Engine 8 was organized March 15, 1871 at 143 Race Street in the quarters formerly occupied by the Vigilant Fire Company. The city paid $833.33 in rent for 1871.
The original company roster was as follows:
Foreman Henry H. Smith
Engineer Charles Cooper
Driver Richard H. Jennings
Fireman Charles G. Newkirk
Hoseman William A. Cahill
Hoseman John Burns
Hoseman M.J. McLaughlin
Hoseman James Mack
Hoseman William A. Spiskey
Hoseman Cornelius Foley
Hoseman Henry C. Ridgway
Hoseman John Murray
Mrs. Lawrence was the company matron.
Hoseman William Spiskey was promoted to Foreman and assigned to Engine 2 on April 1, 1875. He resided at 112 Race Street. On February 19, 1878, while off duty, Spiskey intervened in a dispute between two of his neighbors, Dennis Haley and Cornelius Ochsline. He walked Ochsline home and when walking back to the scene of the fight was hit in the head with a paving stone by Haley. Foreman Spiskey was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital. He never recovered from his injuries and died on March 16, 1878. The incident was declared a murder by the police.
From the 1898 Annual Report Bureau of Fire Philadelphia, Page 15 we learned that “The new firehouse at the corner of Second Street and Drinker’s Alley has just been completed at a cost of $13,490. ” This new firehouse was located at 147 N. 2nd Street and would be the future home of Fireman’s Hall Museum. The company officially occupied the building on March 27, 1899. They would remain at this location until October 22, 1952, when they moved to 319 Race Street with Ladder 2. Both companies would move again on July 10, 1968. On that date, they moved to a new station at 4th and Arch Streets. Engine 8 was disbanded January 5, 2009 after nearly 138 years of service to Olde City.
On November 23, 2019, Engine 8 was placed back in service at 4th & Arch Streets. It is now known as Squrt 8, and is in the station along with Tower Ladder 2, Battalion 4, and Medic 44.
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At noon on Tuesday, July 30, 1968, a dedication ceremony for the new fire station at 4th & Arch Sts. housing Engine 8, Ladder 2 , and Battalion 4 was held. Proceedings went as usual with remarks by Commissioner McCarey, renditions by the Police & Firemens Band and the various prayers. At the end of the ceremony, tasty roast beef sandwiches provided by an Old City sandwich shop were laid out on a table in the apparatus bay for the attendees. As the last attendees were trickling out, a skid row denizen wandered in taking out one of the sandwiches. Word soon got out to his buddies congregating nearby, and the whole group came in, one of them asking Battalion 4, Chief Jack Fix, the host, if they could finish up the remaining sandwiches. With a look of resignation on his face, he said “why not”, and they left with the remaining goodies. Chief Fix probably didn’t realize it at the time, but it turned out to be their first act of “community outreach” in their new station.
At 8:55pm on April 7, 1967, the Fire Alarm Room received a signal from Box 91 at 2nd & Market Sts. and struck out the box. Upon Engine 8’s arrival, they found heavy smoke coming from the cellar and 1st floor of the 2 story Lerner’s Restaurant at 134 Market St., and all companies on the box went into service. Somehow the fire spread to the cellar of the 1 story diner to the west on the southeast corner of 2nd & Market Sts. A relatively recent firefighting innovation called high-expansion foam which could create millions of tiny bubbles to be introduced into a building smothering the fire was called for. So, at 9:16pm Chemical 1 which carried this foam and the fan-like generator was dispatched. As fireman were taking a beating with the persistent heavy smoke( 6 members including Battalion Chiefs Fix and Colanzi were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation), the 2nd Alarm was struck at 9:47pm for additional companies to provide relief. As 2nd alarm companies arrived, Chemical 1 continued to blow the high-expansion foam into the sidewalk trap door to the diner’s cellar. However, not all the foam went into the cellar. Large chunks of bubbles went wafting across the intersection giving the surreal impression that the whole fireground was in a bubble bath. The building structures withstood the fire, and eventually the diner was refurbished in the diner format, and still exists today as the Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar.
I was there with Wayne. We were college students home for break. I remember the foam blowing around in a surreal way. We actually beat the first in company as Wayne had a monitor and we just drove around hoping for an alarm. Very exciting seeing the trucks come down the street.
Around midnight, on a hot and muggy summer night in the early 1970s, Engine 8 was first-in on a working box. The fire was in a narrow, 5 story warehouse on Letitia St. south of Market St. which ran all the way back to Front St.. It was a smokey fire and the companies were having difficulty finding the seat of the fire in the basement and/or 1st floor. To get relief from the smoke, firemen were coming out and sprawling on the sidewalk, but it wasn’t much of a breather because it was so hot and humid. I knew the 2nd Alarmers wouldn’t be coming because a 2nd alarm had not been struck. I thought where could I get some water for these guys at this hour; and immediately thought of the Middle East restaurant,known for its belly dancers, around the corner on Chestnut St.. So, after explaining the situation to the bartender, he obligingly gave me a large pitcher of Coke and a stack of cups to take back to the fire. When I got back and told the men that this was from the Middle East rest., Tom Allen, Deputy Chief 1’s aide, who was standing there and who I had befriended by buffing in Engine 43 came over to me. He said, ” don’t tell them it’s from the Middle East, tell them it’s from you. After all, you’re the one who went and got it”. Looking back, I can see that this was a precursor to my present stint, volunteering with the 2nd Alarmers.