Waterville Fire-Rescue
    Fire Prevention, Suppression, Inspections, Hazardous Materials and Emergency Medical Services

    Founded 1809 - Protecting The Greater Waterville Area For Over 200 Years
9/11/2001 - We Will Remember!

Home > History > 1941-1960

History 1941-1960

1941
The Department handled 442 calls. 269 by telephone, 162 boxes, 3 personal, 6 sprinkler alarms, and 2 second alarms.
The Chief recommended that Central Fire Station be sprinkled.

December 11: 6:20 a.m.: Hose 1 responded to 177 Main Street for a rubbish fire in the basement of a 4 story brick building owned by Cyr Bros. (currently occupied by Rite Aid). At 6:31 a.m., Box 121 was sounded bringing Chief Lovejoy to the scene. At 6:40 a.m. Hose 2 and Hook & Ladder responded. At 6:50 a.m. a second alarm was sounded bringing Hose 4 to the scene.

1942
The Department consisted of five companies with a total of 101 men. They answered a total of 372 calls, 188 by telephone, and 155 outside boxes, 19 sprinkler alarms, 9 personal calls, and 2 second alarms.

May 24: Fireworks Banned... An executive order, prohibiting the use of fireworks in Maine except for restricted use at fairs and certain other public celebrations was issued by Governor Sumner Sewall.
The governor took the action to prevent possible Fifth Column use of fireworks in sabotage or in guiding hostile planes or ships to targets during blackouts.

April l: 5:22 p.m.: Box 25 sounded for a fire in a 3 story brick building at 6 Common Street. Hose 1, Hose 2, and Hook & Ladder responded on the initial alarm finding a fire on the second floor. At 5:30 p.m. Hose 3 along with Winslow, Fairfield, Oakland, and Norridgewock on the second alarm. Approximately 7 hours later, the fire was brought under control.
Picture of the Common Street fire

1943
The Department responded to 463 calls, of which 206 were by phone, 225 box alarms, 16 personal, 13 sprinkler alarms and 3 second alarms.

Apri1 27: Ban against all fires. Grass fires, 90% of which are caused by carelessness, according to Chief Grover D. Lovejoy. The Chief prompted by recent rage of grass fires declared: There are to be no out-of-doors fires, whether in incinerators or not, to be started without permits.

Apri1 28: Box 313: 07:00 a.m.: Second Alarm: 07:15 a.m.: A major fire destroyed a two-story wooden building occupied by the Silvertread Tire Company on High Street, threatening that section of residential district for a time and causing damage estimated at $10,000.
Origin of the blaze, which raged for nearly an hour before subsiding under water sprayed from five lines of hose, was not determined.
A nearby residence and a small garage caught fire before the flames consuming the tire company quarters were under control. The two other fires were extinguished quickly.

1944
The Chief recommended that the City purchase a 65 foot aerial truck to replace the present one that was 23 years old.
He also recommended that a full time fireman be elected to act as city electrician. He would have to maintain the Police and Fire signals systems, as well as, do all the city electrical work and see that the cities electrical code is enforced.
The Department purchased a Ford Fire Truck for Engine 4.

November 23: Box 123 came in at 6:26 a.m. sending Hose 1 and 2 and Hook & Ladder Companies to 90 Main Street for a basement fire. At 6:30 a.m. Hose 3 was called to the scene. At 7:20 a.m. Hose 4. Twelve hours later, all companies were dismissed.

1945
Drivers were: Ralph Blunt, Captain; Harry Rioux, Lieutenant; Robert Beane, Wallace Gullifer, Leo Lessard, Andrew Michaud, David Morin, Rufus Page, Lawrence Peters, George Vashon.
The Chief recommended that the Hose 4 building be replaced.
The Department handled 408 calls during the year.
City receives Emerson Resuscitator.

