Fire Department History (Cont.)

CHANGING TIMES – 1889 to 1939

On September 12, 1889, the village council finally put a water works question to the voters. By a vote of 459 for and 53 against, a new water system would be installed. Work started about a month later & the system was completed & tested in April 1890. Now the fire department had water nearly every place in town to help them during a fire.

Not much is mentioned or recorded about the fire department until after the First World War. Motorized vehicles were becoming popular and teams of horses not so plentiful. The village council started thinking about a motorized fire truck.

On July 19, 1920, the village council approved the purchase of a Reo fire truck from Boyer Fire Apparatus Company, for a sum not to exceed $7,000.00. January 14, 1921, Fenton's village council took delivery of Fenton's first motorized fire truck. The firemen received training for one week on the operation of the truck by the Boyer Fire Apparatus Company.

In the Spring of 1922, automobiles were becoming popular and this was causing problems for the firemen to get to the fire hall for a fire. It was also hard to get a fire truck to a fire. On May 8, 1922, the village council passed a resolution to regulate the parking of automobiles by the fire hall & operating an automobile in the village at the time of a fire alarm.

At a village council meeting on October 5, 1925, it was agreed to work with Fenton Township to try and create a special assessment district to purchase a fire truck for township fire protection. The township would maintain the truck and the village firemen would answer the alarms. This truck would also be used for fires in the village. In March 1926, the village firemen received the 1926 Reo fire truck.

Since the fire department now had two motorized fire trucks, they would have to part with the Silsby Steam Engine & two hose carts. There was no longer room for them at the fire hall. Space has always been a concern at the fire station throughout history. Some claim these items were sold, but there were no records found to indicate if they were sold or not. We have also heard claims that the steam engine was left to rot away in the old city dump, which was located where the Community Center now sits. I guess we will probably never know for sure.

At a village council meeting on June 23, 1930, the Fenton Township board asked the village if they would accept title and maintain their fire truck. In return, the village would continue to service the special assessment district, but would receive all money received for use of the truck outside the special assessment district. The council approved the offer.

On February 16, 1931, the village council decided how to charge for the service of the fire truck and firemen into other townships. They decided a flat fee of $50.00 per fire run would be charged. The Township Boards of Tyrone, Rose, Holly and Fenton Township were all informed and told they would have to pay $50.00 in advance to the Fenton village treasurer, if they wanted fire protection.

Village council members, after many long battles between them, decided to purchase a new fire truck. On September 9, 1931, a contract was signed to purchase a 1930 Peter Pirsch at a price not to exceed $6,000.00. The 1920 Reo fire truck was traded in for this purchase. The new truck was received on December 8, 1931.

After serving the village of Fenton for 62 years, the engine house had to be torn down. This was due to the Community Center being built behind it. The Rackham fund, which made the donations to build the Community Center, donated funds to build a new combined city hall & fire station. This building is to be built in the city park, in the apex of the angle formed by Leroy and Ellen Street.

With a basement below street level and one story above it, the building will occupy footings of 42 feet by 77 feet. The fire department and council chambers will open on to the street and the basement will be used for storage. A tower will surmount the building at the southwest corner & will boast a modern electric clock. The new clock was made by Seth Thomas Clocks, a division of General Time Instruments Corporation, of Thomaston, Connecticut. The date stamped on the clock works is August 12, 1938. We assume that the old clock made by Western Clock Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, was thrown away. No records have been found that indicate otherwise. In fact, we were able to locate a man in Connecticut that has all the clock records from Seth Thomas Clocks. Here is the information he sent to us: "The records show that a #15 hour strike movement, serial #3195, was ordered for the Fenton Fire House on June 6, 1938 and was shipped on August 11, 1938. The records also show that the movement had a power unit for the time train & that there were four (4) vitrolite dials of 3'6" in diameter." When we asked him about the shipping date & the date stamped on the clock works, being different, this is what he told us. "Having looked at many of the some 4200 records of all the tower clocks manufactured and shipped by Seth Thomas during the 70 year period between 1872 and 1942, I have found that, generally speaking, there are two dates recorded on each record. The first, or earlier date, appears to be the order date, or at least the date on which the Company entered the order into the record books. The later date, which is labeled the ship date on the records, is generally a date that is within several days of the date put upon the plaque or small round dial on the movement. My guess is that they were working with a “target” ship date (the date of August 12, 1938) and at that point they finished putting the small dial on the movement, which contains the date, and hence that date could be a few days before or after the actual ship date recorded in their records". What we understand this to mean is that Seth Thomas Clocks had put the date of August 12, 1938 as their target ship/manufacture date and they actually finished before then. This means that the original clock & its works were taken down & not re-used.

According to fire department records, Dubord Garage was used as a temporary fire hall while the new one was being built. We have been told that this garage was on the northwest corner of S. Leroy St. and W. Shiawassee Avenue.

On July 27, 1939, Fenton’s “second” new fire hall was occupied by the fire department. This is also when Fenton had its first around the clock telephone operator for both the Fire Department and Police Department.

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