New Hartford did not get a formal ambulance service until the 1960’s; however, its fire department was formed much earlier, although surprisingly late for a factory town.
In 1885, a major fire burned a large portion of the town center, destroying 12 buildings and damaging a number of others. It was only put out with the help of Winsted’s fire department, which had raced to the scene via train and horse. (see the print edition of the New Hartford Independent this coming Saturday, to be cross-posted here later) It was clear that New Hartford needed a fire department and immediate discussion ensued; a somewhat unnecessary editorial comment from the Hartford Courant stated that, “New Hartford had had a severe lesson, as it was predicted it must, before its citizens would waken up to the need of a fire engine and an organized fire department.”
Nonetheless, it was not until 1895 that the department was organized under the direction of William T. Platt, a blacksmith who owned a shop on High Street. Thirty-one charter members formed the first volunteer department. At the time the department owned little equipment. Its first engine was not even horse-drawn, rather it was ‘Old Handrail’ a small hose-wagon. Two years later, however, they were able to purchase a horse-drawn hook and ladder engine with a thousand feet of hose. Having relatively little equipment was counterbalanced in the town center by the high quality water system that fed the town, the system could deliver water at 135 lbs of pressure.