February 18: The Department was called to extinguish a blaze at the Jefferson Hotel. The hotel, originally built in 1901, sustained consisted damage in excess of $50,000. The fire claimed the lives of two victims and there were nine injuries. Four firefighters were among the injured. Weather conditions were severe with temperatures ranging from five to ten degrees below zero at the time of the alarm. With seven lines of hose in use the fire was finally brought under control after venting through the roof.
Picture of the remains of the Jefferson Hotel Fire

1946
Fire Chief was Napoleon Marshall.
Picture of Napoleon Marshall, Chief 1946
Picture of Ralph Gilman, Chief 1946-1961

1947
Fire Chief was Ralph Gilman. The Department responded to 416 calls of which 168 were box alarms, 246 by phone, and 2 Personal.
The Chief recommended that in case of fire, you do not follow the fire trucks.
The Department signed a contract for a new 75 foot Seagrave Ladder Truck.

1948
Chief recommended painting all the fire alarm boxes.

1949
Picture of a 1949 Seagrave 75ft. Aerial Ladder Truck.
Picture of the fire at 34 Maple Street, 1949.
Picture of the trucks in front of Central Station.(Left to right: 1947 Dodge Tanker, 1927 Mack Pumper E-2, 1944 Ford Truck E-4, 1937 Seagrave 1250 gpm Pumper E-1, 1944 Seagave 750 gpm Pumper E-3, 1922 Stutz Ladder Truck, 1929 Buick Utility Vehicle.)
The Department had 308 calls. 114 were box alarms, and 194 still alarms.
New Seagrave Ladder Truck arrives on Rail Car.
The Chief recommended that the Central Fire Station and the sub stations be connected by an intercom system.

1950
The Department responded to 350 calls. Each company consisted of 15 personnel.

1951
Chief Gilman recommended that the Hose 4 station be replaced as the Building inspector had condemned the building three years ago. He suggested moving the equipment to Central Station but, the insurance rating people opposed it.
During the cold weather that year, the temperature inside was 28 degrees.
Hose 3 fire Station was re-sided with asphalt siding.
Picture of the Engine 3 Fire House with new asphalt siding.
Residents had to ask the operator for number 47 to reach the fire station.

1952
In extinguishing the fires they had this year, the Fire Department used 15,455 feet of 2 1/2 inch fire hose, 2,220 feet of 1 1/2 inch fire hose, 9 quarts of pyrens, 100 pounds of chemical powder, 130 booster streams, 12 gallons of soda and acid chemical. Three calls for the Resuscitator.
Picture of Engine 1 at City Hall Square.(Left to Right: Alva Gilman, Lucien LaCroix, Roland Williams, Roland E. LaCroix, and Driver David Morin.)
Picture of the old Stutz ladder Truck at the Sesquicentennial Parade

1953
Chief Gilman recommended that the regular firemen, who worked 12 hour days, seven days a week, be given one day off a week. It seemed that 84 hours a week with no day off was unfair and should be changed.
The Chief also recommended that the Fire Trucks be equipped with two way radios.

August 1: The Sawmill on Second Rangeway was the site of a Saturday morning blaze when cords of slab wood were ignited. The Department fought the blaze all day, pumping for eleven hours from the mill pond until it was finally drained. Water from the Waterville Building Company was then used. Firefighters were able to save the main part of the mill, limiting the damage to a $5,000 loss.

1954
Fire Chief was Ralph Oilman, First Assistant Chief Urban Stedman, Second Assistant Chief, Errol Oilman.

August 24: Five children ages 15 months to 7 years, died as a result of a fire on King Street. A defective wire in the bedroom began the blaze. The children were discovered huddled under a bed. They had died from smoke inhalation. The children's father tried twice to enter the upper section of the two story house, but was driven back by flame each time. The alarm which was sounded from Box 32 at 7:34 a.m., was over at 8:00 a.m. Fire Chief Ralph E. Oilman said the house was equipped with 30 amp fuses. It should have had 15 amp fuses for safety. This was the fourth tragedy in Maine this year. Fires in Old Orchard, Sebago Lake, and Medway, also claimed the lives of family members.
Picture of the King Street Fire.

Fulltime members of Waterville Fire Department in 1954

1955
Chief Gilman recommended that the department buy a new life net, as the old one was unsafe.

February 22: Tuesday evening, shortly before 7:00 p.m., Coburn Academy reported fire burning on the roof. Box 122 was sounded at 6:48 p.m. Upon arrival firefighters found flames breaking through the roof of the seventy one year old structure. With the help of units from Fairfield and Winslow, ten thousand feet of hose had been laid to fight the fire which had started from faulty electrical wiring. The building sustained $300,000 damage. The always vigilant Red Cross provided 225 cups of coffee and 100 donuts to the firefighters.
Picture of the Coburn Classical Institute Fire.

