Flourtown Fire Company
Flourtown Fire Company, established in 1910, is a volunteer fire company that provides emergency fire and rescue services to the citizens of Springfield Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It currently responses with Engine 6, Ladder 6, Squad 6 (light rescue), and Utility 6 (fire police).
- 1 History
- 2 First major fire
- 3 Early alarm system
- 4 First Motorized Apparatus
- 5 People, Places, and Trucks
- 6 A New Firehouse
- 7 Celebrating the First 25
- 8 The Hahns
- 9 Reaching New Heights
- 10 Disaster Strikes
- 11 Celebrating 50 Years of Service
- 12 Saving Lives
- 13 The Sixties
- 14 Ladies
- 15 Celebrating 75
- 16 The Start of the Pierce era
- 17 The new millennium
On September 1, 1910, a group of community-minded individuals met in the Odd Fellows’ Hall (now called the Lodge located on Bethlehem Pike) for the express purpose of organizing a volunteer fire company. This group recognized an existing need in Flourtown, for in, 1909, a fire on West Mill Road destroyed Harry L. Nash’s barn, together with a barn on an adjacent property. A general alarm was sounded, with Ambler, Chestnut Hill, Jenkintown and other companies responding, Jenkintown making the run in eleven minutes.
Walter Stowman was a leader in the movement and was elected temporary President, with William C. Thompson, Secretary, and Albert Jones, Treasurer. A committee was appointed to obtain prices on various fire fighting equipment. Edward Cressman also offered the use of a building on his property in Flourtown to the newly formed company. Stevenson Crothers, President of The Board of Commissioners of Springfield Township, offered the use of the township building for meetings. Meetings were arranged to be held alternately in the township building and Odd Fellows’ Hall.
The next meeting was held on September 15, 1910, at the township building, when a permanent organization was effected. The officers of the temporary organization were elected. Mr. Robert J. McCloskey was elected the first Fire Chief. John Faber Miller, Esquire, obtained the Charter and Certificates of Incorporation of the Flourtown Fire Company which were filed on October 12, 1910. Included among the Charter Members were Walter J. Stowman, Fred L. Harner, Albert L. Jones, William C. Thompson, Robert J. McCloskey, Russell Y. Pullinger, William T. Griffith, John T. Sheehan, S. Roulen Stowman, and Levi H. Lesseig.
At the November 3, 1910 meeting, Chief McCloskey reported that he had purchased two hand-drawn carts, one for $235.00, and the other for $90.00, together with 500 feet (150 m) of hose at $0.80 a foot. The ladies of the community held a fair at the Old White City Park, Chestnut Hill, (now Erdenheim) and realized $900.00, which was given to the men for purchase of hose carts and hose. One cart was to be kept at the Cressman property, Flourtown, and the other at the Wheel Pump (now Erdenheim) because the company was unable to secure a permanent location. Because of the difference on construction of the two reel carts, they were alternated every three months between the two stations.
First major fire
The first bad fire was at the home of P. Boldger on Wissahickon Avenue on April 4, 1911. The Flourtown cart was there first but was short of hose and a call was placed for the Wheel Pump reel. Harry Peterman was ready and he held it on the back of a Lehigh Valley Trolley and brought it up Bethlehem Pike to the fire.
Early alarm system
The first alarm system consisted of two large locomotive wheels. These were not successful, so in April 1911, C. J. McCloskey donated a 500-pound bell for use as an alarm. It was placed atop the Cressman Building in Flourtown. Also in 1911, the company bought the second lot of 500 feet (150 m) of hose and moved its headquarters to the Cressman building.
First Motorized Apparatus
In 1915, a 4-cycle Locomobile was purchased. This was equipped to carry hose and chemical tanks and cost $1,825.00. This was the company’s first piece of motorized equipment.
People, Places, and Trucks
Walter Rohrbach was elected Chief in 1918 and held that position until 1946. Also in August 1918, the Ladies Auxiliary was formed.
January 1919, saw the company purchase the Edwin Cressman property on Bethlehem Pike for $7,500.00, $2700.00 of which the company had or received by subscriptions. The children of Flourtown Grade School pledged $22.50. Among those who pledged were Emma T. Comly, a teacher who was (present member) Albert and Clement’s aunt; Ada Kimble (present member - Bob Wentz’s mother); and Agnes Kimble, who later became Mrs. Ephriam P. Kelley, wife of one of Flourtown’s early Fire Chiefs.
The property consisted of about 9 acres (36,000 m2) with buildings, one of which was first used as the firehouse. The company assumed a $4,800 mortgage for its purchase. It was satisfied in 1923. August 1923, saw the company order a 500-gallon pumper at the cost of $8,500. It was delivered the following February.
Joseph Rex was elected President in 1924 and held that office until 1947. In 1925, a 6-cycle locomobile was acquired through a gift from Mrs. Richard Cadwalader. This touring car was converted into a chemical truck at a cost of $2,600.00.
In 1920, the fire company’s first carnival was held on a lot near Wissahickon Avenue, and later years at the Carson College playground. Walter C. Smith, Sr., was appointed Chairman of the Carnival Committee in 1926 and laid the foundation for the famous “Flourtown Fair”, the largest fire fighter’s fair in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Smith died in 1932, but his enterprising efforts remained and were ably implemented by William J. Goss, who headed the Fair Committee until the final carnival was held in 1951.
A New Firehouse
A new firehouse was constructed by Potts Brothers on Ambler in 1929 at a cost of $29,000.00. A new apparatus room addition was made to this building in 1951. The addition cost $35,000.00. The structure remained in use until the erection of the present firehouse in 1965.
