New Canaan Fire Department

New Canaan Fire Department
New Canaan Fire Department
Established December 8, 1881
Staffing 25 Paid, 1 Paid Assistant Chief, ~30 Volunteers
Annual Calls Approx. 900
Stations 1
Engines 3
Trucks 1
Rescues 1
Fire chief Edward Karl

The New Canaan Fire Department provides fire protection services for the town of New Canaan, Connecticut.[1] The department serves approximately 22.5 square miles (58 km2) of mostly suburban residences and a central commercial district, with a total population of 19,395 as of the 2000 census.

The department is a "combination" type department with 25 paid career firefighters, one paid Assistant Chief and the volunteers of the New Canaan Fire Company, No. 1.

The New Canaan Fire Company, No. 1 has been in service as a volunteer non-profit organization since 1881.



Present Day Department

Today's Department is composed of a integrated line of officers and firefighters from both the Career and volunteer departments, and takes great pride in the excellent relationship shared by the two organizations. The Chief of the department is a volunteer, while the two Assistant Chief positions are represented by one paid and one volunteer.

Professional firefighters as well as volunteers fill out the rest of the line, representing Captains, Lieutenants and firefighters.

The Department has two pumpers, one "water seeker" pumper, one ladder, a rescue and a tanker, as well as a pickup truck.

Presently the department is operating out of one headquarters, but has long term plans to add a northern fire station to increase fire protection in the non-hydrant district.

Department History

The history of New Canaan Fire Company, No. 1 can be traced as far back as 1845, if not beyond, when informal bucket brigades were first organized in town. The loosely organized volunteer response of the early bucket brigades has been organized, formalized and augmented by full-time paid staff in the past 125 years. After a local newspaper called for better fire protection in 1869, the Hook and Ladder Company was formed, and reorganized. In 1873, Quinnipiac Hook and Ladder Company No. 3 was formed. The Fire Company as it exists today, was chartered on December 8, 1881, and New Canaan Hook and Ladder Company and Fire Engine Company No. 1, was incorporated by the Connecticut legislature in 1885.[2]

Town Charter revisions in 1963 established a Fire Commission to oversee the Fire Company and Fire Marshal’s office. Members are nominated by political Town committees and appointed by the Board of Selectmen.[3] The Fire Company activity is based at the corner of Main Street and Locust Avenue, which was the site of a large fire in 1904. The original firehouse was erected on Forest Street and was paid for with a $500 loan. In 1891 a two-story firehouse was erected on Railroad Avenue, now known as Elm Street. This building later became La Plume Doree. In 1938, the current firehouse was constructed at the intersection of Main Street and Locust Avenue. An addition that doubled the space for fire apparatus was constructed in 1965. Career firefighters sleep at the firehouse during their 24-hour shifts.[4]

Trucks are housed in bays on the main level, as well as in the back, lower level. New Canaan’s first fire engine was a Gulf Stream Hand Pumper, purchased from the City of Stamford for $400. Stevens Livery Stable provided the horses to pull the pumper.

That pumper was traded in for a truss ladder capable of pumping 300 gallons per minute — an impressive achievement in those days.

In 1912, Mr. A. H. Mulliken donated a combination hose and motorized fire truck. On its first alarm, this truck had difficulty leaving the firehouse due to the number of firemen who climbed aboard.

