The Ousatonic damn between the Borough of Birmingham (in the town of Derby) and the future Borough of Shelton (in the town of Huntington) was complete in 1870. It was to have a profound effect on the growth of Shelton.
In 1880, two years before the creation of the Borough of Shelton, Orcutt and Beardsley in their “History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut” wrote:
“Since the completion of the Housatonic damn in 1870, Shelton has grown rapidly and now numbers one hundred and seventy-five dwelling houses, many of which are spacious single residences, illustrating the present day architecture as fine as any village in the country. Adams block (Kreiger’s) on Howe Street is a good illustration of that style of combination of less expensive residences.
Shelton has now in operation twelve (12) manufacturing establishments all built on brick except the stone factory, and which afford opportunity for the employment in the aggregate of about one thousand hands. In later years C.B. Gillespie in a “Souvenir History of Derby and Shelton” issued by The Evening Transcript, stated: “The thriving borough is part of the Town of Huntington and was created by the building of the dam across the Housatonic River. Previous to that date, the present borough was but a farming district where fruit orchards nodded to the majestic waters of the river.”
The transition from farming to manufacturing and the phenomenal overall growth of the community, naturally created situations not previously encountered. Fires of greater magnitude occurred (one being the Wilkinson Brothers Paper Mill in 1878. It was located at the extreme north end of the canal and it was completely destroyed). The town, totally lacking of fire protection, made it necessary to secure the Birmingham companies to extinguish fires.
The Connecticut General Assembly, in January of 1882, granted a charter incorporating the Borough of Shelton in the Town of Huntington. A section of the charter authorized and empowered the Warden and a majority of the Burgesses to “form, constitute, continue, regulate, and disband one or more hose and hook and ladder companies within the limits of said borough.”
Roughly, the borough extended from a point just north of Brook and Canal Streets, southerly to just beyond Myrtle Street, and westerly and northerly to just beyond Division Avenue and Cliff Street.
This area, when examined from the viewpoint of the members of the newly formed fire company, was quite extensive because the firefighting equipment was hand-drawn. It was a tribute to the fireman of this era that they were dubbed “the iron men with wooden apparatus.”
On May 31, 1882 thirty-two (32) men met in Apothecaries Hall, a drug store situated on the west side of Howe Avenue between Bridge and White Streets, for the purpose of forming a fire company.
The minutes of this meeting state that “We, the undersigned, agree to form ourselves into a fire company for the better protection of the Village of Shelton from the ravages of fire, to be formed in connection with the hose carriage and hose recently purchased by the authorities of the Borough of Shelton.”
Alonzo S. Burgess
T. B. Burgess
Wm. H. Smith
James A. Bradley
Wm. E. Whelen
George A. Rose
John W. French
Walter W. Allen
William A. Tomlinson was elected the first Foreman of the company, which was initially called the Shelton Fire Company.
At this meeting, names of three applicants for membership were presented. The investigating committee reported favorable on two of them. They were immediately elected members of the new company. W.E. Whelen, who is listed as a charter member, owned the drug store in which the meeting was held.
The line officers of the Shelton Fire Company were designated as Foreman, First Assistant Foreman, and Second Assistant Foreman, in conformance with a by-law of the Borough of Shelton. This manner of identifying fire company officers paralleled that which was used for supervision in industry and on large agricultural operations. The military type organization (Battalion Chief, Captain and Lieutenant) developed after the Civil War had not yet been widely accepted. The officers, however, had to be approved by the Board of Burgesses and could be removed by the Fire Warden and his assistants, with approbation of the warden and burgesses.
The fire company was under the direction of a Fire Warden and an Assistant Fire Warden, who were appointed by the burgesses, and to serve until their successors were elected. The first fire wardens were not appointed until 1883 when F.W. Curtis was named Fire Warden and D.N. Clark, Assistant Fire Warden.
The by-laws prepared for governing the company’s affairs were, in some instances, unique in relation to today’s operation. For example: “Any member who may be intoxicated while on duty shall be expelled from the company or dealt with as (the) company may direct. No intoxicating liquors or beer of any kind shall be brought into the hose house or upon the premises of the company. Card playing on the Sabbath, and gabling at any time, is strictly forbidden in the hose house or on the premises of the company.”
