The First Fire
The first mention of a fire in Brookline is recorded in Samuel Sewall's journal in 1688. He records that a "wigwam" on the Muddy River caught fire and 3 Indian children died. Early firefighting in Brookline was performed by volunteer fire companies using hand buckets and water from wells. In 1729, an engine company was formed in the Punch Bowl Village (Washington Street, Brookline Street, and Pearl Street). Another official company was established in 1784.
By 1795, Town Meeting had voted to pay for one-half the expense of the company and the purchase of a new hand tub fire engine, named the Vigilant. The men were known as the Vigilant Company. Both fire companies comprised of men from both Brookline and Boston.
The First Fire House
The first engine house (fire house) was constructed about this time. It was a 10- by 15-foot-building located first on Walnut Street near Village Lane and later to a lot between Boylston Street and Walnut Street. A system of fire wardens was established in 1791; it was the duties of these officers to attend each fire.
A new engine, the Norfolk, was bought in 1828 and the old one sold for $30. It was built by Thayer and was paid for by subscriptions from both towns. Brookline contributed $400 and Boston paid $150. With extra money, a new engine house was built over the brook where Washington Street crossed it (near the current MBTA bridge).
Early Fire Companies
The early fire companies were like social or private clubs; the firehouse served as a social center for functions such as chowder parties, parades, and musters. In 1834, the company asked the selectmen to provide a chowder kettle. When the selectmen refused, the company disbanded and another company was organized.
In 1839, the Brookline 1, a new engine built by Hunneman, was bought for $900 and the Norfolk sold. This company had trouble electing officers so they disbanded, leaving the town without an organized company for a time. Someone set fire to the firehouse and the engine Brookline in 1843. A new station was completed within 6 months, probably on or near the site of the present fire station at High Street and Washington Street.
A progression of companies were formed, including one calling itself the Bone and Muscle of Brookline in 1844. The Good Intent Hose Company appeared in 1865.
First Ladder Truck
The first ladder truck was purchased in 1852. In 1873, the George H. Stone Hook and Ladder Company became the first regular organized ladder company. Stone was a popular member of the fire force who had fought in the Civil War. A new ladder and hook truck was bought around this time for $1,200. The first steam engine was obtained in 1873; the next year the first chemical fire engine was bought. The first piece of motorized equipment was a Knox 1909 chemical and hose wagon, which had been built in Springfield, Massachusetts. The department became completely motorized by the 1920s.
The election of fire wardens was discontinued in 1871. These positions were replaced by a Board of Engineers appointed by the selectmen. In 1899, legislation was passed to reorganize the department under a Fire Commissioner. The first one appointed was B.W. Neal,. Jr.