Though these fires are not elaborated on, the list does reflect the property involved, the extent of fire loss, when known, and the approximate date of the fire.
The first fire recorded in Haverhill’s annals, in 1671, completely destroyed the Matthias button homestead, a thatched roof house near the Edward Bricket mansion on Pond Street (present-day Kenoza Avenue).
During the early years of the 18th century, many of Haverhill’s fires were reportedly set by "marauding Indians," urged on by the French in Canada. On at least two occasions--one on March 15, 1697 and another on August 29, 1708--the Indians massacred settlers, took others captive, and torched their homesteads. These incidents, and others, demonstrated Haverhill’s need for an organized response to fires as well as Indians.
On Sunday afternoon, April 16, 1775, a disastrous blaze swept down the west side of Haverhill’s Main street from Court street to Merrimack street at White's corner. Before the flames had been finally checked at nightfall, seventeen buildings in all had been destroyed. It was obvious that one engine would not hold back the ravages of such a fire. Among the principal structures lost were a large brick tavern of John White, the stores of Joseph Dodge and James Duncan, a distillery, and several residences.
On New Years day, 1847, the first parish meeting house (Unitarian church), located on the Common, caught fire. The flames had gained much headway before the handtubs arrived. The roads were in bad condition and "Veto," the Bradford East Parish engine, arrived at the fire too late to be of any service.
The Haverhill handtubs were supplied water from the river by a bucket brigade made up of men, women, and children. Despite their heroic efforts, they were unable to save the edifice, which had been erected only ten years earlier. The fire caused twelve thousand dollars damage, including the loss of a fine organ and the town clock. The Haverhill firefighters thanked and complimented the Bradford company for responding so quickly to the alarm. The handtub "Veto" and company were returned home to East Bradford on a horse sled by Haverhill’s Chief Engineer; Rufus Slocomb, they crossed the river on the ice at chain ferry, which was owned and operated at the time by George Mitchell, Sr.
Later that year, the Stage street stables burned; the same method of obtaining water was used, with similar results. This time, however, the flames were prevented from spreading to adjacent buildings.
On the afternoon of August 7, 1860, a serious fire totally destroyed many wooden buildings, and badly damaged or greatly endangered numerous others, in the Washington Square area. It was the town of Haverhill’s most destructive fire since April 16, 1775.
The fire started shortly after three o'clock in a barn owned by Oliver H. Roberts and his brother Stephen, in the rear of their homes on the corner of Washington and Essex streets. The barn contained, among other things, more than ten tons of hay recently stored there. The blaze was so intense that in minutes the barn was fully involved. The fire, fanned by high winds, spread quickly in a westerly direction completely destroying another barn owned by Stephen Roberts and badly damaging Oliver Roberts' house on Washington street and Stephen Roberts' house on Essex street. Firemen found it necessary to completely flood Stephen Roberts' house in order to extinguish the flames, causing extensive water damage.
The fire then spread to a small shop, then north to a one-and-a-half story house, both in the rear of Essex street and belonging to the Farnham Plummer estate. It then spread to a large duplex house belonging to Mrs. S. Hale and J. J. Marsh, esq.All three buildings were totally destroyed. A house belonging to Charlotte Pettingell and William Goss, on the easterly side of Essex street, was in imminent danger and was only saved because citizens passed water to the roof of the house by means of a ladder.
The "Torrent" hand engine No.2, usually housed at the Essex street fire station, would have had the fastest response time due to the stations proximity to the fire area; unfortunately, the "Torrent was unable to respond because it was at the Hunneman & Company in Boston, being repaired and overhauled due to damage it had sustained in a Bradford fire four months earlier. Those companies that did respond were the "G .W. Lee" handtub No.4 company, housed at the Court street fire station; the Zouave hook-and-ladder company, out of the Fleet street fire station; the "Tiger" double-deck handtub No.1 company, housed at the Water street fire station; and the "Franklin" handtub company, out of the Bradford station.
Haverhill’s first engine house was constructed on Water street in the summer of 1769 to house, the newly acquired hand-tub, the “Philadelphia.” The new engine house was a small structure, just large enough to hold the hand-tub. It remained in service until a more up-to-date station was built in 1842.
In 1842, Mr. Paul Fletcher purchased the old engine house and moved it to a location, close by on
What follows are some remedies that Haverhill, and its fire department, used to combat the aforementioned problems:
(1) Fire patrols were instituted in the shoe district to keep fire loss in that area to an absolute minimum.
(2) As many as thirteen reservoirs were constructed in various strategic locations in Haverhill’s city proper. Four additional reservoirs were constructed in Bradford, three in Ayers Village, and two in Rocks Village.
(3) Existing reservoirs were made larger to increase their volume of water in needed areas.
(4) Arrangements were made with private parties owning the land that adjoined the river to provide accommodations for setting Haverhill’s steam fire engines.
(5) Grading at Little river and
(6) Additional gates and larger water mains were adopted to control and increase water pressure and Patent hydrants were installed at suitable locations.
(7) The board of engineers adopted a list of suggested locations to set engines taking more effective advantage of the water resources in the city.
(8) The introduction of the chemical engine to Haverhill’s complement of firefighting apparatus resulted in faster response time, decreased water damage, and afforded increased protection to citizens living far from water supplies. Chemical engines also required less men to operate them. For these reasons a decision was made to supplement and finally replace hand engines with chemical engines at both Ayers Village and Rocks Village.