FIRESIDE RESTAURANT 3307 Whitney Avenue Thanksgiving Day (and Night) Thursday, November 23, 1967
The Fireside Restaurant lived up to its name on Thanksgiving Day 1967. Shortly after noontime, Capt. Don Steele of the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Co. was driving south on Whitney Avenue in his '65 Dodge wagon. As he approached the "Big Y" (Yantic Beef Co.) just north of Sherman Avenue, he thought he saw smoke coming from the Fireside Restaurant right across the street. Don slowed down in front of the 150 year old wood frame building to take a closer look. He was right. It was smoke, and it wasn't coming from the chimney.
Luckily, Box 17 was mounted on a utility pole nearby on the corner of Whitney and Sherman. Don pulled the lever inside and transmitted the alarm to all Hamden fire stations, where every gong and Gamewell tape register tapped out one strike followed by seven strikes - four times. The first alarm companies listed for Box 17 were Engine 5, Engine 4, Rescue 2, Ladder 1 and Car 30.
Ff. Dave Howe
Station 5 was less than a mile away. Engine 5, a two-man engine company driven by Firefighter Dave Howe, arrived in less than four minutes. Firefighter Fred Fletcher, the "senior man," transmitted "10-8" for a working fire. It was going to be another busy holiday for Hamden firefighters.
A working fire in that part of Hamden also brought out volunteers from Co. 5 and Co. 9, who were toned out right away. Co. 5's volunteers responded from their homes because Co. 5's "paid" engine, already on scene. Co. 9 volunteers responded with their apparatus, Engine 59, a 1942 Diamond-T 600 g.p.m. pumper. ("paid" Engine 9 was still more than a year off.) Car 53, the 1952 Dodge utility truck, responded from the Shop on special call.
Don Steele later made the following entry in his notebook,"11/23 - 12:30 ± - Fireside Restaurant Whitney Avenue. Tone sounded when [Fred] Fletcher, [Dave] Howe and I were laying a line after I pulled the box! 9 [Co. 5 volunteers] responded: Steele, Steele, Pedersen, Pedersen, Spencer, Johnson, Dougan, Hurlburt (Sr), and Clemons. Caught it just in time. Tim and I were late for Thanksgiving Dinner!"The two Steeles were Don and his son, Tim. The two Pedersen's were Find (pr. "finn") and his brother Anders.
Firefighters responded to the site nearly fourteen hours later for a blaze that did even more damage to the building. The cause of the second fire was not believed to be a rekindle of the earlier fire, but a new blaze of suspicious origin.
Don's follow-up notation:"11/24/67 - 1:20 AM - Almost exact ditto of above except someone else pulled the box - and a lot more fire."The early morning rekindle was seen as suspcious.
From Historic Hamden (Hamden Historical Society: 1976), "This was originally a one and one-half story house with five rooms and three fireplaces. In the 1820's it was moved from the route of the Farmington Canal and relocated across Whitney Avenue. It was then made into a two-story house."
Suspicious rekindle in the early morning hours of Friday, November 24, 1967 - Ventilating the roof - CLICK to enlarge (John Mongillo, Jr.)
This is an aerial view of what the vicinity of Whitney and Sherman looked like at the time of the fire. Totally reconfigured in the early 1980s, the only buildings still standing today are the church, parish house, the Fireside Restaurant building and the white building just south of it. "X" marks where Sherman Avenue now exits to Whitney. (CLICK to enlarge)
Nov. 2014 - "The Fireside" is Andale's Mexican Restaurant. The large addition to the rear was added since 1967.
V. Paul Leddy was appointed Hamden's second paid fire chief by the Hamden Board of Fire Commissioners* 57 years ago on November 14, 1960. Leddy served as fire chief from 1960 until his 65th birthday in April 1984.
During Leddy's more than 23 years as chief, the department acquired two new fire stations, an additional engine and truck company, the number of personnel nearly doubled, from 67 to 125 (in 1982), and the firefighters' workweek dropped from 56 to 42 hours.
CLICK on the above photo for more photos and stories.
*The Fire Commission was the appointing authority until a new Town Charter, effective January 1, 1966, gave the authority to appoint subsequent fire chiefs to the Mayor.
The New Haven Register, Wednesday, November 7, 1962
The New Haven Register, Thursday, November 9, 1962
The New Haven Register, Thursday, November 9, 1962 - CLICK to enlarge for easier reading
1963 - Co. 5's R.K. Spencer Receives Life-Saving Award for RR Station Fire - CLICK to enlarge
Rescued Firefighter Tells His Story
One of the volunteer firefighters from Co. 5 in Mt. Carmel was Bill Scott. A few years later, Bill would become a Hamden career firefighter for a brief time. Bill sent an email to the website last year in which he recounted his experiences as the injured firefighter that night at the railroad station fire.
Bill wrote,"Late one night, roughly 50 years ago, the old railroad station north of the fire house on Whitney Ave. caught fire. Many volunteers showed up including myself. I ended up on the roof with others to punch holes for ventilation. Unfortunately for me, I was standing beside the old chimney when it decided to fall, which it did, on top of me.
"My fellow volunteers rushed to my aid and brought me over to a ladder to get me down. Somehow though, they missed the ladder and dropped me off the roof. At this point I was pretty groggy and didn't argue when I was loaded into the back of an ambulance, driven by the notorious Murrays, John and Pinkey. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have called a cab.
"Bobby Feinn, who rode with me, told me later he thought we would both die that night going 90 MPH down Dixwell Avenue.
"I stayed a couple of days in the hospital with a concusion. My roommate was a guy being guarded by a cop. He was there because he'd been shot by a blind woman while attempting to steal her chickens.
"My recovery was aided by some friends (volunteers of course) who came to visit with a case of beer and pizza. The hospital staff didn't think this was such a good idea and the party ended quickly. My missadventure ended well, but the highlight of that evening I feel is that one volunteers received an award from the state for my rescue even though I bounced a little on the way down."
1916 Seagrave Model J Straight-frame Tiller Ladder Truck
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Straight-frame tiller ladder trucks, like this Chicago Fire Department 1916 Seagrave Model J city service truck, were fairly rare. These tiller trucks were manufactured by Seagrave, American-LaFrance, Pirsch, Stutz, and several other American companies, but very few were built after 1930 - and for good reason. When negotiating a tight corner, a great deal of coordination between the driver and the tillerman was required or else the entire rig could easily go off course with disastrous results.
The tillerman of tractor-trailer ladder trucks, like those still being manufactured today, can only steer the trailer section of the rig safely around a corner. He cannot control the direction of the tractor. However, if he was not careful, the tillerman on a straight-frame ladder truck could easily steer the entire rig into a tree, as happened in New Haven in 1937.
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This 1919 Seagrave Model J city service truck factory photo was featured in Phil da Costa's 100 Years of America's Fire Fighting Apparatus (Bonanza Books, New York, 1964). The 1916 Seagrave Model J city service truck in the upper photo was featured in Walter McCall's American Fire Engines Since 1900 (Crestline Publishing, Glen Ellyn, IL, 1976).
Below is a still from the 1947 Columbia motion picture "It Had to be You," which shows a 1925 Stutz straight-frame city service ladder truck exiting a fire station, negotiating a tight right-hand turn onto the main street. When you watch the short video clip below the photo, you'll notice that when the truck straightens out it goes "crab-fashion" for a second or two as it moves toward the right-hand side of the street.