Rootseekers review 93-year history of MVFD
Posted by : June 20, 2013| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Tuesday local historian and past Dallas and Mabank firefighter Dick Bramblitt related his research to the Root Seekers on the beginnings of the Mabank Fire Department, which was well represented with about 20 members in attendance.
Bramblitt presented newspaper articles recording several large Mabank fires with great loss of property. Men and women, whoever was on hand grabbed buckets, scooped up water and pitched it on the fire, while others worked to save what they could.
These included two fires of note one in Nov. 19, 1914, in which much of the business district along Third Street was destroyed by an early morning fire, estimated loss totaled $60,000; and another Sept. 21, 1920, in which four brick buildings on the south side of Market Street were destroyed, containing the Woolverton & Son Grocery, Woodmen of the World, Osborne Land Agency, Jones Millinery Shop, the mayor’s office, City Drug Store, Plain Price Store and B. Harris and Co.
In 2000, Opal Toney and Bramblitt recorded an oral history from Ruby Harper, then 98 years old, who had a vivid memory of fighting one of these fires. Bramblitt played it for the Root Seekers.
Harper, in a high, excited voice, told of saving some of the merchandise from one of these stores and the confusion involved with dousing the fire, until she was overcome with heat exhaustion.
It was due to these two big fires that the Mabank Fire Department was formed in 1920 and not in 1921 as was first recorded, Bramblitt said.
Charter members totaled 36, with W.M. Covey as its first fire chief and T.H. Treadwell as president, Henry Eubank as secretary and L.L. Dellis as treasurer.
Among the first fire fighting devices was a two-wheeled, two-drum chemical cart with each drum holding 30 gallons. A chemical reaction between soda, water and sulfuric acid produced pressure to discharge the water through a one-inch hose, Bramblitt explained.
Eighteen men pulled the cart by two long ropes. Newspaperman Thorton Jennings, who was also a fire department member, recorded that the older men would begin on the ropes with the younger men running alongside ready to take their place as they grew tired.
“Some couldn’t even make it halfway down the block,” Thorton wrote.
A year later, the department bought a secondhand, low speed Model T truck and mounted the drums on it. Later they purchased a second Model T for the same purpose. In 1927, a fire station was built next to city hall for $1,000. And in 1929 a water system was installed and one of the Model Ts was converted to carry 1,000 feet of four-inch hose, Bramblitt said. The first pumper was a new Model A truck, bought in 1929. It could deliver 150 gallons of water per minute, which increased the water pressure. Today, the department operates three fire stations: one in Prairieville, the Cedar Creek Country Club and in town.
He also described the digging of the city lake using mule teams dragging fresnos, a heavy, frontloader-like metal scoop, which was drug along the ground and emptied to form the dikes around the lake. Installing a water system required a majority vote of the citizens of Mabank, Bramblitt added.
A newspaper article records a house fire Aug. 3, 1921, in which the members of the fire department scaled the wall to the roof, cut a hole and put out the fire so efficiently that only $200 of damage was estimated to have occurred. “[T]he nature of this fire was such that it is almost certain that the house would have been a complete loss, but for this organization,” states the report.
Later, a siren was purchased but the department hung the bell on the water tower to use in case of electricity failure. The siren button was also pressed in celebration of the ending of World War II by most young people in the town.
Bramblitt projected a number of old photographs on a white screen to illustrate his talk about Mabank, the types of firefighting tools used in that day and age, and groups of firefighters throughout the department’s 93-year history.
Afterwards Mabank VFD EMT Robbie Munden talked about the fire department today, introducing the members in the room, some of whom also appeared in some of the fire department photos dating back to 1970, including Johnny Adams, Mike Rowan and Ricky Myrick among others. Special recognition was given to Bramblitt and R.W. Wier, both former Dallas and longtime Mabank volunteer firefighters.