A BRIEF HISTORY OF DARIEN'S THREE FIRE DEPARTMENTS
The Noroton Heights Fire Department will celebrate its 115th anniversary in 2018. The department has grown from a small quarters in back of a blacksmith shop, with thirteen men and one hand-drawn engine, to a two-story brick building with 100 men and women and six pieces of emergency fire apparatus.
The first fire department in Darien was formed in January 1895 becoming what is today the Darien Fire Department. Shortly after, the Noroton Fire Department was formed on April 24, 1896. For a time, the two departments handled all calls within the Town of Darien. However, the Noroton Heights area of town had poor coverage due to the time it would take for firefighters to arrive, often leaving the structures totally destroyed. Thus in 1903 the town's 3rd fire department was founded, growing from a small group of dedicated men in the back of a blacksmith's shop into what you know today as the Noroton Heights Fire Department. Our department is a wide-ranging, fully staffed organization with advanced apparatus outfitted with cutting-edge tools and technology. Every day we handle the town's full range of calls, from simple alarms to major fires, hazmat and heavy rescue - always answering your call for help.
IT ALL BEGAN WITH A SINGLE, OUT OF CONTROL FIRE
Our department was formed after the Waterbury Farm, later owned by Patrick Darly, caught fire and caused overwhelming damage because of the long response time from Darien's existing fire departments which were located too far away to provide adequate fire protection to the Noroton Heights area. After the fire Mr. Darley, William Dugdale, the Bennett and Dolan families, and a few concerned citizens formed a fire department of their own that would cover the section of Darien that lacked adequate fire coverage. On May 12th, 1903 the Noroton Heights Fire Engine Company Number 1 was formed with thirteen men under the direction of William Dugdale.
HISTORY OF THE NOROTON HEIGHTS FIRE DEPARTMENT
Our first firehouse was located in a blacksmith’s shop behind Mr. Dugdale’s new store. Later, it moved to what was a one-room schoolhouse located on Linden Avenue. The department’s main concern was the business area with coverage extending to the Town of New Canaan. William Dugdale loaned the company $900 to purchase its first piece of equipment, the “gig”, on June 24, 1903 with Noroton Heights becoming one of the first departments to own that apparatus in the State of Connecticut. The "gig" went on to see serious work at the Stamford Town Hall fire which destroyed the building on February 4, 1904.
At 10:30 PM on November 25, 1903, the Noroton Heights Fire Department received its first fire call at the railroad freight house. Within ten minutes the fire was under control, and was completely extinguished by 11:15 PM. One of the firemen at the scene said the building would have burned to the ground if it weren’t for the good work of the engine and the prompt response to the alarm. The railroad sent a check for $50 and a Thank You note to the department for their hard work. There were approximately eleven members at that fire.
Noroton Heights' second fire was a major job: Stamford Town Hall caught fire
On February 4,1904 Stamford's Town Hall caught fire and Mayor Leeds of the City of Stamford called for outside assistance. The Noroton Heights Fire Department was the first out of town department to arrive, followed by Greenwich, Port Chester, and Bridgeport. The Noroton Heights firemen ran with the "gig" until a man with a horse caught up with them. The men hooked the gig to the back of the gentleman's wagon with the firemen climbing aboard. Due to the extremely cold weather and the faulty charging of the gig’s system following the railroad freight-house fire, water in the gig’s system froze in the pipe connections and valves. The Noroton Heights firemen sized up the fire and immediately began assisting Stamford firefighters with the equipment already on scene; for now the gig was out of service. After the fire, the Noroton Heights firemen brought the gig back on William Dugdale’s sleigh, arriving back at the station around 1:30 AM the next morning.
Noroton Heights Fire Department
As the Noroton Heights Fire Department acquired new equipment and men it was necessary to find a new place to house this equipment. Land for a new firehouse was bought in 1916. It was on Hecker Avenue in the area of what is now called Ledge Road. The members of the fire department at that time purchased the lumber and materials and built the firehouse themselves. When the building was done in 1917, the department purchased its first gas-powered vehicle. The firemen assembled the vehicle themselves in their new firehouse. During the next 56 years the Noroton Heights Fire Department continued to grow. It gained many new members and more and more equipment. Fund raising events were held to acquire new trucks and equipment and to improve the firehouse. In 1921 the firehouse had electric lights installed. At this time there were twenty-two fire hydrants installed the the Noroton Heights fire district. In 1922 the department purchased its first pumper, a 350 gallon Packard, which was in service for fifteen years. A small Reo house truck in doubtful condition was purchased in 1925. Sometime that year the fire department also purchased more land next to the firehouse. A Reo ladder truck and an AM radio for the firemen’s’ enjoyment was also purchased. In 1933 the department bought a new Reo hose truck with a Pirsch pump.