End Of An Era

Murray Hose Co. 4 To Disband

DUNKIRK — At a recent July 12 meeting, officers and members of the Murray Hose Co. 4 decided to pass a resolution to disband the fire company. This was a difficult decision, with over 20 members present the idea was thought out but with no active volunteers it was the only solution.

After more than 115 years the end is at hand for the city of Dunkirk’s Murray Hose 4 Volunteer Fire Company. Hose 4 is the last of Dunkirk’s great Volunteer Fire Companies. Over the past years Pioneer Hook & Ladder, Dunkirk Hose Company 1, Citizens Hose Company 2 and Daniel Anson Hose Company 3, formerly Lake City Hose Company 3) have disbanded due to a lack of young fire fighting volunteers.

Murray Hose Co. 4 began on Feb, 6, 1906 after the fire at St. Hedwig’s Church in the Fourth Ward. A few men got together at the Michael Czysz Tavern and formed Murray Hose Co. 4. The company was named in honor of Martin Murray, then councilman of the Fourth Ward who played a prominent role in forming the fire company. The company was provided with a hand drawn hose wagon around 1907 and later the City Common Council provided the organization with a horse drawn hose wagon located on Nevins Street near their fire hall.

The first motorized truck was received in 1923. In 1945 Dunkirk Mayor Frank Bartela, a Hose 4 member was involved with upgrading the vehicle to a new Mack Pumper fire truck. In 1958 a 1,000 gallon per minute Seagave pumper was delivered to Murray Hose.

On Oct. 10, 1969, the new Fire Hall was dedicated on Doughty Street and Adelbert Murray, the only living survivor of the founder was present. In 2003, Murray Hose dedicated a new American LaFrance engine being a state of the art fire truck. Pumping capacity was 1500 gallons per minute and fully automatic transmission.

This vehicle was created by members in 1958.

One other item often forgotten was fire company initiations. Members from the 1940 to early 1970 era who went through this ordeal found it difficult to forget. I will not go into specifics but it was an interesting half hour of intimidation. I went through the last initiation of Hose 4 on June 12, 1972.

Remembering it well and in today’s society would definitely led to a lawsuit.

Over the years the City of Dunkirk had seven Fire Chiefs that came through the ranks of Murray Hose. They were John Kunzler, Steve Klocek, Stanley Zebracki, William Cybulski, Chester Cybulski, Robert Tworek and Ronald Szach. Its membership peaked in the late 1930s to more than 120 active members to 12 to 15 active firefighters around 2008.

Murray Hose continues to have three past presidents of its organization still attending company functions. Norman Bieger 71 years, Robert Gaken 63 years and Joseph Wisniewski 63 years. With over sixty plus years are present Officers Edgar Ziegler, Arthur Purol and Jerome Tarnowski.

One member that can never be forgotten is Louie Ziegler. Louie joined Hose 4 in 1953 and two years later became the companies recording secretary until his passing this year. He also for many years chaired the Hose 4 Queens’s contest, 50th drum corps event, 100th anniversary fire company celebration plus the yearly installation banquets.

Louie’s dedication to Hose 4 will always be remembered. He had many associates within the State, Western and Southwester Firemen’s Association. Louie was the most knowledgeable member of the fire company.

The city of Dunkirk over the years enjoyed not only five outstanding Volunteer Fire Companies but three well known Drum & Bugle Corps. Dunkirk Hose Co. 1’s Flying Dutchmen and rival Murraymen of Hose Co. 4 were famous throughout Western New York. Just visiting their meeting rooms, the walls were full of citations and large trophy’s showing off their success in musical competition. Some old timers can also remember the Ladies Auxiliary Drum & Bugle Corps of Lake City Hose Co. 3 who was showered with trophy’s in the 1940 era.

Another interesting topic is Firemen’s Conventions. There are three in particular and occur once a year. The State Convention is usually in the larger cities within New York State. The Western and Southwestern Convention are comprised of fire companies in the Western New York region and usually well attended.

Many believe it’s an opportunity for the region firefighters get together for fun times only. That’s partially true with forming a type of bonding with area fire companies. But, there are many activities some do not realize. Meetings for the betterment of firefighting, new types of equipment displays, first aid contests, water battles, hose races, memorial services and a parade ending the convention.

If one remembers the 1950s to about the late 1980s Convention parades lasted several hours long. They included drum corps, marching bands, floats and fire company members marching in support of their company. We cannot forget the several fire and rescue trucks with lights flashing and sirens heard throughout the area. The Conventions are also showing a decline. These are attended by volunteers and the volunteer base is dwindling quickly and some cities and townships do not support this type of activity.

Many ask the question why we cannot recruit young men and women to join a volunteer fire company. Is it a generation problem? Maybe, but the members of Hose 4 see it from a different prospective. First, commitment and attitude toward time in firematic training. One doesn’t get turnout firefighting gear and run into a burning building. As of the year 2000 New York State requires eighty plus hours of training and physical activities. Even when completed, additional training and monthly drills are required.

We must remember volunteer firefighting plays a crucial role in fire companies and departments across the country. All firefighters must be mentally and physically equipped to perform the demands of this work. Background checks may be part of the application also followed with drug screening and a physical exam. An essential function of this role includes climbing ladders, dragging heavy hose, swinging an axe all the while wearing turnout gear in a hostile environment.

Also included with the volunteer role are fire police. For a variety of reasons some fire company volunteers enjoy the role of directing traffic at the scene of a fire or accident. Training is required and at times could develop into long hours in a variety of weather. The city of Dunkirk enjoyed this volunteer group until but a few yeas ago. Chautauqua County Fire Police now has dedicated group of these individuals that cover our region.

In the 1970s and ’80s most of the Dunkirk Fire Companies had so many volunteers that when one called out to a fire, there was not enough protective gear on the truck to fight the fire. I believe in the earlier 1990’s Dunkirk supplied all its active members with individual turnout gear and radios. This kept the younger members interested but because of their age, many left the area for seeking jobs and military service.

Then, the fire companies ran in spurts with volunteers. Hose 4’s last hurrah was from 1999 to about 2010. At that time I was acting captain of the company and had over sixteen young volunteers who completed all their New York State Certified required fire fighting training, made company meetings and were active every month with drills to sharpen up their skills. Along with that, there were monthly drills instructed by the professional firefighters of the city of Dunkirk.

Again, many of these youngsters found jobs that required shift work, out of town jobs and most simply leaving the area again never to return. Hose 4 along with the other Dunkirk companies were all in the same situation. All had a few volunteers and with fewer fire calls and many EMS calls which volunteers didn’t attend led to simply discouraging members not attending any more company functions.

It must be mentioned that Hose 1, 3 and 4’s still tried to maintain some sort of activity. But, members were up and age and firefighting is a young person’s obligation. Firefighting is very hard work and dangerous.

So comes the time that few of the older members simply get together at the Exempts Organization and share stories of the great days of their volunteer service to the City of Dunkirk.

Bob Henderson is a longtime city resident, President of Murray Hose Co. 4 and a 55-year member of the company.


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