HOOK AND LADDER COMPANY NO. 8.
Ladder Company 8 in the Brooklyn Fire Department
Back row: Wm Tracy (up in the seat) Joseph Davis, Bernard A. Matschke, Chas. E. Fernald, Francis Bowers and Philip Frey.
Front row. John F. Fanning, District Foreman, John J. Fee - Foreman (shown in the oval picture too), Henry Wackerman - asst. Foreman, Francis McLarney, Jacob Lehman, Geo. Lampert, Quincy J. Kraft, Richard S. Wood.
Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 occupied a two-story brick structure with brown-stone facings, on Siegel Street near Graham Avenue, in the Sixteenth Ward. The district covered by this company is a large and particularly dangerous one, for the reason that nearly every lot has a front and rear house standing upon it, the majority of which are four-story frame dwellings occupied chiefly by German families. On a first-alarm the members respond to calls from 108 boxes, which cover the territory bounded by Leonard and Jackson Streets, by Newtown Creek, Atlantic and Albany Avenues, and by Penn Street and Broadway. In addition to this they cover 88 boxes on a second-alarm and 56 on third-alarm, which latter takes in the Greenpoint District. On"special calls" they go down to the Western District. Among the large buildings in the district are St.Catherine's Hospital, the Montrose Avenue Orphan Asylum, St. Joseph's Home, St. John's College, Home for the Aged, the Beecher Home, St. John's Orphan Asylum, Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary's Catholic Church. There are also in this district several public schools, the Lyceum Theatre, Batterman's dry goods and furniture stores, Berlin's dry goods house, Worn & Sons' furniture factory, the Iron Clad manufactory, Bossert's lumber yard, Newman's lumber yard, and Puger's sash and blind factory.
This company was organized Nov. 30, 1887. The house was formerly occupied by Engine No. 18. It has a second-class Hayes truck with extension-ladders, which was built in 1890. "Tom," a gray horse, and "Frank" and "Billy," dark bays, all fine, serviceable young horses, furnish the power for transportation. District Engineer Fanning's horses "Joh'n" and "Dick," a roan and chestnut, also have their quarters in the house. The apparatus and horses are always in the pink of condition when not in active service. There are among the members those who have been in perilous positions while in the discharge of their duties as protectors of the property and lives of citizens, and still others who have unflinchingly thrown aside all feeling of personal safety to save the lives of those who were cut off by smoke and flame.
Foreman JOHN J. FEE was born in Belfast, Ireland, on April 23, 1856. He is married and resides with his family at No. 31 Stuyvesant Avenue. He served four years in the 69th Regiment, N.G.S.N.Y., and resigned to become a fireman. When he was appointed, on April 22, 1876, he was assigned to Engine Company No. 13 on Powers Street. From it he was transferred to Engine Company No. 18, then to Engine No. 17, and while attached to this company on March 1, 1887, he was promoted to the grade of Assistant Foreman. On Feb. 1, 1890, he was advanced to the grade of Foreman and placed at the head of the company which he now commands. On the evening of Jan. 14, 1890 while Mr. Fee was attached to Engine No. 13, a fire broke out in a three-story frame house at the corner of Bushwick Place and Montrose Avenue. When the company reached the fire, Mr. Fee was ordered to take the pipe up the ladder to the top floor. He reached the point indicated and was standing on one of the window-sills when he felt the front wall rocking. In an instant he realized his peril, and sprang off the sill just as the walls fell with a terrific crash, carrying down with them twelve brave men, among them Foreman William Baldwin of Engine No. 16, who was so badly injured that he died three days later. Foreman Baldwin was the first fireman killed under the new Department, and the first to be honored with a monument. Mr. Fee, in his rapid and perilous descent, landed fortunately in a pile of soft dirt in the street and escaped with slight injury. At a fire in Ewen Street, near Johnson Avenue, Mr. Fee saved the life of a little boy by bringing him down the fire-escape from the top floor of the burning building. Mr. Fee was in charge of Engine Company No. 17 on Jan. 8, 1890 at a fire at No. 300 Throop Avenue, and assisted in removing from the ruins the bodies of six persons.
