From horses to hose trucks: N.Y. FD celebrates 120 years
In the Glen Falls timeline, the first paid firefighters started work in 1903 working 10 days on and 1 day off
By Alexander Portal
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Firefighters past and present gathered at the Queensbury Hotel Thursday evening to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Glens Falls Fire Department.
“I promise not to take too long, but I’ve got about 120 years’ worth of firefighter history to cover before they give me the hook,” Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins said as he kicked off the celebration. “From the settlement, to a village, and beginning five years before the city was granted its charter by New York State Legislature, members of the Glens Falls Fire Department officially reported for duty 120 years ago today.”
Collins explained that from 1772 to 1901, the community was served by volunteer fire companies. But between 1901 and 1902, members of the community pushed for a permanent, full-time fire department.
At 7 a.m., June 8, 1903, the first paid firefighters reported for duty at the Ridge Street firehouse. Collins said the firefighters started out with a schedule of working 10 days on and one day off, and were paid $50 a month.
“Let’s not tell the Common Council that,” he said, jokingly,” They might ask you to back to those days.”
The newly minted department’s first fire call was to the basement of The Glens Falls Shirt Factory just one week after its inception.
“Now keep in mind, in 1903, horses were the primary mode of transportation pulling the fire department apparatus,” Collins said. “And don’t forget, sleighs had to be used in the winter.”
Collins continued highlighting some meaningful moments in the department’s history, which included acquiring its first C-grade, combination chemical engine in 1915; the first fire school held in 1939; the formation of the volunteer auxiliary fire department in 1942; enhanced safety and emergency services training through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; and more recently, the hiring of the first female member in the department’s history.
“In 2010, Micki Guy was hired, and is still with the department,” Collins said, pausing for a round of applause for Guy. “The amount and level of services the department has provided has clearly changed over 120 years, but the commitment and dedication to provide the best possible services for our community has not.”
A representative from Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner’s office presented a proclamation commemorating the anniversary.
Collins paused to announce the second special meaning behind Thursday’s event, the retirement of Fire Chief James Schrammel.
“The next reason we’re here, the best reason we’re here, is to recognize Chief Schrammel and his retirement,” he said. “I’d like to sincerely congratulate Chief Schrammel for his 32-year career history in the fire department and I need to wish him all the best in retirement. And to let him know that if he doesn’t move out of the city, in my vision, he’s not retired.”
A representative from Sen. Dan Stec’s office presented Schrammel with a declaration thanking him for his service, Collins then reminisced about his time as mayor, serving with Schrammel.
“As much as I had no intention of becoming mayor when I was a young man, and I really didn’t, I was so proud when I got to City Hall, that it was Chief Schrammel that I would be working with,” he said. “I don’t think it can be oversaid that his leadership in this department is super important.”
Collins then read a resolution issued in conjunction with the Common Council, naming June 8, 2023, “Firefighter James P. ‘Jamie’ Schrammel Day,” in the city of Glens Falls.
Former Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall also spoke about how is time in City Hall was benefitted by Schrammel’s leadership.
“Just a lot of things that I would call him up — and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the fire department — and I’d say, ‘hey, let me ask you a question, if you were me, what would you do,’” Hall said, eliciting a round of laughter from the crowd. “I don’t think I could have gotten through four years as mayor without Chief Schrammel.”
Schrammel then took the podium to speak about his time with the department.
“One hundred and twenty years sounds like a long time,” he began. “You talk about horses and horse-drawn wagons, and where we are today. But when you think about it, a 30-year career is one-quarter of that time. Most people here did at least 20 years ... that’s one-sixth of the existence of the fire department. So when I say everybody plays a part in what the fire department has become — it’s true.”
The self-confessed “numbers guy” said he couldn’t have succeeded as chief without all the others around him.
“Every fireman, every officer I worked for, every politician I worked for, they made the city what it is and made this department what it is,” he said.
Before ending his speech, Schrammel gave a simple, but poignant piece of advice to the younger firefighters who are starting their careers with the department.
“Set your goals high, and accomplish those goals,” he said. “That’s how this department is going to move forward.”