"Fear is NOT an Option"
PROTECTING THE LIVES
AND PROPERTY FROM FIRE
"EMS Agency of the Year"
2000’s — New Challenges and a Dream Come True
2000’s — New Challenges and a Dream Come True
In 1883 the small community of Cicero decided they needed organized fire protection. A used hand pumper made by the Rumsey Company of the Finger Lake community of Seneca Falls was purchased. This Ramsey eight man pumper was drawn by manpower to a fire and filled by a bucket brigade into a tub reservoir within the machine. This process originated the term “hand tub.” Four men stood on each side of the engine and pumped handles up and down which worked pump pistons which suctioned and pressurized the water which was then forced into an attack hose and aimed on the fire. If a creek or cistern was near the fire then the hand engine could be positioned there. A hard suction hose would be dropped into the water supply and connected to the engine. By today’s standards this hand pumper produced a very small volume of water. This engine was purchased used and was probably manufactured in the late 1840’s or early 1850’s. The hand engine, asbestos blankets, ladders and buckets were stored in the back of a blacksmith shop on the Plank Toll Road running north and south through Cicero. Also commencing in the year 1883 the alarm of fire was sounded by the bells of the Methodist Universalist and Reformed Church. In 1889 the volunteer firemen purchased a fire alarm bell of their own and mounted it on top of a windmill tower in the center of Cicero.
A fire company corporation was formed in 1897 and a fire district was established in 1901. In 1921 two chemical wagons and a large asbestos blanket were added to the fire fighting equipment. The next year, 1922, one of the largest fires in Cicero occurred when the Bronner Store and two other buildings burned. Ammunition explosions added to the conflagration. A pumper from the north side of the city of Syracuse – Engine #4 – had to be sent to help extinguish the fire. In 1923 the Cicero Fire District built their first fire house on Route 11 just north of Route 31, the present location of Station Number One. It was a small two bay building. In 1929 Cicero’s first motorized fire apparatus arrived, a Ford Model AA Buffalo 350 gallon per minute pumper. It was eight years before the next truck was purchased; a 1937 Mack Jr. pick up truck. This truck carried hose, water tanks, blankets, etc. and had overhead racks to carry ladders.
The fire department went through WW II years with the two motor trucks. The Model A pumper was a cold truck to drive and ride on in the central New York winters as it was completely open and was without a windshield. After a few long runs to fires in the Bridgeport area in the middle of winter, something had to be done. The driver would drive only one or two miles into the wind and cold while the officer would face the back of the truck to protect his face, then the two would swap and go another mile or two and swap again. These winter runs prompted the installation of a windshield on the Model A. As WW II was ending the need for a larger pumper was a requirement in Cicero. A truck with an enclosed cab was a priority. In the spring of 1945 a Dodge truck chassis was purchased from the local Baker Dodge dealership for a few hundred dollars. It was sent to Roanoke, Virginia to the Oren Roanoke Fire Equipment Company to have a Navy surplus 500 GPM pump and fire body installed. An interesting side note to this company is as follows. The firm was founded in 1917 by Mr. Oren O. Lemon. For a good marketing reason he chose to use his first name for the company. Would you but a Lemon truck? This truck is still in the Cicero Volunteer Fire Department and is our number one parade truck. The purchase of this truck forced an addition on the rear of the fire house. The Model A was moved to the addition and was parked crossways with a door on the side of the building. At that time for department meetings the Model A and the Mack pick up were moved outside and wooden benches were placed in the bays for meetings. The floor in the Model A addition was only dirt. There was a bar in the back from which the officers conducted the meetings and latter the auxiliary served coffee.
The War Years 1940’s
Incorporation and Fire District
50’s Growth of Town and the Fire Service
The Cicero area in the early 50’s started to change from a farming community to a bedroom or a suburban town. The county mutual aid system was developed along with county fire dispatching from Mattydale. The county dispatching was first done by telephone (as it was done for years locally) but by 1959 was changed to radio alerting. Fire pumpers were getting larger with larger pumps and larger booster water tanks. The concept of bringing water on the trucks to the fire scene was developed. The Cicero Fire Department now needed a larger pumper with a water tank and also a water tanker.
