East Liverpool Fire Department Recreates Historic Photo

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – The city fire department has a lengthy history, including being the first in the nation to incorporate some of its equipment, and current firefighters recently decided to recreate one of those historic moments.

According to an account composed on the East Liverpool Historical Society website by Gary Cornell, retired assistant fire chief and department historian, the city fire department was formed in 1877 when East Liverpool was actually a village of 3,000 residents.

The Crockery City Hook and Ladder Co. consisted of 50 volunteer members who used a wagon filled with buckets pulled by the street department’s horses when they were available. The wagon was housed at then City Hall at Third and Market streets.

When the Water Works was formed in 1879, a hose reel and several hundred feet of hose were purchased. In 1886 City Council purchased a team of horses to pull fire department apparatus, Cornell wrote.

Over the years, a multitude of changes occurred, including the addition of several stations and forming a fully paid department in 1896.

On Feb. 14, 1914, a momentous change occurred when the department reverted from horse-drawn apparatus to the use of fully motorized equipment, making East Liverpool the first fire department in the United States to change completely at one time from four-footed to motorized.

This black and white photo shows the first mechanical fleet of equipment used by East Liverpool’s fire department, the first one in U.S. history to change from horse-drawn to motorized all at once.

The new equipment included a Robinson pumper, three Robinson hose wagons, an American LaFrance aerial truck, a Ford roadster for line work and a Carter car for Chief Arthur Aungst, who had been named to the position in May 1912. 

Cornell’s history does not mention how the city paid for this drastic changeover but does note that in October 1919, the department bought an American LaFrance hose wagon, the first truck in the United States to come equipped with pneumatic tires.

City firefighters recently decided they would recreate a black and white panoramic photograph that hangs on the second floor of Central Station – the heart of the fire department, which was built in 1930 at a cost of $60,000.

The photograph depicts the newly motorized equipment purchased in 1914 to replace the horse-drawn apparatus and is among a host of historic items that make up a small museum at the fire station.

On Sunday morning, the firefighters pulled the department’s current fleet – which includes an aerial truck, two engines, a squad truck, a recently purchased ambulance and a truck used by the chief – into the same location shown in the 1914 photograph in front of the Museum of Ceramics and the Masonic Temple.

Some of the historic firefighting artifacts on display at Central Station where the East Liverpool Fire Department has a small museum.

The museum was actually built in 1908 as the city post office, and the temple was originally built in the late 1890s as the private home of pottery baron James Goodwin, who died before it was completed.

Today’s color photograph, taken for the department by local photographer Jimmy Joe Savage, depicts all 14 of the department’s personnel, including Chief Bill Jones, lined up in front of the equipment as in the historic photo.

What the firefighters were not aware of until after the photo was taken was Ryan Cumo, the young son of Assistant Chief Antony Cumo, sitting in the driver’s seat of one of the vehicles, captured for history. Ryan said he plans on being a firefighter like his dad. 

According to firefighter Alex Estell, a wall at the top of the stairs at Central Station has been cleared for the recreated photo, with other artifacts and photos arranged in the next hallway.

Those wishing to see the museum can contact the fire department to arrange a tour, Estell said.

Pictured at top: The current fleet of East Liverpool Fire Department’s emergency vehicles and firefighters are lined up to recreate an historic photograph displayed in the department museum at Central Station.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.