A brief history of the Saratoga Springs Fire Department
By Chief Vincent F. Camarro
The Village of Saratoga Springs was formed in 1819. In the year 1823 the first volunteers in regard to fire were formed. With the discovery of many mineral springs in the Village, Saratoga soon became a boom of tourist trade with people coming from far and wide to taste the healing waters. It readily became apparent to the Village fathers that many hotels would have to be built to house the many visitors. As usual, with the construction of many buildings, a severe problem arose – FIRE – and the fear of conflagrations.
Some of the early volunteer fire companies in the Village were the Durkee Fire Co., Morrissey Hook & Ladder, Hathorn Hose Co. and the White Hose Co. located at 39 Hamilton St. where, in 1866, the first steam engine in the Village was housed.
In the year of 1863, another boom to Saratoga was discovered – horse racing and gambling. Our Village was soon known in some quarters as “Sinners Paradise.”
With the Village now booming, another problem arose; where to get an adequate amount of water to combat an already age old problem – fire!. So, in the year 1872, the Village undertook what is known as the Holly System – to run water through wooden pipes from Loughberry Lake to hydrants located throughout the Village.
Since the first recorded fire in the Village in 1823, there have been many great fires, most notably, all of the hotels at one time or another and at times, the greater part of city blocks. In 1871 three fires in one day caused close to $100,000 in damage. What made this so newsworthy was the fact that all the volunteer fireman were out of the Village at a picnic.
The Village fathers were readily concerned that fireman were going to have to be on duty at all times. This could only be made possible if they were paid to do the job. So, in the year 1883, the first paid permanent fire department was organized. All “sinner” worn out by a night of gambling and drinking could sink into their beds with some certainty that they would not be frying in the world – if not the next! This was a comforting feeling to know that fireman were on duty at all times.
Today, the Saratoga Springs Fire Department consists of two modern fire stations, the best firefighting equipment and highly trained professional firefighters who, at a moment’s notice will answer that bell and carry on in their forefather’s steps – in the highest tradition of the fire service.