In the foremost rank of life-savers stands Assistant Foreman HENRY WACKERMAN, a man modest and retiring by nature, little given to speaking of incidents in his career as a fireman, but as brave as a lion where duty calls. He was born in this city, Sept. 25, 1860, and lives at No. 312 Maujer Street with his family. On Feb. 3, 1887, he received his appointment to the uniformed force and was assigned to duty with Engine No. 17. He was promoted to the grade of Assistant Foreman and on June 2, 1891, placed second in command of Engine No. 12. Subsequently he as transferred to this company. On the evening of Sept. 21, 1887, a few months after Mr. Wackerman became a member of No. 17, a "still alarm" came in from the corner of Lewis and Lafayette Avenues. When the company reached the scene the fire had worked itself up to the third story and had cut all all means of escape for the Nolan family which occupied the top floor. The family consisted of Mr. Nolan, his wife and four children, and they were at the windows imploring piteously for some one to save them. Mr. Wackerman tried to reach them by the fire-escape at the rear of the house, but the iron ladder burned his hands so badly that he had to give it up. The truck company had not yet reached the fire although an alarm had been sent out, and the only ladder available was a mason's ladder which had been hastily brought from a building in course of erection half a block away by Mr. Wackerman. The ladder was set up on the side of the house nearest to the kitchen and dining-room windows where the Nolan family were gathered, but would not reach within five feet of the window-sill on that floor. The smoke was pouring out of the windows on the lower floors in such volumes as to almost stifle a person mounting the ladder. Mr. Wackerman threw off his rubber coat and his fire-hat and sprang up the ladder. When he reached the top round, he shouted to Mr. Nolan to pass out he children one at a time. The brace fireman stood on the top round with his face and body pressed against the building and without a single thing to save him from falling backward, but he assured Mrs. Nolan that it was perfectly safe to pass the children out to him. It was a perilous undertaking, but when the first child was passed out he took a firm hold of its clothing with his teeth and swung the little one up on his shoulder, and then after getting carefully down on round slid the rest of the way down the ladder. In this way all the children were brought down safely, but when it came to getting Mrs. Nolan out, Fireman Wackerman, who was becoming exhausted, realized the fact that only by the utmost coolness on the part of the woman and himself could they ever reach the ground alive. Mr. Nolan, taking a firm hold of his wife's hands, lowered her carefully over the window-sill. "Talk to her and keep her looking up," shouted the brave man to Mr. Nolan, and the direction was carried out to the letter. Had not Mrs. Nolan been a brave woman both she and her rescuer would have been dashed to pieces on the ground, but she obeyed every direction given her until the courageous man had secured her firmly with one arm and taken the first step downward to a position where he could get a firm hold on the ladder with his unoccupied hand. When he had gained the ground in safety, both the rescued and the rescuer were received with cheers. Mr. Wackerman ascended the ladder again to rescue Mr. Nolan, but in the meantime other engine and truck companies had arrived and Mr. Nolan had been taken out by a front window. As he was descending the ladder, congratulating himself that his perilous work was over, the crowd in the street began to shout, "There's a girl on the second floor, go in and get her." Fireman Wackerman swung himself from the ladder and got into the second-story window. The fire was burning fiercely in the rear of the apartments and the smoke almost overcame him. He groped about until he came to a bedroom, but before he could reach the bed he was obliged to go to a window for air. Then he called for a lantern and groped his way back until he found the bed, but there was no one in it. He held the lantern close to the floor and discovered a man of large build with his head and arms jammed in the narrow space between the lower part of the bed and the floor. He was wedged in so tightly that Mr. Wackermanhad great difficulty in getting him out. The next difficulty was to get the man, who was very heavy, to the window. This was only accomplished by lifting him along a foot at a time. It was an arduous task, and before it was accomplished, Mr. Wackerman was scorched and so overcome by the smoke that when he was taken to the engine-house, his chances of recovery for a time were exceedingly doubtful. The man for whom he had taken the great risk was an invalid, who had been unable to more than roll from his bed and try to crawl under it when he was overcome by the smoke. When taken out into the street life was extinct. Mr. Wackerman had an experience at the Havemeyer sugar house fire on Sept. 7, 1889. Two of the sugar house men were standing on a gravel roof in the rear of the burning building holding the immense pipe of the fireboat "Seth Low". The pipe got the best of the men, and, owing to the immense pressure of water being forced through it, began to dance at a furious rate about the roof, throwing the gravel like hot shot in every direction. Several men tried to get hold of it before it caused serious damage, but were unable to cope with the great nozzle which was tearing up the roof at a lively rate. Mr. Wackerman made up his mind to take a chance with it,and watching his opportunity flung himself full length on the hose and grasped the pipe with both hands. The thing seemed to gain renewed strength when it found there was an effort being made to capture it. It jumped about so viciously that before Stephen Allen, now Foreman of Truck No. 6, and two other men could get to Wackerman's assistance,the latter's rubber boots had been torn from his feet, the coat from his back and his fire-hat flung a considerable distance away. All this had happened while a messenger was running to the fireboat to have the stream shut off. During the tussle with the pipe Mr. Wackerman received bruises all over his body, and an injury to his back which still causes him much trouble.
