Story by Lourice Angie
As the Warwick Fire Department (WFD) celebrates 150 years of dedicated volunteer service to our community, the Warwick Valley Dispatch will continue to highlight the history and selfless contributions of each fire company within the department.
Raymond Fire Co. 2 Joins the WFD
As the Village of Warwick grew in the late 1880s, the need for an additional fire company was becoming evident. A proposition to form a new fire company was met with general favor among residents and thus reported on May 25, 1882. A more rapid growth in the west end of the Village and a disastrous fire that entirely consumed the Railway Company’s paint shop in 1896 only added to the argument for a new fire company to help protect this area.
35 men met on Dec. 26, 1896 to form what is known today as the Raymond Hose Co. No. 2, which joined the existing two companies of the WFD, the Excelsior Hose Co. and the Goodwill Hook & Ladder Company. The officers of the new Company were: Foreman William Cook (formerly a member of the Excelsiors and Hooks), First Assistant John Bronson, Second Assistant Frank Horton, Treasurer Lucien B. Myers, Secretary H. C. Murray and manager Fred Brown of the Hose Factory, who offered his free services as a janitor. In later years, the titles were changed to Captain, First Lieutenant and Second Lieutenant.
The Company purchased uniforms for all its members in 1897 which consisted of red shirts, caps and a patent leather belt. Thus, they earned the nickname “Red Coat Defenders.”
The new company was recognized by the Village Board in 1897 as an official member of the WFD but the company was not officially incorporated until 1902.
The Raymonds’ First Home
During the early 1900s, many of the residents of the west end of the Village were employees of the Fabric Fire Hose Co., which was located in the area of Factory St. in Warwick. In 1882, the Fabric Fire Hose Co. had its own fire company made up of employees who were ready to respond to any fire that might break out in their plant or any nearby houses.
The Raymonds’ first home was at the foot of Howe St., in a building owned by the Fabric Fire Hose Co.. The building was known as the “Old Ladder Factory.” The Ladder Factory was a subsidiary of the Fabric Hose Co. and made heavy extension ladders mounted on wheels for use by Fire Departments.
Thomas A. Raymond, a prominent official who later became President of the Fabric Fire Hose Co., gave the new company $25 and 500 feet of new fire hose. In addition, Raymond also granted free rental of the building for five years. In exchange for his generosity, the members voted to name the company in his honor.
It has been a matter of consternation over the years that the namesake of the Raymond Hose Co., Thomas A. Raymond, was a figure veiled in mystery. He was an officer of the Fabric Fire Hose Co. and facilitated the donation of space and hose to the new fire company, but, the exact story of who this man was and where he went after the factory moved to Connecticut is unknown. There are no known existing photos of him.
Sue Gardner, local history librarian at the Albert Wisner Public Library, came across Raymond’s obituary in the local papers. Thanks to Gardner and her research, members now have some information about Thomas Raymond and an engraving of his likeness.
Thomas A. Raymond was born in 1852 in Corning, NY. He was college-educated, worked as a journalist and lived in Rochester. He worked as a sales representative and later became President of the Fabric Fire Hose Co.. He was instrumental in organizing and served as President of the Alert Hose Co. of the Rochester Fire Department and was the first elected President of the New York State Firemen’s Association in 1881. He died in Binghamton, NY in 1906.
Raymond Company #2 Expands
The Ladder Factory building proved to be an unsuitable home for the Raymonds. There was a leaking roof and in wet weather, the floor was submerged in water. By 1899 a committee appeared before the Village Board and requested better quarters.
The request was approved and a new fire station was built at 7 Howe St. at a cost of $1,600. It was officially occupied in Jan. of 1901. Upon the opening of the new station, the Raymond Company joined the Excelsior and Goodwill Hook & Ladder Companies and marched down to the new building headed by the Warwick Cornet Band. At this time the building was formerly turned over to the Raymonds by the Village.
The Raymond Hose Co. received their first piece of apparatus, a two-wheeled jumper with about 600 feet of hose, two nozzles, one axe, a crowbar, one water bucket, two hydrant wrenches and two pyrene fire extinguishers in 1897. The jumper was pulled by hand or by horses, when available.
Several years later, Ford Motor cars driven by C. E. Kinney and Vic De Mouth would escort the volunteer firemen to fires. The members sat in the back of these cars and held on to the tongue of the jumper with their hands. This jumper remained in service until 1918. The Raymonds still have their 1897 jumper, as well as the hose manufactured by the Fabric Fire Hose Co.. They are on permanent display at the current Raymond firehouse on West St.
Their second piece of apparatus was purchased by the Village in 1901. It was of the parade carriage type and was described as being a “dandy,” having been purchased from the Middletown Fire Dept. for $179.46. It was quite a job to pull this piece of equipment with up to 800 feet of hose. When horses were not available, several men were needed to pull the apparatus, rendering them exhausted upon arrival at the scene of a fire. The Company approached the Village with a proposition to purchase a motor truck. Unfortunately, the request did not receive much encouragement and the company decided to purchase a new truck themselves.
Through fundraising and contributions from the community, the company was able to purchase a new Ford truck in 1918. They added a body and chemical tank and it was described as being a very fine homemade affair and was in service through 1924.
At that time, a special Village election was held and the voters approved 160 to 41 the purchase of a new apparatus. A Reo Speed Wagon chemical truck was purchased for $3,290, fully equipped.
In 1936 a Sanford Fire Engine was purchased for $5,750. The Sanford, which was their first pumper, carried 250 gallons of water and could pump 500 gallons per minute. It was in service until 1954 when it was replaced by a Mack. The Mack was a 750-gallon pumper which cost $19,700. The Sanford was sold to the Westfall Fire Department in PA.
