Chemical 7 was reorganized during 1904 at 82nd Street and Tinicum Avenue in the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia. On December 17, 1927 Chemical 7 was disbanded to place Engine 69 in service. The company was one of four engines organized during 1927 and 1928 with a hose and chemical wagon only. If they had a fire that required a larger diameter hose line, the company would place a hydrant stream in service. A new pumper was supposed to be purchased for Engine 69 during 1929 but it was delayed by the Great Depression. Engine 69 received a pumper during 1933 when a 1926 American LaFrance 900 GPM engine was assigned to them.
During the 1930’s, a new station was opened for Engine 69 at 8201 Tinicum Avenue. On January 8, 1943 Truck 26 was organized. This was unusual since there were restrictions on the acquisition of fire apparatus and a shortage of manpower as a result of World War II. The Bureau of Fire must have had to prove an urgent need to get the resources needed to place the company in service. Truck 26 was assigned a 1943 Ward LaFrance quad. It had a 750 GPM pump and 100-gallon booster tank and carried an assortment of ground ladders, the longest being 45 feet.
Grass Fire Fighter 1 (GF 1) was placed in service in Engine 69’s station on March 7, 1968. Rescue 19 entered service at Engine 69 on April 16, 1970. They were moved to Engine 40’station on April 4, 1988. A foam pumper, Engine 169 was assigned here for a few years in the early 1990’s.
The city’s budget woes dictated a number of changes for Engine 69 and Ladder 26. On June 27, 1983 Engine 69 and Ladder 26 were reorganized as Task Force 26. On July 1, 1988 Task Force 26 was placed out of service and Engine 69 and Ladder 26 were reorganized. This lasted until January 26, 1994 when Task Force 26 was placed back in service. On July 18, 1998 Ladder 26 was disbanded and the quint assigned to Engine 16 was reassigned to Engine 69. They were now in service as Quint 69. In July 2015 the quint went kaput and was relinquished. Engine 69 was back in service.
Today, the firehouse at 8201 Tinicum Avenue is home to Engine 69, Medic 55B, ES 12, and Battalion 6. Medic 55B was placed in service on June 30, 2017. ES 12 moved in on February 26, 2018 and Battalion 6 was reorganized here on January 14, 2019.
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Driving thru the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia down by the airport in the 1950s and 60s you would have thought you were in a Louisiana Bayou community, not that you were within the limits of the City of Philadelphia. Most of the streets in this marshy area didn’t have sidewalks. Most of the houses were 1or2 story stand alone whose lots had large garden plots and/or chicken coops. Now, with the building of I-95, expansion of airport parking lots, new residential, commercial, and industrial development, there are only a handful of blocks that have the old Eastwick houses. One night in the late 50’s with me and my Hallicrafters tuneable fire radio in the backseat with my father driving our car near the airport, we heard Engine 69 being dispatched for a rubbish fire at 77th & Brewster. So, we decided to take it in. We got there a minute or so behind Engine 69 and they were already in service with their John Bean booster line blasting into a large pile of illegally dumped burning trash at the end of the street. While we were observing the action, I heard this rustling to my side. Looking over about 15ft. away in the dim light of the street light, there was a cow tied to a fence post. Only possible in Engine 69’s local!
On December 2, 1969, working the 12am-8am shift in the Fire Alarm Room, I was assigned to the Bell Phone position which received phone calls from the public and the police radio positions. At 4:07am, I received a call over the fire dept. business number with the caller saying, “strike out Box 1932!”. I said, “What?” This was the only time in my dispatching career that a caller told me what box to transmit. He continued, “I’m the guard at the Esso tank farm, and we have a sign here that if there’s a fire to call this number and say strike out Box 1932, but the fire is next door at McCloskey Construction Co.”. So, we transmitted Box 1932 at 70th St. & Essington Ave.(aka Industrial Hwy.). First-in Engine 69 reported a 1 & 2 story brick building at McCloskey’s with heavy fire showing and for all companies to lead-off with 2.5 inch water lines. Probably because the fire was some distance off Essington Ave. and lack of hydrants in the area, Battalion 7 requested the 2nd alarm at 4:25am. The fire didn’t spread to the oil tank farm and was placed under control at 5:08am.
Engine 69 has the notorious distinction of being the only PFD company to hit a moving train. On March 25, 1976 at 6:33pm, while responding to a building fire at 73rd & Woodland Ave., Engine 69 hit the front, left corner of a freight train locomotive, travelling about 10 mph coming out of Center City. This occurred at a Reading RR grade crossing across Island Rd. near Eastwick Ave. There were no gates at this crossing, only flashing red signals which were working. The impact of the collision sent the booster reel of the 1967 Ward LaFrance pumper onto the men sitting in the rear facing seats. The driver of Engine 69 was most seriously injured being hospitalized in serious condition. Ladder 26, following Engine 69 to the fire, freed Engine 69’s members from their entrapment using their manpower and pry tools. The engineer of the locomotive was not injured. Today, there is an overpass on Island Rd. going over these railroad tracks.