The Foreman may order out the company for drill as he may deem proper, and any member failing to turn out shall be fined 10 cents. The equipment assigned to the company in 1882 consisted of:
1 hose reel
1000’ rubber-lined cotton hose
2 hose jackets
5 ladder straps
12 hose spanners
3 sets couplings
15 fire hats
3 pairs rubber boots
43 rubber overcoats
3 brass tips for nozzles
lots of candles for lanterns
1 lock with key
1 wheel wrench
1 stove, coal hod & shovel
1 lamp and bracket
1 box powder
14 ¾ pounds rope
1 wagon jack
2 chamois skins
1 gallon oil can
1 oil can (small)
The most important items were the hose reel (referred in the minutes of the first meeting as the “carriage” and the hose. The unit had two (2) large iron-rimmed, wooden wheels. The hose reel was suspended between them. It had hands grips on each side so it could be rotated to pack on the hose. The tongue of the hose reel had a cross piece at its forward end. Men, in position at this point, served to guide it and also to exert back pressure to help “brake” its forward progress when necessary. A “drag line” was connected to a roll-up device on the front cross piece of the hose reel. This permitted the “drag line” to be rolled up and stored when not in use.
When responding to a fire, the “drag line” was extended and the fireman grasped the line, generally over their shoulders and town men would take positions at the tongue cross bar. They would then run to the fire, dragging the reel. Sometimes a kind hearted teamster would allow them to hitch on to his wagon. In later years when street railways were in operation, if a trolley car was going in the direction of the fire, it could be possible to “hitch” on to it. Sometimes the teenagers in the vicinity of the fire house would pitch in, but great care had to be exercised as the reel might go out of control.
It seems that some firemen then, as now, tried to avoid the arduous, non-glamorous parts of their duties. This seems to be indicated upon examination of a section of the Constitution covering the duties of firemen. The only duty specifically mentioned, except attendance at meetings, required members to be on the drag rope (drag line) of the hose when going to, or returning from, fires or parades. The borough was without a fire alarm system, so the firemen were alerted by the sounding of bells and whistles.
In January, 1883 the first firemen’s ball was held in Maltby’s sop. It was a factory that made desiccated coconut, and cups, etc. from the coconut shells. It was located on present day Center Street at the rear of the old Boys Club building (423 Howe Ave – The Ripton). It seems that at this affair some devious person stole the Constable’s handcuffs and the company reimbursed him for his loss.
In April, 1883 a committee that had been appointed to submit proposals for naming the new company presented for consideration: “Alert, Echo, Tempest, Ousatonic, Riverside, and QuiVive.” “Echo” was chosen and the company was renamed Echo Hose Company #1. Later in the year a ladder truck was received and the name was changed to Echo Hose Hook & Ladder Company #1. There have been some indications that this truck was hand-drawn; however, the meeting minutes show that the company, three years later, hired four (4) horses to draw it in a parade.
The company, being without a pumping engine, depended solely upon the gravity flow of water from hydrants to extinguish fires. The Shelton Water Company supplied water for firefighting, manufacturing, and domestic purposes.
The first official uniform for members, agreed upon in 1886, consisted of a dark regulation jacket, pants having red cord on the legs, and a cap. It was not until 1893 that the green color, now used for uniforms was adopted.
The duties of the company did not preclude social activities. In 1886, the company participated in a gigantic firemen’s parade with the Birmingham and Ansonia departments. The Quinnipiac Engine Company and Quinnipiac Hose Company of Fair Haven, Artic Engine Company of Milford, Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company of Westport and the Deluge Hose Company of Winsted were guests of the Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company. The Winsted company brought its Selby Steamer. The local company supplied horses to draw the visitors’ equipment. The parade started in Shelton and ended in Ansonia.
The borough’s fire alarm system was inaugurated in 1890 by alarm boxes in the following locations: Howe Avenue at Myrtle Street, at the firehouse (Howe Avenue near Bridge Street) and Cliff Street at Wooster Street. Listed at each box were the locations, and where a key to open the box was available. The directions to the key holder indicated that he was to open the box and sound the alarm when it became necessary to do so.
The fires in the first years following the organization of the company largely involved manufacturing establishments. These included Cotton Mill (Beard Asphalt Plant), The United States Rubber Reclaiming Company (Better Packages Plant #1) Wilkinson Brothers Paper Mill (Canal Street at Brook Street), Whitcomb Metallic Bedstead (south section of the site of the destroyed B.F. Goodrich Plant), Derby Silver Company (Everfloat Plant) and Maltby Brothers (lower Center Street). The most serious fire encountered by the young company involved the genera area presently occupied by the Boys’ Club Building (Now 423 Howe Ave, The Ripton).
