The West Park Fire Department
Contributed by Paul Nelson,
Western Reserve Fire Museum and
Here is some basic information I
found on the West Park Fire Department from the Cleveland City Record,
Cleveland Fire Department, and county archives. I did some research on
West Park because they became a significant part of the Cleveland Fire
Department. The only other communities with independent Fire Departments
absorbed into the Cleveland Fire Department were Ohio City, Glenville,
Collinwood and Brooklyn Village.
I found no evidence of organized
fire protection in Rockport or West Park Township before the
establishment of a formal fire department in 1916. There is information
that a fire brigade of volunteers existed in 1908 occupying two sheds in
the community. One location was said to be on Lorain Street near W.
117th Street and the other on the Town Hall lot, west of the New York
Reference was made that the Lorain
Street shed contained a hand-pumper, buckets and pike poles (used to
pull down walls). There was no reference to specific equipment in the
other shed. It is pure conjecture but used hand-engines might have been
acquired from other communities. New hand-engines would have cost about
$1,000 at that time.
Reference was found to a piece of
township legislation in April 1908 "To erect suitable buildings at the
various fire stations containing room for hose carts, fire apparatus and
instruments." No further information on fire protection was found
between 1908 and 1916 suggesting that nothing happened.
On March 21, 1916 an Ordinance (No.
920) was passed by the West Park Village Council to sell bonds in the
amount of $25,000 to buy land for a firehouse, construct a firehouse,
and buy a fire engine. The Council planned to create a tax to pay the
interest on the bonds that would continue through 1946, the time when
the amount of the bonds would be paid off in full.
On June 27th, 1916 E.H. Baier was
employed by the Council of the Village to prepare plans and
specifications for the construction of a firehouse on the south side of
Lorain Street west of the Town Hall. The contract also stipulated that
Baier "superintend the construction of the fire house."
On July 5, 1916 Council authorized
purchase of land (Ordinance No.946) described as being on Lorain Avenue,
beginning at the iron monument at the northwest corner of the Town Hall
lot and west of the New York Central right of way. The parcel was
approximately 90-ft deep by 145-ft wide. Cost was $3,000. It was
situated in the original Section 12 of Rockport Township with the
grantor listed as H.A. Edwards (originally from G.J. Fisher).
Resolution File No. 1004, Village
of West Park, adopted February 20, 1917, made the following change;
"That V.D. Croft be and is hereby employed during the disability of E.H.
Baier, to superintend the construction and give estimates on the engine
An Ordinance to purchase a fire
engine was passed September 5th 1917 (no number found) designating
$9,000 to purchase a fire engine as well as equipping and finishing the
fire station. The number $22,000 was found as "the estimated cost of
construction and equipping the fire house" but without specific details.
The original bond issue was described as "inadequate because of rapid
and sudden increase in cost of materials and workmen's wages."
At the same time an Ordinance was
passed (may have been the same Ordinance) to "guard against occurrence
of fires and to protect property of citizens against damage from fire."
The legislation regulated the burning of hay, straw, boxes, weeds, etc
in the community. (This was very typical of legislation in larger
cities, often referred to as "Fire Limits."
The actual Village Fire Department
was created by a Council Ordinance (no number found) on December 5th
1916, which set up the following:
1) One fire chief at $1,400 per
2) An Engineer-fireman and
assistant engineer-fireman at $1,200 per year (The term engineer-firemen
designated driver, pump operator a term carried over from the steam fire
3) Two firemen at $1,000 per year
An exact date of beginning service
was not found. Reference was made that the fire house was completed in
early 1917. By the time personnel were trained in the operation of the
new fire engine and the fire house fully equipped, it was probably mid
1917 when formal fire service began. The West Park Fire Department never
had horse-drawn equipment.
A subsequent Ordinance (no number
found) required applicants to take a physical exam by a duly-licenses
physician before being considered for employment as a fire fighter. The
mayor was to appoint men to the positions with the approval of Council.
first fire West Park engine was a 1916 American LaFrance Type 75, 73hp,
750gpm, rotary-gear triple-combination pumping with rear-wheel
chain-drive engine, (SN 1650) built in Elmira, New York.
Triple combination meant the engine
(1) pumped water, (2) carried at least 1,000-ft of 2 1/2-in. hose, and
(3) had a tank of water with attached hose for small fires (100-gallon
water tank, 1-in rubber hose and nozzle). It was used by Cleveland
Engine 39 until 1942, then used as a reserve pumper until 1947, and a
spare until 1950 when it was scrapped.
1916 AMERICAN LAFRANCE PUMPER
This 750gpm, type 75 rotary-gear pumper was the first motorized
apparatus for the West Park Fire Department and ran as their Engine Co.
1 from the firehouse at 15637 Loraine Avenue. In 1923 west Park merged
with Cleveland and the apparatus became Engine Co. 39 of Cleveland.
All the firemen of West Park as well as the two stations and apparatus
became part of the Cleveland Fire Department. The windshield was a CFD
Photograph courtesy of Western Reserve Fire Museum Collection.
On April 21, 1921 Council
established an Ordinance (no number found) establishing a Fire District
for the purpose of regulating the erection of dwellings and business
structures, a common practice in cities.
On April 21, 1921 Council enacted
an Ordinance (no number found) to issue bonds to acquire land for a
firehouse on the eastern end of the city with expenditure estimated at
$50,000. A resolution on September 20th (No. 2268) by Council authorized
the sale to go forward.
