• Belfast Between The Wars

NEW YORK’S DEPUTY FIRE CHIEF: AMAZING BELFAST STATION, EQUIPMENT AND EFFICIENCY

Belfast Telegraph, Thursday 30th July 1936


Mr. Albert Reid, deputy chief of the New York Fire Department, thinks that the Belfast Fire Brigade has little to learn about fire-fighting.


In his 40 years of fire-fighting he has seen many fire stations and has had experience of all manner of fire-fighting equipment, but when he visited in the Chichester Street Headquarters of the Belfast force he saw something that he had never seen before – a 100 ft. turntable escape. In the matter of equipment, he thinks, Belfast Brigade is certainly in advance of New York, although the latter, naturally, in a numerical sense, is much bigger.


Mr. Reid, who is visiting Belfast on holiday, was greatly taken on with the 100 ft. water tower which is driven by motor. In New York, he said, their water towers were considerably under 100 ft. and were of an older pattern, which hydraulic drive. He also inspected with interest the other fire-fighting equipment and was greatly impressed with the spick-and-span appearance of the station and with the general note of efficiency which was evident.


Afterwards, in an address to the men, he complimented them and Chief Officer Smith on “a station which was a credit to any city”, and remarked that they were fortunate in the possession of the very last word in modern fire-fighting equipment.


NEW YORK’S BIGGEST FIRE


He mentioned that the New York Fire Department had a corps of over 6,000 men and was highly organised to deal with fires at the shortest of notice over a vast area. The biggest fire in his experience, he said, took place at an oil plant many years ago, when over 800 men were mobilised in the space of a few minutes and ran almost incredible risks in trying to put out the flames.


Fifty tanks, each containing 50,000 gallons of petrol were affected, and the danger was magnified a thousand times because the pumping house controlling the oil level in the tanks was destroyed.


So fierce were the flames that three of the tanks became red hot, then white hot, and finally the firemen saw the terrible spectacle of the metal transparent and the oil bubbling within before the inevitable explosion. It was the most awe-inspiring sight he had ever seen. The firemen, however, triumphed in the end, but only after tremendous damage to the plant, the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fuel oil, and over eight miles of hose.


Before leaving the station, Mr. Reid expressed his cordial thanks to Chief Officer Smith and the men for the hospitable reception they had given him.


He leaves Belfast to-night for a tour of Great Britain, during which he intends to visit the principal fire stations. It’s a “busman’s holiday”, but he’s enjoying it.


To read about the origins of the Fire Department of New York City click here.


To visit New York City Fire Museum's website click here.


To view a photograph of a Belfast Fire Brigade fire engine from 1937 on National Museums NI's website click here.