The 1960's

The truck committee which had been appointed in 1958, was inactive until February 15, 1960, when a communication from the Depew Hook and Ladder Company with a copy to the Chief of the Fire Department Vitus Fiegl, requesting that an appropriation be made in the 1960-1961 village budget for an aerial ladder truck. Company Foreman Richard Dombrowski, had sent a letter to the company complaining of the condition of the 1937 G.M.C. ladder truck. This letter spurred the action by the company to make the budgetary request. The letters were received and filed and Mayor John Domino instructed the fire and water committee to set up a meeting with the Hook and Ladder at a time convenient to discuss the matter.

On August 15, 1960, a communication was received from the Depew Hook and Ladder Company reminding the village board that a meeting was to be held between the fire and water committee and a delegation from the company, which did not materialize. The mayor stated that this meeting would be held in the very near future.

Finally on October 14, 1960, President John Meister, reporting to the Hook and Ladder Company, that the go ahead was received to begin the process of drawing up specifications for a new aerial ladder truck.

Now the committee began to look around in earnest for a piece of apparatus to best suit the needs of the company but also the needs of the village. The committee viewed many demonstrations of ladder trucks built by various manufacturers..

At about the time that the committee was in the process of developing a set of specifications for a ladder truck, a new concept in aerial apparatus was being introduced to the fire service. The aerial platform or more commonly called “The Snorkel” appeared on the market.

The Snorkel was an articulating hydraulic boom with a basket attached to the end of the boom. The articulating arm could be controlled by an operator at the base of the boom or by the firemen who rode in the boom. A piped waterway attached to the boom fed powerful nozzles attached to the basket that could be controlled by the operator in the basket.

The concept was developed by the Chicago Fire Department working with the Pitman Manufacturing Company and was hailed as one of the greatest fire-fighting advances in more than twenty years. At the time that the Depew Hook and Ladder Company was researching and evaluating the type of aerial device to purchase, the Snorkel was being shown and demonstrated by the Young Fire Equipment Corporation.

The rescue capabilities, water tower operation, horizontal and vertical reach of each type of apparatus was carefully evaluated and it was found that each device had certain advantages and disadvantages. Many members of the Depew Fire Department as well as other departments felt that the Snorkel would make the aerial ladder obsolete. This new style of apparatus divided the company and many arguments ensued as to which type of apparatus would serve the company and the Village of Depew to the best advantage. After many demonstrations of equipment and much discussion the decision was made. Firefighters can be very conservative and tend to accept change rather slowly and so it was with the members of the Depew Hook and Ladder Company who decided in favor of purchasing an aerial ladder truck which the company felt would be more reliable and specifications were ordered drawn up.

On March 20, 1961, the committee from the Hook and Ladder Company presented the specifications for a new aerial ladder truck to the village board, which were referred to the fire and water committee

At the April 17, 1961 meeting of the village board, the village attorney was authorized to prepare a bond resolution and bond anticipation note of the Village of Depew, authorizing the issuance of bonds and notes for the purchase of fire fighting equipment and apparatus to be used by the Hook and Ladder Company of the Depew Fire Department.

The bond resolution authorizing the purchase of a hook and ladder truck, including equipment and apparatus in connection therewith for the fire department of said village, stating that the estimated maximum cost thereof is $41,500 appropriating said amount therefore, including the appropriation of $4,000 from current funds for a down payment and authorizing an issue of $37,500 in serial bonds, was passed on May 15th. The bond resolution was subject to a 30-day permissive referendum.

There being no objection raised by the village taxpayers, the bond resolution was adopted on June 26th and the village clerk was authorized to advertise for bids for one aerial ladder truck, with bids to be received and opened at the village board meeting on July 17, 1961.

