Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Paterson Riverside Station - Photo by Dr. Thomas Dayspring

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Ruins of Colt Gun Mill
Spectacular fires have plagued Paterson's mills since the first settlers, from a blaze that destroyed the Little Beaver Mill in 1832 to a series of arson fires 150 years later that gutted the historic Colt Gun Mill.

The Fulton Street Fire - a general alarm at Box 151 - started on April 29, 1978 and devoured mills and adjacent buildings as well as three fire department vehicles - Engine 2, Engine 5 and Battalion 2. Hundreds of firefighters from across North Jersey provided mutual aid.

General alarm fires also destroyed the Ashley-Bailey Mill in 1904, the Lamond Robertson Carpet Mill in 1930, the Ramsey & Gore Mill in 1939, the Appel Mill in 1944 and St. Anthony's Guild in 1973. Mill fires requiring second- and a third-alarm assignments were commonplace.

An account of the Little Beaver Mill fire, published in the Paterson Intelligencer of May 2, 1832, said: ``In a very few minutes the whole premises were involved in a sheet of flame. The firemen soon arrived with their engines, but the progress of the fire was already such, that little else could be done that to preserve the buildings adjacent."

In a story headlined ``The Paterson Hemp and Rope Manufactory Almost Wholly Destroyed,'' The Washington Post reported on a July 21, 1890 fire at the ``extensive machine works of S. J. C. Todd, one of the oldest manufacturing establishments in this city.''

Later that year, The New York Times reported: ``Fire was discovered in the engine room which adjoins the main building of the extensive silk mill of Bamford Brothers on Rip Van Winkle Avenue'' on Nov. 22, 1890 and ``an hour later the entire establishment was completely destroyed.''

On Dec. 10, 1926, ``The old Van Kirk mills, a series of two and three story brick buildings occupied by forty silk manufacturers, were destroyed by fire,'' The Times said. ``Because of a number of explosions during the blaze Fire Chief Thomas Coyle started an investigation to learn if the fire was of incendiary origin.''

As for Samuel Colt's gun works, the four-story brownstone at the Great Falls opened in 1836 and over five years produced 5,000 rifles and revolvers. Various manufacturers occupied after Colt's company failed in 1842. By the 1980s, the mill had fallen into disrepair and arsonists finished it off.