In 1953 Cicero purchased a Dodge-Sanford 600GPM Pumper with a 600 to 700 gal booster tank. Also at this time a used 1949 Dodge Tanker Truck was purchased from the Fred Horner Fuel Company at the corner of Route 31 and Lakeshore Road. A portable pump was installed on the tanker to fill and discharge the 1500 gal tank. The 1937 Mack pick up was sold to make room for the 53’ Dodge pumper; however there was no room for the tanker so it was kept at the highway barn. With a new pumper on order and a used fuel tanker to be repainted; an automotive paint salesman stopped at the fire house. He promoted the idea that Cicero should choose a different color from traditional red to be really different. He said have a color that only Cicero would have in all of Onondaga County or even Central New York. The department chose Kelly green as our color and adopted the nickname the “Green Hornets” after a radio adventure program. What the salesman did not tell us was that he had given the same sales pitch to the Minoa Fire Department and they also chose dark green for their unique color.
With more trucks than the old fire house could hold, a new fire house was built at the same location in 1956. The new fire house contained five truck bays with a meeting hall and kitchen on the second floor. Of course the building was painted green. Between 1955 and 1959 the Model A was converted to a light rescue. Plywood boxes were added to the body for tools, medical and rescue equipment. This truck was repainted green.
1960’s Tanker Pumpers and Hydrant Trucks
In the 60’s the area continues to grow and so does the department. In 1964 a Ford Model C cab over-Ward La France 750 GPM, 1,000 gal booster tank Tanker Pumper was purchased. This truck became TP 6. A GMC step van (Bread) truck was purchased and made into a rescue truck. First Aid medical calls were increasing; however at that time only advanced first aid training was required to respond on these calls. The Model A was changed back to its original configuration, painted red again and moved to a small garage behind the fire house. The Model A and the Ramsey Hand pumper became the parade pieces for parades and field days.
In 1968 a larger tanker pumper was purchased, a Ford C – Sanford 1,000 GPM with 1200 gal Tank. This truck replaced the Dodge tanker and was called TP 4. The truck response at that time was for the two Ford TP’s to respond directly to the fire with the two Dodge engines to follow and each lay in from a hydrant to each Tanker Pumper if needed. The 1968 Ford TP 4 was the first due truck in the Cicero district and TP 6 was the mutual aid piece. If the mutual aid was for a major village fire requiring a long hose lay then the Dodge engine 3 was taken.
70’s Years of Change
The 1970’s were years of change in the fire service. The concept of fighting a fire with a one inch booster line or an inch and one half hose to conserve water was discouraged. The new technique was to go into the burning structure to the seat of the fire and hit this fire with a large volume of water from a hose of an inch and three quarters diameter. To do this firefighters had to wear heat and flame retarnent turnout gear and self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). The days of fighting a smokey fire without a mask were over as the toxics from burning plastic items are health hazards. Also riding the tailboard of fire apparatus in the 1970’s was outlawed. Many firemen had been thrown off their apparatus to death or serious injury. This was a big change for the CVFD as all of our pumpers had only 2 or 3 man cabs. To address this problem Cicero bought in the early 70’s an extended cab Ford pick up for utility duty and seats to carry firemen who before rode the tailboards. This unit was called M-1.
In 1974 a heavy rescue truck was purchased from Saulsbury Fire Equipment of Tully, N.Y. The truck was a medium duty Chevy with a large custom fully enclosed rescue body behind the cab. Large compartments were on the out side with a large walk in interior which held seven or more firemen. Inside on the left were medical cabinets and on the right was a long bench seat with air packs built into the back rest. Now the firemen that had stood on the back of an open pumper rode inside protected and could put on their air packs enroute to the scene. With this truck Cicero choose a new color for their apparatus of white over lime-green. This color is said to be the most visible at night and during winter snow conditions. Cicero still has this color today even though the present trend is for white over red. This Saulsbury Rescue was the first of its type in Northern Onondaga County and many fire departments came to Cicero to view it.
In 1976 Cicero replaced the 1953 Dodge Sanford pumper Engine 3 with their first custom diesel powered pumper. It was a Mack MB canopy cab 1000 GPM with a 800 gal Tank. The canopy at the rear of the cab seated three firefighters which replaced standing on the tailboard. This was Cicero first truck with air brakes and the second with an automatic transmission. It also had a powerful diesel engine and a short wheel base and was easy to drive and pump. It was our front line-first due engine for eighteen years.
During the 70’s women had been accepted in the fire service and the proper term for this profession was now “firefighter”.
