History of the
Olney Fire Department
The first attempt to gaurd against fire in the City of Olney was in 1856, when fire hooks and ladders were procured. There was no provision as to where these should be kept, and they were soon scattered all over town. When the fire alarm sounded, everybody who had one grabbed his hook and ladder and scampered. As the hooks and ladders were frequently in one place and the volunteer firefighters in another, most of the fires had a good start before these tools were assembled. In 1867 someone thought of the bright idea that these should all be kept in one place. After that, fires were often put out on the same day.
In 1879, Olney really embarked on the firefighting business. Two dozen pails and axes were ordered and in addition, in June of the same, a "No. 5 two-wheeled Champion Chemical Fire Engine" was purchased at a cost of $1,800. The boys were so proud of this that they could hardley wait for the next fire. This machine has a hundred gallon cylinder, covered with brass, in which soda and sulphuric acid were held in seperate receptacles. When needed for service, the cylinder thereby mixed and the reaction caused such pressure that this machine could throw a stream for the distance of 75 feet. This machine furnished the fire fighting apparatus for the CIty for many years until the water mains were laid about 1892. At that time a new water pressure steam machine was purchased and took the place as the City's most ornamental equipage. This was a glorious adornment as it was of polished brass with a large boiler. When this machine came down the street pulled by two of Elliott's charging horses, with steam up and smoke rolling from the boiler, it caused almost as much excitement as the fire itself.