Bucktail Hose Company
The Formative Years
On August 25,1881, the citizens of Smethport held a meeting at the Pierce House Hotel for the purpose of forming a Hose Company. The first Bucktail Hose Company was organized on November 1, 1881.
Since the volunteers did not have any equipment, the Smethport Borough Council let them use the Borough Building on the corner of Fulton Street and Water Street. This house was used for meetings, and later space was added to the building for the hose company.
In the early years of the department, membership was limited to 60 people. The minimum age was 18 years old and there were strict rules to follow. Such rules included that if a volunteer did not attend a meeting or missed roll after the whistle went off, they were assessed fines to make up for the loss.
The first uniforms were received just before September of 1882, when the hose company won first prize in a Fireman's State Convention in Bradford. Today's uniforms are bright yellow with reflecting material on them for visibility at night. The firemen do not have to wear these uniforms to the fire hall; they only need them when in time of an accident or fire. The uniforms are also fire-resistant and very heavy compared to the early 1880s uniforms.
Today, there are many members that are a part of the department and the rules are a little different. The members now are of all ages and all sexes. At first there was no appointed Chief of the department. In 1890, the fire department appointed F. W. Brownell as the first Chief of the department.
The first piece of equipment was a two wheel, hand drawn, hand pumped hose cart that was capable of carrying 500 feet of hose on a reel. In 1882, this cart was used on the fire of Jacob Winsor's residence, and later the Borough of Smethport bought another cart with 1000 feet of hose on a reel.
A ladder cart was added to the department's equipment inventory. The ladder cart required a huge amount of strength to control because the ladders were heavy and had to be stacked on top of each other. It took about eight men to do this. In August 1886, the hose company went to a convention in Meadville, where it used its parade cart with mirrors mounted on a revolving wheel.
In 1910, Henry Hamlin and other citizens presented the fire department with a fancy brass and nickel trimmed steam pumper. Later that same year the steamer was credited with saving Main Street when the D. C. Young General Store burned to the ground.
The department bought three Model T Ford chassis in the 1920s. They then loaded tanks from some chemical wagons onto two of the chassis. The trucks are still intact today.
In the late 1920s, a Packard automobile chassis was given to the department. The Hale Company of Buffalo outfitted it with 500 gpm pumps. Then a Stewart Chassis was added to the equipment of the fire department.
When a new firehouse was built, more equipment was purchased: a GMC-American La France 759 gpm pumper, a Chevrolet 750 gpm front mounted pumper, and a Ford front mounted 750 gpm pumper. Also, the department owned a Ford 4 wheel drive minipumper and a Ford tanker.