Early Fire Chiefs' Autos
by Doug Welch,
Town of Manchester Fire Department Historian and Retired Firefighter

The first transportation purchased for use of the SMFD chief was a buggy purchased in January, 1903 for the use of the chief and the fire alarm superintendent. It was equipped with a searchlight which was mounted on the buggy, but could also be removed and carried by hand.

Following an automobile accident in July 1916 when his personal vehicle struck and injured a man on a bicycle while responding to an alarm, Chief O. J. Atwood began pushing for a fire department vehicle for his use. While his auto was being repaired from the damage done by his accident, he was forced to respond to one fire alarm in the north end of the fire district riding in the side car of Officer Madden's motorcycle.

Since all the fire companies at the time possessed motorized apparatus, Chief Atwood, and others, felt that he should be provided with a department auto. He even went so far as to threaten to resign his position as chief should he not be provided with transportation.

A new REO roadster to be used by Chief Atwood for fire department business was delivered November 11, 1916 and turned over to the chief. It was painted black with red doors on which was lettered "S.M.F.D. Chief's Car". In addition, a detached one-car heated garage was built to the rear of Company No. 1's fire house on Pine Street to house the chief's car, being in close proximity to Chief Atwood‘s home.

In 1918, Chief William H. Burke was elected chief. He lived on the opposite side of town, so one of the first things he did after his election was to build an addition onto the rear of the ladder truck bay at Station No. 4, at a cost to the Fire District of $870, to house the chief's car closer to his home.

The REO roadster with side curtains was used until 1926 when a new chief's car was presented to newly appointed Chief Albert Foy. That car remained in service until being replaced by a 1938 Ambassador Nash auto on January 22nd of that year. The new vehicle was equipped with fog lights and two powerful searchlights mounted over the windshield. It also was made with large storage in the trunk area for storage of fire fighting gear. In order to make space for the gear, the spare tire was mounted on the front fender.