Sunday, 26 February 2017

1886 - Hamilton Fire Department

In April, 1886, the stellar reputation of the Hamilton Fire Department attracted widespread attention. The innovations of Fire Chief Alex. Aitchison, as well as the discipline of the firemen on the department were respected and imitated. Both nationally and internationally.

A small newspaper located not too far from Hamilton in Milton Ontario sent a reporter to get a demonstration of the Hamilton Fire Department’s methods.

The article which resulted was first carried in the Milton Sun, and later reproduced in the Hamilton Spectator of April 20, 1886 :

“One evening last week, Chief Aitchison, of the Hamilton Fire department, showed the Sun through the various fire halls in that city. They are four in number, and cost the city, together with wages, horses, etc., some $25,000 annually. But they are well-worth the amount. Although the fire calls average one every two days, the department has not lost $1,000 yet this year.

“The system, which was designed and perfected by Chief Aitchison, is the best in the world for prompt, nay lightning, work. Take Victoria avenue fire hall for instance. The gas was turned down; the hall was dark as midnight, and as silent almost as the grave; not a sign of life was visible; a gong struck. Instantly, the Sun was in the bright glare of a gas jet, and every part of the hall was visible, and before one could rub his eyes, the horses were out, hitched up by an automatic arrangement, the fire ladies were in their respective places, the doors were open and the whole strength of the hall were ready to move to the scene of the fire at a breakneck pace. This transformation scene from dark silence to active, alert, busy life, was accomplished in the incredibly short space of one and a half seconds.

“We stood in admiration, and desired the chief to do it all over again in order that we could see how it was done. He was kind enough to comply, and we saw more the second time from the first, although the time was about the same. The automatic mechanism opening the stable doors, waking the men and horses, lighting the gas etc., is simply unapproachable, while the alertness of the living machinery leaves the spectator lost in wonder. The whole must be seen to be thoroughly appreciated, and Chief Aitchison and his men are courteous to all visitors. The Hamilton Fire department cannot be beaten, and we take especial delight in chronicling the fact.”



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