Briarcliff Manor Fire Department

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Briarcliff Manor Fire Department
Fire department cross depicting horse-drawn fire engine
Operational Area
Country United States
State New York
Village Briarcliff Manor
Address 1111 Pleasantville Road
Briarcliff Manor, New York
Agency Overview
Established 1901
Fire chief Robert O'Hanlon, Jr.
Facilities & Equipment
Stations 2
Engines 4
Rescues 1
Ambulances 2

The Briarcliff Manor Fire Department (BMFD) provides fire protection and emergency medical services to the village of Briarcliff Manor, New York and its hamlet Scarborough. The volunteer fire department also serves unincorporated areas of the town of Ossining,[nb 1] and the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department Ambulance Corps provides emergency medical transport with two ambulances.[2]

The fire department, which dates to 1901, has three fire companies, two stations, and four fire engines.


A brass bell displayed beside a sidewalk and trees
The fire bell of the Municipal Building is now a memorial bell in front of the new fire station
Uniformed men marching down a street
Department members and engines at Briarcliff Manor's Memorial Day parade

Operationally, the department is nominally organized into three fire companies, each led by a chief:[3]

  • Briarcliff Fire Company
  • Briarcliff Manor Hook & Ladder and Rescue Company
  • Scarborough Engine Company

The fire department has two stations; its headquarters at the Briarcliff Manor Village Hall (housing the Briarcliff fire companies) and another on Scarborough Road (housing the Scarborough Engine Company).[4][5] The department has approximately 150 members, including a fire chief and two assistant chiefs who are paid nominally and are not village employees.[4]

Ambulance corps[edit]

The Briarcliff Manor Fire Department Ambulance Corps operates two state-certified ambulances with basic life-support capabilities. The corps answers over 500 emergencies per year and participates in the Tri-Community Fly Car Program to provide advanced life support.[6]


Early 1900s[edit]

A man in a white coat and fire helmet holding a brass horn
Frederick Messinger, founder

Briarcliff Manor's fire company existed for more than a year before Briarcliff Manor's incorporation. Frederick C. Messinger (a fireman in Kingston for ten years) and thirteen local men founded the private fire company in 1901.[3] Thirty-six men became the company’s charter members on March 4, 1902, and dues were set at 25 cents per month. On April 15 of that year, the company took the name Briarcliff Steamer Company No. 1. The company’s first equipment was a hand-drawn chemical apparatus, with a tank containing a mixture of water and sodium bicarbonate. Sulfuric acid would be added to the tank, creating carbon dioxide, which would propel the solution through the hose and help extinguish the fire. That first apparatus was white, which Messinger thought more visible than the conventional red in a village without street lights,[nb 2] and the village's engines remain white.[8]

The chemical apparatus was only suitable for small fires, and was soon supplemented with a steam-operated pumper and a hose wagon, both horse-drawn. The two pieces of equipment were purchased by Walter Law’s Briarcliff Realty Company and were loaned to the fire company without charge. At the time, the fire company housed its equipment and horses at the Briarcliff Farms’ Barn A (present-day St. Theresa’s School) and used the Wheelwright shop as a meeting room and for social events.[8]

After the village was incorporated, the company petitioned the village board to form the company into a village fire department. Their request was granted on February 10, 1903. In 1906, the village counsel advised reorganization, and the Briarcliff Fire Company was created in the office of Walter Law, with Messinger again serving as Foreman. The fire equipment, totaling $55.93 ($1,500 today[9]), was transferred to the new company. In 1908, American LaFrance sold a hook-and-ladder truck and two-wheeled hose-and-chemical truck (both horse-drawn) to the fire department for $2,700 ($70,900 today[9]). In the following year an alarm bell was purchased, replacing first a suspended railway iron and sledgehammer in a barn, which was followed by an ineffective steam whistle.[8]