The Fire Warden in his report said: “The most serious fire of the year, and one of the most serious in the history of the borough, occurred on the morning of April 24, 1890, being discovered a few minutes before one o’clock, in the building, the lower floor of which was used by Horace Wheeler as a store, and the second and third stories occupied by tenants, was in flames. The firemen at once gave attention to saving the lives of the occupants and succeeded except in the case of Mrs. Slie, an elderly lady, who died a short time after being taken from the building. The fire spread rapidly, and soon several other buildings were in flames, and not until about three o’clock did the admirable work of our firemen, ably assisted by the Birmingham and Ansonia Departments, have the fire under control. Too much credit cannot be given to all the Departments engaged, when the inefficiency of the alarm, the inflammable materials of the buildings and other disadvantages under which they labored are taken in to consideration. Briefly, the result of this disastrous fire was as follows, to wit: the loss of one life, ten families rendered homeless, eight buildings and contents wholly or partially burned, and $35,000 to $40,000 worth of property destroyed. “This fire was regarded as being of incendiary origin.
Fire records indicate that the valley communities; Ansonia, Birmingham (Derby) and Shelton depended upon mutual aid to control and extinguish major fires.
A bicycle club was formed in 1892. The headgear was yellow caps designed by a member. The club participated with other bicycling enthusiasts in the general area and in New Haven.
Central steam heating was introduced in the apparatus room and in the company quarters which resulted in the elimination of the coal stoves. A hose drying tower was also erected.
It is duly recorded that on the completion at midnight of a social affair with the Eagle Hose Company at the firehouse, members carrying “red fire” and headed by their drum corps escorted the visitors across the bridge to Birmingham.
Firefighting equipment, including new hose reels, continued to be received. The hand-drawn units still remained to be the only means of getting hose to a fire. The horses for drawing the ladder trucks were not kept at the fire station. They were either boarded at, or hired from, a stable located on the present day site of Shelton Laundry. The horses would be set free when the fire whistle sounded. They would run, unattended, to the fire house, and back into position beneath the “quick-hitch.” The stable owner, or one of his employees, would go to the fire house and drive the horses.
Fire department lore tells that at times these horses became unexplainable hitched to the extra wagons of local merchants for Saturday deliveries and of the disastrous results occurring when an alarm sounded and the horses did what they were trained to do – head for the firehouse.
The borough continued to enlarge in area and naturally the company’s responsibilities for fire protection grew accordingly. The movement of firefighting equipment still required great physical effort on the part of the firemen. Fire officials, in order to reduce these efforts, had reels equipped with hose placed in locations away from the fire station (near Grove Street, near Wheeler Street, and Canal Street near Cotton Mill). Firemen living or working near them were able to move the equipment and get water on the fires more quickly. This was a crude forerunner of presently equipped, but unmanned. “Satellite Stations.”
It was during this period that an incident occurred that became a part of the company lore. A fireman was directed by the Foreman to “cut off a length of hose.” He proceeded to carry out this order through the use of an axe. There is no disagreement with the story’s authenticity, but it has been embellished in telling over the years so the hose, it is now said, was the property of a mutual aid company and fisticuffs erupted over the incident.
The members of the company were very proud of the baseball team and it was not uncommon to vote a man into membership on his baseball playing abilities rather than his firefighting potential. The players, when not playing with the fire company team, would play with various town, industrial and fraternal teams.
The company repeatedly requested the Board of Burgesses to purchase a motor-driven “chemical.” The term “chemical”, through incorrectly used, signified that tank containing soda in water into which a container holding acid was suspended was mounted on the vehicle. Turning the tank upside down caused the two materials to combine and to create a pressure that forced the solution out of a ¾ hose.
The unit, made by American LaFrance, was deliver in August, 1916. It had a four cylinder engine, right hand drive and chain driven wheels. The wheels were made of wood and the tires were solid rubber. It was without a windshield. It was necessary to crank the engine in order to s tart it. The pump was of the rotary gear type, capable of delivering 250 gallons of water per minute at 120 pounds psi. It also had a 40 gallon chemical tank.
The Saturday afternoon that the manufacturer’s representative trained the drivers to run the pump brought out several hundred townspeople to witness the performance of this $6,000 unit.
The capability of the new engine to carry 1,000 feet of fire hose eliminated the need for the men to pull the hose reels, although they were kept for an emergency.
There had been a movement for some time to eliminate the town borough governments and to have a city typed formed. This came into being in 1917 when the Town of Huntington and Borough of Shelton were merged by an act of the State Legislature into the City of Shelton. Two taxing districts were created. The first district encompassed the entire city. The second covered approximately the same area as the old Borough of Shelton, and an additional tax was levied on its inhabitants to cover fire protection, sewage, police, street lights, etc.
The titles of the fire department officers were changed from Fire Warden and Assistant Fire Warden to Chief and Assistant Chief.
The United States declared war on Germany and its allies in 1917, Twelve (12) company members served in the armed forces. The company participated in numerous home front war efforts during that period.
The great influenza epidemic placed considerable strain on the company. Not only were valued men taken in death, but illness decimated man power available for firefighting. Able bodied members were also recruited as volunteers to assist in digging of graves in the cemeteries.