Four bids were received on July 17th, one from the Seagrave Corporation in the amount of $42,925 less a trade in of $1,675 for a bid of $41,250. The second bid was received from the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company in the amount of $44,095 less a trade in of $2,100 for a bid of $41,895. Two bids were received from the Young Fire Equipment Corporation for a Snorkle unit mounted on either Ford or G.M.C. commercial chassis. The Unit with the Ford chassis was bid at $39,855 and the G.M.C. chassis equipped unit was bid at $41,431. The bids were referred to the entire village board, fire chief and village attorney for tabulation and further study. The bid was awarded to the Seagrave Corporation for (1) 75 Foot City Service Aerial truck, Model 531-A-75 with a booster pump and a two hundred gallon water tank and a full  N.F.P.A.complement of ground ladders.

On November 20th, Trustees Edward Wargala and John (Potter) Potoczak, reported that they had visited the Seagrave plant in Columbus, Ohio and that the new ladder truck was more than 50% completed. The new ladder truck was delivered to the Village of Depew on December 6, 1981 and accepted on December 18th and put into service.

A ceremonial acceptance of the keys for the new aerial ladder truck was held on February 10, 1962, with Seagrave representative Bruce Nelson handing the keys to Mayor John Domino who in turn handed the keys to the Hook and Ladder officers. The Reverend John Glazik, pastor of St. Augustine’s Church, blessed the truck and the company’s oldest member Alexander Brogowski christened the truck.

With the construction of the new ladder truck underway, a letter was received from Central Hose Company Number Four requesting that the village board consider their request for a new pumping engine for the company. The request was referred to the fire and water committee. A set of specifications for a new pumping engine were submitted by the Cayuga Hose Company in August 1962 and  referred to the fire and water committee.

In November 1962, the New York Fire Insurance Rating Organization issued a confidential report after an inspection of the Village of Depew’s Fire protection facilities. This report was critical of the condition of the front line fire fighting apparatus of the Depew Fire Department. The two most critical issues that faced Mayor John Domino and the Village Board of Trustees was to first, take immediate steps to repair the 1951 G.M.C. pumper assigned to the Aetna Hose Company so that it would meet all of the required pumping standards. The second recommendation stated that “due to the age and condition of the two 1940 vintage pumpers is such that these pieces of apparatus can no longer be considered as reliable for front line fire fighting purposes. Therefore, immediate consideration should be given to replacing the Number Four’s engine, which could not pump it’s rated capacity during the inspection, with an approved and listed triple combination pumper of at least 750 G.P.M., preferably 1000 G.P.M., pumping capacity, and future plans made for the replacement of the Cayuga’s engine with a second pumper of the same pumping capacity.”

Following the receipt of the Rating Organization’s report, the village board started to take steps to implement these two recommendations and the others that were made concerning the fire alarm system, water distribution system, equipment and training of the fire department personnel, fire methods, fire prevention and in general a total overhaul of the fire protection systems were begun, many of which took many years to implement.

The two companies, Central Hose Company Number Four and the Cayuga Hose Company were authorized to form truck committees to draw up specifications to replace their respective fire engines. The Number Four’s appointed a committee consisting of the following members of the company. Eugene Maciejewski, William Hyc, John Hoffman, Henry Darmsteder, Stephen Zasowski, Edmund Alajko and Stanley Kuras.

The Cayuga Hose Company’s committee consisted of the following members of the company. Past Chief Vitus Fiegl, Assistant Chief Robert Fiegl, Ernest Gainey, Charles Gibbs, Jr., Albert Pfohl, Joseph Platzer, Henry Young, Jr. and Past Chief Frank Wendel.

On August 19, 1963, the village board authorized Village Attorney Joseph J. Schultz to draw up a bond anticipation note to cover the construction of two new fire stations and also for $50,000 to purchase two new fire trucks, one for the Central Hose Company and the second for the Cayuga Hose Company.

In September 1963, the bond resolution specifically called for the purchase of two 1000 G.P.M. Triple Combination Fire Engines including equipment at an estimated cost of $32,000 each. On the same day, September 3rd, the village clerk advertised for bids for the two fire engines.

