Amidst the growing and expanding community of Brookline, five civic-minded individuals realized the need for better fire protection. On October 9 1914, after the meeting of the Brookline Improvement Association, a 7-minute meeting was held to form the Brookline Fire Company. This meeting took place at 412 Allston Road at the home of Paul A. Embick, today it is 1107 Allston Road. In November 1914, a charter was obtained from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, designating this new organization as “The Brookline Fire Company”. Thus began out 100+ years of continuous service to the community.
On January 12, 1915, the fire company purchased 800′ of 2.5″ hose for $.38 a foot ($304). Also, on that date, the fire company began to look for land to build a firehouse.
Joe Carroll – 1940
Hollis Danley – 1948
Jim Richardson – 1953
Tom Carson – 1958
Jim Lynch – 1980
Charles Hensil – 1988
Larry Todd – 1999
Charles Hensil – 2003
James R. Lloyd 1914 – 1916
William J. Brown 1916 – 1918
B.F. Camp 1918 – 1919
Fretz 1919 – 1920
Victor Lobb 1920 – 1921
John Shiley 1921 – 1923
John Speth 1923 – 1925
Joseph Schule 1925 – 1942
J. Perry Craig 1942 – 1972
James A. Marino 1972 – 1984
The Lansdowne Fire Company offered the use of a Spider, a hose cart drawn by six men, until the fire company could purchase its own. The Spider was kept at 118 Boulevard in Brookline, the home of Edward Bryant. This was considered the first firehouse of the fire company. A Spider was purchased from the Darby Fire Company on April 5, 1915 for $75.00, this was kept in the garage of William Brown only to be moved to E. Bryant’s home at a later date. It was also on April 5 that the fire company bought lots five and six of block three in Brookline to build the current firehouse.
Prior to April 5, the fire company met at the homes of its members, they would now meet at the Brookline Square Club at a cost of $1.00 a month. The Brookline Square Club was located on the site of the current Haverford Senior High School.
On March 10, 1915 at 4:30 in the afternoon, an alarm was turned in. On Kathmere Road a tree was burning, endangering nearby dwellings. A gong was sounded calling the men to their first alarm. The men responded to the firehouse, the Spider was drawn to the location, and the “Blazing Chestnut Tree” was extinguished.
At 7:30 that evening, our second alarm was turned in. It was the same fire, same tree, in the same location. This time the job was completed.
A steam whistle was mounted on the Philadelphia and Western Railroad power station at Beechwood, to be used to indicate the location of the fire.
On September 16, 1916, ground was broken on lots five and six in block three for the firehouse. The new building was to be two stories high and constructed of stone. The second floor was to be used as a hall, and rented out for additional income. On the first floor, the left side was used to house the fire apparatus, and the right side was to be rented to a tailor for $10.00 a month rent. The cost of the building that was built by Joseph Schule was $7500. The first meeting in the new firehouse was on April 6, 1917.
On April 18, 1918, the first motorized fire apparatus was delivered at a cost of $1,725. The truck was built by Hale Pump on a Simplex chassis with a Hale Pump. The old Spider was sold for $100 and the crew heaved a big sigh of relief, for it took a crew to pull the Spider and another crew to extinguish the fire.
The first electric siren was installed in December 1919. This new alarm system replaced the outmoded fire alarms, which consisted of Hoop-Hammer and steam whistle of the P & W line. The “New” system was supplemented in 1940 by a system whereby bells were place in each crew member’s home. The unique home-alarm system was designed by Chief Perry Craig. Today, members are notified of a fire call by a system of electronic pagers.
In May 1923, the fire company purchased a Howe Ford chemical truck for the sum of $1500. The company now had two modern pieces of fire fighting apparatus. Two years later a 750 gallon per minute American LaFrance pumper was purchased for $12,000, and the 1918 Hale Pumper was sold to the Bon Air Fire Company for about $700.
The first township ladder truck was bought in 1930 and was awarded to the Brookline Fire Company. It was an American LaFrance City Service ladder truck. A resuscitator was added to the new “Mack” 500 gpm pumper in 1948. Brookline could now respond to oxygen calls, thus providing another valuable service to the community and another “first” for the fire company.
In 1950, a Maxim Aerial ladder truck was purchased to replace the old City Service ladder truck. A new addition had to be added to the firehouse to accommodate the new ladder truck. A Pirsch 1000 gpm pumper, with built-in foam system, was delivered in 1954 to replace the 1925 American LaFrance pumper.
The Brookline Fire Company started its ladder drill team in 1956. Every man was a perfectionist in the art of ladder training. They instructed state, county, and regular fire company drills, along with additional demonstrations to other fire companies. In the summer of 1958, the fire company took delivery of a new Maxim 750 gpm pumper. This was the first pumper in the township to have preconnected attack lines in it. Ten years later in 1969, the fire company received a new Maxim International ladder truck.