A new piece of motor driven apparatus was delivered during the winter of 1920-1921. It was assembled by the American LaFrance Company on a Brockway chassis. It was powered by a four cylinder continental engine and was equipped with a chemical tank, but was without a pump. There was indications that its first run was to the trolley car crash and fire on February 22, 1921. This crash and fire occurred on the trolley car line to Bridgeport at a point bordering on the present day site of the Rosa Mina restaurant. It was Washington’s Birthday and it had snowed very heavily the previous night. The depth of the snow interfered with the movement of the trolley cars on the line, so it was early afternoon before the first runs were made. A resident on River road needed gasoline for his automobile. A neighbor gave him a ride uptown where he purchased give gallons in a tin contained. He boarded the trolley car, placed the can in front near the controller, and went and sat down. The trolley moved to the switch at Grove Street where, it is said, the signal was against the southbound car. The motorman continued the car, however, and it collided with the northbound car at a previously referred to point. The collision caused the can of gasoline to erupt and 8 persons were burned to death and many were horribly disfigured for the rest of their lives. This was the most disastrous fire resulting in the loss of life ever experienced by the company or department.
In May 1921, it was voted to adopt the military style of designation for the company officers, the Foreman, First and Second Assistant Foreman titles being replaced with Captain, and First and Second Lieutenant. (This designation is still used to this day).
In July, 1925 an American LaFrance city service ladder truck was delivered to the company. Its size made it necessary to increase the length of the apparatus room. This completed motorizing the apparatus and the period of horse drawn equipment ended.
The late twenties saw the beginning of the “Great Depression.” The only brightness for the fire department in this sordid period was the improvement in fire protection, as the lack of work made larger groups of firemen available to fight fires. The lack of money gave birth to “Depression Dinners.” These were conducted in the cellar of the fire house and were looked forward to by business and professional people of the city, but caused owners of eating establishments to anger.
Bowling was on the up-swing and company teams rated highly in the firemen’s league.
Regulation baseball games, on the wane, were supplanted by the newly innovated softball games, a sport in which the company, even today continues to field teams.
The 1930’s was a period of considerable company activity. The 50th anniversary of the company was celebrated in May, 1932.
In June, 1934 an Ahrens Fox 500 gpm rotary gear pumping engine was received. It represented several firsts in the department; pneumatic tires, left hand steering, 4-speed transmission, electrically operated siren, power booster brakes and booster tank. This unit replaced the Brockway “chemical” and hose wagon which was given to the Pine Rock Park Company.
The company, in 1934, commenced to hold carnivals with the Pine Rock Park Company on the latter’s grounds.
The company redesigned its uniform but retained green as the company color. New uniforms were purchased and the company paraded throughout the State. It won the Connecticut State Fireman’s Association championship in 1936 and 1937.
This period found the first firemen from Shelton enrolled in an out of department training school. In 1938, the Captain, First and Second Lieutenants successfully completed the course at the Milford Fire Department’s drill tower. All expenses were borne by the pupils.
In 1939, the most powerful pumping engine in the general area was delivered to the company. It was constructed by the Ahrens Fox Company. The engine, powering both the vehicle and pump, delivered its rated horse power at 1,800rpm. The reciprocating pump had six pistons capable of delivering 1,250 gallons of water per minute at a total pump pressure of 150psi. The pump, being positioned ahead of the engine with its large compression chamber, made a formidable sight. This pumping engine replaced the 1916 engine, the pump of which was adapted for use by the Huntington Fire Company.
The company developed its potential for fighting certain types of flammable liquid fires through the use of fog nozzles. The smoothness and depth of penetration of straight streams were improved by incorporation of Barker eliminators in some nozzles.
World War II commenced in 1939 and although the United States was not yet involved, as the company moved into the 1940’s, its effects were being felt. Impending registration and draft threatened a severe reduction in man-power available for firefighting purposes.
In 1941, a review of the situation resulted in the forming of the Echo Hose Emergency Service Organization. The first members were all sixteen year old youths from a local Boy Scout troop. At the time of its being organized it was possibly the second group of its type in Connecticut and was the forerunner of the auxiliary fire companies that were later developed under Civil Defense. These young men trained long and hard and developed into extremely competent firemen’ many in later years, became highly regarded company y and department officers. The organization grew in n umbers when war was declared and it was reclassified as the Fire Department Auxiliary. Equipment issued by the Federal Government for them was maintained in a garage where the White Street parking lot is now located. The OCD pumps were single state centrifugal type, mounted on second hand chassis or trails for hitching to vehicles.
Twenty four (24) members of the regular company and fifty two (52) auxiliary members served in the armed forces during World War II.