The bids were received on October 3rd from Young Fire Equipment Corporation in the amount of $59,323 and from the American LaFrance Fire Engine Manufacturing Corporation of Elmira, New York in the amount of $59,996. The bids were tabled for study by the fire and water committee and Fire Chief Walter Dyll.

The village board awarded the bid on November 18, 1963, to Young Fire equipment Corporation for two 1000 G.P.M. Class A Triple Combination pumpers, built on a Ford C-850 Chassis with a tilt cab in accordance with the specifications at a cost of $58,443.

Trustee Bernard Elmore explained that each truck costs $24,346, plus $4,876 for the latest foam-making equipment and other apparatus that was recommended by the state fire-rating bureau.

“This purchase will give us foam equipped fire trucks to serve the north and south side of the village,” said Trustee Elmore.

According to village officials, delivery of the new apparatus will coincide with the completion of the new fire stations being built.

The two new engines were delivered to the Village of Depew in late August 1964 and were given the three hour underwriters service test at Como Park Lake with acceptance by the village board on August 27th after which the new engines were put in service.

The 1941 Buffalo, which was taken out of service, was turned over for service in the village Department of Public Works. The hose bed was removed, and a large water tank was installed. The truck was used by the D.P.W. employees to fight dump fires at the D.P.W. yards. After the dump was closed, the truck sat and started to deteriorate. In July 1971, the truck was returned to Central Hose Company Number Four. The company restored the engine and it is currently used as a showpiece and displayed at parades and other functions and is called Engine 41. Engine 41 is a fine example of the fire engines, which were manufactured by the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation, which went out of the truck building business in 1948. A photo of Engine 41 is shown in Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation An Illustrated History written by Peter D. West. It is interesting to also note that in Mr. West’s history of the Buffalo Appliance Company, a photo appears in the book, of an advertisement for the Buffalo Chemical Fire Extinguisher Company, dated October 1,1921 in which a photo appears of a ladder truck sold to the Lancaster Fire Department and it is an exact twin to the ladder truck purchased for the Village of Depew Fire Department in 1920.

The Cayuga Hose Company pumper which was replaced after twenty three years of service was turned over to the Department of Public Works and converted to another use by that department and was eventually scrapped.

The addition of the two 1000 G.P.M. engines and repair of the Aetna Hose Company’s engine to meet required pumping standard of 500 G.P.M and the 750 G.P.M. Number One engine with a rated capacity of 750 G.P.M. brought the combined fire department pumping capacity in line with the required two thirds of the highest fire flow required in the Village of Depew which was 4000 G.P.M. at 20 P.S.I. residual hydrant pressure.

In February 1966, the Aetna Hose Company requested that the village board consider the replacement of the 1951 G.M.C. currently in use by the company and the request was referred to the fire and water committee. Shortly after, the Aetna’s were authorized to form a committee and to draw up a set of specifications for a replacement fire engine. The truck committee consisted of the following members of the Aetna Hose Company. Past Chief Walter Dyll, Assistant Chief Frank Capan, John Schuler, Joseph LiPuma, Charles Pempsell and August Keicher, III.

Trustees Henry Wienckowski and Eugene V. Ziemba sponsored a resolution on July 5, 1966 which authorized and empowered the village clerk to advertise a notice that sealed bids would be received by the Village of Depew on August 1, 1966, for one new 1966,1250 G.P.M. pumping engine; cab-ahead-of-engine design, to be used by the Aetna Hose Company of the Depew Fire Department.

A bond resolution was also ordered drawn up by the village attorney, in the amount of $30,000 to cover the cost of the proposed new fire engine.

At the same meeting, Trustees Wienckowski and Ziemba also sponsored a resolution to advertise for bids on one new 1966 Utility Vehicle, Step Van Type to also be used by the Depew Fire Department.

One bid was received on August 1st from the International Harvester Company for one 1966 New M1500 International Metro Utility Vehicle, Step Van Type for $3,559.74.The bid was awarded to International for the Step Van on the recommendation of the Fire Chief John C. Carlson.

