Allegany Magazine January 2022: When Cumberland Fire Was A Little More Canadian – A Brief History of the City’s Oldest Fire Station | Magazine Alléganie

When Cumberland Fire was a little more Canadian

A brief history of the city’s oldest fire station

Cumberland’s first fire company was established in 1830 and was named Cumberland Fire Engine Company, but was renamed in 1833 Canada Hose Company – CHC.

That year, the infamous fire of 1833 broke out in the downtown business district, destroying 75 buildings. Because the two local newspapers were destroyed, the Annapolis Gazette article reported that the damage caused by the fire in downtown Cumberland was $ 252,000, which today would equal 6 $ 492,659.

It is strange that “Canada” was used in CHC, but early Cumberland Times articles indicated that the name came from B&O “Canada Viaduct” which spans North Cumberland as well as a reference to North Cumberland which was called the District of Canada. It is not known why the name Canada was used.

The CHC was not really a business as it had minimal fire fighting equipment. Four years after the fire of 1833, the city bought them a “swan neck” nozzle which delivered jets of water with a certain precision in a structure on fire. Four ladders, three hooks, four axes and $ 30 (yes, $ 30) were also provided for the construction of a fire station. Company members gathered in a box shed at the Whither Tannery on Mechanic Street where the new engine was kept.

The property of 400 Mechanic Street for the Canada Fire Building was offered by merchant John Witt and paid for by public subscription, the building being constructed in 1836 and chartered to the state in 1839. When the CHC was incorporated in 1839 it was deemed more appropriate by the General Assembly of Maryland to use the name “Cumberland Volunteer Hose Company”. To this day, the names Cumberland Hose and Canada Hose Company are used interchangeably although the sign above the doors indicates Cumberland Hose Company.

CHC was the oldest chartered voluntary fire and rescue company in the state. Following the reorganization of the Canada Company on North Mechanic Street. There were six other volunteer fire companies established here before the first paid service in 1906. Mountain Hose Company was established in 1838, Pioneer Hose – Headquarters, Vigilant Hose Company on Walsh alley off Washington St. in 1873, South Cumberland Engine and Hose Company in 1877 on Thomas St., Friendship Hose Company No. 5 on Broadway Street in 1896 and Chapel Hill Hose Company on Arch Street in 1897.

Slowly, equipment began to be purchased for the pipe companies, although there was little community interest or political will to invest in the service. In 1850, a new engine from Putton and Company of Waterford, New York was purchased by the municipality for the CHC. This engine was officially called the “Cumberland”, but colloquially referred to as “Dutch Chest” was later grown from the same company that was purchased by members of the company in 1882.

Prior to 1871 there were no hydrants or pumping stations in Cumberland. The only possible water source would have been access to water from Wills Creek which was just behind the CSC. The horse-drawn fire trucks of the day should have pumped their own water from Wills Creek into their storage tank. Of course, there was always the infamous Bucket Brigade that spilled more water than it was worth. After 1871, pipe companies were able to access water from hydrants supplied by the municipal water pumping station located on Greene Street. However, due to limited water pressure, buildings in higher places such as upper Washington Street were unable to access water. In 1880, the Holly Company replaced its aging pump with a “quadruplex compound condensing pump motor” capable of holding three million gallons of water for twenty-four hours. This more powerful engine allowed a higher water pressure that could reach completely Washington Street. After the municipal pumping station closed in 1911, water was obtained from the Evitts stream and stored in the Constitution Park reservoir, which made water pressure an issue.

According to an article in The Times of May 25, 1887, a new volunteer fire company was reorganized and called the “Young Canada Fire Company”. One of the devices used by the fire department was called a hose reel which can be seen in the exhibit at the Allegany Museum. On June 20, 1887, a volunteer was returning from a fire on Valley Road when the cart he was driving fell on his pelvis, luckily without causing serious injury.

The training of firefighters through competition has always been a priority for preparation and has been carried out locally as well as regionally. An article from 1876 mentioned that there was once a competition between the nicknamed Mountaineers, Bloody Reds (Vigilant Hose) and the Canadas. Each of Cumberland’s pipe companies had their own fierce and loyal fan base.

Sanborn insurance cards provide important information about a city and its firefighting systems. According to the Sanford map of Cumberland from 1897, there were 16,000 inhabitants in this town. Installed were 157 double hydrants connected by iron pipes capable of producing a fire pressure of 100 lbs. per square inch. Across town there were 500 volunteer firefighters, five of whom were paid. There was a two-horse-drawn steam fire engine, five hose wagons, five hose reels, a hook and ladder truck, 18 stations, and a Gamewell alarm system.

For 50 years, the firefighter has generously loaned his second floor to a variety of community events such as church services, political rallies, a military recruiting station, and various town halls. A September 16, 1945 article written by a local North End resident explained that those who lived above the viaduct at one point or another used the CHC’s second floor room for dances, concerts, or meetings. It would seem logical then that it was the citizens who were served by the Hose Company firefighters. One of the main uses was as a voting site. A published story noted that Major William McKinley, prior to being President, served as a Provost Marshal in the Union Army and used the room as the headquarters where latecomers and disorderly soldiers were detained and taken to the camp. The building even served as a church until a congregation completed its own building.

In 1940, the City’s volunteer auxiliary police force began using the Canada Block as a storage and meeting room. By 1946 there were 200 volunteers including a rescue corps of 150 to be organized for the return to its previous large-scale operation.

The Force had to be relocated in 1987 because the structurally flawed building needed a complete renovation. Part of the poor condition was the result of numerous floods which inundated the building, causing warped flooring which was later replaced with cement flooring. After the reconstruction which was paid for by government funds, the building was donated to Cumberland Neighborhood Housing Service Inc. (CNHS). Today the building – the city’s oldest fire station at 400 Mechanic Street – is empty – a renovated and beautiful site whose future use is constantly the subject of debate.

About Paul Cox

Check Also

Stay off the road, vehicles you can’t drive on the streets of Utica

Following repeated complaints from local residents, the Utica Police Department recently conducted a detailed investigation …