In 1945, the company helped to design and place into service the first “rescue” truck in the area. It was so designed that in an emergency it could be used as an ambulance in addition to carrying the equipment for rescue work.
By the end of the war new equipment and new firefighting techniques had been developed. The old building housing the fire department, police department, court house and Probate Court was hopelessly inadequate for even the fire department to function properly. The fire company, in 1948, was successful in having a city wide referendum run for a bond issue to enlarge and modify this building that had been completed in 1882. The voters approved the bond issue. However, some townspeople challenged in court the method of voting on the bond issue. The judge did not render an adverse opinion but never the less the word on the building was done.
The city was without an ambulance to serve its people. The unit of the Storm Engine Company of Derby covered the entire valley. In March, 1949 at a special meeting of the company it was voted to form an incorporated, nonprofit ambulance corps. A committee was selected for this purpose. It succeeded in raising $15,000 by popular subscription and purchased an ambulance that was constructed on Packard chassis. The unit made its first run in mid-October and, ironically, the first patient was the widow of a deceased company member.
In 1950, the company’s first aerial ladder truck was delivered and was made by American LaFrance. It had a midship-mounted hydraulically operated 75 foot metallic ladder. It replaced the 1925 cities service ladder truck that had completed the motorization of the mobile equipment.
The first drill tower in the valley was erected at the Shelton “docks” during the fifties. A gift from the former Sponge Rubber Company and much assistance from company members resulted in a block building being constructed for training in interior firefighting. Vats, troughs and diked pools were available for flammable liquid fires. All valley departments were permitted use of the facilities.
In 1954, the first centrifugal fire pump ever purchased by the city was delivered to replace the #2, 1934 Ahrens Fox engine. The new unit, also designed as #2, was rated to deliver 1,000 gpm at 150psi. The older engine was moved to another company but has since been returned. It has been refurbished by the company as it is used as a parade vehicle.
In 1954, a group of members proposed that the company be incorporated as a non-profit organization. Papers for this were filed in the office of the Secretary of State.
The increase in amount of equipment assigned to the company, plus the growth in membership, were far in excess of the space contained in the original structure erected in 1882. In 1961 a new fire headquarters building was dedicated. It also contained the quarters and apparatus of the Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company. The dedication ceremony was very impressive and hundreds of townspeople were in attendance. This three stored structure on Coram Avenue still serves as the company quarters.
The growth of the company continued in the ensuing years. A self-contained OCD pump was mounted on a chassis that was equipped with 1,000 gallon capacity water tank. This was used primarily as a grass and brush fire truck.
A new emergency truck, replacing the 1945 unit, was placed into service. It carries a cascade system for charging tanks for air masks, Hurst “jaws of life” tools, saws and all other general recognized emergency tools. Its onboard generator is capable of floodlighting the entire area.
In 1960 and 1965, 1000 gpm American LaFrance pumping engines were received. The 1939, 1250 gpm Ahrens Fox pumping engine was placed in reserve, but even in this position it remains the pride of the company.
In 1972, the charter of the City of Shelton was revised and the administrative structure of the fire department was changed by eliminating the single Fire Commissioner and creating a Board of Fire Commissioners comprised of five (5) commissioners. The Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company, by an act of the charter, is permitted to select a commissioner.
Little has been said of fires, but during the period of organization, major ones have been fought, some being the Wilkinson Brothers Paper Mill (north Canal Street), Driscoll Wire Company (North Canal Street) U.S. Rubber Reclaiming Company (Canal and Wooster Street), The Cutlery Company (Apex Tool), Cotton Mill (Beard’s Asphalt Plant), Mullite Refractories (Beard Asphalt), R.M. Bassett Company (Bridge and Canal Streets), Whitcomb Metallic Bedstead (canal and Wharf Streets), Comb Shop (The Ripton area), Piano Shop (The Ripton), Radcliffe Brothers explosion (Senior Center), Deptula’s barn (Center Street near Long Hill Ave), Sheehy Trucking (Long Hill Ave), and various plants of the Sponge Rubber Company, Gurlands Building, Rapp’s Restaurant, Sylvester’s Restaurant, Tisi buildings and Cotter’s Court, Clark’s Hall (Mayflower Florist building) and Stel-Ray Products Company (Shelton Avenue). In addition to these fires, the Echo Hose also helped to fight large fires in Derby and Ansonia.
