With the arrival of 1996, the Yonkers Fire Department celebrated its 100th year in existence as a paid department. On Sunday October 6th, a spectacularly warm and clear day, hundreds of off-duty fire department members assembled on South Broadway at Radford Street for a parade marking the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Yonkers Fire Department. The parade, held in conjunction with the Columbus Day parade celebration consisted of bands, marching contingents and apparatus from many area Fire Departments.
From the time the first roll call was held by Chief James Mulcahey, the Department had grown from a single engine and ladder company manned by 6 firemen, to one with 11 engine companies, 6 ladder companies and Hazardous Materials Squad.
Looking back over the years since we celebrated the 75th anniverary, there has been some significant changes.
The designation of the fire suppression duty Assistant Chiefs, which for many years was Division 1 and 2, was changed to Battalion 1 and 2.
Probationary firefighters who once received only a few weeks of training at Fire Headquarters on New School Street, now utilized the Westchester County Fire Training Center in Valhalla to receive a full eight weeks (now 10 weeks) of training conducted by Yonkers Fire Officers who were specifically assigned for this task. July 1979 saw the largest group of probationary firefighters to be hired when 54 took the oath of office. Also in 79′ Engine Company 305(housed at Station 2) and Ladder Company 76(housed at Station 11) were placed into service
The Fire Alarm boxes, once used to transmit alarms, were removed from the city streets on July 17, 1980. The city administration determined that it was not cost-efficient to expend one million dollars to repair and maintain the 875 fire alarm boxes located throughout the city. All future alarms from the public would have to be by telephone. Originally the number designated for fire emergency was 423-7100, today as in many communities the number designated to call for FIRE, POLICE, and AMBULANCE is “911”. Civilian Public Safety Dispatchers-were hired to handle receipt of fire alarms and the firefighters who were assigned to the Communications office were reassigned.
The Fire Department Repair Shop located at Station 7 was relocated to the new Department of Public Works Repair Shop.
In 1980, Fire Station 2 on Vineyard Avenue was closed due to the structural condition of the building. Engine Company 302 was relocated to Station 9 and Engine Company 305 was relocated to Station 1. In December of that year the City Charter was changed to provide for the title of Fire Commissioner replacing the civil service title of Fire Chief.
Due to a fiscal crisis in 1982, Engines 302, 305, 311 and Ladder 76 were disbanded, also included in these cuts were the Battalion Aides. A compromise was reached shortly after the cuts were made which provided that Battalion 1 would have an aide while Battalion 2 would ride without one.
In June 1983, Engine 302 and 311 were reactivated, however one month latter they were disbanded once again. Also in 1983 the Communications Office (Telegraph Bureau) was moved to 10 St. Casimir Avenue.
1984 saw the reactivation of Engine Company 311 and the position of the aide in Battalion 2 was reinstated. In July of that year, Personal Distress Locators were issued to all members. These devices were to be attached to the firefighter’s turnout coat and would sound if the wearer was motionless for a period of time. The alarm would allow a search team to locate and rescue the fallen firefighter.
1985 saw newly promoted Fire Officers being sent to the State sponsored “First Line Supervisors School” which was administered by the City of New York Fire Department at Randall’s Island.
In 1990, the Department recognized the need to begin to develop a special unit to cope with the rise in Hazardous Materials incidents as well as to comply with the new OSHA regulations, which specifically detailed the training requirements for personnel handling Hazardous Materials. Initially all line officers and firefighters were trained to the Operations level, while a team of six officers were further trained to the Technician level. These six officers provided 24 / 7 coverage on more serious Hazardous Materials incidents while maintaining positions in Engine or Ladder companies.
Also in 1990, the City of Yonkers outfitted all firefighters with new OSHA approved Bunker Pants and Coats.
1991 a Safety Division is instituted and manned with a full-time Safety Officer. The Safety Officer responds to all structure fires and supports the health and safety needs of the firefighters.
In July of 1992, a significant step was made to improve emergency medical services in the City. By Special Order 34-92, the First Responder Program was implemented. This program takes advantage of the fact that Fire Stations are strategically located throughout the city. When a call for emergency medical help is received, the closest Engine Company is immediately dispatched. The resulting reduction in response time translates into increased chances of patient survival with firefighters administering life saving first aid. Since 1991, all probationary firefighters are trained as Certified First Responders. Many senior Department members have also opted to receive medical training and became New York State Certified First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics. Firefighters have performed a variety of emergency medical tasks, from delivering babies to administering CPR.
Also in 1992, the communication office of Fire, Police and EMS is moved to the Cacace Justice Center and an Enhanced 911 emergency response system is instituted. This system makes it possible for dispatchers to see on a computer screen the number and address of the caller who is calling in the emergency.
On June 18,1992, a Hazardous Materials unit designated as Squad 1 is commissioned. This unit will be staffed 24/7 by an officer and one firefighter. The unit will also be used as a rescue company assisting ladder companies at all working fires. During 1993 all members assigned to the unit received extra training and were certified by New York State to the Hazardous Materials Specialist level. Support companies were designated to assist the Squad when more than two persons were needed to handle the incident.
1995, a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system is installed in the communications center. This system augments the Enhanced 911 system and includes printers installed in all firehouses to provide a “Rip and Run” copy of the dispatch information.
1998, the Department begins using a UFH channel as primary operations frequency. The low band frequency would continue to be used for fire station alerting and would remain in reserve in case there was a failure of the primary frequency.
As we entered the new millennium, Squad 1with its two man crew was decommissioned and to replace it, on March 6, 2000, Rescue Company # 1 was commissioned with a four man crew. The City of Yonkers once again had a Heavy-Rescue Company almost 70 years to the day from the commissioning of the original rescue.
We hope you have found this and the other History articles on the Yonkers Fire Department interesting. Check back for future articles as the Department continues to grow and move forward into the future.
This is the end of the Department History series, but there will be individual department historical articles in the future.