Department History

Early fire history in Watertown is much the same as the history of other City and Towns within the New England states. In the early days in Massachusetts, practically every male citizen was compelled by law to do fire duty as well as military duty. Each was obliged to provide himself with a bed, a key, a wrench, a stout bag about the capacity of a barrel and two leather buckets. A double line of men was formed between water supply and fire and the empty buckets passed back by the other side of the line. The houses in those days were mainly one story and the hand brigade often proved a very effective way to fight fire. In any event, it was the only protection afforded by the Watertown Fire Society, the duly appointed fire wardens, whose red staffs served as badges of authority.

The beginning of the organized fire department in Watertown as we know it was in July, 1832 when the Torrent No. 1 Company was organized and a small Hunniman hand engine was purchased. On August 10, 1842 another Hunniman Engine was added and was named “Relief No. 2”. A similar engine to Relief No. 2 was purchased a year later and put in charge of the Torrent Company. This engine was sold to Lisbon, Maine in 1874.

Pequossette No.1, the first and only steam fire engine in Watertown was received in January 1872. It was a Jucket. This engine performed service at the great Boston fire in 1872, being the engine, which extinguished the embers of the Old South Church.

The Central Fire Station, which is the department headquarters on Main Street, was occupied for the first time on May 1, 1906. Station 2, 564 Mt. Auburn Street, was commissioned on September 1, 1912 and at that time, the City’s first piece of motorized apparatus, a Locomobile pumping engine, was purchased. Station 3, 270 Orchard Street was commissioned in 1959. The first record of total alarms responded to by the department for a year was in 1833 when twenty-five were recorded. The largest number recorded in any year was in 1943 when there were 621 from various sources. The largest fire in Watertown from a financial standpoint was the Lumber Yard fire in January 1944. Other large fires were the Sacred Heart Church in 1912 the Paint Factory in 1926, Weston Biscuit Factory in 1930 and Watertown Builders Supply Company in 1933, 1935 and 1938.

At the present time, the department has five pieces of motorized apparatus, one fire rescue and one Deputy Chief’s vehicle stationed at three stations.