Another Resolution (No. 2340) was
adopted by Council on December 20th to appropriate $500 from the General
Fund to secure a 90-day option on property at the northwesterly corner
of W. 129th Street and Lorain Avenue, with an 85-ft frontage on Lorain
Avenue by 100-feet deep. The owner was the Settlement Property Company (J.R.
McLaughlin, President), Sublots No. 1-2-3, Block No. 4, Section 12, West
Park File No. 2472. The bond issue was passed by voters November 8th.
Council passed an Ordinance (No.
2472) on April 11, 1922 that the Director of Public Safety be directed
to make the necessary contracts for the expenditure of $7,325 for the
acquisition of the site earlier mentioned and $13,675 for the purchase
of a fire engine, equipment, furniture and furnishings to build and
complete a fire station. The lot was purchased for that price.
An additional bond issue of $2,000
was authorized on August 15, 1922 (No. 2270) with an additional $7,500
transferred from the General Fund to complete the project authorized by
a Council Resolution (No. 2379) on October 31st.
There are small discrepancies in
dates of various legislative actions in various sources. This probably
could be attributed to inaccuracies in reporting dates of items being
passed and items becoming implemented. The spread of the dates is
relatively small and fits well in the general timeline.
second fire engine for West Park was ordered from the Seagrave
Corporation in Columbus, Ohio sometime after August 1922. It was a
750gpm, Model 760, 79hp centrifugal triple-combination pumper with a
chemical (extinguisher) tank instead of a water tank as supplied on
Engine No. 1 (SN 32565). It was used by Cleveland Engine 38 until 1950
when it was removed from service and scrapped as unworthy of repair.
The organization of the West Park
Fire Department had been altered on November 21, 1921 when Council
issued an Ordinance (no number found) creating the rank of captain and
lieutenant in the Fire Department.
West Park Purchased
this Seagrave pumper fire engine, with a chemical tank, in 1922 for
their No. 2 station at 129Th and Lorain. It was delivered late in
1922 but may not have ever actually been used by West Park because the
city was annexed to Cleveland about the same time. After the
merger, th Seagrave pumper operated out of Engine Company No. 38 of
Photograph courtesy of the Western Reserve Fire Museum Collection.
The new No. 2 station, at 12902
Lorain Avenue, was completed in late 1922 but there is some belief it
was never actually occupied by members of the West Park Fire Department
due to the 1923 merger with Cleveland. If they did use it, it was
without the new fire engine as that was not delivered from Seagrave
until 1923, but some men might have been stationed there.
It is a bit confusing why the City
of West Park went ahead with the new firehouse and the ordering of a new
fire engine. The annexation with Cleveland was approved by voters in
both cities at the November 8, 1921 election. There may have been some
sort of "understanding" between the two communities to move ahead so
that actual fire protection would be in place after the merger. No
specific verification of this concept has been found,
A Commission was created to
represent both cities with a report filed on July 12, 1922 (West Park
Reports, File No. 2037 1/2) and (Cleveland Report File No. 58695).
Section 6, (c) of that Report described in three paragraphs the status
of West Park firemen after the annexation. They were to be appointed to
the Cleveland Fire Department in grades no lower than in West Park and
like salaries. They would become eligible for the pension
system and longevity served in West
Park would count in Cleveland.
The only caveat was that the Chief
of West Park would be appointed at a rank of Captain. At the time of
annexation, the West Park Fire Department consisted of one chief, one
captain, three lieutenants and sixteen fire fighters as part of the West
Park Department of Public Safety.
There is some confusion as to the
effective date of the annexation or merger. I have seen both January 3
and 4, 1923 and February 10, 1923. CFD records indicate that Engine Co.
No. 39 was established on January 4, 1923 at 15637 Lorain Avenue with F.
Engine Co. No. 38 was established
January 4, 1923 at 12902 Lorain Avenue with C.C. Tower, Captain. CFD
records further indicate that Engine 38 was not struck in service until
July 1st which might account for the fact the new Seagrave pumper was
not delivered until 1923 and CFD did not have any spare apparatus to use
on a temporary basis. That station was used until August 2, 1954 when
Engine Co. No. 38 moved to a new station at 12631 Bellaire Road.
There is some belief that an alarm
bell was mounted on the roof of Station No. 39 at some time but I have
not found a photo to verify that.
I found a West Park firehouse
journal in the CFD Engine 39 records that covered 1921 to October 1922.
It only covered firehouse activities and had no reference to actions
surrounding the new firehouse at W. 129th St. The CFD log books for E39
begins in October and does not cover the first day of merger. The E38
log books start on July 1, 1923, the first day of service at W. 129th St
& Lorain. The captain was a transfer from another company and not from
West Park. My guess is that the West Park firemen were scattered around
The West Park log book listed the
following names although they are handwritten and may not be the exact
James Johns, Chief
Lee Nickel, Captain
Frank Visoky, Captain
Frank Strle, Engineer
Thomas Sweeney, fireman
Arthur Bourne, fireman
Orel Bowley, fireman
hired Jan.16, 1922
fireman hired Jan. 16.1922
A captain, engineer and 3 men were
on duty each 24-hour shift. The chief apparently did not work a shift.
The Cleveland report indicated 16
West Park firemen became Cleveland firemen at the merger with Cleveland.
With the 11 above and 5 more, that would suggest that West Park hired 5
more men between October 1922 and January 1923, probably to staff a new
firehouse No. 2.
The 1921 activity report lists 70
alarms attended, 46 fires of some type, and total fire losses of $19,140
for the year. There were periods or four or five days when they did not
have an alarm.