Notable Incidents

  • A Valentine’s Day, 1875 blaze, called the “greatest conflagration in New Canaan history” during the centennial of New Canaan Fire Company No. 1, destroyed buildings at Railroad (now Elm) and Main streets, including the Fairty story and the Benedict shoe manufacturing plant.
  • Archive fire calls of the 19th century frequently mention the loss of barns and nurseries, in addition to houses. A note from 1886 indicates that at the time, the loss of a barn and its contents represented a greater loss in value than the average residence.
  • A serious fire occurred at Francher’s shoe factory, at Elm and Park streets, in April of 1897.
  • The Raymond Building (which became Silliman’s) burned in 1899, in what is called “New Canaan’s most famous fire.”
  • Fire struck the Big Shop in 1904. It was torn down in 1925, and is now the site of the firehouse. A housewarming for the headquarters, still home to the Fire Company to this day, was held in 1938.
  • A P-47 crashed from the sky into a Valley Road residence in October, 1942, destroying the house.
  • In 1949, a February fire on Smith Ridge caused $100,000 in damage, then Jelliff Mill was destroyed in a March blaze.
  • In 1951, total calls to the Fire Company passed a record 171. In 2005, call volume surpassed 1,000 for the first time.
  • The Vista, N.Y., fire house was destroyed by fire in January, 1954.
  • In 1958, a March fire in the basement of Gristede’s store caused $7,000 in damaged, followed a week later by a blaze that destroyed LeMay’s Auto Body Shop and cars there for work, causing $60,000 in damage.
  • In January of 1960, the Silverberg building on Elm Street was hit by a fire that caused $300,000 in damage. A fire around the same time in the basement of Lang’s Pharmacy kept firefighters on duty for 26 hours straight.
  • A shed at New Canaan Fuel & Lumber was lost to fire in April, 1961, causing $50,000 in damage, but firefighters saved other structures at the site.
  • A fatal fire struck at the Hampton Inn in January of 1962.
  • In June of that year, the Fire Company purchased a rescue truck — the first new vehicle it had received in its 81-year history.
  • In December of 1962, fire destroyed half of a building at 100 Main Street, closing Jake’s Barber Shop anLaundereze. Demolition of the building was ordered in August of 1963. The alarm system was credited with saving New Canaan Country School when an oil burner malfunctioned in April of 1966.
  • In December, 1973, an ice storm cut power to much of town. Firefighters reported 28 alarms in three days, 15 the day after the storm — both large totals for that time.
  • Fatal fires were more common up into the 1970s, according to archives. One of the most tragic occurred on Thanksgiving, 1975, when a mother and two children perished in a blaze at their Betsy’s Lane residence.
  • On July 13, 1976, a commuter train running ahead of schedule collided with a vacant train being moved onto a side track while on the way to the New Canaan railroad station. Two women were killed, 29 people were injured.
  • The Christian Science Reading Room and Decorator’s Choice store were destroyed by fire in March of 1978.
  • New Canaan was featured on the CBS television show “Rescue 911” on December 18, 1990, when a segment recounted a call on May 21 of that year when a firefighter suffered a heart attack in a fire engine on the way to a call.


Today's volunteers are different than those of those is the past history of the department, and represent the changes in demographics in the Town of New Canaan.

Volunteers range in age from 18-55 years old (though they can be older and remain as associate members), are both men and women, and come from New Canaan as well as towns within 5 miles (8.0 km) of the geographical borders of New Canaan.

The regular occupations of the volunteers are quite varied, ranging from commuters who work in finance in New York City, to blue collar workers who work in town or nearby.

The Fire Company is always happy to welcome new volunteers and encourages those interested or having questions to go to the New Canaan Fire Company Website.

Professional Firefighters

The paid professional firefighters of the New Canaan Fire Department are members of the IAFF Local 3224. There are 25 highly trained paid firefighters who provide 24/7 protection to the residents of the Town of New Canaan, with 6 firefighters on call at all times.


E1 PICTURE Engine 1 1996 Marion. Active reserve apparatus configured for structural firefighting. 6-FF Cab, 1000gal Tank, 1500gpm Hale Pump
E2 PICTURE Engine 2 1997 KME. Water supply truck. 4-FF cab, 500gal tank, 1500gmp Hale Pump, 2500' 5" LDH supply line.
L3 PICTURE Ladder 3 2003 Seagrave. 100' rear mounted medium duty ladder. Second due to structure fires, RIT for mutual ad. 6-FF cab.
E4 PICTURE Engine 4 1999 Salisbury. First due apparatus for fires, MVA's, HAZMAT and brush fires. 4-FF cab, 750gal tank, 1500gpm hale pump.
R5 PICTURE Rescue 5 2001 EVI. Second due to MVA's and rescue calls. 2-FF cab.
T8 PICTURE Tanker 8 2007 Seagrave. 3000gal Semi-elyptical stainless steel tank. 2-FF cab, 1000gpm hale pump. 3 gravity dump ports.
U1 PICTURE Utility 1 2007 Ford F-350 XLT Super Duty. 6-FF cab, all purpose utility vehicle.


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External links

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