It was an eventful day for the community when the big shiny new Mack 1000-gallon pumper, equipped with the latest in fire-fighting apparatus, arrived in Wayne last August. As it stood outside the Fire House in all the glory of the American LaFrance “fire engine red” paint, the eyes of all passers-by were on it. Many of the grownups joined the admiring group of youngsters as the latter clustered around it.
Its trial spin around the streets of Wayne attracted still wider attention. All of Radnor township felt a justifiable pride in this latest addition to one of the best equipped fire companies in the State of Pennsylvania.
This was, indeed, a far cry from the days when a three-foot fire horn, such as was owned by each Wayne householder in the 1880’s, sounded to call out the neighbors to fight any fire that might occur in the community. One of these horns is now among the most interesting exhibits at the headquarters of the Radnor Historical Society on Beechtree lane.
Old records show that even in the early days of Wayne, fire protection was considered very essential. Householders took nightly turns in patrolling their neighborhoods. So serious was the matter of the blowing of these three-foot horns that any unwarranted use of one called for a fine of five dollars.
A bucket of water stood behind the front door of each home in the township. The use of this was a first aid measure while the young men of the community rushed out to “man the pumper.” This was a 500-gallon hogshead of water on two wheels with a hand pump attached. While some of the volunteers pulled the ropes tied to the tongue of the pumper, others pushed from the rear. Down-hill, or even on the level, the method of locomotion was not too difficult. For uphill runs it was well-nigh impossible. Usually, there was little salvage after a fire had really gotten some headway.
The present fire company, formed in 1906 by a group of 21 residents of the community, has seen such steady growth in the intervening years that the handsome new Mack pumper so recently acquired is but one of the fleet of five pieces of fire-fighting apparatus, each piece capable of handling a fire by itself. Any one of the five may be sent to a fire to combat or to control it. In addition tot his array of fire trucks there is the handsome and well-equipped ambulance, which alone answered 329 calls in the period between April 1, 1950 and April 1, 1951. During this same time there were 279 fire calls, making a total of 608 calls, which the Radnor Fire Company had answered in the course of one year’s time.
The new Mack truck features the high pressure fog system, the most recently developed technique for putting out fires with the least amount of damage possible. It carries 300 gallons of water and approximately 1000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Before the acquisition of this truck the newest piece of apparatus was the 750-gallon Mack pumper acquired in 1948. It carries 1400 feet of hose, a fact very reassuring to the property owner whose home is located at a distance from the nearest fire hydrant.
Other trucks include the Chevrolet, purchased in 1940, with its 200 gallon pump, its 150 gallons of “booster” water and its 500 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose; the Ford, bought in 1939, with its 100-gallon pump and the Autocar “quad” (quadruple combination) which was acquired in 1937. The latter has a 600 gallon pump; 1100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose; two 65-foot ladders and other different types, varying from eight-foot collapsible to 50-foot extension. The different types of ladder operated by the Radnor Fire Company are extension, wall and roof ladders.
In enumerating the engines and equipment of the Radnor Fire Company, Chief Edwin J. Clark tells your columnist that there is only one possible thing which a large city company might have that is lacking Wayne–this is an aerial ladder. Among the many interesting and up-to-the-minute pieces of equipment which they do possess is a portable cutting tool in the form of an acetylene torch that would be capable of cutting an automobile in half, should this be necessary. Other equipment, of which the community may well be proud, is the fire company’s emergency lighting system, to be used at night at the scene of a fire; the foam generator for gasoline fires and the newest equipment for both high and low pressure fog. And then there is the radio inter-communication equipment, by which all the trucks may keep in contact with each other, as well as with the fire house headquarters. Incidentally, Radnor was one of the first fire companies to be radio-equipped, having acquired its set even before Philadelphia.
Among other accessory possessions are several asbestos suits that enable firemen to go right into a blaze without too much danger; masks of various kinds; many types of forcible entry tools; salvage covers to protect furniture and roof covers that effectively keep out the weather until repairs can be made.
Much of the technique of the newest methods of fire-fighting is acquired at the Fire School held in Lewistown, Pa., each year. Radnor Fire Company attempts to send several representatives to each session of this school, which is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction.
Chief Clark himself seldom misses a session. On one occasion the question was propouned as to what methods to —— out a fire in a gasoline or ——- on the road. Of the 72 fire chiefs present, Mr. Clark was the only one who had actual experience along this line, the occasion being the well-remembered fire of this kind on Spring Mill road several years ago.
“Eddie” stated that his men had put out the fire with low velocity fog. The others attending the School said this could not be done, whereupon the Session adjourned to the proving field, where the actual experiment was tried by putting gasoline in a tank and scattering more around it. The effectiveness of low-velocity fog was proved, just as Wayne’s Fire Chief had stated.
Following this question came another concerning the best methods of extinguishing fire in an airplane accident. And again “Eddie” was the only fire chief present with actual experience in this direction.
Although no other fire chief present had had experience with airplane fires, Mr. Clark had two on which to report. The first was the crash of an Army Air Force P-38, on the rear of a property on Waterloo road, Devon. The plane was on its way to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., but went off its course in a heavy rainstorm. Radnor Fire Company extinguished the flames and immediately afterwards the State Police and Army representatives took over.
The second plane accident occurred in Radnor township itself on June 15, 1949, when a private plane took of after having made a forced landing on County line road, Villanova. Neighbors called the fire company, which reached the scene in seven minutes with four pumpers, ladder truck and ambulance. The fire was put out with the fog apparatus.
Pilot rescue was impossible from the beginning–all that the fire company could do was release the body form the safety belt after extinguishing the flames. The plane apparently came into contact with high power lines of the Pennsylvania Railroad immediately after take-off.
(To be Continued)