.
The first multiple alarm fire was on January 19, 1898. The company responded to East Broadway near Neefus Lane (Church Avenue & E. 40th St.reet). The engine took seven minutes to arrive at the hydrant at East Broadway and E. 40th Street, standing fast. The truck was having some problems with one of the horses. It took eight minutes to get the horses out the door and responding. The ladder truck went only as far as Clove Road and East Broadway (now Nostrand Avenue & Church Avenue) and stopped, the horses refusing to go any further. They never made it to the fire and when the horses decided to move the company was ordered to return back to quarters.
On January 1, 1898, New York City, which included the Bronx, and the Cities of Brooklyn, Long Island City, parts of western Queens county and Staten Island would merge into the Greater City of New York. Engine 55 and Ladder 25 along with the rest of the Brooklyn Fire Department, would merge with the F.D.N.Y. on January 28, 1898. On October 1, 1899, Engine 55 became Engine 155 to avoid confusion with Engine 55 in Manhattan. Engine 155 would be renumbered again on January 1, 1913, to Engine 255.
Ladder 25 lost its identity on April 15, 1898, when along with eleven other truck companies were taken out of service. These truck companies were located in the newly annexed areas of Brooklyn. The truck was kept and assigned to Engine 55 making it a combination company. Both apparatus responded together or the ladder truck could respond by itself and it would be known as Ladder 55 on the assignment cards only. The members could be assigned to either rig on any given day.
On February 1, 1927, Engine 255 was reorganized as a single company and the ladder truck was reorganized as Ladder 157. The first members of Ladder 157 were mostly from Engine 255. The first officers were Captain Maurice Foley #1 of Engine 209, and Lieutenant James F. Rice Ladder 153. The chauffeurs were Firemen Chas. Kratochvil, Robert E. Cook, William J. Gallagher #2, Thomas E. Hurley all of Engine 255. The other firemen were Patrick Falvey, Timothy F. Kelly, Benjamin J. Barling, Hugh Gallen, Alfred E. Johnson (Engine 240), Joseph Friel (Ladder 131), and Frank Gehlbach (Ladder 147). The first apparatus was a used 1913 American LaFrance 65 foot aerial truck.
As the apparatus kept getting wider and larger, the apparatus doors of many fire houses had to be remodeled. Engine 255 and Ladder 157 had two of the three doors replaced with a single door in 1925. The contract was awarded during the year of 1925 for a cost of $4,090.00 to replace the doors. Along with Engine 255s quarters alterations were contracted for Engine 242, 244, and 248. For some unknown reason the four contracts were not completed and were rebid for in 1926. It cost another $2,313.00 to complete the remodeling of the front of quarters.
In one hundred years, Engine 255 and Ladder 157 has been serving the public of the Vanderveer Park section of Brooklyn faithfully regardless of what the company has been called, Engine 55, Ladder 25, Combination Company 255 or Ladder 157. As the community changed from being rural to densely packed the dedication of the members in the fire house on Rogers Avenue has never changed. No matter what the need is, air in a biycle, a safe haven for child, a cut finger or a battle with "Red Devil" Engine 255 and Ladder 157 can be and will be counted on to serve with pride and dedication.
Engine 55 first apparatus was an 1897 LaFrance 4th size steamer which Brooklyn had purchased for the company. The hose wagon was a used 1886 Woodhouse that came from Engine 5, now 205. Ladder 25 received a new 1897 Gleason & Bailey city service ladder truck with a 50 gallon chemical tank. Combination Engine 155 kept this rig until 1904 at which time it was turned over to the Woodhaven Volunteers in Queens. Engine 155 then received a used 1897 Holloway combination chemical, 50 city service ladder truck. The next two rigs the company received were two used hose wagons. The first was in 1909 and it was an 1893 Marlbourgh hose wagon from Engine 251. The other was in 1912 from Engine 237 and a 1896 P.J. Barrett hose wagon.
Motorization came to Rogers Avenue on April 6, 1915, when Engine 255 received a new 1915 Mack/Boyd hose wagon. Its not known when Engine 255 lost its steamer or when they received a motorized pumper. The first motor driven apparatus was again used an 1898 American with a 1915 tractor added to it. This time it came from Engine 257 on December 12, 1923. Since the Department was totally motorized in December of 1922, the horses had to have been replaced earlier. The first modern pumper was 1925 American LaFrance 700 gpm pumper that they received on December 12, 1925.
The rest of Engine 255s fleet consisted of a 1946 Ward LaFrance and a 1959 Mack. Both of these unites were new and could pump 750 gallons per minutes each. The next four rigs were all Macks which pump 1000 gallons per minute. They were an 1970, 1978, 1979 and 1984 models. The 1984 Mack had its body built by Ward 79 instead of Mack. The current rig is a 1994 Seagrave 1000 gallons per minute pumper. They received it on July 13, 1894.
Engine 255 was a Combination Engine from April of 1898 until February 1, 1927. After that time the truck was taken away from the engine and replaced with Ladder 157. The 1897 Holloway city service ladder truck was replaced on October 14, 1921 with a used 1918 Van Blerk/Combination Ladder city service ladder that came from Engine 5 in Manhattan. November 14, 1924, the Van Blerk was replaced with another used truck. Its not known where it came from but it was a 1921 White/Pirsch city service truck. Once Engine 255 was done with it went to City Island and Ladder 53 on October 30, 1926.
Replacing this unit was a spare 1913 American LaFrance 65 foot aerial. All the other trucks up until this time carried only ground ladders and no aerials. It was with this truck that Ladder 157 was placed in service with on February 1, 1927. Knowing this was a spare apparatus Ladder 157 received a new 1927 FWD tractor pulling an used 1914 American LaFrance 75 foot aerial on November 1, 1927. The first all new apparatus was a 1938 FWD 85 foot aerial on October 12, 1938 which they kept until August 29, 1963. On that date the company received it first metal aerial in a 1956 American LaFrance 85 foot aerial from Ladder 107. On April 16, 1973 Ladder 153 received its first 75 foot tower ladder, 1973 Mack. The next two rigs were both 1981 Mack 75 foot tower ladders The first one was new and assigned to the company on June 18, 1982. The second rig was received used on March 5, 1992 and came from Ladder 85. Today Ladder 157 responds with a 1994 FWD/Baker 75 foot tower ladder they received on August 16, 1994.