March 21: Box 123: 08:40 p.m. Fire damaged the third floor of the Burleigh Block, Main and Temple Street, smoke and water damage to the business places on the first and second floors. The fire started around the wiring of an electric refrigerator on the top floor. Heavy smoke made it impossible to enter the upper floor for some time. Fire officials and occupants of the building set the loss at about $3,500. Firefighters used salvage covers over furniture and office equipment. The all out signal came in about 09:35 p.m.

March 25: The King Court section of the Head-of-Falls, was the site of a deadly fire which claimed the lives of Mrs. Tillson, her mother and her son. The 9:00 a.m. fire on the second floor of the two story building, originated from an oil burning stove. Fireman Harry Papolas suffered a head injury when falling glass from a window struck him. He returned to duty following a short visit to the hospital.
Picture of Chief Gilman looking at kittens that survied.

April 12: Box 123: 1:00 a.m.: 2nd Alarm 1:06 a.m.: Third Alarm 1:10 a.m. Police, and fire officials queried six men in an attempt to pinpoint the cause of the three-alarm fire that virtually destroyed the Templeton Hotel and an adjoining structure containing the Elms Restaurant.
Picture of the Templeton Hotel Fire on Temple Street.
Two people were perched on a ledge of the hotel building until the boosting of the aerial ladder, allowing them to scramble down from the structure. Not until 5:58 a.m. was the all-out signal sounded.
Policemen had to be stationed to the area on 24-hour duty, as curious people crowded to the scene.
Unofficial damage estimate of the fire was stated at about $150,000. Cause of the fire could not be determined immediately.
Dense pungent smoke, swirled from the buildings, hampering firefighters and blanketing a throng of spectators drawn to the scene. For the first 112 hours, the flames appeared confined deep inside the buildings. Smoke rolled thickly from windows and doors. Then, about 1:30 a.m. a sharp explosion punctuated the night and flames began to boil up through the roofs of the building and from the rear side.
The hotel's owner estimated his loss at $80,000.
Firefighters worked feverishly to control the blaze, hooked up line after line of hose to pour water into the blazing buildings. The alarm was turned in by Lieutenant Richard E. Marriner, Naval Reserve, of Boston, who was enroute to Augusta. Marriner said he saw smoke in the area, and drove by the hotel. He backed his car quickly to an alarm box at the corner of Main and Temple Streets to turn in the alarm.

April 28: City got the new North End Fire Station.
See Photo new Hose 4 Station on Page 40.

May 20: A telephone call at 8:40 brought about Box Alarm 123, indicating a fire in the Burleigh Block at the corner of Main and Temple Streets. The fire started in an electric refrigerator on the top floor. Heavy smoke made access to the top floor difficult. The fire finally burned through the roof and ventilated. It was declared all out at 9.35. Heaviest damage was to the AA office on the third floor.

September 22: Box 215; 8:10 o'clock; 2nd Alarm 8:23 o'clock; Fire damages Chemical Hall on the old Colby Campus; the fire was held to a room in the north end of the building used as a storeroom. Smoke filled the structure, built in 1898, but actual fire was confined below the first floor. Sentinel Photographer Edward W. Cragin, returning from an assignment, was driving past the Hall, found smoke issuing from the building and sounded an early alarm by telephone. Five lines of hose were laid and water was poured into the basement through north side windows. Firefighters had to smash in the front door to enter.
The Department's Mascot was a Dalmatian called Spanner.
See Photo Spanner/Michaud
See Photo new LaFrance

1956
The Drivers went on a 72 hour work week instead of the previous 84 hours.
The Department acquired a boat, motor and trailer.
The Fire Department Chaplain was Father Marcotte.

January 8: Biting wind and snow hampered efforts of firefighters to control a blaze on Main Street in Fairfield. Destroyed were the Giguere Super Market and the Shibley block. Damage was estimated at $150,000. The Waterville Fire Department responded with a pumping engine and an aerial ladder. Streams from the aerial ladder were used on the rear of the two buildings, but the effort proved fruitless as flames continued to spread. The aerial ladder was then moved to Main Street and water was poured on the building. Eight lines of hose were used. Fortunately, snow that had fallen during the night prevented ignition of nearby roofs from the embers being blown about by the strong wind. Firefighters remained on the scene until dawn.