Two bids were also received for the engine for the Aetna Hose Company. Fire Equipment Sales of Cheektowaga bid a 1966 Ward LaFrance engine for the amount of $30,000. William J. Shoemaker, Incorporated of Hamburg, presented the second bid for a 1967 American LaFrance engine in the amount of $34,187. The bids were received and referred to the entire board, village attorney, Fire Chief and the truck committee of the Aetna Hose Company for study.

After careful study by the board of trustees, the fire chiefs and the truck committee from the Aetna Hose Company, it was found that the low bid of $30,000 as presented by Fire Equipment Sales Company, Incorporated for a Ward LaFrance engine did not meet the specifications with many exceptions and deviations and the higher bid of $34,187 from William J. Shoemaker Incorporated for an American LaFrance was found to be in order and met the specifications in its entirety.

The contract was awarded to William J. Shoemaker Incorporated to furnish the Village of Depew, with one new 1967 American LaFrance 900 Series Custom 1250 G.P.M pumping engine with a cab-ahead-of-engine design and Mayor John Domino was authorized to sign said contract.

Trustee Henry Wienckowski Chairman of the fire and water committee reported that the new utility truck purchased for the Depew Fire Department had been delivered in mid October but would need to be inspected prior to acceptance by the village board. The vehicle was accepted on the recommendation of Fire Chief Stanley Kuras on November 21st and placed in service, running out of the north side fire station and manned by members of Hose Company Number One and Central Hose Company Number Four and used the radio identifier “Depew Emergency”.

The emergency vehicle was formally dedicated on May 14, 1967 when Mayor Eugene V. Ziemba presented the keys for the vehicle to Chief Kuras.

In early July 1967, a communication was received from the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company that the new engine being built for the Aetna Hose Company was nearing completion and would be delivered in the very near future. The delivery was finally made in September and coincided with the delivery of another ALF engine to the neighboring Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Company. The engine was accepted on September 5th and put into service with payment being made to American LaFrance on October 2nd upon the recommendation of Fire Chief Kuras.

The 1951 G.M.C. engine, which was replaced by the new American LaFrance was put in reserve and was housed in the north side fire station. At this time the Village of Depew was making preparations to form a new engine company for the west side of the village and plans were to utilize the G.M.C. pumper by the new fire company.

Following the organization of the two new fire companies in the Depew Fire Department in December 1967, the 1951 G.M.C. engine was assigned to the newly formed West End Hose Company Number Six and the Emergency Truck would eventually be assigned to the Ladder and Rescue Company Number Seven.

In May 1968, Mayor Joseph Natale and the fire and water committee, with the foresight of 100% fire protection on their mind, reported that a new snorkel fire truck for Ladder and Rescue Company Number Seven was already in the planning stage and that funds had been set aside for this purpose. On July 20th Fire Chief Stanley Kuras requested a meeting between the board of trustees and the Fire Chiefs, on July 24th, to discuss the purchase of a fire vehicle.

On August 19th at the meeting of the village board of trustees, the issue of purchasing fire department equipment drew heavy criticism from several sources. Richard Dombrowski, a resident, taxpayer and also a member of the Hook and ladder Company Number One speaking in his own behalf, went on record as opposing the purchase of a Snorkel for the fire department. Chairman of the Depew Planning Board, recommended that the board of wardens of the fire department make a recommendation on the future purchase of fire apparatus and do so by written communication with the board of trustees.

Trustees Henry Wienckowski and Bernard Elmore of the fire and water committee, authorized the village clerk to secure nine copies of the New York State Fire protection Survey for the village of Depew so that all members of the board could become familiar with the recommendations which were made concerning acquisition of fire apparatus for the village fire department and Mr. John Kotz suggested that a meeting be scheduled with Howard Rowley of the Board of Fire Underwriters to see what steps would be necessary,  for the Village of Depew to obtain a Class A rating instead of the present Class B rating.