The largest fire in the city’s history occurred in 1975 when arsonists “blew up” the plant formerly operated by the B.F. Goodrich Company. The plant occupying the entire area from Cornell Street o Wharf Street and from Canal Street to the Housatonic River erupted in flames from end to end when drums of gasolines were ruptured simultaneously by explosive devices. The well planned criminal act was preceded by the kidnapping of the plant’s guards and boiler room operator. The magnitude of the fire resulted in the largest mutual aid assistance operation ever experienced in the State. It was several days before the fire was fully extinguished. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation described the fire, a $60,000,000 loss, as the largest ever resulting from acts of arson in the United States. Several of the perpetrators are now in prison, while some other alleged participants are awaiting trial.
In 1976, a new 1,000 gpm centrifugal Hahn pumping engine was placed in service. It replaced the 1952 pumper and was the first diesel powered unit.
A 100’ rear mounted Maxim all metal aerial ladder was received in 1977. A feature of it is the permanently installed water tower, operated remotely from the turntable. This replaced the 1950 aerial.
October 1978, the fire alarm sounded at the quarters of the Echo Hose after the regular “social” at around 1:00 am. Ashes discarded into the trash can ignited a fire which gutted the company bar area. Buzzy Schilkowski arrived on scene first followed by Captain A. Hopkins. Smoke was banked down floor to ceiling in the meeting room. Buzzy ran downstairs fired up the pumper and put the fire out with the assistance of additional members who arrived shortly after. 10 members of the company would remodel the club room which was completed in 1982.
In 1980, a 1,250 gpm Mack pumping engine replaced the 1960 1,000 gpm American LaFrance pumping engine.
In 1982, the company had:
1 – 1965, 1,000 gpm pumping engine
1 – 1976, 1,000 gpm pumping engine
1 – 1980, 1,250 gpm pumping engine
1 – 1965, Emergency Truck
1 – 1976, 100’ aerial ladder truck
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company #1 also represents the 100th anniversary of the Shelton Fire Department which now includes the Huntington Fire Company #3, organized in 1918 and reorganized in 1919, the Pine Rock Fire Company #4, organized in 1933 and the White Hills Fire Company #5, organized in 1948.
October 23, 1985 a Ford LN 8000 rescue truck replaced the 1965 emergency truck and was designated as Squad 5. It carries a cascade system for refilling empty SCBA tanks, Hurst “jaws of life” tools, bumper winch, gas & electric saws, cribbing, rope/water equipment and all various types of rescue tools. Its onboard generator is capable of lighting up any emergency scene.
December 6, 1985 a natural gas explosion at the River Restaurant in Derby (268 Main Street) killed 6 people. Eighteen people were inside the restaurant when it exploded. Twelve people were injured, as were a pedestrian and a firefighter. The force of the explosion blew the front of the building across Main Street. The structure collapsed onto itself, fire raging. It took four hours to dig one survivor from the rubble.
February 24, 1989 Echo Hose members battle a fire of unknown origin at the four story Beard Asphalt Plant complex located at 185 Canal Street. Numerous small explosions could be heard from inside the structure. It was suspected that the explosions were linked to about 400 large drums of hazardous materials that were kept in the building at the time. The fire began on the first floor which was occupied by Kitchen Concepts.
July 6, 1989 a major fire erupted at the Satin America Company located at 40 Oliver Terrace. Several master streams via ground and aerial were deployed to bring the fire under control. This would be the second fire that occurred in this building ultimately leveling it. Ladder 1, Engine 2, Engine 3, Engine 4, and Squad 5 responded from the Echo Hose as well as mutual aid companies from Derby.
May 11, 1990 Ladder 1 arrived to heavy fire throughout a 3-story brick building located at 93 Canal Street occupied by the Cel-lastik Sponge Rubber Company and Vanguard Laminates Company. This building was part of the Sponge Rubber Company factory and was deliberately set.
March 15, 1991 tragedy strikes the Echo Hose as veteran firefighter Daniel “Danny” Wannagot suffered a fatal heart attack while responding to a house fire. Wannagot collapsed while putting on his turnout gear to battle a house fire located at 22 Garden Terrace. He was a 26 year veteran of the department, served as the company Treasurer for 25 years, and was a recipient of the company “unselfish act of bravery” award. Danny remains the only firefighter to die in the line of duty in the city of Shelton.
April 11, 1991 the Derby-Shelton Boys Club was completely destroyed in a fire set by three juvenile club members. The fire was located between the 3rd floor and the roof of the building which made access extremely difficult. Eventually the fire would break through the roof prompting defensive operations. Days following the fire, the building would be completely torn down.
August 12, 1991 members of the Echo Hose respond mutual aid to 273 Caroline Street in Derby for a row house fire. The fire apparently began with a basement explosion raced through the row houses killing a 23 year old women and two of her five children as the rest of her family watched in horror.
