Early days of Radnor Fire Company (as the North Wayne Hose Company) Andrew L. Fritz

In order to assist your columnist in assembling material for this series of articles on the Radnor Fire Company, Andrew L. Fritz paid a visit to Wayne recently to reminisce about the early days of fire companies in Wayne.

Mr. Fritz, whose name is among the 24 signers of the 1906 charter of the present Fire Company, now lives in Upper Darby, although he was for many years a resident of Wayne.

In telling of the North Wayne Hose Company, which antedates the Wayne Chemical Company by several years, Mr. Fritz recalls that it consisted of a hose reel and little ladder truck, all hand drawn.

George Baker, who lived almost directly across the street from the building which was headquarters for the Hose Company and now known as the Legion House, was always immediately on the scene as soon as an alarm came in, thereby earning his appelation of “chief”. Among his faithful assistants in pulling the truck was Miss Mary Biles, who was later to become Mrs. Andrew Fritz. Another helper was a colored girl named Anna Miller.

As the majority of North Wayne homes were built slightly before those in South Wayne, it was natural that that section should have the first organized fire department.

When the Wayne Chemical Company was formed in South Wayne, its equipment consisted of hose reel and combination chemical wagon, according to Mr. Fritz. Sometimes the hose cart was hitched bak of the chemical wagon. At first hoses for this two-wheeled vehicle were obtained from Lienhardt’s Bakery, in which connection Mr. Fritz recalls that Dr. Lienhardt had great interest in the Fire Company at that time. Later, the horses came from R. H. Johnson’s “not very often the same two horses”, according to Mr. Fritz. Eber Siter, at that time the foreman for Johnson’s often brought the horses down to the fire house from the company’s stables.

Several very disastrous fires occurring in quick succession had much to do with the formation of the present fire company. The Andes home on the Lincoln Highway near Strafford avenue as well as a twin house nearby, was a total loss, as was the building on East Lancaster avenue, then occupied by “The Suburban”, when it caught fire a short time afterwards. The latter was on the site of the present Allan C. Hale Company building. All of these structures could have been saved had there been proper fire protection in the township.

According to Mr. Fritz, there was much casual talk along these lines in the pool room, which was then on the first floor of the Masonic Hall, where the Wayne Red Cross Headquarters is now located.

Charles H. Stewart, who was then secretary of the Board of Commissioners, became very much interested in the project of a well-organized, motorized fire department. Frederick H. Treat, another member of the Board of Commissioners, was equally enthusiastic and he undertook to interest other members of the Board. And so, in 1907 Radnor township acquired its first piece of automobile equipment, to be followed only a year later by a second piece.

This 1907 model was unique in that it was, according to local claims, the first gasoline-pumped and propelled fire engine in the world. Since no factory had blue prints on file for such a piece of fire apparatus, the Radnor Fire Company ordered the different parts to be specially designed before actual construction began. Of this motorized fire engine “The Fireman’s Herald”, under date of August 4, 1908, says:

“The Radnor Fire Company has for some time possessed a Knox combined automobile chemical and hose wagon, which is capable of a speed of 20-miles-an-hour, and carries two 35-gallon chemical tanks, two 3-gallon portable chemical extinguishers, 1,000 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose and minor equipment. It has answered 18 alarms without the loss of a minute by accident or hold-up of any sort.” A picture of this quaint old vehicle, along with that of Radnor’s latest piece of apparatus, illustrated last week’s column.

According to Mr. Fritz, this original Radnor fire engine at first received its full share of ridicule from the townspeople. And even before it was finally accepted by the Fire Company it had to undergo various tests. Mr. Fritz recalls that Mr. Treat designated the old road on the Wright place leading from Brook road to Old St. David’s Church as the final stretch along which the fire truck was to make a successful run. Much of the purchase price of this Knox chemical and hose wagon was raised by door-to-door solicitation of funds, although the Commissioners made a contribution from their treasury, also.

The second piece of fire-fighting apparatus was acquired in the spring of 1908, a year after the purchase of the first one. A full description of this engine appears in “The Fireman’s Herald” of April 4, 1908, in an article illustrated by a very clear picture of this now quaint vehicle. According to the Herald, “Radnor Fire Co. No. 1, of Wayne, Pa., has just received a fire engine of a new pattern. It is an automobile gasoline machine, and consists of a truck chassis made by the Knox Automobile Co., of Springfield, Mass., with an independent gasoline drive pump manufactured by the Waterous Engine Works Co., at St. Paul, Minn. The automobile engine is of the two-cylinder air-cooled type. The pump is driven by a separate engine constructed by the Waterous Company, and is of the four-six-inch rotary cylinder type. The cooling is accomplished by a pipe from the pump, and the amount of cooling is adjustable so as to be readily adapted to the requirements of service. There are two separate and distinct systems of ignition provided. The pump is connected by clutch directly with the engine shaft, and has a capacity of about 400 gallons a minute”.

The testing of this new engine was an occasion of much interest not only to local firemen, but to many outside the district as “The Fireman’s Herald” indicates in the same article:

“The test was made in the presence of many firemen from that section, and was personally superintended by F. J. Waterous, of the Waterous Company, in charge of Charles M. Wilkins. Draughting from a cistern and playing through 950 feet of hose, and a 1 1/2 inch nozzle, the engine forced a stream 101 feet; with a one-inch nozzle, 125 feet; with 500 feet of hose and a one-ince nozzle, 141 feed, and with a 1-1/8 inch nozzle, 130 feet. With 400 feet of hose a perpendicular stream was tried against a stack 155 feet high. A strong wind was blowing and it was impossible to keep the stream steadily against the stack, but the stream came within 15 feet of the top. With 3/4 and 7/8 inch nozzles two effective perpendicular streams were thrown a distance of 125 feet.

“From a hydrant through 50 feet of hose, and a 1-1/8 inch nozzle, water was thrown 141 feet, amply sufficient for any building in the Township; with an inch nozzle, 160 feet. Measurements were taken of solid drops of water only.”

The “housing” of this Knox-Waterous automobile was an occasion for a parade, a banquet and a ball, all of which will be described in next week’s column.