Bill Bradford: The fire engine had a flat batteryPublished 10:41am Thursday, September 17, 2009
The proprietor of the feed store also served as the chief for the volunteer Fire Department.
There was a frame building about a block from the feed store and that building housed the town’s one firetruck.
Approximately three miles out of town a retired couple from New York had purchased a two-story frame home.
In their employed years they each taught school.
Unfortunately, their tranquil retirement was interrupted one morning by a chimney fire.
Their wood-burning heater had built up a chimney residue of creosote, which ignited.
The chief with his volunteers promptly responded by rushing to the fire station.
When they attempted to start the fire truck, the battery was dead.
Finding jumper cables and getting the engine started caused a little delay in the response.
But with the engine running smoothly, they were soon on their way.
A mile or two out of town the engine sputtered and stopped.
The fuel tank was empty.
It took some more time to find a gasoline can and make a round trip to town to replenish the fuel.
As they resumed their progress toward the location of the chimney fire, it may be irrelevant that a black bear crossed the road in front of them.
But it was not a good omen, either.
By the time they reached their emergency destination, the chimney was very hot.
Before they could make much of a difference, their water tank was empty and they were out of water.
That should not have been of much consequence because there was pool of water within 50 feet of the house.
Normally they carried an “Indian pump” on the truck which could pump water from the pool into the truck.
But the pump had been loaned out and was not available.
By this time the chimney was very hot and many feared for the safety of the house.
The chief decided it was time to call for help from the fire department of the neighboring town of Farmington.
Because that would obligate the town to pay for the assistance, it was town policy that the permission of the head selectman must first be obtained.
A messenger was dispatched to find him out in one of his farm’s hay fields.
The Farmington fire department finally arrived, but it was too late to save the house.
It burned down and left a cellar hole as a remembrance.
As a resident of New Sharon, I wondered about the fate of my home if we had a fire emergency.
We later did, but that is another story.
Dale Hutchings, the deputy chief of the Dowagiac Fire Department, described for me a department that is comfortingly so very much better.
The department’s vehicles and equipment are checked in detail daily to assure readiness.
The department is manned 24/7 and receives approximately 200 calls each year for fire or rescue.
Emergency services of the Police and Fire Departments are unified under the direction of Tom Atkinson, director of public safety.
We can be proud of these people and their associates who make Dowagiac a safer place to live and work.
Bill Bradford retired to the rigors of a small farm in Pokagon Township.
He has served as director of clinical laboratories in physician group practices and hospitals.
For a decade he was an educator in clinical laboratory sciences at Andrews University.