1957
The Department responded to 121 residential calls, 7 non-residential calls, 18 mercantile, 1 manufacturing, 98 grass fires, and 54 other type calls. There were 19 false alarms, 13 smoke scares, and 16 emergency first aid calls. There were 2 out of town calls.

March 12: The Department's new $17,000 American LaFrance Truck arrived and was stationed in the North End fire house after testing for insurance underwriters.
The truck is a 750 gpm Pumper, the purchase of which was approved recently by the City Council.
See Photo new LaFrance
The oldest vehicle now owned by the Department is a 1937 Seagrave Pumper, with capacity of 1,250 gallons per minute.

July 18: Flag Pole dedicated to veteran Fire Dept. Driver Wallace Gullifer. Members of Engine Four, of the Ticonic Street Fire Station, honored him with the dedication. He was a driver in the company for 50 years. Gullifer retired as a driver in 1954.
Flag Pole Dedication at Station 4, 1957

October 17: Box 141: 10:00 a.m.: Damage unofficially estimated at $35,000 was done to uninsured property at a lumber-producing plant on the Second Rangeway. Firefighters were hampered by a scarcity of water. The fire started in a defective machinery.
The fire spread to the roof of the housing, thence through lumber in the structure, and the roof fell down.
A water hole on the property was dry and tank trucks from Oakland, Winslow, and Fairfield were called into service. Eventually a stronger force of water was achieved by coupling hose west of the blaze into a small pond over an Oakland Road hill, with a booster unit pumping the water over the hill.
Because the fire was in piles of wood, as well as sawdust, firemen needed much time to quell the blaze and a watch for a resumption of it was kept for the rest of the day.

1958
Drivers this year were Captain Delmont Williamson, Lieutenant David Morin, Andrew Michaud, Leo Vashon, Alex Loisel, Leo Lessard, Fernando LaFrance, Lawrence Peters, Philip Rossignol, Clarence Edwards, Jerome Boulette, and Fredrick Brown.

March 13: Box 212: 09:36 a.m.: SMOKEY BLAZE AT R. E. DRAPEAU's HOSPITALIZES 2 FIREFIGHTERS: Driver Frederick Brown for a severe cut suffered when he took a basement window escape route from the cellar after a machine shop explosion spread fire throughout partitions of the College Avenue structure, and call member G. Anthony Jones for smoke inhalation.
Fire at R. E. Drapeau 1958
Damage expected to mount into thousands of dollars that could not be estimated immediately.
Smoke poured from the building for an hour after the machine shop explosion, finding the partition areas where fire smoldered proved the difficult chore for firefighters.
Fire Chief Ralph E. Oilman said Brown was injured after fire regulars responded to a still alarm and probed the smoke-filled building for a point of blaze. He had entered the basement from a stairway, which was barred to him by smoke following the explosion. He then broke the basement window to make his escape.
Chief Oilman said that he was informed that workmen had used naphtha in the cleaning of machinery in the basement shop. He added it was a dangerous commodity for such use and that fumes spread through structures in which it is used.
What sparked the explosion while firemen sought the cause of smoke was not determined but Chief Oilman stated an opinion it could have been the starting of an electrical machine. The all-out was sounded at 12:10 p.m.

March 16: 02:10 p.m.: College Avenue: Flames that raged out of control for more than 30 minutes, destroyed the Brooks Tire Company. Damage was estimated at $150,000.
Brooks Tire Co. Fire
Firefighters battled the blazing inferno for more than four hours, as heavy black smoke poured from the building. When firefighters arrived at the scene, the single-story, wooden structure was completely ablaze. Efforts to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby structures was successful, and by 2:45 p.m. the blaze was brought under control.
Hundreds of residents lined College Avenue for more than a quarter mile watching the flames envelop the building. Throughout their battle, firefighters heard small explosions from inside the building. This was attributed to battery acid and other flammable materials used by the firm.
Nothing was saved from the building. Cause of the fire, undetermined. According to Chief Oilman, it apparently started near a boiler in the center of the building.
Most of the Department's apparatus were used at the scene. No injuries were reported.

