Fire Department History

by Chief Richard Tortorelli (ret.)

The first efforts by the citizens of Milford to protect their property from fire by modern methods was in 1840. Jacob Fuller, Reuben Hutchinson, Jacob Gutterson, John Hutchinson, Daniel Burns, Freeman Hutchinson, Moses Foster and Charles A. Burns were appointed to a committee by the town to purchase an apparatus and equipment. They purchased what was considered at the time state of the art fire apparatus paying $400 for a hand tub named the Torrent, a 1820 Hunneman. History before this date is not very clear regarding the equipment for fire protection, but it is reasonable to believe that a volunteer company more generally known as a “bucket brigade” was in existence.

The Town purchased another piece of apparatus in 1854 named the Souhegan built in 1853. In 1857 a constitution was formed. On February 5, 1858 John Powers made a motion to form a committee for the purpose of placing a warrant article for a salary of the firemen for their services to the town. The warrant passed which paid $10 a year to the firemen of Milford.

In 1860 an inventory of the Department showed a value $4,533.13, which included both pieces of apparatus, The Torrent and The Souhegan with ample hose and carriage facilities, including 2 fire extinguishers.

On January 2, 1875 by vote of the organization of the Torrent engine company was placed out of commission, united with the Souhegan Hose company and became the Union Company. In 1876 another piece of apparatus was purchased and called the Neptune No. 3. It was originally built for Waltham Massachusetts in 1841. It was not until almost a year later that the 39 member company was formed.

In 1891 the Fire Department relocated from the building on the west side of the Oval to its new quarters in the basement of the Town Hall. In 1891 the fire engineers purchased two hose carriages, The Souhegan and The Eagle and a hook and ladder wagon named Alert. With its well equipped department, which was considered one of the best town sized fire departments in the State, the work of protecting the property of the Town of Milford was continued through the 1890’s when owing to the introduction of the new water system. At that point the Department was reorganized and reduced from 88 members to 36 members. Eagle Hose company 12 members, Souhegan Hose Company 12 members Alert hook and ladder 12 members and then increased to 16 members.

On February 25, 1901 after a special department meeting the department formed the local Firemen’s Relief Association which is still existence today.

The department purchased their first motorized apparatus in 1920, Engine 1 was a 1920 American LaFrance, triple combination pumper,350 G.P.M rotary gear  pump, 30 gallon soda and acid chemical tank, right hand drive, four cylinder motor, chain drive with solid rubber tires that held 1200 feet of hose. The original cost was $10,000 and was in service for 29 years. In 1929 a second engine was purchased it was a 1929 American LaFrance/GMC, triple combination pumper, 500 G.P.M. rotary gear pump, 50 gallon booster tank, six cylinder (Buick motor) and 1200 feet of hose storage. Original cost was $5,000 and was in service for 23 years. In 1931 a city service ladder truck was purchased. Ladder 1 was a Providence combination  ladder/GMC, 80 gallon booster tank, 125 G.P.M.. 200 feet of ground ladders, floodlights and a generator. It cost the Town $6,500 and was in service for 26 years. The department continues to replace its apparatus with modern day equipment when they reach approximately 20 years of service.

The fire station was relocated after 83 years from the Town Hall when in 1974 a new and modern station (at that time) was constructed on its current location at 39 School Street.

In 1986 the first full time Fire Chief was hired, currently there are now 4 full time positions within the feire department and authorization for 48 on-call members.