Delmar Fire Department turns 100

The original apparatus simply carried hose. When it got to the fire it would have to be loaded with water or tap into one of the wooden water mains that were in some areas. A few years later, the department purchased a soda/acid fire truck that was basically a giant chemical fire extinguisher.

In the absence of an electric siren or radio communications, firefighters were summoned by a "fire gong," a railroad rail bent in a circle that was rung with a sledgehammer. Nearby churches sometimes used their bells to sound the alarm, as well.

In 1932, the first electric alarm system was installed. This consisted of a series of pull boxes posted at corners throughout the hamlet. When an alarm was pulled, a signal traveled to the firehouse, where a series of holes were punched into a paper tape, signaling which box was activated.

"You drove to that location, and you looked for a fire," Bastiani said. "That was as good as it got in those days."

Members of the Delmar Fire Company in this ca. 1940 picture are shown with the Packard Hearse that served as the organization's first ambulance. Pictured standing, third from left, is Peter Applebee, owner of the vehicle.

The firehouse itself often served as a communal area. It was one of the few public buildings in town and always open for business, after all.

"The firehouse was used by the community. Churches used it, it was used for dances," said department member and historian Pat Dorsey. "It was an organizational place they could hold activities."

There are records, for example, of the firehouse being a meeting place for the discussion of air raid drills when World War I broke out. The department continues to be involved in the town, including ferrying Santa Claus down Delaware Avenue to light the holiday tree every winter.

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