In 2017 the Baltic Fire Engine Company # 1 will celebrate our own birthday, we will be 150 years old!! PLEASE watch this page and our facebook page for our anniversary dates which we will host our celebration of this event!! WE will have tables available for rent at our event, so if you have anything fire related that you would like to sell, show, etc please feel free to contact us once we start the postings of the dates, etc.
The official name of our fire department is the “Baltic Fire Engine Company # 1″ , this is the name that we are known by in our charter which was we obtained in May 1867 by the General Assembly. However, I have come across a Baltic By-Laws book which has the name of “Baltic Steam Fire Engine Company # 1 of Baltic, Connecticut”. WOW, now that will make a pen run out of ink just writing the return address on something. Now at the department, the only thing that will have steam coming from it is the steam cleaner for the floors. However, who could ever have guessed that some 142 years after our department was organized, we would be operating trucks with 400-horse power and carrying 1,500 to 3,000 gallons of water with a 1,500 GPM pump!!
400-horse power, our barn would have to take up all of Main Street just to accommodate all of the horses needed for just one of our pumpers, never mind trying to fit and feed all of the horses that would be needed to operate our three pumpers, one 100′ ladder, a rescue truck, brush truck, and our ambulance. I can only imagine what the men of the Baltic Steam Fire Engine Company # 1 would make of some of the fire fighting rigs that are available today.
In the dedication Ceremonies of Baltic’s new firehouse booklet dated June 11, 1949, there are a couple of photos of the steam engine and the old firehouse with a hose cart dating back to 1915. This new firehouse of 1949 is where the town hall is presently located. I have seen photos with all of the fire trucks that were housed at this station, I have no idea how they ever fit them in there but I am sure that the building let out a sigh of relief when the trucks left for a fire and no one hit the building on the way out. Many of the member’s last names are still the same, just some of the first names are different ( and there are “Jr”., and III after the names). The “new” firehouse was replaced with a “newer” firehouse being dedicated on September 12, 1982. Along with the new firehouse and some different first names, there have been a few other changes such as the equipment that is worn by the today’s fire fighters, and the trucks that are needed for today’s world are a wee bit different and the training probably includes some extra areas of concern. Our members no longer need to live with in a 1.5 mile radius of the firehouse, they no longer need to dash to the fire house to find out what and where the call is or count the amount of times that a fire horn blows in order to figure out the location of a fire as we use to do as kids. We now carry all types of pagers and cell phones which notifies us what and where the call is at, they also let the station and dispatch center know that we are responding to a call. Our department’s now rely on fast teams to assist us at many fires, back when our department first came to be a fast team consisted of the men or horses pulling the rigs and equipment to the scene. I am not sure how fast the fire rigs were or if anyone still had enough wind in them to fight a fire after running all of that distance. No wonder all of the men looked so slim and in such good condition!
According to some of the books telling the history of the Baltic Fire Company, it seems that there really is not a lot of material available to tell of the early years of our fire service since either the information was not recorded or someone, somewhere, has the early records in a attic and they may not even know it. So, if by chance you happen to come across some written material, maybe dating back to the 1867 time, which tells any history at all about the Fire Service in Baltic, can you please contact any member?? We would love to read the material so that we can also learn about our own history.
The 1949 book goes on to say that Baltic’s earliest piece of equipment was an old steamer, which was later purchased by a contractor in Norwich. This was later replaced by the hand-drawn hose reel and our hook & ladder around 1911. It was not until 1927 that we received our first motorized fire truck which was a Reo, which was still in service in 1949.
In 1940, Baltic purchased a Chevrolet pumper, which could pump 500 gallons per minute and carried 200 gallons of water in its booster tank. Now if my math serves me correctly that water will be gone in — ooppss, it is gone! Of course, I would not want to try to pull a 1,500-gallon pumper around town, no matter how many members showed up for the pull. A few years later Baltic took delivery of an International pumper, which would pump 750 gallons per minute and had a 500-gallon tank.