In 1975, Brookline housed a 1975 Pierce 1250 GPM pumper which would later earn the title “workhorse of the township”. The Crew Club Room was dedicated in the same year. The year 1979 saw the arrival of a Seagrave foam unit, then in 1985 the fire company purchased a Pierce 1000 GPM pumper to act as a foam tender for the foam unit. Thus the fire company’s Flammable Liquids Task Force was put in service. The next piece of fire fighting apparatus arrived in 1987, a Pierce 105′ aerial truck, nicknamed the USS Brookline. The new truck earned the nickname because it was much larger than the 1969 Maxim aerial ladder truck it replaced and the members joked it was as big as an aircraft carrier.
The 1990’s saw many changes for the Brookline Fire Company with many pieces of apparatus saying farewell to the Haverford Township community. In 1993, the fire company sold the 1975 Pierce Hendrickson engine and welcomed a 1993 Pierce Lance attack pumper. The new “Engine 31” has a pump capacity of 1250 gallons per minute with a capacity of 500 gallons of water. Unique specifications were drawn for this truck and implemented because of the low clearance of the firehouse. The truck had to be less than 100 inches in height to clear the beams in the firehouse. In addition, this was our first truck with a fully enclosed cab. Firefighters no longer rode outside the exposed to the weather or the possibility of being throw from the truck should an accident occur.
The following year Brookline Fire Company sold both our 1978 Seagrave Foam Unit and 1983 Pierce pumper to make way for a new Foam Unit. In 1995, we received a 1995 Pierce Saber foam pumper. Engine 32 has a 1250 gallon per minute pump and carries 400 gallons of water and 300 gallons of foam. Also aboard this unit, is a large foam cannon capable of flowing up to 1000 gallons of foam per minute. Also in 1995, we began a smoke detector program. At the start of the program, free smoke detectors were provided to senior citizens. The program was later expanded to include all residents. Brookline also became participants in WPVI TV’s “Operation 6 Save a Life Smoke detector Program.” This program donates smoke detectors and batteries to participating Fire Companies in the area. Shortly after providing a smoke detector to a resident, they informed us that our smoke detector alerted them to a fire that had broken out in their bathroom in the middle of the night.
In 1998, the 1983 Chevrolet Suburban spill unit, which was originally a retired Haverford Township Police patrol vehicle was returned to the Township and a 1998 GMC/American Fire Eagle spill control unit was purchased. The new truck known as “Spill 3” has a large utility body and heavy duty suspension allowing us to carry more spill absorbents and other spill control materials.
In 1915 when the fire house was built it conformed perfectly to the specifications of the apparatus of the day. But as the years progressed, apparatus became larger and heavier, and the ceilings and floors of the engine room was not getting any higher and stronger, therefore the decision was made by the Board of Directors to have the building undergo a major renovation project. In 2001, construction began on lowering the floor of the engine room. Contractors excavated the floor and filled in the basement below with dirt. This lowered the floor about 12 inches. In addition, the wooden ceiling beams and columns were removed and replaced with steel “I” beams. This work gave an additional 12 inches of head room. During the almost 6 months of work our members incurred a major inconvenience in their operations around the firehouse. The ladder truck and spill unit had to be left outside exposed to the elements because the ladder room was the temporary place for the two engines to be housed. Finally, mid-way into 2002, the construction was completed and our members could finally move back after months of dust and dirt. The additional head room and clearances in the Engine Room was well worth the inconvenience of construction. Our members could now work on top of the trucks in the building.
After the Engine Room construction project, we undertook another project; the replacement of the 1987 Pierce Dash aerial ladder. But, before a new ladder truck was purchased, another construction project began. In 2004, the ladder room roof was stripped and rebuilt at a new height to accommodate the new truck. The 1987 Pierce served the fire company well, but it was time for a replacement. The 2005 Pierce 105′ rear-mount aerial was delivered in November of 2005. Every ladder truck that Brookline had ever owned had been a mid-mount aerial, but this time, tradition was shattered and the decision was made to purchase a rear mount aerial. There were many reasons for this change. A rear mount aerial is easier to position for use and it cost $100,000.00 less than a mid-mount aerial.
The year 2008 saw a monumental change for the daily operations and tactics of the fire company and Haverford Township. For almost as long as anyone could remember, 911 calls for police, medical and fire services were dispatched via the Haverford Township radio room located at police headquarters. However, in early 2008, the Haverford Board of Commissioners decided to move all operations to the Delaware County 911 Center located in Middletown. No longer used were the names of “Engine 31, Engine 32, Ladder 3 and Spill 3”, our officers said good-bye to their numbers “5 through 12”. All apparatus identification numbers were changed to be uniform with the remainder of Delaware County. While a difficult task to accomplish, the Brookline and Haverford Township firefighters did so with ease.
As the Brookline Fire Company nears its 100th year of service in 2014, we hope to continue our proud tradition of service to the residents of the Brookline district and Haverford Township for another 100 years.