Beacon Hose is Beacon Falls.
Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 is the volunteer fire department, emergency medical service, and rescue provider of Beacon Falls, Conn. We’ve protected and served our town for 119 years — and we embrace that responsibility as we move into the future.
We take pride in the fact that we’re the centerpiece of the most beautiful town in the Naugatuck Valley. Not only do we respond to 225-400 fire/rescue calls and 600-750 EMS calls per year, but we also host dozens of community events and support countless causes throughout the year. If there’s something happening in Beacon Falls, you can be pretty sure that Beacon Hose is somehow involved.
Beacon Hose was formed on May 11, 1899, as the Beacon Falls Fire Department. A few years later, the department took its current name as Beacon Hose Co. No. 1. Any members on the roll call as of Jan. 1, 1900, were deemed “charter members.” The original firehouse was a building on North Main Street owned by the Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Company. Later, the company moved the firehouse across the street into the former Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Company Recreation Club building, behind the First National Store.
In the early days, the fire department was headed by a “foreman” (the title of “chief” didn’t come into favor until the 1950s). Beacon Hose’s first foreman was George Butz, who served from 1899-1906. The assistant foreman in these formative years was E.J. Stevens. Bart Howell became Beacon Hose’s second foreman from 1906-07. In 1907, Foreman William “Pop” Lee began his 42-year tenure as foreman, ending in 1950.
In 1922, the Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Company sold the club to the Town of Beacon Falls for use as the Town Hall, with the fire department occupying the first floor. In 1956, the town turned over the entire building to the fire department, which was headquartered there until the present firehouse was built next door in 1969 at a cost of $189,000 ($1.27 million in 2018 dollars). The old firehouse remained standing for another two decades as a community center.
Throughout the 119-year history of Beacon Hose, the department has been served by 22 chiefs. In that auspicious group, you will find grandfathers, fathers and sons, brothers and cousins, neighbors, and friends. The current chief is Brian DeGeorge, who was elected in 2017 after previously serving from 2005-09. Membership in the department has always been, and continues to be, a very proud family tradition to many.
The fire apparatus used by Beacon Hose has changed dramatically over the years. Our first fire apparatuses in 1899 were hand-drawn carts in 1899. Our first motorized vehicle was a 1919 Ford pumper, followed by a 1929 Seagrave Suburbanite engine, a converted Dodge truck from World War II, and many others. Beacon Hose currently has an engine, an engine tanker, a ladder truck, a rescue truck, two brush trucks, two ambulances, an all-terrain vehicle, a boat, a chief’s car, an EMS fly car, a utility truck, a brush trailer, a hazmat trailer, and a traffic trailer.
The cost of a fire apparatus has increased tremendously, as well. The 1929 Seagrave cost $6,650 ($95,870 in 2018 dollars); the 2017 Pierce Ascendant ladder truck purchased in 2018 cost about $850,000.
The pride of the department is our 1929 Seagrave Suburbanite engine. Originally traded in when purchasing a new pumper in the 1950s, the membership, realizing the historical significance of the engine, bought it back from the dealer. Beacon Hose funded a complete restoration of the Seagrave in time for Beacon Falls’ 1971 centennial parade. We are proud to say that our beloved Seagrave is a multiple-time winner of the Connecticut State Firefighters Association Convention Parade trophy as the Best Appearing Antique Motorized Apparatus, and the engine still regularly wins parade trophies every summer throughout the state.
Beacon Hose’s first ambulance, a converted Packard hearse, was donated by the Buckmiller family of Naugatuck. Later, through the combined efforts of the community club and the fire department, a used Cadillac ambulance was purchased from the Borough of Naugatuck. The original Packard ambulance was sold to the Town of Oxford for $1 to help start its own ambulance service.