On September 3rd, a letter was received by the village board from the board of wardens of the Depew Fire Department relative to the need for a new ladder truck, which was received and filed and referred to the fire and water committee. The fire and water committee requested that any other board members who so desire, are to attend a meeting on September 9th at the north side fire station, to discuss the purchase of a new Snorkel truck for the fire department.

At the September 24th meeting, Trustee Henry Wienckowski informed the board that the fire and water committee and several other members of the board had met with the members of Ladder and Rescue Company Number Seven, Fire Chief Stanley Kuras, and the board of wardens relative to the possible purchase of a Snorkel truck to be used by the fire department. Chief Kuras stated that there was no objection from the board of wardens relative to the proposed purchase of a Snorkel. Trustee Wienckowski asked what the pleasure of the board was at this time and with no further discussion offered by the board, Mayor Natale tabled the matter until the next meeting of the board.

Mayor Joseph Natale called for a special meeting of the village board on December 30, 1968, for the purpose of meeting with Fire Chief Stanley Kuras in reference to advertising for bids for a new fire truck for Ladder and Rescue Seven.

A discussion was held between the board members, Chief Kuras and several residents concerning the proposed purchase of a Snorkel fire truck.

Chief Kuras stated his position was that the village board needed to act on the proposal, as there would be a price increase of approximately $6000. after January 15, 1969 for the piece of equipment that Ladder and Rescue Number Seven was requesting the village to purchase

Stanley Kocialski, a resident taxpayer and a long time member of Hook and ladder Company Number One, asked Chief Kuras, “ Where will you have need for another seventy –five foot truck?.” Kocialski also stated that he was dead set against the purchase of a Snorkel truck as he seen no need for the village acquiring one since other surrounding fire companies were equipped with aerial ladder apparatus which could be summoned under the County Mutual Aid Plan.

James Nusall also a member of Hook and Ladder Company Number One queried the Chief on how many times the current ladder truck was actually used at fires and for rescue purposes. Chief Kuras informed Mr. Nusall that the current ladder truck was used at the Red Tower fire but had never been used in a rescue operation. Nusall also stated that he was opposed to the purchase of a Snorkel since the aerial ladder now in service gets very little usage.

Trustee Leroy Arber stated that it was his understanding that the two new fire companies that were formed were to be assigned a pumper and the Emergency Truck.

Following the December 30th meeting, Trustee Leroy Arber, in a lengthy letter to the editor of the weekly newspapers published on January 9,1969, stated his objections to the proposed purchase of the Snorkel fire truck.

First, Arber questioned the need for this type of apparatus. He stated that he had met with two of the fire department’s companies and after presenting the true and entire facts concerning this matter by him; the two companies are on written record as opposing the purchase. He stated that this particular piece of fire apparatus in a village such as ours would be entirely superfluous because of the lack of high buildings.

There has been little or no consideration given or information sought concerning the availability of high-rise equipment under the Mutual Aid Plan. For example, such units are accessible to any point in the village within minutes, being located as near as Cheektowaga and Alden. A thorough study should be made before this purchase should even be considered. Yet, there seems to be a great desire to complete this purchase quickly.

A second point regarding this purchase concerns every resident of Depew. We have not, in my opinion, been given an accurate estimate of the cost of this apparatus.

Arber further stated that if a bond issue finances this proposed purchase and that bond issue is put on a ballot before our people, it will be soundly defeated.

On January 20, 1969, Stanley Kuras tendered a letter of resignation as Fire Chief to accept a position as Fire Chief of the City of Canandaigua, New York. In March 1969, the control of the village board changed after the election and the Snorkel issue faded, at least temporarily.

Through the rest of 1969, there was no mention made concerning the replacement of any of the fire apparatus within the fire department and it wasn’t until January 1970, when the fire and water committee reported at the village board meeting that a meeting was to be set with the fire chief, village board and the members of Ladder and Rescue Number Seven relative to a new fire truck. At the following meeting, Fire Chief Robert Fiegl requested that the meeting be held on the 24th of January between all parties concerned.