The only protection from fire in those early days was more or less the "Bucket Brigade" which was the local citizens with buckets throwing water on the fire. That was all the protection that they had so if a fire "got out of hand" it usually meant the destruction of the building and often all the other buildings close around the one that was on fire.
As far as is known, the first organization of a group of men for fire protection in the village wasn't until 1881. Before this time one of the largest fires in village history destroyed the north side of downtown East Main St. in 1872.
At the beginning of 1882, the new local fire organization held a ball to raise money for equipment. This event continued for several years and the men soon had new shirts as well as equipment for fighting fires. In 1884 a new brick cistern 15 ft. in diameter which held 700 gallons of water was built in front of the Methodist Church and was to be used only for fighting fires. Another cistern of the same size was built by Mr. Rawson on Ashland St. (South Main St.) a year later.
The new village hall constructed in 1879 became the housing for the first fire equipment of the New London Fire Department. A steam powered fire engine, a cart and 300 feet of hose was purchased by 1882, all for a sum of $500. It has been said that this equipment was purchased second hand from the Huron, Ohio Fire Dept. This was pretty much the beginning of any fire protection that the village had. The only known photo of "Old Phoenix", the local pumper, was taken near Skellingers Creek drawing water during the 1913 fire downtown. Whether this was the same machine purchased from the Huron, Ohio Dept. in 1882 can never be proven today. The old machine was sold for junk in 1926. It was said that there was a contract with a local drayman to use his team to move the fire engine when a fire occurred and if he wasn't available that several of the other liveries in town always had horses available.
They say the Dept. received $25 for the old pumper when it was sold. Ten years later in 1897 council purchased eight chemical fire extinguishers and placed them at homes of firemen in strategic locations around the village. They were small enough to be carried to a nearby fire and must have been somewhat successful as some of these were still in use fifteen years later. It is said that a printed schedule showing the locations of these was distributed to all citizens in 1912. Around the turn of the century a larger chemical extinguisher was purchased by the village. This had a tank capacity of up to 200 gallons and a small bore hose. It was mounted on wheels and could be pulled or maneuvered by hand and carried its own water supply. Like the other chemical extinguishers it was only useful at small fires but was a handy auxiliary to "Old Phoenix".
The Arnold-Creager Co., a local heavy equipment manufacturer, is credited with constructing a copy of the old pumper sometime before World War One and was named "Old Phoenix No 2". In 1923 the village council purchased the first motorized equipment for the Fire Dept. It was an open bed Ford truck equipped with a bell, axes, ladder, hose and chemical extinguishers, but had no pump of any kind. Hoses were hooked to the hydrant and the water flowed from the main without any added boost from a pump.
In March of 1928 the old shed in back of city hall was remodeled and the Fire Department was moved to this building. Early in 1929 Council accepted delivery of its first modern fire truck. It was a Deluge Master fire fighter pumper. A picture of it taken in 1933 shows a rugged business like piece of equipment. It was impressive even to today's standards. In additon to its pumper it carried several ladders, hose, a siren and blinkers. It had a small auxiliary hose and a small water tank which were hooked up ready for immediate action! There was no enclosed cab and no doors so the driver got just as cold as the men hanging on the sides and tailgate. After a long and useful life this equipment was sold to a Cleveland man and is said to have ended up on a playground. Records show that the cost of this vehicle was around $7500 and the salesman suggested that the cost be shared among local townships and such an agreement was accomplished and the truck purchased. This led to the first fire protection contracts among the townships which are still in use yet today.
On March 3rd, 1932 the local firemen put on a musical, "The Fire Brigade" which turned out to be quite a success. Of course this was the departments first venture into "Show Business"! Some of the older New London residents may yet remember that play.
After World War Two was over, the village bought a new 1947 Ford ton and a half truck and a war surplus front mounted pump. The local Ohio Body Co., a new trailer manufacturer, built a new tank on the chassis, mounted the front pump, put on racks and stanchions for other necessary equipment and delivered to the village a professional piece of equipment, as good as any on the market at the time. As far as I know this pumper is still in stand-by service.
In 1957 another new Ford-Howe pumper was purchased with the latest of equipment. In January of 1980 Fire Chief Al Walters retired and Dean Bailey was chosen as our new Fire Chief. Dean, had been a lineman, nozzleman, driver, mechanic, you name it, for the Fire Dept. for years. Dean was such a good choice that the village has been somewhat free of any serious fires. Dean said that one of the things he was most proud of was the fact that through increased schooling, better equipment, the building of the reservoir and following through with new fire prevention laws, that the village insurance rates went down from eight to six which means on average, a savings of 15 dollars per year on insurance premiums. John Chapin replaced Dean as our new Village Fire Chief and things have been rather quiet with no serious fire losses in the village.
The gas explosion near Kelley's Station where the state has been pumping and storing gasoline from an unknown "Leak" in the village sewer lines which happened on Jan. 19th, 1994, has been about the only real excitement in the village as far as fire goes. This so called "Gas Leak" has still not been solved as yet to this day and the state is still monitoring our sewer system though gas recovery is now "Minimal".
Our Fire Department now has five vehicles. They have on hand, two pumpers, a 1972 Ford and an 87 E-1 type pumper, a Chevrolet tanker dated 1975, one equipment truck which is a 1983 Chevrolet, and one 1992 Chevrolet utility vehicle. The Department has purchased the White Screw Products Building on Prospect St. which is a fairly new building and now have a nice modern facility for all their trucks.
The Department has been kept to right around 25 men. Fire fighting is still a "risky" business and the people of New London should appreciate what these men do for them! So far the Fire Departments only serious injury occurred in 1950 when Fred Bauer was knocked from the side of the fire truck when they were leaving the old Fire Dept. Garage, which at that time was across from the post office. He sustained several broken ribs and a fractured arm and lost many days of work due to the injury but so far no New London fire fighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. May this good luck continue.
From a history by Kenneth Kirkpatrick.