The need for a fire protection unit north of the four railroad grade crossings on Central Ave. was the underlying reason for organizing a fire company in the north end of the Village and providing it with apparatus heavy railroad traffic on the tracks of the New York Central, Lehigh Valley, Delaware Lackawanna, and Erie Railroads frequently shut off highway traffic on Central Ave., for many minutes at a time, delayed downtown apparatus on its way to fires in the north end of the Village, and left areas north of the railroads unprotected until the crossings were cleared. With horse-drawn apparatus, these delays were sometimes disastrous. With motorized apparatus, their effect was to slow down the response to fire calls for many minutes, to increased danger to life and property.
The Citizens Hose Co. was organized in 1889 and incorporated in 1899. Incorporators were Joseph Heigl, Charles Diemert, D.C. Lynch, Martin Sturm, Eli Sturm, and Fred Handel. The first apparatus used by the Citizens' was a slightly used hose cart, which had been handed down from the Fuller Hose Co. to the Eagle Hose Co, from the Eagles to the Alert Hose Co., from the Alerts to the Protective Hose Co., and then from the Protective to the Citizens Hose Co. The first new apparatus used by the Citizens Hose Company was a horse drawn supply wagon, built by William Rusher of Lancaster for $345.00, in 1902. It was stored in a shed owned by Frank Barnhardt on Central Ave and the original Citizens Hose Co. firehouse was built in 1913 by Samuel Helwig of Lancaster for $2,856.00.
A proposition to appropriate $1,250.00 for the first piece of motorized apparatus was approved at the Village Election in March 1916 and in June 1916 a Buick truck was purchased from Klepfer Bros. of Depew for $1,250.00. This first motorized unit in the Lancaster Fire Department. It was assigned to the Citizens Hose Co., and the old horse drawn Citizens supply wagon was later offered for sale. In March 1917 a 40 gallon copper chemical tank and hose reel were added to the Buick truck for $365.00.
In 1927,a proposition by the Village board to appropriate $8,800.00 for 600 gpm pumper was defeated at the annual Village Election. Also in 1927 the government of the Village was changed from the charter form, which had been in effect since 1849 to government under the General Village Law of the State of New York. Under the provisions of this law, in September 1928, the Village Board determined to spend the sum of $8,000.00 for a 600g.p.m. fire pumper and for an electric siren to be mounted on the North End Fire Station. No opposition to this determination developed, so in October 1928, after considering four bids, a contract was awarded to the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation for the truck and siren for a cost of $7,975.00. The truck was assigned to the Citizens Hose Company, and was a conversation piece for years because of the bright yellow color selected by the North End Company.
Specifications for the truck and siren had been prepared by a committee frm the Hose Company, and the new Engineering Division of the Department of Public Works. Instead of a chemical tank, the truck had a 300 gallon booster tank and hose, which quickly proved their worth. And a few months after the new unit was delivered in 1929, the Protectives requested that the chemical tank on their pumper be replaced by a booster tank. This was done in 1929, with considerable difficulty because of construction problems, by the Lancaster Department of Public Works.
Elimination of the Central railroad/grade crossing became a post-war project in 1950. Among the many landmark buildings which were razed or moved to new locations to side streets off Central Avenue to permit construction of the underpasses was the original 1913 fire hall, which was moved frm Central Avenue to a new location on West Drullard Avenue. Prior to moving the building to its new location, the recreation hall attached to the rear of the building which had been built by the Citizens Hose at company expense, and later dedicated to the Village as a community center, was detached frm the main building and moved to a vacant lot on Pearl Street where its new owner converted it to a two family dwelling.
Another casualty of the grade crossing elimination project was a neighborhood park and playground, built during the Depression and largely financed by Citizens Hose, on the front of the American Malleables Company property on Central Avenue. Ruins of the American Malleables buildings, which were destroyed by fire in 1927, were cleared away to permit construction of the project, and proceeds frm scrap metal salvaged by the firemen were used to purchase playground equipment and beautify the grounds. In 1950, the land occupied by the playground was acquired by the State of New York to permit the construction of slopes at Central Avenue and Pearl Street, where the original streets were widened and lowered.
In 1953, the 1928 Buffalo was replaced by a new 750 gpm pumper built by Young Fire Appliance of Lancaster for $17,000.00. On July 29th, 1968 ground was broken for the construction of a new North End Fire Station to replace the original 1913 building. The new building which we now occupy was built next to the old one, which was demolished. Combined cost of demolishing the old one and building a new one was $89,784.00.
In 1973 three identical 1250 gpm pumpers were purchased frm Ward LaFrance for $145,440.00, plus $2,256.00 for additional equipment added by the Lancaster Fire Department, for a total of $148,000.00 or about $49,500.00 per truck. The old Engine 5 was kept in service and designated Engine 6 for a number of years and later decommissioned. In May 1986, Engine #5 was refurbished by Young Fire Equipment for $86,000.00, it included a fiberglass module body, hydraulic pump panel, a 600 gallon tank, a rebuilt engine and a rebuilt pump.
On June 9th, 1989 the Citizens Hose Company celebrated its 100th anniversary with a party at Salvatore's Italian Gardens. In December of 2004, the Citizens Hose Company decommissioned the refurbished Ward LaFrance and replaced it with a new American LaFrance Rescue Pumper. Today, the Citizens Hose Company roster stands at approximately 35 firefighters, making it the largest Fire Company in the Lancaster Fire Department.