October 30, 1991 a deliberately set fire leveled the vacant Birchwood Condominium complex at 39 Coram Road. The fire was fed by 40mph winds which pushed the fire into a neighboring home and across the street. In addition, spot fires as far away as three blocks caused an estimated $1 million in damage. Work on the condominiums had ceased a year prior with the project 95% completed. The project was in deep financial trouble with at least a dozen liens on the property and lawsuits in progress.
March 2, 1992 the vacant Shelton Tack Company building was gutted by a suspicious three alarm fire. The blaze was spotted by a passing Echo Hose member at around 9:03pm. Upon arrival of the Echo Hose members, flames were shooting out of the first and second floors. A sprinkler system was activated to help control the blaze however the sprinkler line to the third and fourth floors had been cut off and could not be turned on. The fire was deemed to be deliberately set after investigators found accelerants and bank liens on the property.
July 14, 1993 a section of a downtown block of stores including a gun and ammunition shop (Hunters Corner) was destroyed by an arson fire that was raging for over five hours. The fire broke out at about 6:35pm at the corner of Howe Avenue and Center Street. Several explosions were heard as the fire raced through the three story wood framed building. The explosion blew out the store front of Collector’s Corner, a sports card and memorabilia store. Ralph Sylvester Jr, the owner of Hunter’s Corner was charged with 38 counts of illegal weapons sales and possession of unregistered machines guns.
July 31, 1993 a suspicious fire roared out of control at the Samarius Lamp building for the second time in 17 days. Close to 200 firefighters from Shelton, Derby, Ansonia, and Trumbull were summoned to battle the blaze at 113 Canal Street. The fire started in the basement just after 4pm and was deliberately set.
March 5, 1994 Albert Falconi was arrested for setting a series of fires in downtown Shelton over a span of two years. He was charged with first or third degree arson for the following fires: Shelton Tack Company, Pulaski Club, unoccupied home on Wooster Street, car fire on Brewster Lane, and an occupied six family apartment house on Howe Avenue.
June 1, 1994 Fire Chief and 31 year Echo Hose member Richard Tallberg retires as the department’s top volunteer firefighter aka Chief.
October 5, 1994 arson suspect Jerry Walburn is charged with setting fire to the Samarius Lamp Building three times in addition to a brush fire behind Builder’s Lumber. Walburn told police that the devil used an Ouija board and instructed him to set the fires.
September 15, 1995 two interconnecting buildings on Howe Avenue were destroyed and at least two people were sent to the hospital by a deliberately set fire that gutted Shelton Laundry. The fire started at around 6:40pm in a garage behind one the apartment buildings. Flames could be seen shooting through the roof shooting over 100 feet into the air.
February 24, 1996 the Echo Hose takes delivery of a new state of the art 1996 KME platform aerial device. The 70,000lb, $496,000 truck sports a seven man cab, a 450 horsepower Detroit diesel 892 turbo engine, and a 1,000lb bucket payload. The pump is capable of delivering 2000gpm and the aerial can extend up to 95 feet.
November 5, 1996 convicted firebug Jerry Walburn was sentenced to 20 years in prison, suspended after eight years for a trail of arson that cut a swath through downtown Shelton. He was officially labeled a “pyromaniac” which has only occurred a handful of times in the past by the State’s Attorney’s Office.
September 25, 1997 an accidental fire erupted at the Shelton VFW Post at 58 Bridge Street. A post member emptied an ashtray into the trash bin in the rear of the building shortly before 9:00am. Fire spread from the trash bin to the counters and cabinets in the bar area then quickly engulfed the post building and the former Little Lee’s Deli building. The extensive heat, smoke, and water damaged caused $225,000 worth of damage.
July 10, 2000 flames gutted the third floor of the four story steel and concrete Rolfite Manufacturing Company building. Witnesses reported seeing four teenagers leaving the building prior to the fire. It was presumed that the suspects used matches or a lighter to ignite cardboard boxes and plastic bottles on the third floor. It took members of the Echo Hose about two hours to douse the blaze. An interior fire quickly spread to the roof and required the use of Tower 7 and its 2,000gpm pump to extinguish the blaze.
May 14, 2001 the Echo Hose responds mutual aid for a raging, wind driven fire that destroyed most of a 284,000 square foot vast rubber plant in downtown Ansonia. The fire broke out on a conveyor belt in a huge drying oven and burned for nearly five days. About 30,000 gallons of latex, 200 gallons of ammonia hydroxide, and various acids and bases fed the fire. Several people sought treatment at Griffin Hospital emergency room for allergic reactions, breathing difficulties, and rashes. High winds gusting more than 20 miles per hour made the blaze difficult to control and blew smoke for miles. The leaping flames started numerous brush fires, one of which burned a nearby house.
