Frank H. Stevens
- Written by Joseph B. Barnes, Esq.
Milford’s First Fire Chief
In the early days of the colony, Milford defended itself with an active militia. Part of the defense included fire prevention. Fire was the nuclear weapon of its day. Hostile Indians would attempt to set the protective palisades afire or lob burning embers and arrows on to the wood shake roofs of the buildings within. Ever watchful citizens on a rotating basis were ready to repel invaders or fight the fires they might set.
Things did not change much for the next two centuries: Bucket brigades and self help of the citizenry. Then the entirely volunteer Milford Fire Company was formed in 1838, one of the oldest in the state. The name of the department was changed in 1858 to the Arctic Engine Company No. 1 in honor of a new horse drawn fire engine called the "Arctic." Space was provided in a firehouse located on Railroad Avenue on the North side of the Train Station (now a parking lot). In 1910 a brand new motorized fire truck was purchased and headquarters moved to Factory lane as the truck was too large for the old firehouse (this building still stands and is used as a dance studio).
After a number of large fires and the danger of fire in the large wooden hotels of the "gay 90's" and congested, pre-zoning, summer cottage along the beaches, and the near total destruction of Naugatuck Junction (Devon) in 1902, it was clear more fire defense was needed. "Arctic 1" was joined by the Woodmont Fire Company (later the Woodmont Engine Co., #5) in 1897, Walnut Beach Company, in 1905, Fort Trumbull Beach Company (#2) in 1909, Devon Volunteer Fire Department (Devon Hose Co., #4) in 1910 and Myrtle Beach Fire Company (#3) in 1912, all with volunteer staff and, until 1917, under their own fire chiefs. The Point Beach station (#6) was built on land bought in 1944 to protect the eastern beach communities from Point Lookout to Burwell's Beach on the border of Woodmont.
By 1915 two paid firefighters were on staff along with the volunteers. In 1917 the newly established Board of Fire Commissioners was tasked with consolidating all the fire companies under the sole control of a single fire chief. In 1918 Frank Hanford Stevens was appointed to command the Fire Department of the Town of Milford. His title was "Foreman." Most likely, the volunteer "chiefs" of the various stations did not want to give up their titles. The Milford Fire Department under Stevens and his successors, all of whom who were called Chief after him, went on to great success making Milford one of he finest and most respected departments in the state.
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