Paid Men, Horses & Motorized Fire Trucks

As the 20th century approached, changes in the city brought significant changes to the fire companies as well. The city was industrializing rapidly with numerous factories producing many types of apparel, iron works, and heavy equipment like pumps and boilers.

Paid Men & Alarm Systems
The volunteer fire companies began hiring men with experience handling horses to man the firehouses and bring the fire apparatus to fires. William Johnson was hired as a driver for Putnam Hose in 1894. Samuel McGowan was also hired by Putnam Hose in 1896, and Art Slauson was hired by Phoenix Engine in 1897. Johnson did not remain in the employ of the Fire Department for long, but both McGowan and Slauson had long careers in the department.

All three municipalities had also installed their own telegraph-type municipal alarm systems by the turn of the century.

Motorized Fire Trucks
In 1909, the first motorized fire truck in Norwalk was purchased from the Knox Company and assigned to Hope Hose. The Knox was a chemical-booster / hose wagon. This type of fire truck did not have a fire pump. Instead, it carried a small tank of soda and acid, a slightly larger tank of water, and a small-diameter booster fire hose.

The chemical wagon would be used to extinguish small fires or to begin attacking structure fires while the steamer and hose wagons hooked up to a water source and began pumping.

Over the next few years, two more chemical wagons were purchased, and another half dozen volunteers were hired to work as paid men at the various fire stations.

South Norwalk's New Fire Station
In 1912, the City of South Norwalk built a new Central Fire Station on Franklin Street. When completed, the Putnam and Old Well companies moved into the building. A large alarm bell, which was in the tower of the Putnam Hose fire house, was relocated to the new Central Station. This bell was moved again when Volk Central Station opened on Connecticut Avenue in 1964.