Sadly, throughout the years Beacon Hose has suffered the losses of several members in line-of-duty deaths. They include Past Chief Joe Daddona, Past Chief Bob Cole, and Past Asst. Chief Kevin Swan. These three men are all honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md. It is rare for a department and a community of our size to suffer so many line-of-duty losses. All three men were integral and highly respected leaders of our department, and their legacy continues to this day.
Beacon Hose serves the community with around-the-clock fire protection, emergency medical services, and rescue operations. Fire department operations continue to be all-volunteer, with the exception of a town-funded stipend for the chief. Beacon Hose employs two EMS staff members Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, overnight and weekend calls are staffed by dedicated volunteer crews. EMS responders receive small stipends per call. All salaries are funded through ambulance billing. The department also supplies mutual-aid fire and EMS services to area towns, including Naugatuck, Seymour, Oxford, and Bethany. Volunteers remain dedicated to training and equipment maintenance on a weekly basis, ensuring skilled and prepared responses in case of emergency. All funds used for emergency equipment, training, and maintenance are included in the town’s municipal budget.
As a cornerstone of the community, Beacon Hose hosts countless events throughout the year. The crown jewel is our annual carnival and parade — it’s been the town’s biggest event since 1963, attracting an estimated 10,000 visitors and staging one of the state’s largest parades every June. Beacon Hose also hosts a Fire Prevention Week open house, a cornhole tournament, an Octoberfest, Meat-O nights for Easter and Thanksgiving, a Christmas tree sale, an Easter egg hunt, a golf tournament, and various other events throughout the year.
Proceeds from our fundraisers help Beacon Hose give back to the community. We sponsor youth sports teams, the local Boy Scouts, scholarships at Long River Middle School and Woodland Regional High School, the annual Ron Barksdale Fishing Derby, the annual town Christmas lightings and bonfire, meals and gifts for less fortunate families during the holiday season, and much more.
We’ve had plenty of proud moments in our company’s history. One of them occurred on Sept. 12, 2001, when a team of Beacon Hose volunteers rounded up relief supplies and drove all the way to Ground Zero to aid rescue workers after the terrorist attacks in New York City. Local resident may also remember that week in Beacon Falls specifically for the giant American flag that our members painted on the pavement in front of our firehouse. Our apparatuses drove out of the back of the firehouse until the flag eventually wore away.
Another memorable week in Beacon Hose history happened late in the summer of 2017, when another crew of Beacon Hose volunteers (joined by a pair from Citizens’ Engine Co. No. 2 of Seymour) trekked down to Texas to deliver relief supplies to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. In just about 30 hours, our community collected more than $250,000 worth of relief supplies, all of which was sorted, packaged, and loaded by our volunteers. Goods were hand-delivered to the people who needed them the most in Galena Park, Houston, Katy, and Port Arthur, Texas.
Amid all the outstanding work done by our volunteers every day, it’s not often that individuals get singled out for the recognition they deserve. One exception to this trend came in April 2018, when Past Chief Ted Smith was enshrined in the Connecticut State Firefighters Association Hall of Fame. Smith joined our department in 1970, became one of our first EMTs, and served as a Beacon Hose officer for nearly 15 years, including his tenure as chief from 1997-2000. Nobody in the history of Beacon Hose has been more dedicated than Chief Smith, who has not only been extraordinarily dedicated to our company but has also advocated for the fire service in the Naugatuck Valley, New Haven County, and throughout Connecticut.
Our membership of more than 100 volunteers from Beacon Falls and Naugatuck truly cares about the community in which we live. Our neighbors and friends know they can count on us, whether they face an emergency, need a helping hand, have a question, or want to enjoy an event with their families and friends. Beacon Hose stands ready to continue our service to the Town of Beacon Falls with the pledge to serve, protect, and help make Beacon Falls a safe and caring community in which to live.
After all, Beacon Hose is Beacon Falls.
Written by Kyle Brennan with contributions by Peter Christensen. Photos from department and media archives, as well as photographers Jeremy Rodorigo, Mitch Mulinski, Taylor Docimo, Kyle Brennan, and Ian Belward.