Celebrating the First 25
The Flourtown Fire Company celebrated its Silver Anniversary with a gala banquet of Tuesday, December 10, 1935. Charles V. Finley was Banquet Chairman, and Alfred Seddon acted as Toastmaster. Speakers included Judge Harold G. Knight and U.S. Congressman J. William Ditter.
Two pieces of apparatus, both Hahn pumpers were placed into service in 1936. One, a 1000 gallons per minute (GPM), and the other known as “The Little Hahn” were housed with a parade in November. It is interesting to note that “The Little Hahn” was sold to Norco Fire Company in 1954, but was bought back in 1984 for $5,000 and underwent years of restoration and is now on display at the current firehouse at 1526 Bethlehem Pike. In 2006, the “Little Hahn” placed second in the state for antique apparatus at the State Convention held in Conshohocken/Plymouth.
Reaching New Heights
The company accepted delivery of a 75-foot (23 m) steel aerial ladder truck from American LaFrance Company in April 1953. It was manufactured on specifications of the working force as an “On-The-Scene” piece. The truck cost $40,000.00. Then, early in 1954, a 750 GPM pumper was purchased. Other equipment acquired in the 50s included an American LaFrance 750 GPM pumper, equipped with a 750-gallon water tank, in 1958. In the same year, the Fire Police Unit received delivery of a fully equipped International Truck from the Huntingdon Valley Fire Company.
In retrospect, the most disastrous fire in the company’s history occurred in 1950, when a blaze enveloped the Bella Vista Sanitarium, located at Germantown Pike and Northwestern Avenue, with the loss of ten lives. Flourtown’s actions were recognized through an award from the Montgomery County Fireman’s Association for acts far above and beyond the call of duty. It was the first such award given by that organization, of which Flourtown has been a participating member since 1911.
Celebrating 50 Years of Service
The fire company celebrated its Golden Anniversary on September 9, 1960, with a dinner dance at the Philadelphia Cricket Club on West Valley Green Road. The program consisted of an invocation by Vice President George W. Karr, a word of welcome from President Walter Rohrbach, and remarks by Judge Harold G. Knight. The menu featured prime rib or fresh Maine lobster Newburg.
Returning to August 1955, fire company personnel were recognized for their efforts in rescuing three teenagers for the Wissahickon Creek. While in June 1965, members were praised for rescuing two small children from a second floor bedroom of a West Mill Road residence and reviving them.
In 1964, the company added a utility truck at a cost of $7,000.00. This unit was used primarily as a communications facility, and was known as “605”.
In October 1965, ground breaking ceremonies for a new firehouse were held. The building was dedicated on September 9, 1967, in conjunction with the housing of a 100-foot (30 m) American LaFrance mid-mount ladder truck costing $65,000.00. Construction costs of the 1526 Bethlehem Pike firehouse amounted to $165,000.00.
On February 20, 1968, the fire company acquired a new 1000 GPM American LaFrance pumper with a 750-gallon tank. This was called 603. A 1250 GPM American LaFrance called 602 with a 1000-gallon tank was housed on September 22, 1973. Then in September 1978 housing ceremonies took place for a new American LaFrance 100-foot (30 m), rear-mounted ladder called 601.
Two women were accepted in the company’s membership in the early '80s. Firefighter Clare Hoban (now a life-active member) became a member in May 1983. Wendy Lea Robinson was accepted in December 1984. She went onto become a member of the Fire Police Unit. Wendy is the granddaughter of former Chief and Mrs. Ephriam P. Kelley.
The 75th Anniversary of Flourtown Fire Company was held in 1985. A Beef and Beer, Clam Bake, Dinner-Dance and Banquet were all part of the festivities in the mid-eighties. Congratulations from President Ronald Reagan down through the state, county and township commissioners were received and shared with the members at these ceremonies.
The Start of the Pierce era
In 1987, the first two apparatus manufactured by Pierce were purchased by Flourtown. The two pumpers designated 602 (1,000 gallon tank) and 603 (750 gallon tank) both had 1,500 gallon per minute pumps. The 1936 Little Hahn restoration really began to come together in 1987 and 1988. Completely restored by members including John Spencer, Robert L. Scott, Dave Scott, Robert Wentz, Frank Faulkner and many others who worked hundreds of hours finding replacement parts and equipment to create a stunning apparatus which still operates today as it did in 1936.
In 1993, 603 was replaced with another Pierce pumper.
In 1998, a housing was held for a new Pierce 100-foot (30 m) Rear Mount ladder truck with an 8-person cab and a full complement of rope, confined space and water rescue equipment, various ladders, generators, fans, forcible entry tools, and a flexible hose line which runs up the ladder to create an aerial water pipeline. Also the completely restored 1936 “Little Hahn” was officially “re-housed” within the Flourtown Fire Company.
The new millennium
The new century brought a replacement for the 1987 pumper 602. A Pierce Quantum with an 8-person cab became the company new “first out” engine.
Area flooding and more frequent water rescues precipitated the Company taking a State-sponsored Water rescue course in 2002. With most of its active firefighters trained, the company acquired all the needed equipment to assist the community and commuters caught in rapidly rising and moving waters.
Also in 2002, the fire company moved ahead with plans to acquire a new tenant in its old fire house 1528 Bethlehem Pike. The renovations take several years, but a new exterior and a redesigned second floor training room and computer system are just some of the benefits of the work and new tenant.
Also in 2001 Flourtown Fire Company, Station 600 officially switched over to using plain-speak, the company becomes Station 6 and the apparatus become Engine 6, Ladder 6, Squad 6, and Utility 6.
In 2003, Flourtown Fire Company also began using Squad 6 to respond as a Firefighter Assist and Search Team (FAST), also known as a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT). A FAST is a special team that comprises two or more firefighters dedicated solely to search and rescue of other firefighters in distress. FAST have no other purpose during an incident.