Fire protection for Athens did not begin with a formal fire company, but rather with two dedicated volunteers, Dana Parks, and Squire H. C. Baird. In the 1840’s these two gentlemen could be seen responding to alarms of fire, Parks carrying a ladder and Baird carrying a bucket. A wood cut was made of the two by the Athens Gazette. Protection Hose Company retains a copy of a news article containing the image.
More formal fire protection arrived in 1855 when C.W. Shipman, a partner on the Junction Iron Works, visited a fair in Elmira and returned with a small hand pumper. At first it was to be used to protect only the iron works itself and some nearby businesses. In the fall of that year a group of Athens citizens formed Protection Hose Co. and the hand engine was given to the town. Ironically the buildings of Junction Iron Works (Main and Bridge Streets) burned in 1872 several years after that company moved away from Athens.
D. P. Merriman was elected to be the first fire chief. News accounts state that he was elected because “he was the largest man in the group, weighing over 300 pounds”. The fire department still has the original hand pumper and it is named for the original chief.
Mostly due to inactivity, and probably the Civil War, the original fire company faded out of existence. In 1876 concerned citizens formed a new Protection Hose Company No.1 which is still very active to this day. References are to be found for the Athens Fire Board in 1878, so it too has a long history.
From the 1870’s to the early 1920’s firefighting in Athens was done by pulling hose carts to the scene of the fire, hooking to a hydrant, and playing water on the fire. ABFD never had a steamer. This meant that very little firefighting occurred outside of hydranted areas. It also meant that there were various hose companies throughout the borough. Firefighters of the outlying stations told of being very happy if a trolly was passing by because it meant that they didn’t have to run all the way downtown pulling their hose cart.
Protection Hose Company #1 first had a building at the corner of Bridge and Elmira Streets. That building was replaced by the Athens Borough Hall at the same location. In 1975 they moved into the present borough hall on River St.
C.T. Hull Hose Co. must have been Company #2 but no records seem to remain
Union Hose Co. # 3 was housed on North Main St. at the location of the former Diahoga Hose Co. #6 building.
Rescue Hose Co. # 4 was located in the 500 block of North Main St. Rescue Hose was taken out of service by the Athens Borough Council in 1910 when many of its members refused to take part in the annual fire department inspection. When borough officials inspected the hose house in preparation to house a new company they found that the old company had plugged all the water pipes, and had taken the bath tub.
Athens Hose Co. #5 was formed in 1910 to replace Rescue Hose.
Union Hose and Athens Hose merged and became Diahoga Hose #6 so that by the early 1920’s there were two companies, Protection and Diahoga.
In 2005 the Diahoga building was sold by the Athens Borough Council and they now share rooms with Protection Hose Company on River St.
1879 – Presbeterian Church (Same location as the present church)
1882 – The old toll house and the Chemung River Bridge
1883 – Several buildings the intersection of Main and Elm Streets
1888 – Athens Mattress Company
1889 – Lumber yard of Novelty Furniture Company and several other buildings
1891 - Exchange Hotel
1917 – Athens High School (Many hydrants in the area were frozen. Several pictures of this fire hand in the Spaulding Memorial Library.)
1938 – Firefighter Edward Daniels died at a fire at the Mystic Hills Inn in Sheshequin Township.
1968 – The Schrier Block at Main and Elm. (Temperature was 10 below zero)
1973 – Cox Newstand (423 South Main St) and another downtown another building.
1977 – Whipple Lumber Co on North Main St. (The fire destroyed the building that once housed Rescue Hose and Athens Hose)
1983 – Spinning Wheel Apartments Main and Central Ave
1991 – Rynone Manufacturing at Pine St. and Pennsylvania Ave. (There was a major water system malfunction in the area and most of the water was supplied by tankers and relays from the Chemung River.)
PARTIAL LIST OF FIRE APPARATUS
D. P. Merriman Hand Pumper
1925 Buffalo Pumper
1928 American LaFrance
1937 American LaFrance
1953 American LaFrance on an International chasis (Diahoga)
1958 American LaFrance (Protection)
1964 Ward LaFrance Rescue (owned by Diahoga) There was also a rescue preceding that truck
1968 American LaFrance on a Ford chasis (Diahoga)
1972 Tanker on a Chevrolet chassis (Protection) before that there was a used fuel truck used as a tanker
1984 Ward LaFrance on a Ford chassis (Protection)
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|-Month-||-Calls for Service-|
Working Fires: N/A
2017 Total CFS: 100
Working Fires: 22
2016 Total CFS: 106
Working Fires: 32
Site Last Updated: 04/12/2018