Fire Dept History

Department Chiefs

Department History

1854 – Olean was incorporated as a Village.

1855 – Olean’s first fire company was christened on July 21st as the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company. Twenty-four volunteers filled its ranks.

1860 – Olean’s first firehouse was built on South 1st Street. Also, the first horse-drawn, steam operated fire engine was bought with 250 feet of hose, at a cost of $1,100.

1893 – Olean was incorporated as a City with N.V.V. Franchot as Mayor.

1894 – Olean established the Olean Fire Department, a paid, full-time department. William H. Simpson was named the department’s first fire chief. He came to Olean in 1878 and was prominent in organizing the "Citizens’ Hose", a volunteer company in the early days of the department. He served a number of years as foreman of that company. Some of the other volunteer companies formed in the earlier days were Fountain, Old Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company, Acme, Luther, and the Barse and Turner Hose Companies. The Fountain Hose Company was located on South 1st Street; the Citizens, in back of the city hall; the old Pioneer Hook and Ladder, in the city building; the Acme, in North Olean; the Luther, on North Union Street; the Barse, on West State Street and the Turner on Wayne St. The volunteer headquarters were located over Sam Binny’s Café, on North Union Street north of the First National Bank Building. The first two paid firemen were "Jack" O’Hara and Jim Brown.

1898 – The fire headquarters on North 1st Street (current Fire Station 1) was built.

1910 – Firehouse 2 was built on South 8th Street and Firehouse 3 was built on North Union Street. The fire department bought its first motorized fire truck, but horses remained in use by the department because the engine failed to perform as expected. It didn’t have the power to climb the West Sullivan Street hill.

1924 – Mayor Pierce orders the Olean Common Council to establish a separate committee to raise funds for new firefighting equipment. The mayor said the city’s equipment is antiquated but Olean doesn’t have enough tax revenue to buy up-to-date equipment.

1933 – Line of Duty Death – Thomas E. Brown, responded with his Company to a fire at 1611 North Union Street. Firefighter Brown went into the structure in which there was a great deal of smoke. He came out of the structure and complained of feeling sick. He returned back to the firehouse where he later collapsed. He was unable to be revived.

1953 – The fire department bought its first ambulance, a 1954 Packard. Prior to this we relied on a commercially run ambulance. Mrs. Theo B. Sheldon is the person who pushed the common council that the city needed to purchase a city-operated ambulance. There was an accident in which a pedestrian was struck by a car on N. Union St. and lay on the pavement for an extremely long time. The commercial ambulance never arrived. A SPCA vehicle stopped and took the patient to the hospital. Mrs. Theo B. Sheldon witnessed this and she went to the common council and convinced them to purchase a city-operated ambulance. The ambulance was operated with no formal training provided for the firefighter. Once in a while a standard first aid course was offered to a few, but this was sporadic and not done with the help of the medical profession. It was basically a fetch and carry service.

1954 – The Olean Common Council members agree to create a city run ambulance service. The fee is $10 per call with a charge of 50 cents per mile to patients who need trips beyond city limits.

1957 – Olean Fire Department starts running Ambulance Services

1961 – The City of Olean Fire Department established a mutual aid agreement with area volunteer fire companies.

1964 – Herbert J. Elmore was our first black Firefighter.

1967 – The Olean City firefighters began training to be Emergency Medical Technicians.

1968 – The City of Olean Fire Department became a member of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 1796.

1970 – Westbrook Building fire (Printz Company Men’s Clothing Store and Michael’s Cafeteria), 154 North Union Street. It was reported that firemen turned into icy statues as they fought the blaze in wind – whipped 17-degree temperatures.

1974 – Sniper incident at the Olean High School; three people were killed and eleven injured; Numerous firefighters were injured – Firefighter Herbert Elmore received a gunshot wound to the head and never returned to work. There are 47 Firefighters on duty at this time.17 year old sniper killed three people and injured eleven. In November 1975 he hung himself in jail. The alarm came in as a fire alarm at 1507. Earl Weidt took the initial dispatch. The fire vehicles were shot at as they responded to the call. The sniper kept the police at bay for two hours as he shot from a third floor window.

1976 – The Olean Fire Department’s ambulance service became the first non-commercial service in the Buffalo region to receive New York State Department of Health Certification. OCFD had 30 firefighters with EMT Certification at the time.

1978 – Firehouse # 3 on North Union Street was demolished and the current Central Fire Station was built. At this time the department had 36 EMTs.

1979 – Firefighters moved into the newly constructed Central Fire Station. It was built at a cost of more than $400,000 and is located at 542 N. Union St.

1985 – Tower Apartment fire at 521 East Pine Street in February; Rocket Gas Station fire on East State Street in July.

1986 – Precinct II Tavern and 15 apartments fire at 816 West State Street. This building was built in 1921 and had been a maternity hospital called the West Side Hospital. Firefighters had to rescue tenants from the roof and from the 2nd and 3rd story windows when the fire blocked the staircase.

1989 – The Olean Fire Department purchased their first semi-automatic defibrillator at the cost of $5,000. Also, since 1989 the Fire Department has run the Codes Office.

1990 – In September our defibrillator was used for the first time to shock a patient. The patient survived and recovered.

1993 – Sally Bullers was appointed in September. (First female firefighter).

1995 – House fire at 125 North Seventh Street. Three civilians were rescued and all made full recoveries. Platoon "A" later won the Firehouse Annual Heroism Award for these rescues.

1996 - ‘A’ Platoon (Captain Paul Melfi, Lt. Lyle Layman, Al LaFredo, Rich Groth, Wayne Sherlock, Lee Witruke, Bob Bartholomew) won the Firehouse annual heroism award for the May 21st fire in which they rescued and revived a mother and her two children.

1998 – The Fire Department purchased their first thermal imaging camera.

1999 – Civilians took over dispatching duties for the City. Prior to this police officers and firefighters manned Olean’s emergency telephones and radios. The city’s Insurance Service Organization (ISO) rating went from a class 4 to a class 3. The last time the ISO had reviewed the city fire department was in 1963. That year the city rated as a class 5 department.

2004 – House fire at 233 West Sullivan Street – Historical House built in the 1860’s

2007 – City of Olean dispatching duties are sent to Little Valley, New York. The County Dispatchers now dispatch us to the majority of our calls.  Olean Firefighters have a record year with over 2,600 ambulance calls.