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Broad Brook Volunteer Fire Department - Broad Brook Fire Department History - Pride of the East Side, East Windsor, Connecticut (CT)
Monday March 20, 2023
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Broad Brook Fire Department History

On the evening of March 13, 1896, a meeting of the Broad Brook Company Woolen Mill was called to order by William Lasbury, Assistant Superintendent of the plant.The purpose of the meeting was to organize a fire department. A constitution was drafted and officers elected. Officially becoming the Broad Brook Company Fire Department.

1896 Hose Cart

Initially thirty-five men enrolled into the department, led by its first Fire Chief, F.F. Stunz. To get the new fire department operational, the Broad Brook Company purchased the newly organized fire department a hand drawn hose reel (left) with one-thousand feet of the 2-1/2 inch hose, two 1-1/8 inch standard underwriter nozzles, two firefighter axes, one prybar, and twelve leather buckets.

At the time Broad Brook did not have an organized water pipe system for fire hydrants. In fact, the only hydrants in the center of Broad Brook were on the Broad Brook Company property. Even those hydrants carried only enough pressure to operate the plumbing and fire sprinkler system within the building. In the event that there was a fire, directions were given to the engineers of the fire department on how to start the Buffalo Steam Pump that would boost the water pressure in the fire hydrants.

The Broad Brook Company Fire Department's main objective was to protect the properties of the Broad Brook Company, which included houses in the area of the Mill that housed the foremen and superintendents. The Broad Brook Company Fire Department would respond to fires in the remainder of the town, but risked leaving the mill unprotected and not having a water supply to fight the fire.

During the first year of operation the Broad Brook Company Fire Department responded to four fires. Each of the four fires were within one-thousand feet of the Broad Brook Company hydrants.

1924 Brockway

One of the fires was located at the C.A. Arnold's store on Main Street on the north west corner of the bridge. The flames on the first floor were quickly extinguished, but the fire crept up through the partitions to the second and third floors, where it could not be reached by ladders or hose lines. On August 8, 1896, the firefighters held their first fundraiser which, added to the proceeds from a dance on Thanksgiving Eve, gave firefighters enough money to purchase rubber boots and coats.

In 1902 the department purchased a hand-drawn chemical wagon that carried 2-1/2 gallon soda/acid chemical extinguishers with twelve reloads, several leather buckets, an axe and a prybar. The chemical wagon was pulled to the scene of the fire by four firefighters that would take turns with other firefighters. According to past records "The best results were not to start at a dead run because the men were to tired to fight the fire when they reached the scene."

The Broad Brook Company Fire Department purchased its first motorized fire apparatus in 1924. It was a 1924 American LaFrance Brockway-Torpedo chemical and hose truck with two 35-gallon soda/acid chemical tanks and 1,000 feet of hose. This fire apparatus is currently owned my an honorary member of the Broad Brook Fire Department and has been fully restored to its original condition.

1929 American LaFrance

In 1929 the fire department purchased its second piece of motorized fire apparatus. A 1929 American LaFrance/GMC equipped with a 500-gallon per minute pump, 80-gallon water tank and 200 feet of 3/4 inch booster line. This truck had the ability to draft water from a pond or stream. This became essential as the fire department was now responding to fires in the entire town of East Windsor.

In 1933 a second fire department was formed. "Company 2" consisted of citizens of the town and not employees of the mill. It was this year that Benjamin S. Hanson was appointed as Fire Chief of Company 1 and Company 2, after F. F. Stunz retired.

In 1940 a used fire apparatus from the Old Saybrook Fire Department was purchased. In its original condition it was another 1924 American LaFrance Broackway-Torpedo. This truck was retrofitted with a 300-gallon per minute pump, 300-gallon water tank and a duel axle rear-end.

1924 Retrofitted Brockway purchased from the Old Saybrook FD

In 1946 the fire department purchased a 1946 American LaFrance. This truck was equipped with a 500-gallon per minute pump and a 500-gallon water tank, along with ladders, and various other fire equipment.

Some time between 1946 and 1956, the Broad Brook Company Woolen Mill closed its doors and Hamilton Standard (maker of aircraft parts) bought the factory for its space. The Broad Brook Company Fire Department continued the provide service to the town and became incorporated as a volunteer fire department. Also in 1956, Hamilton Standard gave the Broad Brook Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. a new fire house with a rental of 1 dollar per year. The fire apparatus were also equipped with brand new two-way radios on the Hartford County fire frequency. This allowed the Broad Brook Fire Department to be able to communicate with surrounding fire departments within Hartford County.

In 1957 the fire department purchased a brand new International/Howe pumper, equipped with a 750-gallon per-minute pump and 1000-gallon tank. This pumper remained in-service until 1997.

