Report of Chief Engineer of Fire Department, 1886

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This article contains the report of the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department as it appeared in the 3rd Annual Report.[1]

Report of Wesley G. Smith

In accordance with established custom, I herewith submit this my second annual report of the operations of the Fire Department for the financial year ending Jan. 31st, 1886, and call your careful attention to such matters as may be of public interest and necessity.

To be brief in the representation of the condition of department property, I am enabled to state that everything connected with the department representing property is in good and efficient condition, and the purchase of but few small sundries is necessary to the general efficiency for the coming year.

It is quite remarkable that during the past year, as also the previous year, no false alarm has occurred. The department has been called out but twice during the year, March 20th, to the burning of the Central House, and April 10th to the burning of the observatory building, at both of which the department rendered commendable service, the results receiving comments of highest praise for efficiency. But one additional reservoir has been constructed, this being located on Grand avenue, near the Cleaves House, items and expense of which, together with the general expense account of the department, will be found under the proper headings of the auditor’s report. Additional reservoirs are needed, but pending the action of the town in relation to the water supply, I leave this matter for your deliberation, and in continuation of this subject I deem it in the line of duty the second time to ask your careful consideration upon this matter of a water supply.

Foreseeing future contingencies liable to arise pertaining to this subject, I last year called your attention in that direction by suggesting some move in obtaining a supply from the Saco and Biddeford Water Co., believing that such an acquisition, either from this or some other practicably efficient and available source, as a public improvement, would redound to our credit and immediate as well as future welfare.

Today we are paying at the rate of $250 annually for a supply of water for fire purposes exclusively, and with seemingly no practical remedy should the sum be increased, and even on the demand of the present basis of assessment, every additional reservoir necessitates an additional expense of $50. Conceding that it is commendable to appreciate and patronize local enterprise, yet the public interest should not be subservient to private emolument. You will readily perceive this to be a matter of vital importance, having various bearings, all of which will demand your candid deliberation.

Still another matter of last year’s notice is the provision for better alarm service. The bell in the tower of the Odd Fellows’ building is too small for the locality, and should be placed in the tower of the M. E. church, which is the only available commanding locality, and a new and much heavier one should be purchased for the present location.

During the two years past it has been next to an impossibility during a part of each year, to maintain the standard number in the company. Such vacancies, under similar circumstances, are liable to continue, which is greatly to be deplored, as it saps the vitals of the department for efficiency. The causes for this have been various, yet but two remedies occur to my mind; either the property owners who are most directly and financially interested in maintaining an efficient department must interest themselves personally for its welfare, or create a money interest for those who have no property at stake and little personal interest, but are active, able-bodied men, and ready to render their services for a fair compensation, and thus conduce to a more permanent efficiency. The members now receive $1.00 each per month, the torch boys nothing, except that in order to retain the services of the two torch boys, I took the responsibility to guarantee them $5.00 each for their year’s services. With two exceptions, the members of the company have changed from one to three times. This state of affairs, when the hazard of inefficiency is so great, should find an immediate remedy. At the present time the company has a full complement of active members.

To the gentlemen constituting the fire department, as also to those who have, during the year, for various good reasons, resigned, I feel under many obligations, and acknowledge many personal courtesies rendered. I cannot speak too highly of the efficient manner in which they have on every occasion promptly responded to the call of duty, and of the interest shown under adverse circumstances through the cordial support and endorsement of all matters tending to the advancement of the best interests of the department for the public welfare.

Wesley G. Smith, Chief Engineer.


  1. Town of Old Orchard, "Third Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Old Orchard for the Year Ending February 1, 1886" (1886). Pages 33-35.