On October 10, 1887 the first Board of Fire Engineers was organized in the Town of Freetown. Prior to this, fire protection was the responsibility of loosely organized private citizen volunteers who operated such appliances as the Water Witch Hand Tub Fire Engine. The town appropriated funds to purchase both a hand tub engine, The Narraganset, from the Town of Warren, RI and a Hook and Ladder truck from the Town of Franklin. Around this time, a Chemical Engine was also placed in service. Beginning in 1888 these appliances were stored in the Town Hall. Prior to this, the townspeople kept the appliances in their own barns.
1917 saw the development of a system to signal firemen of a fire. Daley’s Bleachery, the Davis Gun Shop, and the Crystal Springs Bleachery agreed to blow their whistles upon notification of a fire. These early fire warning systems would improve to the use of “Air Raid” sirens. The “cycling” of the air raid sirens would become familiar to all who lived near the fire stations. Their distinctive sound could be heard every time the fire department turned out and when they were tested on Saturday at noon in Assonet and quarter to one in East Freetown. Subsequently, certain homes and businesses including the town hall were equipped with “Red Network” fire phones. As the town centralized communications, home base Tone Alerting equipment would replace the fire phones and evolve to the personal fire pagers the firefighters wear on their belts today. Click here to listen towhat the air raid sirens would have sounded like.
By 1925, the need for motorized fire apparatus became apparent and the town purchased a 1925 Reo Fire Engine equipped with a 350 gallons per minute pump. The town also purchased a used Ford Fire Engine. It was also during this time that a siren was installed on the roof of the Freetown Town Hall. In 1927, Engineers voted to place the Hand Pumping Engine, Hose Reel, and Hook and Ladder Truck in East Freetown. The Hand Tub would eventually make its way back to Station 1 and in 1960 it was moved to the town shed. In 1933, the current fire apparatus did not prove to be efficient and a Chevrolet Fire Engine equipped with a 200 GPM pump, was purchased at a cost of $1925. This piece was stationed in the East Freetown Garage so the town could provide better fire protection coverage.
In 1938, the Board of Fire Engineers approved purchase of aluminum fire helmets. These helmets would be the standard head protection for members of the fire department until the mid 1970’s.
Tragedy struck the Freetown Fire Department when Hoseman Perley Wotton was killed in the line of duty on April 13, 1941. While responding to a house fire on Water Street, Hoseman Wotton fell from the apparatus in the Assonet Four Corners and died from his injuries.
Due to the entry of the United States into the Second World War in 1941 an Auxiliary Fire Department was formed. This also allowed the department to keep up with the National Defense Program. In1943, the Board of Fire Engineers appointed a committee to meet with Selectmen to inquire if the Fire Department and Forest Fire Department could be combined into one department. Also in ’43, a GMC Fire Engine was place in service for the Forest Fire Department. The Ford Engine was relocated to East Freetown. In 1944, it took about a week to bring a large forest fire under control that burned from Fall River to Lakeville.
In 1945 the Town purchased a Buffalo Fire Engine equipped with a 600 gallon per minute pump. The Reo and the Ford were disposed of. A second Buffalo Fire Engine was bought in 1947 for East Freetown.
According to the Town Report, “The Beginning of 1948 would find the Fire Department at its highest point of efficiency in its history with a 1945 Buffalo 600 GPM Pumper in Precinct 1 and a 1947 Buffalo 600 GPM Pumper in Precinct 2.” Construction was completed on a New Engine House located at 3 Elm Street in Assonet.
In 1949 concern to have the ability to provide first aid comes to light as First Aid Kits are purchased for each Fire Station. In the late 1940’s, many of the new firemen were returning WWII veterans who brought a level of dedication and maturity from their military service to the fire department.