In 1989, the Company was told that the Sanford was in Highland Lakes, NJ so they purchased it back. A restoration committee was formed and through the efforts of Joe Walter, William Doty, Buzz Joslyn and Ed Schmidt, who became known as “the Four Guys of Edenville,” and a team of dedicated Raymonds, the restoration was completed in eight years. Today, the Sanford is a show piece and fully operational, used for parades and special events. It is on display when not in use at the firehouse.
A Seagrave 1,000 gallon per minute pumper with a 500-gallon booster tank was purchased for $40,000 in 1971. This was the first Raymonds engine with a closed cab. By the late 1980s rust was starting to eat the truck away. Repairs were considered and bids were requested, however, it was decided it was too costly to refurbish.
A truck committee was formed and different engines and requirements were researched. The District contracted with Four Guys of Meyersdale, PA to build a truck for $203,000. The truck, received in 1991, had an enclosed 10-man cab, a 1,500 gallon-per-minute pump and a 1,000-booster tank.
The Four Guys Engine was replaced in 2009 by a Spartan/KME Engine with an eight-man cab that can pump 1,500 gallons per minute, and carries 1,000 gallons of water as well as firefighting foam and six compartments filled with high tech equipment. The Raymonds also man a 2012 Mack/1996 Four Guys Tanker with a three-man cab and carries 3,500 gallons of water.
Raymonds Move to New Home
Due to the continued growth of the Company, a request was made to the Village for a larger fire station. The request was favorably received and approved in 1921. A new addition was built to the original building with new conveniences including a hot air furnace that heated the entire building replacing the old heat stoves.
As membership grew and fire trucks kept getting larger, there was no room to expand on Howe St. and the Fire District began searching for a new location.
The final monthly meeting of the Raymonds in the Howe St. building that they had occupied for 103 years took place on Aug. 3, 2004. At approximately 7:45 p.m. there was a motion to leave Station 2 on Howe St. and close the doors to this building forever. Volunteer members fell into formation outside the building. The flag was lowered and the Company, complete with apparatus, marched down West St. to their new fire station.
Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton thanked all of the volunteers and said, “Warwick’s resident’s can rest easy knowing the Raymonds are on duty.”
Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard spoke as well and expressed appreciation for the beauty of the building. He noted how wonderfully the design of the new building was in keeping the charm and tradition of the historical architecture in Warwick.
The newly constructed fire station is a state-of-the-art facility, yet the spirit, traditions and dedication to the community of the volunteers in the Raymond Hose Co. are as strong today as they were in 1896.
Junior Firefighter Program
In the 1980s, the Junior Firemen’s program became a reality for the WFD. The purpose of this program is to have students from the age of 16 who were interested in joining the WFD receive training for a two-year time period until they are old enough to join as regular volunteer members. Juniors are not allowed to enter a burning structure and must keep their academics in good standing. The students can receive a citizenship award for their service.
The junior program has been very successful in bringing the department several new members each year. Some participants have gone on to careers as paid first responders, firefighters, EMT’S, police officers, and members of our nation’s armed forces. The Raymonds’ first female firefighter joined the ranks as a Junior in 1992.
In the 1960s, the Raymonds started a tradition called “The Santa Run.” On Christmas Eve, Santa climbs into the Raymonds engine to spread Christmas cheer in the Village. He visits the children of company members, heads to St. Anthony Community Hospital to visit the sick, and then visits the seniors at Burt Farms.
Engine 635, decorated and with lights and sirens wailing, then turns up High St. and comes to a stop in front of the Old School Baptist Meeting House where the Village candlelight caroling service and later the Christmas Tree lighting are just ending. The children visit with Santa and receive candy.
WFD’s Service to Our Nation
Many members of the Warwick Fire Department have proudly served in our nation’s military forces in both times of peace and war. Several current members of the WFD are on active duty or are members of the Reserves and the National Guard. Two members of Raymond Hose Co. have recently completed their military service and were honorably discharged from the U.S. Army: Specialist Joseph Ingui and Sergeant Austin DeNochia. Steve Ingui is a Warrant Officer Third Class serving in the U.S. Navy.
The following WFD members lost their lives in service to our Country:
World War I: Private Roy B. McCoy, U.S. Army Signal Corps, Excelsior Hose Co. No. 1.
World War II: Staff Sergeant Joseph Prochnicki, U.S. Army Air Corps, Excelsior Hose Co. No. 1; Staff Sergeant Richard H. Lemin, U.S. Army, Raymond Hose Co. No. 2; William Rutan, U.S. Army Air Corps, Raymond Hose Co. No. 2.
Vietnam War: Corporal Nicholas P. Lesando, Jr, Raymond Hose Co. No. 2.
Raymond Hose Co. Officers
All officers and members of the WFD are volunteers and have been since the department was organized in 1869. They are selfless and dedicated to providing fire protection, fire prevention education, and emergency assistance to residents, visitors and properties in the Warwick Fire District or wherever they may be dispatched.
The current officers of the Raymond Hose Co. are: Capt. Joseph Ingui, First Lt. William “Kelly” Brock, Second Lt. John Knuth, and Safety Officer Ed Schmidt. The civil officers are: President Dylan Gerstner, Vice President Ryan Denerley, Secretary Brian Gillen, Treasurer Richard Quackenbush, Financial Secretary Melissa Stevens, Wardens Joe Mauro and Barry O’Neill, and Chaplain Barry O’Neill.