Wantagh Fire Department
In November 1899, the bird factory of William Wilson was destroyed, its contents consumed by a fire. Mr. Wilson was a taxidermist who was in the business of supplying milliners with birds and bird wings for the fashionable women’s hats of the time. While conversations had been ongoing about the danger fire posed to the village, it was now evident that a fire company needed to be formed.
On December 7, 1899, a town meeting was called at which twenty-one residents decided unanimously to organize the Wantagh Hook, Ladder and Engine Company. The first men elected to run the company were Benjamin Carpenter as foreman, D.H. Seymour as assistant, second assistant Frank Seaman, secretary J.T. Seymour, treasurer Alfred Jones and Fred Smith as sergeant at arms. There were fifteen original charter members.
On July 5, 1900, twenty-four new members were elected to the organization. At the meeting, a paper was drawn to solicit subscriptions for the purchase of a truck (horse drawn wagon). A committee was formed to raise funds. It held its first supper dance that Autumn where it raised $81.53 after expenses.
In May 1901, a second-hand hook and ladder truck was purchased for $100 from Sam Meyers of Rockaway Beach. Additional funds went towards ladders, pails and axes.
The first firehouse (the present-day Wantagh Auto Body Shop) on Railroad Ave. was built by John A Box for $1,275 on land owned by Dr. William Rhame. He sold the land for $100 and loaned the money for the construction of the fire house. To pay off the loan the upstairs hall was rented out for affairs, social groups and a dance school. In 1903 a bell was donated by Charles Wellwood that was placed in front of the firehouse for people to ring to alert the firemen of a fire. The lumberyard work horses were used to pull the fire truck (wagon) and their owner was paid for their use.
In July 1909, a massive fire destroyed the Young Bros. lumberyard. Mutual aid was provided by neighboring fire departments. The Bellmore fire department arrived with their mechanical pumper, which was obviously superior to the equipment the Wantagh men had to work with. A hand pump wagon with leather buckets.
In 1910 the local blacksmith, George Box built a horse drawn truck (wagon). A Fairbanks gasoline pump was purchased and mounted on the truck that could pump out 66 gallons of water a minute. This was a big improvement over using pails.
During February 1915, ground was broken for an addition to the fire house. It was opened in April with a dance and a pinochle game. The superintendent of the project was Charles H. Robinson.
When the United States entered WWI, the firemen opened the firehouse hall as a reading and writing room for the soldiers and pilots at nearby Lufberry airfield.
In 1922, the Wantagh fire district was created. The first chief of the new district was William Valentine. A demonstration of the new La France combination fire engine was made at the ceremony.
In 1923, a 300 gallon tank, triple combination pumper, chemical and hose truck was purchased.
Today the Wantagh Fire Department consists of 5 firehouses and a fireboat. The department has a wide range of special trucks and equipment to aid a community that ranges from Levittown to Jones Beach State Park.
Scope of Collection
The Wantagh Fire Department has been in existence for 120 years. Its history is laid out in this scope mainly with photographs and some documents of its growth and community activities through the decades of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.