CAMDEN — It was noted in these pages last week that the Camden Fire Department is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.

Rep. Vicki Doudera presented a framed legislative sentiment from herself and Sen. Dave Miramant to the Camden Fire Department.

Since a little more information about the history of the department may be of interest, the following was published previously in The Camden Herald from the late Barbara Dyer, Camden’s official town historian:

…The first fire company in Camden village was organized in 1847 and was known as “Hydrant Fire Company No. 1.” It did not operate for any length of time, but was reorganized in 1851 and again in 1854; each time adopting by-laws and the same name. During that period their equipment was a hand tub, hose reel, ladder, towing reels and ends of ladders, used in several fires.

Eighty-five young men of leading village families signed an agreement in 1867 to organize a company sufficiently large enough to take care of the hydrant, engine No.1 and Atlantic No. 2. From that time to present, the company has been known as Atlantic Engine Company No. 2. Their motto is: “Always ready.”

The first fire station was located across from Camden’s conference room on Washington Street. The first officers were: A. B. Witherbee, foreman; E. T. G. Rawson, assistant foreman; Revel Philbrook, foreman leading hose; Samuel Ayers, assistant leading hose; John Campbell, foreman suction hose; C. W. Follansbee, clerk and treasurer; T. R. Simonton, W. G. Adams and Alden Miller Jr., finance committee.

During the “Great Fire of Camden” on Nov. 10, 1892, the whole business section of Camden went up in flames from Tannery Lane to Walgreens, including the Main Street end of Mechanic Street, Elm Street and end of Washington Street. It leveled 40 buildings, including the fire station. The company had only minutes to respond, but there was neither the water pressure nor the equipment needed to contain the conflagration. The hydrants were cisterns and wooden troughs.

After that fire, the businessmen immediately made plans for buildings constructed of brick, and selectmen met Nov. 23, 1892, for some important articles. Article 4 created a committee “to ascertain our standing in regard to water supply and protection against fire as to the feasibility of a new system or supply.” Article 5 (in part) voted that selectmen be instructed to purchase at once an Amoskeag No. 3 steam fire engine as specified at the sum of $3,500 or as less can be obtained payable June 1, 1893.” That fire engine was bought and operated by F. Hanson, Bert Fletcher, Bert Crosby and Lovell Thompson. A new firehouse was constructed on the same location as the first one. For a number of years, the American Legion Hall was on the second floor.

Another large fire broke out at the Bay View House, located next to Chestnut Street Baptist Church (where the Village Green is today). The alarm came in at 6:30 a.m. Nov. 17, 1917. One of the nicest hotels in Camden burned until it was completely destroyed. Its burned timbers were buried in the ground, as was the custom in those days. The children at Elm Street School were dismissed to go watch the great fire.

Gradually equipment was added to the department. A 1921 Rio truck was purchased for $5,000, followed by a 1925 Cadillac service car.

In 1924 two large fires broke out. The first one was in May on the waterfront, and the other was the Eastern Steamship Wharf, which burned completely on Aug. 1 and was rebuilt the following fall and winter. Another large fire happened May 19, 1935, when the old Anchor Factory burned, sending large burning pieces on the buildings down Bay View Street.

A 1926 hose truck was purchased for $6,000, as well as a ladder truck, which was hauled by horses for a period of time. A $500 motor was added to that vehicle with its high wheels and hard tires; pneumatic tires were also added to the rear and in 1939 it was completely remodeled with a new tractor.

An American LaFrance was added to the fleet for $12,500, and in 1938 a Seagrave replaced the Rio for $7,500. We finally had an ambulance in 1935 that was replaced in 1940 by the generosity of Charles C. Wood. The old one was put into fire service. We have had many changes and additions since that time, including a very nice ladder truck, needed for tall structures, donated, I believe, about 1993 by Charles Cawley.

The Allen F. Payson Fire Station was built in 1950 and named for a very popular fire chief. The residents of the town of Camden voted to build an addition to the present station and it was completed about 1993. It was named for our Fire Chief then, Robert Oxton. Bob lived and loved his job and Camden is a better place due to his services.

The Atlantic Engine Company, No. 2. Courtesy of the Walsh History Center

Equipment. Courtesy of the Walsh History Center Paula Hopkins Dayboch