Alert Hook, Ladder & Engine Company #1

 Congers Fire Department




    On September 8,1895, thirty-six men met at the Grand Hotel in Congers, to organize a Volunteer Fire Company to be known as the Alert Hook Ladder and Engine Company #1 of Congers, New York. From 1895 until 1898 the company was truly a "bucket brigade." The nature of the wood framed buildings protected by the company reduced the efficiency of the brigade to little more than a noble effort.

    The hill area accessible off Massachusetts Avenue was the site of the townís many three and four story hotels, which presented formidable obstacles to effective fire control.

    Realizing the need for more adequate equipment, a committee was formed by members of the company to investigate the cost of a steam pumper. In 1898 the committee visited the American La France factory at Elmira, New York, to consider the purchase of a steam pumper. A coal burner pumper caught their eye, and knowing the companyís need, they obligated themselves to the purchase of this horse drawn steam pumper at a cost of $1,000.00. This apparatus is still the possession of the fire district and holds great sentimental value to the company members.

    According to older members, shortly after the acquisition of the pumper, there was a "spectacular fire" in a three story frame house. The pumper using water from a nearby cistern brought the fire under control in short order. The people seeing the pumper in operation were so impressed, it is said that money was raised during the next month to pay for the steamer.

    The company did not maintain a stable of horses for the pumper but rather used the horses of members responding to the alarms or the first available team of horses to arrive at the firehouse. In later years it was not uncommon to see a Model T or a Chevy pulling the steamer to a fire. The steam pumper was used until 1928.

    A voluntary Membership organization since its inception, the Alert Hook Ladder and Engine Company until 1929, helped maintain itself financially by donations and rentals received from letting the firehouse. Many parties and dances were held in the wood frame building constructed in 1899.

    In 1929, the Congers Fire District was established and shortly after, the building and equipment was turned over to the fire district by the company. The present firehouse at Lake Road occupies the same site as the original building. It was constructed in 1937, and financed by a $12,500.00 bond issue. The building was expanded and renovated in 1990 to accommodate added equipment.

    The original bell, used for alarms, was brought by horse and buggy to congers from York City by Robert D. Southward a charter member of the original fire company. It was for many years located in a wooden tower behind the Lake Road firehouse. This bell was recently refurbished and is again part of a stone memorial sitting in front of the building.

    The alarm system in Congers at the present time consists of one audible siren, home alerting radios, and pagers to aid in alerting personnel. In addition, all apparatus are radio equipped. The fire department is mainly dispatched with the enhanced 911 system introduced to Rockland County in 1994. The fire district has also recently installed a sophisticated computer network to aid fire dispatch and maintain vital records.

    In 1927 an Oldsmobile pumper and a Dodge truck were purchased. The Dodge was equipped as a chemical truck. An Ahrens-Fox right hand drive, 750 G.P.M. pumper, was purchased in 1929 to replace the Oldsmobile pumper. This truck served the district faithfully until 1957.

    Congers, like many rural areas, lacked a water system and fire hydrants until 1957. Due to this, water had to be carried on trucks to the alarms for use until adequate hose lines could be laid to an available water supply. Usually a large cistern or one of the lakes was used as a water supply. For this reason, in 1941, a GMC 1,000 gallon fuel truck was purchased and equipped as a tanker. An army surplus fire truck was acquired in 1947 to replace the Dodge chemical truck. In 1950, a 2,000 gallon White tank truck was purchased to replace the original tanker.

    The Ahrens-Fox was replaced in 1957 with a 750 G.P.M. Ward La France. This was followed by the purchase of a 750 G.P.M. combination high pressure John Bean pumper in 1961. Also in 1961 the company received and equipped a Ford equipment truck. This vehicle was donated to the fire district. In 1968 a 1,000 G.P.M. Ward La France pumper was purchased. An 85 foot aerial with a 1,250 gallon pump was purchased from American La France in 1971. In addition, a John Bean 1,000 gallon high pressure pumper was delivered to the firehouse in 1976, which replaced the 1957 750 G.P.M. Ward La France.

    In 1979 the company purchased a new equipment truck to replace the 1961 Ford E.Q. This vehicle has been equipped with portable generators, lights and the latest ice/water rescue equipment. A new high pressure attack truck was bought in 1981 to replace the 1961 John Bean high pressure pumper. The latest addition to the fleet is a 1994 GMC Suburban used to take man power to the scene of a fire, and carry personnel to neighboring fire departments on mutual aid calls.

    The fire department presently operates a patrol, equipment truck, one ladder truck and four pumpers, one of which is a custom 1500 G.P.M. pumper/rescue purchased from Grumman Emergency Products in 1991. This vehicle is equipped with state of the art fire and rescue equipment, including the "jaws of life". The most recent apparatus purchased was a KME 1000 gallon tanker which was put in service in 1993. Along with other equipment this truck is equipped with integrated foam system to efficiently combat hazardous material fires.

    The Congers Fire District is cut in half by the West Shore Railroad tracks. Long freight trains rumbling through the town often cut the hamlet in half for 15 to 30 minutes. Hazy memories recall incidents when trains cut hose lines laid across the tracks and also caused delays to equipment responding to fires.

    To combat this, an additional firehouse was constructed on North Harrison Avenue in 1958. Boyhood rivalries of east side against the west side subsided due to the construction, and the efficiency of the fire company was greatly increased.

    In 1965, the members of the fire company, using their own funds, expanded this building to make a much larger meeting room and reception hail. The members are justly proud of their labor which resulted in one of the finest facilities in this area.

    With the ever increasing growth of the community more room was needed to house the necessary equipment in order to adequately protect the hamlet. Therefore a new truck bay was constructed on the north side of the Harrison Avenue firehouse in 1982. This bay presently accommodates three of the districts seven fire fighting pieces of apparatus.

    The more spectacular fires, many will agree, were the hotel fires of the 20ís and 30ís,and the most memorable fire the Knickerbocker Ice House fire of the mid-twenties. During the 1960ís the most memorable fires were the fires at St. Paulís Church and the Congers Arms Hotel. However, the most unforgettable fire to members secured in December of 1968 when numerous fires were discovered simultaneously at the two firehouses. A near disaster was avoided by quick action from the members of the fire company and the quick assistance from our neighboring mutual aid companies. A more spectacular fire secured on June 6,1974, in the Penn Central Railroad tunnel. The fire lasted for 4 days and many hours of service were devoted by the volunteer firemen of Congers and many other Rockland County Departments.

    We have been fortunate in the past 10 years, despite the increase in population, that the number of alarms in the Congers Fire District has decreased significantly. This decrease can partly be attributed to the continued training of the men and the fire prevention programs which are presented throughout the community. But more than this, it is the dedication, courage and skill of the volunteers who faithfully serve to protect the lives and property of the people of the Congers Fire District.

    Currently there are 80 active members and an additional 10 members including Life Members and Chaplains. The entire membership remains volunteer and they hope to continue to adequately serve the fire district in the years to come.