Our Early Fire Apparatus…

The first blaze that was ever fought by Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company firefighters was at the William Geddes residence on Route 25 using the Company’s first piece of equipment… a 1911 two-wheel hand-drawn chemical extinguisher that had been purchased for $25 from the Beaverbrook Fire Company in Danbury.

Two-wheel Hand-drawn Pumper

The firefighters standard fire fighting equipment included, axes, poles, shovels, picks and fire extinguishers having a mixture of baking soda and vinegar that were usually kept in the homes of the firefighters for quick retrieval.

Most of the fires that were fought in the 1930’s were limited to grass or pasture fires.  However, by the end of the decade, more and more structural fires were being encountered.  The Company realizing that it needed more than just its hand-drawn pumper, purchased it’s first “real piece” of fire apparatus… a 1937 Ford V-8 Pumper for around $1,400.

1937 Ford V-8 Pumper

Engine 1 was an open-bay truck built on a Ford V8 chassis with dual rear wheels manufactured by the Farrar Company in Massachusetts.  It had a 350 gpm front mounted pump and carried a 24 foot extension ground ladder, a 14 foot roof ladder, and a hefty supply of 2 ½ inch cotton jacketed fire hose.  Unfortunately, it arrived two weeks after the blaze that burned St. Paul Church to the ground on Valentine’s Day in 1937.

It wasn’t till around 1940 that the Company realized that it needed additional and more sophisticated equipment and purchased an American LaFrance Pumper for $2,200.  Early American LaFrance engines such as this one were often called the “Ford Model T’s” of the fire service.  They were very reliable–and yet relatively affordable.

1940 American LaFrance

Placed in service as Engine 2 and operating out of the Old Fire Station, this 500 Series American LaFrance featured a pump mounted in front of the cab’s motor. The pump’s control panel was located on the passenger side as a “safety feature” and was briefly tried but later abandoned by LaFrance because it turned out to be impractical.

Diamond T Fire Truck

In 1945 Engine 2 was sold for around $750 and replaced by the “Cadillac” of trucks… a used Diamond T Truck with a four cylinder continental engine and chain drive that was purchased from the New Haven Fire Department for around $4,300.

In the late1950’s, the Company purchased its first new apparatus… a Model 74-T manufactured by Ward LaFrance for $13,428.   A Chrysler V-8 “Fire Power Special” and was rightfully commissioned as “Fireball” to replace the 1937 Ford fire apparatus.  It featured a Chrysler 203hp engine, 5 speed transmission, a 750 gpm pump with push button controls, a 500 gallon Booster Tank and a custom cab… that was engineered especially for the Brookfield fire service.

1957 Fireball

With manufacturing facilities located in Elmira Heights, NY, the Ward LaFrance Truck Company established a reputation for innovation and quality.   With the “Fireball”  distinctive grills,  fender skirts, and ultra vision cabs, any fire truck enthusiast could spot this Ward LaFrance a mile away.  The appearance is literally an industrial work of art and its performance is legendary.

In the 1960’s,the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company purchased its very first International 4-wheel drive fire and utility truck. Other equipment at that time consisted of a 1963 Maxim 500 gallon fire engine, an 1000 tanker and a 1200 gallon tanker.  By the 1980’s, the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company expanded to seven fire trucks, two ambulances, one rescue truck, and over 300 other pieces of smaller equipment and fire apparatus.

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< Content in Part Courtesy of Brookfield Magazine and the Housatonic
Publishing Group, the Brookfield Museum and Historical Society,
and the National Archives Historical Institute >