May 5, 2004 the Echo Hose takes delivery of a 2004 Pierce Enforcer Rescue Pumper. It is equipped with a 1250gpm pump, 750 gallon poly tank, Harrison hydraulic generator, and Whelen LED light package. This replaced the 1980 Hahn Engine which was designated as Engine 2.
September 17, 2006 the Echo Hose, Paugies, and Webster Hose Company co-hosted the 123rd annual State of Connecticut Firefighters Convention Parade. The parade began in Derby at the green, proceeded down Caroline Street, over the Shelton-Derby Bridge, and ended at the Shelton Riverwalk.
The 125th anniversary of the founding of the Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company #1 is celebrated in the summer of 2007. The anniversary dinner was held in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel on Bridgeport Avenue. On June 3, 2007 the parade was held, which begun at Coram Ave and Kneen Street and ended at Howe Avenue and Maple Avenue. During the after party at the firehouse “unknown members” of the company swapped out a city municipal license plate from Truck 9 with the beer truck license plate prompting some explaining.
December 30, 2008 fire broke out in a maintenance room on the second floor of Shelton High School. A cigarette thrown into a garbage can in a storage closet sparked the fire. The closet contained both paper supplies and chemical cleaning agents, which reportedly led to an explosion in the closet. Heavy smoke got into the ventilation system sending it throughout the school which caused heavy smoke damage. Damage was estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
December 13, 2009 a mixture of rain and ice on a downhill section of Route 110 (Leavenworth Road) caused a chain reaction 50-car pileup. 46 people received minor injuries and six people were transported to the hospital. It took over five hours to remove all the damaged vehicles from the roadway.
June 24, 2010 members of the Echo Hose respond mutual aid to the City of Bridgeport after an EF-1 tornado touched down in the east side of the city. Mutual aid companies staged at Bridgeport Fire Headquarters and covered the city during the hours after the tornado. Mutual aid was received from Shelton, Milford, Fairfield, Westport, Trumbull, and CT-TF1/USAR.
January 9, 2013 an overnight fire broke out an at the vacant Apex Tool building located at 235 Canal Street. The adjacent building, Better Packages suffered damage mainly to the storage area however had smoke and water damage throughout. Arson was suspected as the cause of the fire.
January 5, 2014 a massive late night fire and structural collapse occurred at a century old building on Howe Avenue (440 block). Members of the Echo Hose were initially called to the building for a water leak but soon discovered a fire in the basement of one of the store fronts. A total of 27 occupants were rescued by company members, including two by aerial utilizing
June 25, 2014 an early morning fire ravaged machinery at the Latex Foam International building at 510 River Road. The fire broke out in the basement industrial dryer and quickly spread into the ventilation system and duct work before bursting through the roof of the building. Latex Foam arose from the ashes of the March 1, 1975 arson that destroyed the Sponge Rubber Products Company in downtown Shelton. This fire led to the creation of Latex Foam International in Ansonia (1985) but disaster struck once again on May 14, 2001. The following year, Latex Foam moved into the River Road location in Shelton.
August 29, 2014 the Echo Hose takes delivery of a 2014 Pierce Heavy Duty Rescue. It is equipped with a PUC 1500gpm pump, 500 gallon tank, Husky 3 foam system, Willburt Night Scan 9000 light tower, Atlas air compressor, Harrison 30kw hydraulic generator, and Girard electric awning.
August 30, 2014 Squad 5 (1985 Ford LN8000) is decommissioned after 29 years of service to the department. Weeks later it was re-assigned to Pine Rock Company 4 as Rescue 45 by the Chief of the Department.
January 28, 2015 Engine 4 (1986 Pierce Arrow Engine) is decommissioned after 29 years of service to the department. It was the last “non-encapsulating” open cab truck in the Shelton Fire Department fleet. The truck was donated to the Valley Fire Chief’s Training School weeks later.
Currently the company has the following apparatus:
1 – 2004, Pierce 1,250 gpm rescue Engine
1 – 2014, Pierce 1500 gpm PUC Squad
1 – 2005, Ford F350 Utility Truck
1 – 1996, KME 95’ aerial platform/ladder truck
That group of men which met a hundred and thirty seven years ago to form a fire company “for the better protection of the village of Shelton from the ravages of fire” could not have even remotely visualized that someday all personnel would ride to fires on self-propelled vehicles, each fire person protected by the finest firefighting clothing, special breathing apparatus being available so “smoke eating” was unnecessary, long ladders that raised and moved by a single fire person, water being directed on a fire in diversified forms; no, they could not foresee these things but what they saw was a need to protect the community from fire and they did something about it; created a fire company and with it handed down a tradition of community service that will continue as long as the Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company exists.
– Written by George Smith, Assistant Chief Plavcan and Firefighter Joseph Pelaggi IV