Portland, Augusta crews helped fight 1911 fire in Bangor

Posted April 25, 2011, at 6:46 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Firefighters and equipment from fire departments in Portland and Augusta made the trip to Bangor on April 30, 1911, to help fight the Great Fire, but how did they get here?

They took the train.

According to Michael Daicy, who served 31 years with the Portland Fire Department and is its historian, the Portland men boarded a train that day at 5:51 p.m. with apparatus, a hose wagon, company members of Engine No. 3 and fire equipment similar to the 1908 Amoskeag pumper now owned by Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor.

The train stopped in Augusta to pick up an Augusta Fire Department steam engine and firefighters and proceeded to Bangor. Late the next day, the equipment on loan was returned to its home cities, also by train.

Cole Museum at 405 Perry Road officially starts its season on May 1, but this year the facility also will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 30, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great Fire. Visitors viewing the 1908 Amoskeag — slightly larger than the one Portland brought to Bangor in 1911 — will get an idea of the equipment that firefighters used during the Great Fire, and also can see the dozens of other pieces of antique firefighting equipment on display.

In addition, fire historian Michael Daicy will be on hand 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at the museum to talk about the Portland Fire Department and its participation in the Bangor fire. A historic film showing scenes of horse-drawn firefighting apparatus leaving and returning to the station will be shown as well. It’s called “The Portland Fire Department in Action —1912.”

Visitors will hear Daicy talk about old-time firefighting, said museum founder Galen Cole. “Every word he utters — he is just a historian, through and through.”

The Cole museum’s “first-size” 900-gallons-a-minute pumper was manufactured by the International Power Co. Locomotive works in Manchester, N.H. It was sold to the Portland Fire Department and assigned to Engine Co. 3 on Brackett Street, but was not the one actually used in Bangor.

The 8,000-pound pumper now owned by the museum, which had 8½-inch cylinders, an 8-inch stroke and 5-inch pump, was pulled by two horses until 1924, when a two-wheel, 48-horsepower Christie tractor was attached. It fought in many Portland-area fires.

In 1929, the tractor and pumper were placed in reserve until purchased in 1946 by Cameron Bradley, who displayed them in the Wolfpen Automotive Museum for decades in West Southborough, Mass. In 1989, Bradley, of West Gouldsboro, donated the tractor and pumper to the Cole Land Transportation Museum.

Admission to the Cole Land Transportation Museum is $7, $5 for seniors, free to those age 18 and under. The museum will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, through Nov. 11.

Editor’s Note: See this weekend’s Bangor Daily News for a comprehensive look back at the Great Fire of 1911.