On a bitterly cold Tuesday night in January 1896, the Baldwin General Store caught fire when a kerosene lantern dropped.
Baldwin did not have a fire department, so volunteer firefighters from Freeport arrived and extinguished the blaze, according to historical documents. Soon afterward, it became apparent that Baldwin needed its own fire department.
A group of local residents held a meeting in the post office on Jan. 23, 1896, at which attendees suggested organizing a department to serve Baldwin.
Two days later there was another meeting, and August Imming was elected chairman; Robert Robbins, secretary; and Jacob Brower, treasurer. Pledges that night totaled $200, and a Ways and Means Committee was appointed and tasked with raising more funds.
At the next meeting, two weeks later, Charles Smith was elected president and John Carl, vice president, and the Fire Department was officially created. The first two companies of the Baldwin Fire Department — Hose Co. 1 and Hook & Ladder Co. 1 — were formed a month later, on March 5.
The current fire commissioners reflected on the years of service as they plan a celebration of the department’s 125th anniversary.
“As the Baldwin Fire Department begins their 125th anniversary serving the community of Baldwin, we hope to be able to host a Nassau County parade on Aug. 14, 2021, providing that Covid allows us to open,” Fire Commissioner Keith Eckels said. “In the meantime, please follow our Facebook page for continued updates and historical pictures.”
Old photographs — shared with the public by the department as well as the Baldwin Historical Society — depict the days when the department’s apparatuses included horse- or hand-drawn bucket wagons.
The first pieces of apparatus purchased for the department, including a hose wagon and fabric hose, were bought on Canal Street in New York City for $680. A small hand water pump was attached to the wagon to pump water from wells to the fire scene to fill the buckets. The apparatus was delivered and placed into service in April 1896.
The department also purchased a piece of property from William Kennedy at Prospect Street and Grand Avenue in 1898, and the first headquarters was built.
Baldwin Historical Society President Gary Farkash congratulated the department on 125 years and recalled its rich history at a virtual webinar in conjunction with the Baldwin Public Library on Feb. 18.
“A proud Baldwin community wishes the Baldwin Fire Department another safe and happy 125 years,” Farkash said.
His presentation showcased the first known photos of the department’s members and trucks. One image had shown an Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine, most likely from the 1940s. The truck, he said, still exists today, and is stationed at headquarters and used to lead the department’s parades.
“Many thanks to our volunteers at the Baldwin Historical Society who have been laboring over the years to keep our Baldwin history alive,” Farkash said, “and especially to our membership who risk their lives every day as volunteers for our BFD.”