Apri1 18: Box 412: 03:45 p.m.: Fire caused $25,000 damage within a half-hour, started in a paint shop at the rear of the Pineland Oil Company on College Avenue. Following a series of explosions, fires moved through partitions into the street floor main quarters but was stopped from spreading there.
Fire at Crown Auto body 1958
A paint shop employee was hospitalized for minor hand and arm burns. He was mixing paint in the automobile body work shop of the business when the first explosion occurred, unheard, however, by men working in the gasoline and oil section.
Dense black smoke started spreading over the North End of the city, visible from many other areas and pushed by a brisk wind from the south.
Firefighters had the fire well under control within a half-hour, the interior of the body-paint work shop was gutted and there was damage to the interior of the brick building in the upstairs section.
Personnel from Pineland quickly moved a truck bearing bottles of gas from the danger section of the building.

June 20: 11:55 p.m.: A spectacular, early-morning blaze killed one man and left four families homeless.
The body was first discovered by police and firefighters about 12:45 a.m., but at that time attempts to reach it failed. At the start of the blaze, which saw flames reach high into the sky, word circulated quickly that someone had been trapped in the building.
Fire at 98-102 Water Street 1958
Destroyed in the raging inferno were buildings at 98-102 Water Street. Damage, excluding furniture in the buildings, was unofficially estimated at from $10,000 to $15,000.
The fire, according to Chief Ralph E. Oilman, apparently started in the apartment in which the victim lived.
Firemen and spectators reported the fire burned for a few minutes and was followed by an explosion.
Three companies of Volunteer Firefighters were called to the scene.
The fire engulfed one building and quickly spread to the other buildings. Water was also dumped onto neighboring buildings to prevent the fire from spreading into adjoining tenement houses.
Eight lines of two and one-half fire hose were trained onto the burning buildings. The buildings collapsed at 4 o'clock and fell back toward the river. No other injuries were reported.

November 28: Box 121: 03:15 p.m. Child critically hurt in automobile fire. Second and third degree burns were inflicted on a two and a half year old girl, when the family station wagon broke out in a fire. The car was parked in the Maine Central Railroad Station parking lot.
Her father had left his daughter alone in the station wagon for a few minutes while he went into the railroad station. Firefighters were unaware the child was in the car until the father rushed toward them. Fire officials were unable to determine the cause of the blaze.
The child eventually died from severe burns the next day. It was theorized that the youngster found a book of matches which reportedly was within reach and set fire to papers.

1959
Chief Gilman praised his inspection program in the school department. Sprinkler Systems, fire escapes and more exits were some of the Improvements.
The Fire Department now has two trucks equipped with two way radios.

May 2: Box 121: 5:56 a.m.: The Waterville Public Library sustained $75,000 damage from an early morning blaze. Arriving apparatus sounded a second alarm. The fire was under control at 7:57 a.m.
Fire at the Waterville Public Library 1959
Fire at the Waterville Public Library 1959
The fire underscores the community's dependence on an excellent public institution. The fact that between 2,500 and 3,000 books were in the hands of borrowers at the time of the fire is, in itself, eloquent testimony to the degree of public dependence on the library and its services. The fire was a blow to this community, a serious and costly blow.

May 31: Box 212: Flames, racing at lightning speed, whipped through State Furniture warehouse causing $100,000 loss in a converted college dormitory off College Avenue.
The four-story structure and contents were reduced to shambles by the stubborn blaze which firemen fought for nearly 10 hours before it was brought under control.
Water from a maze of hoses and deluge guns did little to cool the inferno. Firefighters found it difficult to combat the flames which chewed up thousands of items in its path of destruction.
Chief Gilman believes the fire started on an enclosed platform attached to the south side of the building where there was an accumulation of rubbish. A citizen said she saw two boys run away from the warehouse vicinity and down city streets a short time before the fire broke out.
A patrolman discovered the double-alarm fire at about 02:55 a.m. while on his rounds.
The fire was declared under control at 12:30 p.m.
The initial lot of firefighters reaching the warehouse found that flames already dominated the first floor and part of the second story on the south side of the structure. The blaze advanced from one side to the other within five minutes.
From then on, the fire swept rapidly and progressively through the upper floors, popping through the roof, it weakened, sagged, and collapsed.
Five pieces of apparatus responded and were utilized. The Salvation Army was on hand to provide hot coffee and doughnuts to the 35 firemen and police.
Fire at State Furniture Warehouse 1959

