No records exists of the first fire in Port Washington. Some speculate it involved a small frame dwelling house that burned as early as 1846. In 1851, fire claimed the Heighan, Kern & Boss Flour Mill as well as the Powers House Hotel. This series of disastrous fires led to the organization of a company of volunteer firefighters. In July 1852, the village board of trustees ordered an ordinance be drafted which provided for “the security against fire.”
Early fire protection was accomplished by using leather buckets to carry water from four strategically placed wells. In 1864, the fire company formed a hook and ladder team under the direction of August Meyer. With the addition of an engine and hose company in 1876, the city had three units, the Pioneer Engine Company with 40 members, the Rescue Hook and Ladder Company with 16 members, and the Hose Company with 16 members. The basement of the city’s school building which stood at the site of the present day police station served as the first engine house. For some unknown reason, the Fire Department was evicted from the school building and tried to make do with other quarters somewhere in the City.
In 1880, the city purchased land and hired an architect to erect the first “Fire Engine House.” The station was built on Pier Street. This building was completed in 1884 and housed a No. 2 Waterous Steamer, a horse-drawn steam engine which pumped water. It also housed a hand-drawn fire engine, a horse-drawn ladder wagon with Babcock extinguishers and a hand-drawn hose cart. The original “Engine House” stood until March of 1929 when it was razed to make room for a new station.
Hand-written minutes from the early 1900s showed that firemen paid dues of one dollar. These were used to purchase refreshments for meeting and drills. Dances were also held to raise funds to help defray expenses.
Port Washington’s first Police and Fire Commission was appointed April 30, 1910 by Mayor Harry Bolens. In 1924 for some unknown reason the Commission was repealed. In 1945, voters passed a referendum reestablish the commission. Today, the Port Washington Police and Fire commission continues to function as the authority to which the Police and Fire Chief’s report.
1921 saw the purchase of Port Washington’s first motorized apparatus. This Seagrave was equipped with a 750 gpm pump with a chain drive and solid rubber tires. This truck remained in service until 1958.