Fire Protection Provision Made for Fairport
"Some provision should be made for fire protection...A resolution will be offered to levy and raise by tax...the sum of $300 for the purpose of purchasing at least 75 good, durable buckets, and a suitable number of ladders..."
The date was March 8, 1877. One month after this notice appeared in the Fairport Herald, the first fire company in Fairport was established. The group was organized by the workman of the DeLand Chemical Company to "protect the property of the chemical works first, (but) always ready to aid in other places when not needed there."
The DeLand Fire Company No. 1, sometimes referred to as the DeLand Hose Company No. 1, was formally incorporated on Aug. 23, 1877, with Levi DeLand as president and with 53 charter members. The issue of fire protection apparently was on the minds of many during this time because within the next decade two more fire companies were organized in Fairport. The Fairport Hook and Ladder Company was also organized in 1877 and incorporated in 1881 with 25 charter members. The Fairport Protectives, whose job it was to "restrain crowds at fires and to remove property from buildings and protect it after removal", was organized in 1888 and incorporated in 1890. Since 1910, these three companies have comprised the Fairport Fire Department.
In addition, business owners near the four corners of the village became conscious of fire protection. In 1877 they purchased 300 feet of fire hose and received permission to use the DeLand Chemical Works steam pump. The hose, when used in connection with the hose the DeLand Chemical Company already had, would cover most of the central business district.
The real work of any fire company is, of course, fighting fires. During the 1880's there seemed to be few fires of significant proportions. In 1878 there was a fire at C. C. Moore's Planning Mill and Box Factory, which took only a short time to contain and extinguish. In 1881 an oil tank in a freight car sprang a leak and scattered oil on the tracks which was quickly ignited by sparks and spread up the track to another train, setting it on fire, but not causing an explosion. "The 'hooks' shouldered their extinguishers and grabbed their buckets with a good deal of muscle and rendered efficient service. The steamer took suction at the creek on Main Street and extinguished the fire as far as the hose could reach...It took about two hours' work." Brown's blacksmith shop burned in 1886, but the surrounding properties were saved, as the steamer was able to pump enough water from the canal to do the job.
It wasn't until 1893 that the fire companies of Fairport were severely tested. On the night of Feb. 3, 1893, the firemen responded to a fire at Marlow's barn on Summit Street and shortly thereafter to a fire at Chadwick's warehouses in the area of West Avenue near the canal. Three streams of water served to contain that blaze, although the temperature was near zero and there was a strong west wind. The next morning, fire was discovered in the DeLand Chemical Works. For the third time within 24 hours, the fire fighters were called out. The hose was in poor condition due to the cold and the fires of the previous night. The engine was out of commission, and the canal and Thomas Creek, the only sources of water, were frozen. Although help was sent from Rochester, the fire had advanced too far. Before long, not only the chemical works but also the electric plant were in ruins. It was a devastating loss for the village. Within days, the community held a public meeting to discuss the need for a water works that would serve the entire village. The first customers were connected to that new water system in December 1893, too late for the chemical works, but available to prevent another such catastrophe.
It seems that many of the spectacular or significant fires that the Fairport companies responded to over the subsequent half century also involved major local businesses. The fire companies, however, were equipped with a dependable water supply. The Brown Carriage Works on South Main Street was destroyed in 1919, the Trescott Company on North Main Street endured a fire in 1930, and the Boylands Feed Mill, also on North Main Street, sustained significant damage in 1940. The 1921 fire at the Douglass Packing Company (Vinegar Works) caused between $300,000 and $500,000 damage. The 1942 fire at the fireworks plant on West Whitney Road claimed several lives.
These losses, however, were far outweighed by the preservation of life and property made possible by the dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers of the Fairport Fire Department.