80’s Years of Growth and Disappointment
The Cicero area continued to grow rapidly. Interstate 81 brought more activity and people to the town. The interchange with Route 31 started to become a bottleneck, with many accidents. Bad weather brought may calls to the interstate. Homes were being built east of Interstate 81 and the original Cicero settlement. The 1956 fire house was getting too small. The upstairs assembly hall was inconvenient for older people and was not handicap acceptable. An addition to the fire house was built in 1981 with three new bays and a ground level hall and kitchen. In 1983 the Cicero Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its 100th Anniversary. That summer a parade and open house was held. A history capsule was buried at the base of the flag pole at the right front of the new addition. In 1984 a Chevy four door duel wheeled pick up was purchased. The pick up body was removed and an aluminum small rescue body made by Emergency One installed. This unit called Rescue 2 had the double task of responding to medical calls for heart attacks, strokes, minor injuries, etc, in place of the heavy rescue and also was manpower truck for one of the Ford TP’s. In 1988 a Chevy four door crew cab pick up replaced the 70’s Ford M-1 pick up. This truck called Squad 1 ran as a utility unit and again manpower for one of the Ford TP’s.
Additional expense was encured when the 68 Ford TP was rebuilt. This pumper was continually in Red’s Brake Shop to replace the brake lines as due to the extreme weight of the truck the hydraulic lines would blow out. The 1250 gal tank was reduced to 1000 gal and the two booster hose lines were removed and replaced with four cross lays of 1 ¾ and 2 ½ inch hose. The hard suction was replaced with a 35 ft. Ladder. Finally the truck was repainted lime green to match the newer apparatus.
With the town’s growth shifting eastward and now most firefighters were living east of Interstate 81, the need for an additional station to the east was becoming apparent. At this same time a new truck committee of the fire chiefs and line officers was formed. They drew up requests for a custom pumper and a custom ladder truck to replace the obsolete Ford TP’s.
The Fire Commissioners having spent a large capital investment on the fire house addition in 1981 and with a large expendure for a second station in the very near future, plus the light rescue, squad purchases, and the TP rebuilding rejected the truck committee requests. The commissioners got an unbelievable deal from a local manufacturer for a commercial telesquirt pumper at a fraction of the cost that the two custom trucks would have cost. Local Syracuse, New York fire apparatus manufacture Sanford was struggling to remain in business in the very competitive 1980’s. Sanford had just made an agreement with the Canadian firm of Thibault to market their aerial devises on Sanford Equipment. The deal was on a commercial International Harvester double cab pumper with a 1250 GPM pump, 500gal water tank, and a Thibault 50 ft. telescoping boom (telesquirt). This telesquirt pumper was delivered in June 1989 as Engine 1. Some members of the new truck committee were so upset with the truck that they almost quit the department. In the first few years at the route 11 fire house, even though Engine 1 was the newest pumper it was dispatched third out behind Engine 3 and Rescue 5. On the positive side this pumper with a pump rated at 1250 GPM pumped in a practice test at near 1800 GPM.
No account of the 1980’s would be complete without praise for Michael Bragman and his work for the Cicero Fire Department and the fire service in general. Mike was the state assemblyman for this district and more important the majority leader in the assembly. He was chairman of the Volunteer Firefighters Subcommittee. He sponsored the Volunteer Firefighters Service Award Program which became law on Dec 29, 1988. He promoted the requirement for smoke detectors in all one and two family homes at point of sale. He also sponsored the Low Interest Revolving Loan Fund for fire departments. He sponsored the law creating the Volunteer Firefighter License Plate which became law on August 2, 1985. Mike was made an Honorary Life Member of this Cicero Fire Department.
1990’s Station Two is Built and More Custom Apparatus
After many years of debating the need for a second station, land was acquired and Station two was built at 6109 Route 31. The land was bought from the State of New York D.P.W. who previously stored sand and salt and equipment mostly used in the winter. The location is on the north side of the highway west of Damon Road across from the Faith Lutheran Church. A two double bay drive through station was built. A radio, conference, lounge, and storage rooms were included on the east side of the station. Ground was broken in May 1991 with the opening dedication in March 1992.
After the opening of Station 2 Jerome Fire Equipment was contracted to build a rescue cap for the pick up bed on Squad 1. This unit then became the small (light) rescue at Station 2 with a change to Squad 2. Also in 1992 the 1974 Chevy Saulsbury Heavy Rescue was replaced with a custom Emergency One Heavy Rescue with Robinson roll up doors on the compartments. This truck has a walk though body but all eight seats are in the custom forward cab. This truck called Rescue 1 at 36 feet long and was the longest and highest piece of apparatus in the Cicero fleet at that time. Two years later (1994) the 68 Ford Sanford TP was replaced with a custom Emergency One Engine with Spartian four door 5 seat cab, 1500 GPM pump, 1,000 gal tank, Robinson roll up compartment doors, and over head hydraulic ladder rack. The custom pumper had arrived. This pumper became Engine 1 and the International-Sanford at Station 2 number was changed to Engine 2. The Mack Engine 3 after 18 years of front line service was moved to Station 2 as that stations second due out engine.