FRANCIS BOWERS is another life-saver, having twice saved the life of Fireman Jacob Lehman. On the first occasion Lehman was trying to board the truck while it was on the way to a fire. He missed his footing and would have been crushed beneath the wheels of the heavy apparatus had not Bowers at great personal risk to himself seized him and hung on to him until he regained a foot hold. At the big candy factory fire on North Third Street in 1889, Bowers and Lehman were on the third floor near the rear windows. The floor suddenly gave way and went down with a crash, only leaving the last beam nearest the window on which Bowers was standing. Lehman was disappearing with the floor when Bowers clutched the window-sill and reached down and seized Lehman by the neck and dragged him up on the beam badly cut and bruised. Mr. Bowers was born in this city, Sept. 15, 1861, and has been a member of Truck No. 8 since his appointment to the Department on Aug. 1,1889. He is married and lives at No. 296 Ellery Street.
JOSEPH DAVIS was born in Germany, Jan. 6, 1846. He served in the Civil War, and was appointed a fireman Jan. 1, 1880. He is married and lives at NO. 43 Graham Avenue. On the morning of Jan. 8, 1890, Mr. Davis assisted in rescuing six persons from the ruins of a house on Throop Avenue which had been crushed by a falling church, all of whom were seriously injured, two so badly that they died a short time after being dug out. Mr. Davis was injured on Feb. 16 by the falling of a heavy door while he was at work at a fire.
JACOB LEHMAN was born in New York City on Feb. 1, 1842. He is married and is the father of nine boys, and lives at No. 29 Scholes Street. He was appointed to the Department Feb. 15, 1879, and is now detailed as bell-ringer. He assisted in taking out the six persons who were buried in the ruins of the crushed building at No. 300 Throop Avenue.
WILLIAM TRACY, the driver of Truck No. 8, was born in this city,Sept. 21, 1847. He is married and lives at No. 179 Maujer Street. He was assigned to Engine Company No. 13 at the time of his appointment, Feb. 14, 1887, and was transferred subsequently to Truck No. 8.I worked with Glenn Tracy last night and I asked him how many Tracy's were assigned to Lad. 108. He said that he is sure of four (Him, His father, his grandfather and his great grandfather) but his grandmother told him that he (Glenn) was the fifth to be assigned to the company. Glenn says that his grandmother was old when she told him he was the fifth so he's not sure. Glenn thinks that the Tracy depicted in the photo was is great grandfather but he can't be sure. Capt. Tom Fried, Ladder 108
BERNARD A. MATSCHKE, the tiller-man, was born in New York City, Dec. 31, 1865. He enlisted as an apprentice in the United States Navy, on Sept. 3, 1883. When he was discharged on Dec. 30, 1888, he was captain of the top on the "Essex." He was appointed a fireman April 1, 1890, is married and resides on Ewen Street.
FRANCIS McLARNEY is a first-grade fireman and was appointed Jan. 1, 1888. He was born in the city of New York, May 15, 1855.
RICHARD S. WOOD is a third-grade fireman, having been appointed Nov. 16, 1891. He was born in Kings County on Dec. 28, 1865.
GEORGE LAMPERT was born in this city on June 4, 1854, and received his appointment on June 15, 1889. He is married and lives at No. 719 Hart Street.
CHARLES E. FERNALD was born in New York City, May 22, 1862, and was made a fireman April 1, 1885,and sent to Engine Company No. 14. He was transferred to his present company in 1891. Mr. Fernald is married and lives at NO. 68 Graham Avenue.
QUINCY J. KRAFT has been a fireman since Jan. 2, 1889, and since that time has been attached to this company. He was born in the city of New York, Oct. 22, 1866, is married and lives at NO. 35 Montrose Avenue.
The first fire which this company attended after it was organized was at Lawrence's rope-walk on Maspeth AVenue, Dec. 2, 1887, at which $20,000 worth of property was destroyed. It has done active work at all the big fires since.