In the first decade of the 1900s, the Archville Fire Company was formed in neighboring Archville, New York, with the company headquarters in a shed on the corner of Albany Post Road (current U.S. Route 9) and Union Street. The company’s original equipment consisted of thirty 3½ gallon galvanized buckets, and later a 50-gallon horse-drawn pumper purchased from the Valhalla Fire Department. The company was chartered in 1909 as the Archville Fire Department, with Hubert W. Mannerly as the first Fire Chief. From then until 1930 the department was autonomous, until Briarcliff Manor requested that Archville provide its fire protection services to Scarborough. In 1930, the department changed its name to the Scarborough Fire Company and became part of the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department. In 1972, the company was split into two units, with an autonomous Archville unit and the Scarborough Engine Company, headquartered in the Scarborough Presbyterian Church garage and a part of the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department.[8]

After a large fire at Miss Knox’s School (site of the Briarcliff Corporate Campus) in 1912, the department’s equipment was upgraded to deal with larger fires. The village purchased an American LaFrance 750 gallon-per-minute motorized pumper truck. The existing hose-and-chemical wagon was motorized and became the chief's car. In 1914, the Village Municipal Building was constructed to house the government and fire engines. The likeness of its garage doors can be seen in the façade of the present restaurant. Later in 1914 the department established sub-stations at Mrs. Whitson’s barn on Pleasantville Road and on the Holden farm at Scarborough Road; these were discontinued in 1921. The first major fire to involve the motorized vehicles was in 1916 at the central business district. In spite of the new equipment, several buildings at the northern end were destroyed. The 1908 hook-and-ladder truck was motorized in 1923 and two years later, the chief’s car was replaced by another American LaFrance vehicle. An electric siren was installed in 1928 after a complaint that the previous alarm sounded more like a call to breakfast than an alarm of fire.[8]

1930s fire engines leaving a brick firehouse
Fire Department at the village municipal building, taken c. 1930
Basketball players in a group photograph
A BMFD basketball team

During the Great Depression, uniforms were again nonstandard, similar to the early years of the fire department. Another American LaFrance hook-and-ladder truck was ordered in 1930 to go along with the 1908 truck, and another pump truck was purchased from the same company in 1935. Five years later, the 1912 pumper truck was sold, and was replaced with a Mack squad and patrol truck. In 1936, the village tradition of the testing of the fire alarm at noon began; it was sounded on each day except Sunday. In the same year, due to a dispute over fire chief elections, the Briarcliff Manor Hook and Ladder Company was formed, separate from the Engine Company. During the 1930s, the department had organized a basketball team which played other departments and the Scarborough company formed a rivalry with the Briarcliff ones.[8]

During World War II, more than 340 of the village's 1,830 residents served in the United States Armed Forces. The Hook and Ladder Company waived fees and dues for those enlisted from 1941 onward. Such a sufficient number of firefighters was serving the armed forces that the village requested volunteers ages 16–18 to join the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department; at least nine served on active duty during the war and had the ability to excuse themselves from school (which was then located adjacent to Law Memorial Park) if the fire siren went off. Also during the war, in 1944, the department received a trailer-type pump unit with a 500-gallon pump, hose, nozzle, ladders, and other tools. It was loaned to the village by the Office of Civil Defense and was an auxiliary to the existing equipment. One year later, Briarcliff High School graduate and Briarcliff Fire Company lieutenant Sgt. Arthur J. Quinn, Jr. of the 45th Division was killed in action in Germany.[8]

The first ambulance was purchased in 1945 after a number of residents expressed the need for it. It was ordered in July 1945 for $5,000 ($65,500 today[9]), and was delivered in 1947 and ended up costing $6,000 ($78,600 today[9]). The ambulance had a Meteor body and Cadillac chassis, and provided for two bed patients and two stretcher cases. Ossining later purchased the ambulance to start their own ambulance corps. In May 1946, a dinner was held to honor the returning veterans of World War II. In the same year, the village purchased all loaned fire equipment, and purchased a new Mack pumper truck (Engine 92, the same designation still used in Scarborough) in May 1947 to replace the 1929 chemical truck.[8]

Late 1900s[edit]

A fire department group photograph showing members and vehicles
The Briarcliff Manor Fire Department; taken May 30, 1976
A two-bay brick firehouse
Scarborough Engine Company station, built 2009

