1900 brought the first request for mutual aid. It came from the Village of Bronxville. Yonkers responded by sending Engine Co. #2, Truck Co. #2 and Chief Mulcahey to the fire.
In June of 1900, money was authorized to convert City Hose Co. #3 (Riverdale Ave.), Houston Hose Co. #3 (Shonnard Pl.) and the old police stable in Manor Hall Park to paid firehouses, and further to erect a new fire house in the fifth ward ( 81Oak St.).
By the end of 1900 the fire department had $125,000. worth of apparatus and firehouses. Masks had not been developed at this time and most of the men placed a small sponge in their mouth to filter the smoke.
January 1901 finds two of the new houses (Radford St. and Shonnard Pl.) ready to be occupied. The horses and fire apparatus for these houses were already acquired. It was not until the end of April 1901 that the firemen to man these houses were appointed. The reason for the delay was that the Mayor in a political move planned to abolish the present board of fire commissioners. The fire commission on its last day reorganized the entire Fire Department. They created officer positions for all the paid firemen presently on the department provided they pass a civil service examination. They also appointed the entire eligible list (25 in number) to the position of probationary firemen. The Mayor then proceeded to install commissioners of his own choice.
On May 1, 1901, Engine Co. #4 on Radford St. and Engine Co. #5 on Shonnard Pl. went into commission. Engine Co. #3 followed later on September 16, 1901. The chief recommended that new fire alarm boxes be equipped with a key covered by glass. Previously certain individuals held these keys. The chief felt that this new plan would save time in transmitting a fire alarm. The chief’s plan was adopted by the fire commissioners and the keys with the glass cases were purchased.
In August of 1902, twenty men were appointed probationary firemen. These men were added to the department so that two new engine companies could be created. The companies, Engine Co. #6 (81 Oak St.) and Engine Co. #7 (Central Park Ave. near Yonkers Ave.) both went into commission on August 4, 1902. Engine Co. #6 was equipped with a combination engine and truck apparatus. Engine Co. #7 received a chemical and hose wagon.
In 1907, Chief Mulcahey recommended that all overhead wiring be placed in underground ducts, so that the wires would not hamper ladder operations. In 1907, a telephone system was installed in the department which enabled the men of the firehouses to be in verbal communication with each other. Up to this point the telegraph tapes were the only communication. Two new fire companies were added to the growing department that year. Engine Co. #8 was placed in service on August 15, 1907 and located at 268 Woodworth Ave. Truck Co. #3 was placed in service at 53 Shonnard Pl. (exact date not known).
Engine Co. #9 was placed in service on Dec. 22, 1909 with a three-man crew. The company took over the quarters of a volunteer company located on Swain St. (West Pondfield).
On Dec. 24, 1909 a general alarm fire on Ann St. destroyed a large part of the Yonkers Brewery. It was at this fire that a deluge set and a ladder pipe were first used by the Yonkers Fire Department in extinguishing a fire. In 1909 the fire department tested a motorized fire engine. The test included driving up some of Yonkers’ steeper hills. The demonstration showed the advantages of motorized fire apparatus over the horse-drawn apparatus.
In March of 1910, the fire department advertised for a motorized pumping fire engine, and two motorized combination chemical and hose wagons. The bid for the hose wagons went to James Boyd and Brothers of Philadelphia, Pa. In October of that year the two motorized hose wagons arrived. They were each equipped with a 35 gallon chemical tank and powered by a six cylinder 70 horsepower Thomas engine. They were placed in service at Engine Co. #6 and Engine Co. #8. On November 5, 1910, Engine Co. #10 was placed in service equipped with the old fire apparatus of Engine Co. #8. The new company moved into its quarters at 485 Saw Mill River Rd.
The “Thomas Webb,” a pumping engine, arrived in early 1911, and was placed in service at Engine Co. #5 on Shonnard Pl. The pump was needed on the hill because at that time extremely low water pressure existed there. The chassis and engine of this apparatus was that of a Thomas touring car and was equipped with a “Webb” pump.
Early in 1912, the two platoon system was proposed by several members of the fire department. They requested that the department be split into two groups, so that shorter working hours could be given to the men. Also in 1912, the chief requested that a new alarm system be established as the old one was inadequate.
1913 saw many changes. In 1913, the Telegraph Bureau was moved into Yonkers City Hall which had larger quarters for the expanding department. It is because of this location that the dispatch center is still referred to as “The Hall.” The system had 150 fire alarm boxes and 100 miles of telegraph wires. The Chief’s office was moved from the old fire headquarters at 18 Palisade Ave. to the third floor of City Hall.
The first motorized ladder truck arrived, an American LaFrance with a 75′ aerial ladder. It was powered by a gasoline motor which ran an electric generator that in turn provided electricity for each of four electric motors, one attached to each wheel. Also in 1913, the Chief and two Assistant Chiefs were provided with automobiles to replace their horse-drawn buggies.
The two platoon system went into effect on July 5, 1913. The ranks of the department were split into two groups. Each group worked opposite the other. The schedule was set up as follows: the men worked two 10-hour days, then 24 hours the next day, then two 14 hour nights. The next 24 hours they were off duty. With this system no more time off was given for meals. All meals were eaten at the firehouse.
By the end of 1913, the fire department had replaced two more horse-drawn apparatus with motorized apparatus, making a total of eight motorized apparatus, including the three chief’s automobiles.
Truck Company #4 was placed in service in the latter part of 1914 at 36 Radford St. The end of 1914 showed the advantage of the motorized apparatus over the horse-drawn apparatus. This was illustrated by the fact that the monetary loss from fire was cut in half from the previous year. By the end of 1914, the Fire Department had eleven motor-driven vehicles including eight fire apparatus and chief’s automobiles.
1915 saw the replacement of three more horse-drawn apparatus with motor-driven apparatus.
On May 22, 1916, with the addition of three more motorized apparatus, the Fire Department became 100% motorized. The event was marked by a large parade in which all the horse-drawn apparatus and all the new motorized apparatus participated. The volunteer companies that were still active and those that were not active also brought their apparatus to the parade.
The era of the horse-drawn apparatus had lasted but a short 20 years. During that time the horses had contributed greatly to the protection of the lives and property of the people of Yonkers. One of these horses, named Jim, was the chief’s horse and was in service from 1898 to 1913. In that period of time he responded to 2,600 alarms of fire. The colorful period of the horses leaving the fire houses and galloping to the fire scene had become history.
Next Article of Series is: ” A Growing Department “