Baltic’s first meeting place for the fire fighters was in a building known as the Gristmill which now houses the town’s library, Historical Society as well as a meeting area for other groups in town that now meet there.
In 1867, our department consisted of 10 officers and 17 men. All members could live no further then 1.5 miles from the firehouse. Our department also had a reserve list, which could consist of no more then twenty (20) regularly elected members. A member would be moved from the reserve list to the active member list by seniority.
In 1968, our fire department consisted of 36 members and 2 probationary members. Here is a breakdown of calls for a time period of 1967 through 1969. I would imagine that back then the amount of calls appeared to be a lot yet when we compare them to our 400 calls for the 2008 time period there were times when the whole year of 1967 calls could have occurred in just a couple of months of 2008.
1967 – 1968 1968 – 1969
Rescues 18 34
Brush & Grass 33 16
Mill Fires 02 00
Oil Burner 07 02
Structure Fires 09 07
Car or Truck 04 06
Electric Power Lines 01 02
Stand by for during power failures 00 02
Town Dump Fires 01 01
Back in 1969, the fire department just replaced a 29-year-old pumper with a Mack Diesel, 500-gallon tank and a 750 GPM pump. Man, you want to talk about having to make every drop of water count!! As I read the old books pertaining to our firehouse, it seems funny to think of the expression that history will always repeat itself. This book mentions about the fire fighters regret that the budget that year could not allow for an addition to their current firehouse. Here we are 40 years later with the same sentiment and building space problems. In 1969, the ladder and the brush truck needed to be stored in a location where it was not readily available. This past year for a couple of months, we also needed to store our brush truck in a location that was not readily available to all fire fighters.
In 1976, Baltic caught that Bi Centennial fever and painted the 1968 Mack and the 1958 Mack with a stars & stripes paint theme. This paint job earned a spot in a national publication for DuPont Paints. During the 70’s & 80”s the Baltic Fire fighters spent many long hours fighting some major & tragic fires. “The Swanson fire claimed the lives of a mother & daughter, a fire on High Street claimed the lives of two children. The Lathrop fire on Route 97 destroyed a 200-year-old home on Christmas day. The temperatures the day of the Lathrop fire were close to ZERO degrees. Because of the freezing temperature and the severity of the fire it took over 125 fire fighters from eight fire departments over 2 ½ hours to battle the blaze and get it under control. Unfortunately, for the family the home was a total loss. The Tatro fire left a family of seven homeless. Eddie Blais , who was a neighbor and also a Baltic Fire Fighter, assisted the mother and five children to safety. Their home was also a complete loss. During these years Baltic also fought the Angus Park Woolen Mill fire in the Hanover section of town, Karen Textiles, Artistic Wire, the old Occum School were just a few of the many fires that kept the fire fighters away from their own families as they volunteered their time to help those of who they may not have even known.
In the 80”s , the most significant development was the realization of a new fire station, this was one of the department’s long-range goals. Baltic was able to obtain some federal grant money for the construction of the new firehouse. Once the funding was arranged a very enthusiastic group of firefighters got together to work on the design phase of the project.
The end result was what the Baltic Firefighters had wanted and needed: a fire station that was big enough to house all of the equipment, plus a roomy kitchen and meeting room where they could hold the monthly meetings, in-door drills that could be shown on the TV or projector, a room that could be used for the bingo, fund raisers and one which was large enough for other town groups ( boy & girl scouts, Baltic Fire Ladies Auxiliary, etc) could use if it was not already in use.
