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Beacon Fire Department
History/ Vintage Photos

Welcome to our History section of the website. This section has a brief department history as well as some pictures of the Beacon Fire Department from 1900-1970.

Department History

- Written by Meyer Pearson and Paul Renovitch. Updated by Charles Pisanelli.

Of the three companys in Beacon the first was Beacon Engine Company. It was organized in the Village of Matteawan on October 5, 1886. Its name was selected in honor of the famous mountain, Beacon. The eleven founding and charter members of the company were led by Jacob F. Weinstein, who was Beacon Engine’s first foreman and presiding officer, a post he held until 1895. An old hand engine, formerly owned by the disbanded Protection Engine Company, was the original apparatus used by Beacon Engine. Later, when a water supply and hydrants were furnished by the village, better firefighting equipment was acquired. On October 20, 1904, the company received a new chemical and hose wagon. 1912 saw the company in need of an "auto" engine and thus purchased a 1912 Webb pumper, believed to be the first motorized fire engine in the county. A Seagrave was purchased in 1924, and again in the years of 1947 and 1967 new apparatus were purchased. Currently serving the city is a 1986 Pierce Arrow 1500GPM pumper.

The Beacon Engine firehouse, located on the site of the old frame structure initially used as headquarters, is one of the finest in the Hudson Valley. The present building was erected in the fall of 1889, and in 1924 a new section was added to house the newly acquired apparatus.

Beacon Engine’s first fire occurred on January 15, 1887, in the rectory of Saint Luke’s Church. At the time, the company only had forty feet of hose. However, as there was much snow on the ground, the firefighters concentrated their energies in extinguishing the fire with snow. Since that time it has been referred to as the fire extinguished with snowballs.

Beacon Engine Company has done much to better the community in addition to firefighting fires. In 1941, the company staged the communities first soapbox derby. Since then, it has worked with the youth of the city through many local organizations. In recent years, Beacon Engine was the sponsor of the Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corp.

In the winter of 1886 in the village of Fishkill Landing, Beacon's second fire company, the Lewis Tompkins Hose Company was organized. While the company was in its infancy, the members of the village board acquired a parcel of land at the corner of Main Street and Cross Street. Here the original fire station was erected. At the time of its construction it was said to be one of the finest structures of its type in this section of the country. As times changed, the need for a larger and more modern building was apparent. In 1982 the current station on South Avenue was erected.

The first piece of rolling stock to be used by the company was a hand drawn hose cart which soon outlived its usefulness. This piece of apparatus was replaced by a horse drawn wagon. Many of our older citizens undoubtedly recall seeing this wagon being drawn by the faithful Ben. Ben was replaced in 1918 when the company became the proud possessor of a shinny red Ahrens-Fox, with its silver air chamber. In 1941 the Fox was replaced by a Mack. In 1964, a beautiful and efficient American LaFrance was put into service and it carried a 500 gallon tank with a 1,000 gallon per minute pumping capacity. This American LaFrance was then replaced with a new 1980 LaFrance, which is now Engine 3 due to the purchase of a 1994 Sutphen. The 1994 Sutphen, Engine 2, is the primary in service apparatus for this station. Also as the fire service had become more specialized the company purchased a rescue truck in 1987 which is still in service today.

The history of all the companies comprising the City of Beacon Fire Department is filled with accounts of men, strong in their convictions, who at the sound of the alarm would drop all they were doing and make their way to the scene of a fire. One of the finest examples of a firefighter who gave his life occurred in January, 1955. A fire swept the three floors of a Main Street tavern and apartment. As firefighter J. Robert Cramer many times before responded to the alarm. True to the firefighters code, he forgot his own safety to rescue a child reported to be in the apartment. In doing so, one of Beacon’s best liked lost his life in the line of duty.

In the fall of 1887 a body of men became interested in the formation of a hook and ladder company. On September 26, 1887, the first meeting was held at the town hall of the Villege of Matteawan and Beacon's third company was organized. At a meeting on January 4, 1888, the company was named in honor of Willard H. Mase.

Between 1887 and 1894 the company existed without any equipment. At that time some ladders were bought and stored in an empty store. In 1895, the villege board of trustees bought the hooks a gig with wheels so that they could wheel the ladders to fires. Willard H. Mase had a bell on his building, Mase’ Hat Shop, which was used to sound the alarm for the hooks in case of a fire. This bell is still in Beacon in the belfry of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church on South Avenue.

On January 4, 1897, the hooks moved into their first quarters at the corner of Main Street and Schenck Avenue. Settled in their new home, they laid plans for a purchase of a hook and ladder truck to be drawn by horse. On February 14, 1898, this truck was finely obtained.

It was hoped that someday a new home for Mase could be built on an empty lot across Main Street. In 1911, the village board and taxpayers built the firehouse that currently serves the company. Four years later the City of Beacon purchased the companies first motorized hook and ladder truck, which remained in service for 25 years. In 1940 a new truck was purchased. This was replaced in 1962 by a superb piece of equipment with an 85-foot extension ladder. This made the company one of the best equipped in the Hudson Valley. In 1986, the company purchased a 105-foot Pierce Ladder. This unit is still in service today.

Through the long and colorful histories of these three companies, which are all older then the city itself, they have rendered service to the community in a manor that rivals that of any other organization.

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