1951 was the 50th anniversary of the Fire Department, and so the village held a week-long celebration beginning on July 1, 1950 with a morning service at the Briarcliff Congregational Church, a band concert at Law Park, and a Fourth of July parade with 5,500 spectators, with a march led by Fred Messinger, followed by eight ex-chiefs. The parade included Scarborough’s first fire engine (the red hand-pumped 1901 truck), many bands, and twelve fire departments from Westchester County municipalities. The ex-chief’s dinner that evening drew 85 guests. In that year, it was noted that there were not yet any resident deaths from fires within village boundaries. In the late 1950s, Edna O’Brien was the first; trapped in her house and surrounded by intense flames. In 1955, the department purchased a new pumper and a Mack hook-and-ladder truck with a 75 ft. ladder for $40,000 ($352,100 today[9]). Also in the mid 1950s, a new firehouse was decidedly needed, and more urgently when the weight of the then-new pumper and ladder trucks ruptured the Municipal Building’s floor. For five years, the equipment was housed in Briarcliff and Ossining garages until late 1963, when the new firehouse and municipal offices building was completed. Also in the 1950s, additional sirens were installed for firemen outside of the central siren’s range, both on Schrade and at the intersection of Long Hill and Scarborough roads, replacing a siren at Scarborough Presbyterian.[8]

In 1971, Briarcliff's government tried to charge Archville $200 per year ($1,200 per year today[9]) for the four existing hydrants and water supply in the hamlet, which Archville objected to. Briarcliff Manor contacted the State Controller, who instructed the village that Briarcliff Manor’s existing arrangement was not in accordance with any state law. Archville’s fire protection district refused to lease the station and equipment from Briarcliff, and thus the Briarcliff Board of Trustees terminated the Scarborough Fire Company’s membership in the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department and severed its protection responsibility over Archville. In September 1972, the Briarcliff Manor Board of Trustees formed the Scarborough Engine Company, purchased a new Mack truck, and built a new Scarborough firehouse.[8]

A two-story brick firehouse
Primary station at the Briarcliff Manor Village Hall
A one-bay firehouse with a white firetruck exiting
Scarborough Engine Company station, stood 1974 to 2009

1976 was the department’s 75th anniversary, and its celebrations included a parade from Willow Drive to the firehouse with 650 firemen from fourteen companies, women’s auxiliaries, and 500 members from thirteen bands all marching. In 1978, a new ambulance was purchased at $32,750 ($118,400 today[9]); a Yankee body on a Ford truck chassis, with an oxygen system, suction system, and a pulse tachometer. The old ambulance was kept as an auxiliary. A year later, the village purchased a new $160,000 ($519,900 today[9]) ladder truck, delivered in 1983 and replacing the 1936 truck.[8]

One of the most notable fires in the village happened at about 10 pm on January 22, 1982, in the downtown. The fire began in the basement of Briarcliff Stationers and destroyed the Briarcliff Country Store, Briar Rose, and the Shoe Bazaar. More than a hundred Briarcliff Manor and Pleasantville firefighters assisted to control the fire, which continued to burn at heights of 30–40 feet at midnight, but was under control by 1:30 am. During the 1980-81 Iran hostage crisis, the fire whistle was blown sixty-six times, once for each released hostage. A year later, in 1982, the first Briarcliff Manor fire with active female volunteers was fought, with Debra Ann Conacchio and Rachel Higgins serving as firefighters in the department.[8]

In 1996, the department ordered a rescue truck for $194,448 ($292,400 today[9]) from 3-D Manufacturing, and a Pierce pumper truck was purchased at $312,777 ($470,300 today[9]) for Scarborough to replace their corroding 1974 Mack truck. A year later, the department hosted the Westchester County Volunteer Firemen Association Convention, the usual parade with 43 departments, a golf outing, and the annual meeting and dinner of the Association.[8] On October 1, 2010, the department dedicated the Scarborough firehouse, which was rebuilt in one year at the cost of $1.3 million. The building was doubled in size, now with 3,603 square feet (334.7 m2). Upgrades included a meeting room, 14-foot-high garage bays, and expanded parking.[10]