September 13: 03:10 a.m.: Second Alarm 03:28 a.m. An early morning blaze destroyed two barns, an apartment, and another small building on the James Schoenthaler farm. Damage was estimated at more than $40,000.
Also lost in the spectacular blaze were more than 4,500 laying hens. No other animals were housed at the farm.
The buildings were enveloped in flames that leaped high into the early morning darkness, lighting the sky for miles in every direction.
The owners, asleep in the main house, were awakened by the howling of his dog Spunky.
More than 50 volunteer firefighters answered the call and battled the blaze until the all out was sounded at about 05:30 a.m. More than 5,000 feet of hose was strung.
Schoenthaler Farm Fire 1959

December: Heads of Police, Fire, PW, and CD were enthusiastic about the workings of new two-way radio hookups after installation resulting from a Civil Defense appropriation.
Chief Ralph E. Gilman praised the workings of the apparatus in providing directions for trucks meanwhile keeping track of their whereabouts.
In addition, there are tie-ins with the Police Department and Civil Defense.
The Department's equipment was of dual frequency, so that Firemen could converse with radio-equipped machines of other towns whenever there was a need.
Chief Oilman had this to say of the equipment: A sound fire protection program for coping with serious fires and disasters must be built around our Fire Department operating procedures and one of those procedures is the installing of two-way radios.

1960
The Chief was Ralph Gilman; Urban Stedman was First Assistant Chief, and Errol Gilman was Second Assistant Chief.
Janauary 22: 56 Boutelle Avenue: A 72-year-old man became a victim as flames ate through the interior of an ancient one-half
story home, while a woman was persuade to leave the structure berfore the flames and smoke gained headway throught the bulding.
A worker for the Department of Public Works was attacked several times by a small dog as he pleaded with thewoman to leave the house. The man's body was found huddled under eaves of the second story, half-clad and seated in a chair.

March 18th: A tribute to one of the most ardent fire chasers in the city, the Department's Mascot, Spanner.
Regardless of the hour, or where she might be when the fire alarm system sound to call the firefighters to their stations, the first one aboard the truck leaving the stations was usually Spanner.
Spanner, a 5-year-old Dalmatian dog, could be seen at all fires, winter or summer, rain or shine.
She came to Central Station in July of 1955, and since that time has made her home with the members of the department. Her white and black spotted form is a familiar sight to residents. She has been trained some, and can do a few tricks, but in general she lives an easy life.
Picture of Spanner

March 20th: 51 Burleaigh Street: Box 61: 4:10 a.m.: A local man and his young daughter were seriously burned as fire swept the inside of their home.
The man's wife sustained less critical burns; his teen-age son, and a family of five living in an upstairs apartment fled to safety without injuries. Three firemen were also slightly hurt.
Both families lost all their clothing, furniture, appliances, and other personal belongings in the fast moving blaze, casuse of which is undetermined. Assistant Chief Errol Gilman said he beleived the origin was in the downstairs kitchen.
Fast work by firefighters was credited for confining flames to the rear of the structure. All out came at 05:30 a.m.

March 23: The man burned in a fire at 51 Burleigh Street on March 20th, died at Sisters' Hospital. He had sustained burns over more than 40% of his body. He was 50 years old.

April 4: The Fire Department has had a resuscitator in service for more than 15 years, but the fact has not been publicized. It could mean the difference between life and death. At times, it has meant just that. It has been used as necessary.
Recently, Chief Ralph E. Gilman was stricken with a heart disease attack, and the resuscitator was summoned.
Each of the drivers in the department have been instructed in the use of this Emerson Resuscitator. Some of the volunteers were also taught. The machine is frequently checked. It has two oxygen tanks enclosed, which are always ready for use. A third tank, larger is carried in reserve on the Hook and Ladder truck, in which the resuscitator id kept. Chief Gilman cited several instances when the unit has meant a life was saved.
Driver Clarence Edwards, Captain Delmont Williamson with a 15 year old Department Resuscitator