One volunteer group that is mentioned above, a group who through out the years have always been there for the firefighters is that of the Baltic Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary. The Ladies Auxiliary was formed on February 13, 1974 and were formed for the sole purpose of raising monies for the betterment of the Baltic Fire Department and helping by cooking, making & serving meals, sandwiches, coffee, etc., to the fire fighters at times when they will be out for long periods of time. Through the years the Ladies Auxiliary has raised monies from bake sales, car washes, suppers and the annual Holly Jolly Bazaar. The Baltic Firefighters would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the Baltic Ladies Auxiliary, past and present members, for all of the time that they have given to raise money and for all of the items that the auxiliary members have given to the fire department, all of them were purchased with money earned while they were volunteering at the many fund raising events. The fire fighters wish to thank the Auxiliary members for all that they have done for our fire department through out the years. Many of the Auxiliary members are also family members of the Baltic Fire fighters, they are our wives, mothers, sisters & daughters. They are there to raise money that is needed to purchase a new piece of equipment that may not have been in the budget. They are there for us during all of those hours , days & nights when we have training or some type of fire department function. They are there for us on all of those nights and holidays when the pager goes off, right at that most inopportune time, when the guests and family members are just arriving for the holiday meal and there we go dashing out the door to help out a neighbor or to someone’s home in town who we do not yet know. We want the Ladies Auxiliary members to know that you are always on our minds and we want to thank you so very much for all that you have given to the fire department through out the years and for all of the support that you offer to our members in so many ways.
While searching through the many newspapers and old photos of the Baltic Fire Department through out the years and reading about some of the major fires that the department has battled, one that stands out is one that once stood right across the street from our present firehouse on Bushnell Hollow Road. that fire was front page news on August 12, 1999 in the New London Day, the Baltic Mill Fire. Here was a mill that had been built in 1901, a mill that seemed to employ the whole town, a mill that at one time made the electricity for the houses in town, well that is that they made the power as long as the turbines were running. Once the watchman shut the water flow down for the night the power to the town also went out. Here was a mill that had built Sprague into a booming mill town, this mill was the largest on the western hemisphere , aprox. 230,000 square feet, a 17 acre mill complex that was the “Lifeblood of the Town.” This mill manufactured cotton goods and as we all know the floors of those mills had a lot of different oils splattered al over them. It was those oils that made the fire become so large, witnesses say that with in ten minutes the whole mill was engulfed in flames. As we all know, a fire of this size can not be fought by just one fire department, more then 1000 fire fighters from 12 fire departments were called in to assist at this monster of a fire. This fire and many other fires as well as other kinds of calls brought out so many other departments, all coming to Baltic to assist us with this fire. This is what brings us to our next Thank You, a Thank You to all of our neighboring fire departments , all of their members past and present who we have called upon at some point to assist us, maybe at the Baltic Mills Fire, a car accident, a different fire, no matter what, you were there. We want to take this time to say Thank You to ALL of the fire departments, fire fighters & Officers who have come to our aid when we have requested your assistance.
The Baltic Fire Department would like to take this opportunity to thank a group of people who have stood by us in many ways and have allowed our department to grow into the modern fire fighting service that it is today and that group is all of the Residents of Sprague, Baltic, Hanover, Versailles, what ever section of town that you may live in or what ever it is that you may call your town we want to take this time to say Thank You for your continued support through out the years. From our charter in 1867 until now, with out your dedication and support we could not have become such a dedicated group of people if it were not for your support. For this the members of the Baltic Fire Department say Thank You so VERY Much. We also hope that you will continue to support us as we continue to grow and meet today’s needs. If at anytime you have any questions please feel free to write to us or contact us by phone. We would be glad to meet with you and discuss anything that you have a question on concerning the Baltic Fire Department.
This phrase was taken from the 1992 fire house dedication and it still holds true ‘ It is the sincere hope of every fireman that by their continuous efforts to better acquaint themselves with the latest fire-fighting methods through drill sessions, class room study, and actual operation of the equipment, they may continue to earn the support and understanding of the citizens of Sprague. While standing ready at all times to protect life and property, it is every fireman’s hope that their training will never have to be put to use.”
The Baltic Engine Company # 1 currently has 2 pumpers, One 3,000 gallon tanker, 1 aerial ladder, 1 ambulance, 1 rescue truck, 1 brush truck and 1 boat for water / ice rescues.