In the brotherhood of firefighters, they call it “The last alarm”.
Last week marked a dark anniversary for the Gardner Fire Department as 55 years ago they lost one of their own in the line of duty with the death of Pvt. Ernest Brodeur.
On November 27, 1966, Pvt. Brodeur suffered a fatal heart attack while fighting a fire that left two more victims in a home at 242 West Broadway, near the site of what is now the South Side Grille.
Officially, the “Last Alarm” occurred twice within the local department.
Outside the Gardner Fire Station on City Hall Avenue, the Gardner Firefighters Memorial to the right of the headquarters pays tribute to two firefighters who were lost in the line of duty and to the box where their last alarm was called:
Deputy Fire Chief Harry G. Fisher, Box 345 (at Kelly Brothers on Logan Street)
Private Brodeur, Box 29 (West Broadway and Dyer Street).
We also note on the commemorative stone the poignant verse entitled “The prayer of a firefighter”:
When I am called to duty, God
Wherever the flames may rage
Give me the strength to save lives
Whatever his age
Each year on the second Sunday in June, the Gardner Fire Department joins with other fire crews nationwide in commemorating the annual Firefighters’ Memorial Sunday.
The memories of Fisher and Brodeur, of their dedication and service to the town department, continue to shine despite the fact that several decades have passed since they answered their last call.
Deputy Fire Chief Harry G. Fisher
Deputy Chief Fisher became the department’s first death as a Gardner firefighter, when he fell ill and died on October 27, 1944. A member of the department for 31 years, Fisher collapsed and died in the age 64 while fighting a fire at the former Gardner Gas Fuel and Light Co. building on Logan Street.
He was helped at the South Gardner Fire Station after it collapsed, but died of heart disease before medical help could be called.
Help me kiss a little child
Before it’s too late
Or save an old person from
The horror of fate
The late Annie Fisher was married to Harry’s son Arnold Fisher, former Gardner city councilor. She recalled in an interview many years ago that she and her husband were at a ball in town hall when they learned of the fire.
âGuy Spofford was his driver and Harry was coming back from the fire in the truck when he said to Guy: ‘It’s so dark I can’t see’,â she said, noting his last words. Stepfather. “Then he collapsed in the seat and they threw him into the South Gardner fire station.”
Fisher was helped inside the station but died before medical help could be called.
âIt was a terrible shock to the whole family, but Harry was a very dedicated firefighter,â recalls Annie Fisher, noting that like many Gardner firefighters of that time, Harry had a fire bell in his room that rang every once there was a fire in town.
Fisher was foreman with Mahoney Chair Co. in South Gardner and was appointed Regular Call Firefighter on January 15, 1913. Moving up through the ranks he was appointed Captain of Engine 1 in 1920 and eventually became the First Assistant to the Board of ‘administration. Engineers in 1940.
Let me be alert
And hear the faintest cry
And quickly and efficiently
To put out the fire
Pvt. Ernest Brodeur
Pvt. Brodeur was the victim of a fire 55 years ago that claimed the lives of two occupants of the building, Mrs. CÃ©cile Dines and her brother-in-law, George. Ironically, Ms Dines’ late husband James had been a member of the fire department and was a close friend of Pvt. Embroiderer.
âWe always thought maybe that was the reason for what happened to him,â said Thomas Brodeur, recalling his father’s friendship with the Dines family. “He was on a ladder, carrying the pipe, and I’m sure there was an adrenaline rush trying to get up there to help Mrs. Dines and her brother-in-law.”
Brodeur, who was 58, tended a garden hose in the back of the house and was climbing a ladder to the second floor when he suffered a severe heart attack.
âThe men who were there said he was probably dead before he hit the ground,â recalls Thomas Brodeur of his father, who was appointed emergency firefighter in 1938 and then appointed firefighter in 1952.
I want to fulfill my vocation and
To give the best of me
To keep all my neighbors and
Protect your property
“In fact, the majority of firefighters in the country who die in the line of duty today die of heart disease or stress-related illnesses,” said retired fire chief Richard P. Ares, service historian. ‘Gardner fire.
In both cases, survivors recalled the tremendous support families received from the brothers of the firefighters, who joined in the outpouring of grief felt by the community.
âWe didn’t have any arrangements to make, from start to finish the Gardner firefighters were just wonderful to our family,â said Brodeur.
Ms Fisher agreed, “Bob Tappin was the chief back then and he and all the men in the department were so united back then.”
Fortunately, it has been more than half a century since a casualty was felt by members of the Gardner fire community.
Hopefully the firefighters who bravely serve the city will continue to have luck on their side and don’t have to hear the closing lines of “A Fireman’s Prayer” come true:
And if according to my fate
i will lose my life
Please bless with your protective hand
My children and my wife.
Another Gardner firefighter also died in the line of duty, although he is not on the memorial stone.
Next week we will pay tribute to Fire Chief George Hodgman on the occasion of his death on duty, exactly 100 years ago in December 1921.
Comments and suggestions for The Gardner Scene can be sent to Mike Richard at [email protected] or in writing to Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Road, Sandwich, MA 02563.