Monthly business meetings:
First Tuesday of Every Month at 7:30 P.M.
Danbury CT. Volunteer Fire Department
Water Witch Hose Company #7 was formed in 1889 in response to a petition by the residents of East Danbury. The petition was started in response to a firebug scare that started on July 6, 1889 with a huge blaze that erupted on Canal Street. This was the first of 20 deliberately set fires that plagued the City of Danbury for almost two months. The residents petitioned the city council to locate a fire company at the corner of Locust Avenue and White Street. Water Witch Hose Co. #7 was formed on September 3, 1889. There were some disagreements among members of the company as to where the firehouse would be built. By the end of October 1889, it was decided that the firehouse would be built on Locust Avenue some distance from the corner of Locust and White.
On September 4, 1890, one year after the company’s formation, it was decided that Water Witch would proceed ahead in joining the Danbury Fire Department. On February 20, 1891, the city of Danbury formally admitted Water Witch into the fire department. This notice was read and entered into the meeting minutes of March 5, 1891. On April 2, 1891 the company voted to join the State of Connecticut Fireman’s Association. The annual dues were $7.00. In May 1891, the members of Water Witch marched in their first Memorial Day Parade. All members were requested to attend or they would have to pay a fine of $2.00. It cost $25.00 to have the “National Band” accompany them.
In April 1920, Water Witch received its first motorized fire engine and sometime in the mid-20s received a new fire truck that would replace the original.
On November 19, 1940 the Common Council passed a resolution that authorized Water Witch to organize a fire police unit that would consist of no more than 20 members. A proviso that was attached to the resolution stated that all expenses incurred from the formation of such a unit would be defrayed by Water Witch Hose Co. #7. On January 7, 1941, the fire police unit was established and its officers were: Albert Weber – Captain; Louis Moffa – Lieutenant; M. George Schweitzer – Secretary and Harold Barton – Treasurer. The duties of this unit was to assist the police department on the fire ground with crowd and traffic control, and was even called upon to aid the police department in other instances that did not involve a fire scene. On February 4, 1941, the fire police purchased a 1941 Dodge Emergency truck.
In 1963, the city and town of Danbury was consolidated into one through a referendum. As a result of this, on January 1, 1965, all of Danbury’s twelve volunteer fire companies were accepted into the Danbury Fire Department. In 1965, the city of Danbury put in a new alerting system into effect. This system consisted of home alerting monitors or 10-10s as they were known to all firefighters. Volunteer firefighters for the first time did not have to listen for the various sirens or whistles that alerted them to a fire call. Now they could hear which fire company was needed and also the location of the fire call.
In the mid-60s, at the request of Fire Chief Hanna, the member of Water Witch searched for a new fire truck that would be the first of its kind in the city of Danbury. They sought to bring in a utility type truck that would provide lighting through the use of an onboard 10 kilowatt generator. The company added various sized portable lights and electric reels to bring the lighting closer to the scene. The company also added salvage and overhaul equipment. On January 18, 1966, in a meeting led by Captain Ken Anderson, the company voted to purchase a rescue type truck for $16,514.72. The truck was delivered in July of 1966.
On March 4, 1970, the members of Water Witch took great pride in seeing one of their former members become the Chief of the Danbury Fire Department. Joseph Bertalovitz was the assistant chief of the fire department at the time of his appointment as chief. Chief Bertalovitz was the chief for 13 years before retiring in 1983. Probably the toughest time for the chief and all firefighters came on February 23, 1982. Danbury lost two of its firefighters in a blaze at the Awad Manufacturing Company on Osborne Street. Lt. Martin “Butch” Melody and Ff. Joseph Halas lost their lives when the second floor of the factory fell on top of them. The members of Water Witch were deeply saddened by the loss of both firefighters. One of them, Lt. Melody was an honorary member of Water Witch. Butch and Joe were the first firefighters to lose their lives in the line of duty in the history of the Danbury fire department. They are sadly missed. In the mid-70s, Water Witch added to its ability to light up the fire scene by adding two 1,500 watt lights that were permanently mounted to the roof of the fire truck.
In the 80s, Water Witch specialized once again by placing a four tank cascade system on the truck. This was the first time in the city that fire fighters could have their air tanks refilled on the fire ground. In 1986, the members of Water Witch voted to separate the duties of fire ground leadership and business leadership. The first President Michael Dodson was elected. In 1988, the membership began work on building a new fire truck to replace the one purchased in 1966. The capabilities of the truck were created to handle the workload of covering the entire city of Danbury as its only lighting and air unit. The air system alone would allow for unlimited tanks to be refilled right on the scene of the fire. This was accomplished through the installation of a mobile compressor unit that was driven by a diesel engine. The lighting system was supported by an on-board 20 kilowatt generator that far surpassed the capability of the old truck. Water Witch also added the capability of being able to work with the Danbury Police Dive Team because the air system was certified to provide SCUBA grade air as well. Water Witch took delivery of an Emergency One Fire Truck in 1989.
In the late 80s as the firehouse began looking into a new vehicle, it was apparent that the vehicle we needed to build was not able to fit into the firehouse. Water Witch entered into discussions with the city fire department about building a combined fire station for Water Witch and paid company Engine 23. This would not be the first time our two companies would be housed together. For nearly 40 years these two companies shared the Locust Avenue station. Engine 23 was moved out and placed in a station on Osborne Street. The discussions continued, but never moved to a satisfactory conclusion. It was then decided that the city would entertain bids to build a new fire house for Water Witch on the site it had sat on for over 100 years. In 1990, the old fire house was demolished and the new station was erected. Water Witch moved into the new firehouse in 1991.
The 90s proved to be a quiet period for Water Witch. With a new truck and fire station, the company worked to keep up with the new requirements for fire fighters to respond to fires. Late in the 90s, Water Witch found themselves not being the only lighting and air unit in the city. Under the direction of the Fire Chief, it was decided that Citizens Hose Co. #6 would purchase a lighting and air unit to serve half the city. For the first time since 1966, Water Witch did not serve the entire city. Although Water Witch receives grant money from the City of Danbury annually, the amount of that grant has been the same for many years. Water Witch had to find a way to bring in funds to allow us to provide the protection needed to ensure our fire fighters safety. In May of 1990, the first Mother’s Day Flower sale was held in the hopes of raising additional funds to support our organizational goals. In April of 1991, Water Witch began selling flowers for Easter as well. In 2010, Water Witch held its 19th Easter and Mother’s Day Flower sales (the 2006 Mother’s Day sale was cancelled due to weather concerns).
In 2008, the members of Water Witch realized the truck built back in 1989 was too big for the services we provided and the maintenance costs were becoming more than we could handle. It was decided that Water Witch would once again build a new fire truck. This time the size of our district was taken into account as well as the size of our bank accounts. It was quickly learned that if we were to spec out a truck the same size and capabilities of the Emergency One unit, the cost would be well over $400,000. Since Water Witch now only served the north side of Danbury on a first response basis, there was no need to build such a large truck. Water Witch entered into an agreement with Emergency One to build us a smaller fire truck but with all the capabilities to allow us to continue to serve the city in the way it has become accustomed to over the past 125 years.
We service one-half of the City of Danbury as a specialty lighting and air unit.