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History

History

Origins

The story of the Atlantic Engine Company No. 2 dates back to 1847 when the Camden Fire Engine Association, later renamed Hydrant Fire Company No. 1, was launched. In 1867 the members of the Company reorganized to create a larger force with enough manpower to handle 2 engines (Hydrant Engine No. 1 and Atlantic No. 2). Calling themselves "Atlantic Engine Company No. 2," they adopted "Always Ready" as their motto (later changed to "We Come to Save"). Equipment consisted of 2 hand pumpers plus hose reels and ladders.

A very early photo of Camden firefighters with their hand-drawn hose reel (AEC Collection).

 

Hunneman pumper, "Pacific," 1866. This engine originally belonged to the Pacific Engine Company in Rockport, later sold to a company in West Camden (courtesy Camden Public Library).

 

Atlantic Engine Company No. 2 in full dress regalia (courtesy Camden Public Library).


The Great Fire

On November 10, 1892, Camden was devastated by an enormous conflagration that became known simply as "the Great Fire." It began at 1 a.m. in George Cleveland's building on the east side of Main street and by the time the alarm was given it was raging and growing fast. The fire department responded valiantly but their equipment wasn't up to the task and at some point the water pressure from their hydrants gave out. A stiff wind off the water drove the flames across the street and by the time the fire was knocked down at dawn it had destroyed a great portion of the downtown. If a snow squall hadn't dampened roofs in the west part of the village shortly after the fire began, the catastrophe may have been far worse. The exact cause of the fire was never definitively determined, but it was most likely a heating apparatus.

Fortunately most of the property owners downtown were insured, and they set about rebuilding as soon as possible. As a precaution the town prohibited permanent wood structures in the downtown area, which is why so many buildings there today are brick.

The Great Fire of November 1892 virtually flattened the entire downtown district (courtesy Camden Public Library).


Steam Era

After the fire department's discouraging experience with insufficient water pressure from their hydrant during the Great Fire, the town resolved to acquire a modern steam pumper. Thanks to generous support from the Molyneaux family, they purchased a new steamer from the Manchester Locomotive Works in New Hampshire. This afforded considerably more firefighting power to the Atlantic Engine Company. The steamer remained in service until 1917.

Steam pumper purchased in 1892 soon after the Great Fire with funds from the Molyneaux family. Price was $5,000. This engine is now on display at the fire station (AEC collection).


Twentieth Century

On November 12, 1917 "The Elms" hotel (formerly the Bay View House) burned down. After a passerby noticed smoke coming out of the attic at dawn, the alarm was sounded and the fire department responded quickly with 5 streams of water. The slate roof contained the fire for a time, but when the roof collapsed the flames surged out and threatened the Baptist church next door. Fortunately the fire was brought under control quickly. This site eventually became the town green (courtesy Camden Public Library).

Atlantic Engine Company No. 2 in 1929. The old Hunneman and the steam pumper (left) were retired by this point and had been replaced with a new fleet of gasoline-powered trucks (AEC Collection).

 

Hose 1 in 1929 (AEC Collection).

 

Chief Allen Payson (at the wheel) posing with some of his men (AEC Collection).

 

Camden's waterfront burned on a Sunday afternoon, May 19, 1935, beginning in a storage building behind the Bay View Street Garage. Wind spread the fire to the brick building formerly housing the Camden Anchor-Rockland Machine Company. Rockland and Rockport Fire Departments arrived to help bring things under control. A suspect was charged with arson and later committed to the State Hospital (courtesy Camden Public Library).

 

Ladder 1 circa 1940 (AEC Collection).

 

Ladder 1 at the 1965 Tannery fire (AEC Collection).

 

Chief Oxton (back row right) and some of the crew (AEC Collection).

 

Atlantic Engine Company No. 2 in 1980 (AEC Collection).

 

Atlantic Engine Company No. 2 in 2006 (AEC Collection).