Alarm receiving and transmittal[edit]

The central siren is located at the Briarcliff Manor Village Hall. Since the 1950s, additional sirens have been located on Schrade Road and at the intersection of Long Hill and Scarborough roads. Firemen also are issued small radio receivers to send a signal of a fire’s location and which trucks should be sent. Company officers additionally have two-way radios.[8]


The Fire Department has one tower ladder, one heavy rescue vehicle, two ambulances, three class-A pumpers and a utility truck. The department also has a trailer for safety demonstrations and a weapons-of-mass destruction trailer acquired through a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.[4]

Ident. Number Type Make/Model Location SCBA Picture
92 Class-A
1995 Pierce Dash
Fire Station
8 A white firetruck
93 Class-A
1991 Simon Duplex/Beck
1500/500 "The Beast"
Briarcliff Manor
Village Hall
8 A white firetruck
94 Class-A
2008 Seagrave "The Bus" Briarcliff Manor
Village Hall
9 A white firetruck
Tower Ladder 40 Tower ladder 2005 KME Predator 95 ft. Briarcliff Manor
Village Hall
8 A white firetruck
Ident. Number Type Make/Model Location SCBA Picture
2051 Chief's car 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe N/A 1 A white fire chief's car
2052 Assistant Chief's car 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe N/A 1 A white fire chief's car
2053 Assistant Chief's car 2007 Ford Expedition N/A 1 A white fire chief's car
Rescue 37 Heavy rescue vehicle 1998 Freightliner/PL Custom Briarcliff Manor
Village Hall
8 A white fire rescue truck
53-B-1 Ambulance 2007 Ford E-450/PL Custom Briarcliff Manor
Village Hall
N/A A white ambulance
53-B-2 Ambulance 1999 Ford/PL Custom Briarcliff Manor
Village Hall
N/A A white ambulance
Utility 62 Utility truck 1997 Ford Mini-Bus Scarborough
Fire Station
N/A A white fire department mini-bus
Patrol 16 Department antique 1940 Mack Scarborough
Fire Station
N/A A white 1940s firetruck

Notable people[edit]

A white 1940s fire truck
Rear view of a white 1940 fire truck
1940 Mack pumper that served the BMFD from 1940 to 1972.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ossining is under a fire protection contract and pays the BMFD to cover an unincorporated area, including election district 20. Ossining paid $123,000 for BMFD service in 2011.[1]
  2. ^ The first 29 street lights, all electric, were installed in 1904.[7]


  1. ^ Stefko, Joseph; Town and Village of Ossining, NY (April 2012). "Municipal Services & Financial Overview: Town and Village of Ossining, NY". Center for Governmental Research. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Emergency Medical Services". Village of Briarcliff Manor. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Bosak, Midge, ed. (1977). A Village Between Two Rivers: Briarcliff Manor. White Plains, New York: Monarch Publishing, Inc. OCLC 6163930. 
  4. ^ a b c "Comprehensive Plan - Village of Briarcliff Manor". Village of Briarcliff Manor. November 2007. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Fire Department". Briarcliff Manor. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  6. ^ Briarcliff Manor Fire Department Ambulance Corps : Volunteering For 60 Years. Briarcliff Manor Fire Department Ambulance Corps. 
  7. ^ Our Village: Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. 1902 to 1952. Historical Committee of the Semi–Centennial. 1952. OCLC 24569093. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q A Century of Volunteer Service: Briarcliff Manor Fire Department 1901–2001. Briarcliff Manor Fire Department. 2001. LCCN 00093475. OCLC 48049424. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  10. ^ Nackman, Barbara (September 30, 2010). "Scarborough firehouse to be dedicated tomorrow". the Journal News. Retrieved November 11, 2014. 
  11. ^ Berger, Joseph (April 30, 1999). "How Cheever Really Felt About Living in Suburbia". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • A Century of Volunteer Service: Briarcliff Manor Fire Department 1901–2001. Briarcliff Manor Fire Department. 2001. LCCN 00093475. OCLC 48049424.  For further information on the history of the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department.

External links[edit]