Engine 15 was organized on March 15, 1871 at Howard and Putnam Streets in the Mill District. Putnam Street was later renamed Columbia Avenue. The company was organized in the firehouse formerly occupied by the Taylor Hose Company.
The original members of the company were:
Samuel S. Emery-hoseman
Joseph D. Strunk-hoseman
Lews C. Shiffler-hoseman
The station was rented from the former volunteer company. During the first year of operation for the paid department, the city paid $693.33 in rent. The firehouse was purchased by the city in 1874 for $9,800.00.
Foreman Gustave Wittig of Engine 15 was killed at the Friedlander Leather Remnats fire on December 22, 1910 along with twelve other firemen and one policeman.
A new firehouse was built on the site of the old station during 1927. This building stands today as a private residence.
Engine 15 was disbanded on March 31, 1964.
The Reserve Fire Force, Engines 81 and 82, occupied the building as their headquarters from approximately 1965 until 1978.
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Hoseman John J. Meskill was appointed to the Bureau on March 25, 1886. He was promoted to Assistant Foreman of Engine 29 on April 11, 1894. On March 12, 1895 he was promoted to Foreman and transferred to Engine 2. Foreman Meskill was promoted to Assistant Engineer on May 1, 1897. He served as Acting Chief Engineer from October 1, 1913 until January 27, 1914. Meskill was a member of a family with a long history serving in the Philadelphia Bureau of Fire/Fire Department.
Not exactly a story of Engine 15’s station, but a story of the continued legacy of its designation and number. Near the end of 1972, the year that Joseph Rizzo became Fire Commissioner, Fire Boat 1 was re-designated Engine 15. Fire Boat 2 became Engine 23, and Fire Boat 3 became Engine 32. All these engines had previously been disbanded. So, this post could also appear under Engine 23 and Engine 32. On October 30, 1974, a 6-alarm fire struck the four Reading Co. piers along the Delaware River at the foot of Cumberland St. in the Port Richmond section of the city. As the fire leaped from wooden pier to wooden pier, it created a firestorm resulting in strong winds. Commissioner Rizzo became somewhat upset when one of the boats(“engines”) didn’t follow his order of positioning itself between a burning pier and the last untouched wooden pier. The pilot of that boat explained over the radio that that position was untenable because the windows on his pilot house started cracking and melting from the heat, and the strong wind made the water too choppy for safe manuevering. About 2 weeks later Engine 15 was re-designated Marine 15 as were the other boats using the designation Marine instead of Engine. So, at least the number 15 survived until July 1, 1993, when the 2 remaining boats were again renamed Marine Unit 1 and Marine Unit 2, in effect until today.