1957 International/Howe

In 1960 the Broad Brook Vol. Fire Department hit Hollywood, being part of the cast in the movie "Parish", Starring a young Carroll O'Conner (Archie Bunker). In the movie, a tobacco shed on the Daly farm was set fire and the firefighters actually fought the blaze while the cameras rolled. Several stories were passed on through the ages. One that is often recalled is that firefighters took Carroll O'Conner out drinking and had gotten him so tipsy that he couldn't say his lines. Carroll O'Conner Another story tells of how the starring cast and movie set workers had set up a large dinner for the film crew and cast in a tobacco shed. For some reason or another the firefighters were not invited to partake in the festivities. As the event was at night, the shed was lit using the fire departments portable generators. So, the firefighters shut down the generators and started putting them back on the truck to go home. The producer of the film quickly changed his mind and invited the firefighters in.

On January 24, 1961 the Broad Brook Vol. Fire Department fought one of it's most memorable fires. It was 2:00 AM and approximately 23 degrees below zero when flames broke through the roof of the East Windsor Town Hall. Several towns were called in to assist in extinguishing the blaze. But, with cold temperatures, fire pumps freezing and firefighters suffering frostbite, the landmark was gutted.

1961 Town Hall Fire

In 1971 the Broad Brook Fire Department formed the Junior Fire Division. This group of young men from the ages of sixteen to twenty was instituted to help prepare and train young individuals to become firefighters. The Junior Division members did everything from operate pumps to pack hose, but were restricted from entering burning buildings. Also in 1971, the Broad Brook Fire Department celebrated it's 75th anniversary with a larger than usual annual parade.

On January 7, 1976 Chief Charles Staiger retired after 26 years of dedicated service and Chief Edward Loos Sr. was elected as his successor.

On October of 1978 the Broad Brook Fire Department celebrated the ground breaking of its new fire headquarters on the site that once housed the town hall prior to the fire the razed the structure. Construction on this new facility was completed in June of 1980 and a dedication was held.

Also in 1980 Edward Loos Sr. retired as Fire Chief and Gerald Hoffman was elected into the position. The department also purchased a 1974 Ford Panel van to be used as a rescue truck and carry the Jaws of Life. Firefighters quickly learned how to operate this lifesaving equipment.

In 1983 35 members for the fire department completed the newly adopted Connecticut State Firefighter I Certification course. The Broad Brook Fire Department was one of the first fire departments in the State of Connecticut to get its membership certified in the Connecticut State Firefighter I training program.

In 1984 15 members of the rescue team were certified in Basic Vehicular Rescue along with several members of the Ellington Fire Department. Additionally, 12 members also completed and passed the Medical Response Technician course. This medical course gave firefighters the ability to medically assist persons trapped in a motor vehicle accident while other firefighters used the Jaws of Life to extricate them.

In June of 1985 Chief Gerald Hoffman retired as Chief of the department and William Loos Jr. was elected to the position.

1986 Broad Brook Company Mill Fire

In 1986 the Broad Brook Fire Department was dispatched to the largest fire in its history. The old Broad Brook Company Property, the founder of the Broad Brook Fire Department, erupted into flames while the building was being renovated. The fire sprinkler system was shut down for the renovation which resulted in the fire quickly spreading as firefighters scrambled to try and save as much of the building as possible. Firefighters from many surrounding towns were called in to assist. Firefighters battled the blaze for three days before the last fire truck left the scene. Fortunately, no firefighters were seriously injured during the fire.

In 1989 the fire department received delivery of a Mack MC/Ranger class A pumper to replace the old and tired Engine 2 (1967 Ford Super Duty).

In February of 1990 three courageous firefighter fought through heat, smoke and flame to rescue a four year old girl trapped in an apartment fire at the Mill Pond Village Apartments. These tree firefighter received the State of Connecticut's highest award for life-saving at the annual Connecticut State Firefighters Convention.

In December of 1993 a fire alarm sounded reporting a structure fire with persons trapped. Firefighters quickly arrived and rushed into the fully engulfed house and emerged from a second floor window with a female victim. Saving her from the smoke and flames that gutted the house.

In 1996 the department added a 1996 AM General Hum-V/W.S. Darley mini pumper to be used for forest firefighting. Also that year the Broad Brook Fire Department hosted the 113th annual Connecticut Firefighters Convention to celebrate its 100 years of dedicated service to the Town of Easy Windsor.

In September of 2001 a Firefighter/EMT with the Broad Brook Fire Department received the State of Connecticut certificate of merit award for saving the life of a five year old that had been struck by a tractor trailer. This firefighter just happened to drive up on the scene, seconds after it had happened and it was his medical training and quick call for assistance, including Hartford Hospital's LifeStar helicopter that gave the non-breathing child the chance for survival.

Today the Broad Brook Fire Department is stronger, more educated and dedicated to providing the highest degree of protection of life and property to the people of East Windsor. Its courageous team of 65 members performs life safety and property protection on a 24 hour basis. This 65 member team, led by Fire Chief L. Cal Myers, Assistant Chief Jay Madigan and a group of highly competent and knowledgeable line officers, is ready to face any challenge that it may be called upon to do.

At this time, the Broad Brook Fire Department wishes to thank all of its members for their dedicated service and to the citizens of the Town of East Windsor for their continued support.

"We are here to make history, this history will continue!"