Three or four years after Squad 2 became a light rescue an extended cab Dodge pick up was purchased for the utility truck and called again M-1. This pick up was painted in the style of the chief’s cars of all white color with a green band and letters. Starting in this decade the Cicero Chiefs have had white colored cars. They started with Ford Tories wagons, then Jeep SUVs to Chevy Blazers.
In 1998 after 22 years of outstanding service Mack Engine 3 was replaced with a Custom Ferrera 1250 GPM pump, 1000 gal tank. It came with a four door six seat air conditioned custom cab. With this spacious air conditioned cab it quickly became the number one engine at station 2. Engine 3 has earned the nickname of the workhorse of the department. It goes on all fire calls, all signal 80’s with Rescue 1, and most mutual aids. It also covers the Engine 91 assignments when a combined crew from two or three town departments ( Cicero, South Bay, Brewerton) stand by for six to eight hours.
During the 1990’s the members decided to buy new dress uniforms. Money saved more than 25 years from profits earned at our field days in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s was used for this large expenditures. Keeping our color green theme, the uniforms are a dark green with yellow strips on the pants and jacket sleeves.
2000’s — New Challenges and a Dream Come True
In the fall of 1999 the roof of Station 2 was covered with multiple radio antennas. The radio room was covered every few feet with radio jacks to plug in portable radios for many public service frequencies. There was great fear that on New Years Day 2000 all computer operated radio control systems would fail. Y2K was the key word. As we now remember this failure did not happen.
By the early 2000’s the 84 Chevy light rescue was showing its age. Medical calls were the most frequent alarms in the 80’s and 90’s. A new Chevy dual wheel pick up was bought and the box was removed and the aluminum rescue body from the old truck was remounted on the new chassis. This unit entered service as Rescue 3.
The 89 International Telesqurt Engine 2 continued to be our hard luck—voodoo engine. The rear seat was repositioned but still three firefighters on that seat could not at one time put their air tanks on together. One Firefighter would have to move forward off the seat to give the other two room to attach their SCBA’s. Cracks appeared in the ladder side rail supports requiring welding. The air horn stuck open on an alarm which caused the loss of the air brakes. In 2003 a major failure was the discovery of large cracks in the base of the boom. At this point the commissioners had had enough problems with the boom. It was removed and the truck was run as the third due engine on calls. Plans were started to buy a full size aerial ladder.
In July 2006 our dream came true when a 100 foot Sutphen Tower Ladder Quint was delivered. This large truck (48 ft length) can provide five functions (1500GPM pump, 500 gal tank, attack & supply hose, 100 ft tower ladder, and ladder company ground ladders). With the Sutphen Tower Ladder in service the International Sanford pumper was then kept as a spare engine used for training, and used to replace the other two engines when then one of them went for repairs. Probably because of all the problems and bad feelings with this Telesqurt turned pumper, this piece was sold in the winter of 2007 to a Fire Equipment Dealer who had a buyer for the pumper in the deep South.
As of our 125 year as we look back on so many unbelievable changes in the fire service. From a manpower drawn hand pumper costing only a few hundred dollars to a large tower ladder which cost $900,000 +. In 1883 the firemen wore only a rubber coat and leather helmet which they probably bought for themselves. Today the department must provide each firefighter with fire resistant protective clothing to cover every part of their body and wear a face mask to breathe compressed air from a tank carried on their back.
In the immediate future a committee is working on plans for a new squad truck. Renovations will be made to the kitchen at Station One. An addition to either Station One or Two have been proposed for office, training, and storage space. The fire service has thrived on tradition. There is one word looming in the future that is a big break in our fire tradition. The big “C” or consolidation of services or even departments. It is being talked today on the state, county and town levels. Increased costs of equipment, lack of sufficient manpower to staff trucks, especially during daytime hours has prompted this discussion. In Cicero probably the first thing could be the expansion of the Engine 91 concept. In the town a crew would man a station during daytime hours to cover two or three fire districts. Whether this could be done on a volunteer basis or with a paid force only time will tell.
Cicero Fire Department History