Community History – Bromley – Volunteer Fire Department

Bromley - Volunteer Fire Department

In 1895, citizens of Bromley established a volunteer fire department. This organization was the result of a destructive fire that occurred in October of that same year. A building owned by Mayor Henry Hackstadt on Main Street caught fire. The building was being rented at the time by Highhouse & Hilker for use as a grocery and saloon. The large frame structure burnt quickly before the fire had been discovered. Bromley citizens formed a bucket brigade, but had little success in extinguishing the flames. The building was totally destroyed along with the inventory of the grocery and saloon. The need for a fire department was readily apparent. The new department soon folded due to lack of interest.

A more disastrous fire in 1900 resulted in the establishment of a permanent fire department. A fire, started in the home of Zachariah Harris on Pike Street, spread quickly to seven other homes and businesses. These buildings included a saloon owned by John Highhouse, the L.P. Miller Grocery, and the homes of Jack Lantry, Robert Poppin and William Schaeffer. All eight buildings were destroyed. The citizens of the city met on October 5, 1900 and established a new fire department. Mr. Joe Buck was elected the first fire chief. The initial membership of the department totaled 37. The Bromley Volunteer Fire Department has existed ever since.
In the years before World War I, the citizens of Bromley dedicated themselves to securing water lines to their community. Voters passed a $4,000 bond issue and construction on the mains began in 1914. The introduction of running water greatly increased the effectiveness of the fire department.

Several members of the department were charged with the duty of raising donations to purchase equipment in 1900. The department also sponsored a grand ball to raise funds. By the end of the year, the members had set up a small clubroom in the town hall on Boone Street. The rules for the clubroom forbade swearing, gambling and spitting. In March 1901 it was found necessary to purchase three cuspidors for the clubroom.

The first large fire to be fought by the new company was in January 1902. Three buildings belonging to C.H. Crigler on Pike street were destroyed. These buildings included the post office, a barn and a small cottage. A defective flue caused the fire. The total loss was $2,625.

The department was also a very active social group. The clubroom was fitted with furniture for relaxation. Recreational activities included baseball games and a punching bag. The department sponsored dances that not only raised money for the organization, but also drew the community together.

Bromley’s small tax base made raising money for the department difficult. Fundraising activities became commonplace. As early as 1916, department members began holding street fairs in the community. Over time, these fairs drew large crowds to the community and allowed the department to purchase new equipment.

The small number of fires in the city led to complacency of the department in the early 1920s. Renewed interest, however, emerged in 1924, when the department was reorganized. Two years later, the department installed a 300-pound bell at the city hall to call volunteers for fire runs. The bell was purchased with donations from the residents. In 1927, the department established a band. Director John Heist had his work cut out for him, not one of the 14 members played a musical instrument.

One of the largest fires fought by the department occurred in 1944 at the Standard Oil Company a few miles beyond the city limits. On the evening of August 10, a fire was started at the station pump house. The fire spread quickly to the transformers, tool house, and office building. The lines leading to the five gasoline storage tanks also were ablaze. Periodic gasoline explosions sent flames 200 feet into the air. A total of six departments fought the blaze: Bromley, Ludlow, Elsmere, Covington, South Fort Mitchell and Cincinnati. Bromley Chief Eli Gibson had charge of the operation. Water was obtained from the city water supply and the Ludlow Lagoon Lake. A relay system was set up to get the water from the lake to the fire. Two pumpers were stationed at the lake with an addition two pumpers half way between the lake and the fire. Bromley firefighters were at the scene for 36 hours.

In 1961, voters passed another bond issue to renovate the combination city hall/firehouse. Work was completed in time for the dedication on December 1, 1963. By 1999, the old building was again showing signs of deterioration. Structural weaknesses in the floor of the firehouse bay on the east side of the building resulted in the fire department storing their trucks with the Crescent Springs and Ludlow departments. City officials decided to construct a new bay for the fire department on the west side of city hall. The bids for the project amounted to $135,000. The new bay was completed in 2001.

Kentucky Post, October 16, 1895, p. 8, July 13, 1914, p. 3, December 27, 1924, p. 1, December 31, 1924, p. 1, July 25, 1928, p. 3, April 21, 1999, August 11, 1944, p. 1, August 13, 1945, p. 2k, May 24, 1999, p. 4k and June 5, 2000, p. 4k 

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