Truck “E” was organized on March 15, 1871 on the southwest corner of 20th & Hand Street (now called Waverly Street) in the quarters of the Fame Hose Company.
The original company roster was as follows:
- Archibald A. Young- Foreman
- William A. Napier- Driver
- John Raiden- Tillerman
- Edward J. Walker- Ladderman
- Thomas J. Allison, Jr.- Ladderman
- Isaac Thomas- Ladderman
- Dennis W. Vaughn- Ladderman
- William J. Donnelly- Ladderman
- James Steele- Ladderman
- William B. Reynolds- Ladderman
- George Jones- Ladderman
- Frederick Smith- Ladderman
- Samuel Dougherty- Ladderman
Mrs. Cox was the matron (janitress).
$541.66 was paid in rent that year to the Fame Fire Company. The truck’s carriage was built by Gardner & Fleming of Philadelphia. The weight of the apparatus with men was 7,500 pounds, and it carried seven ladders, 45, 40, 35, 28, 22, 16, and 12 feet in lengths.
In 1885, Truck “E” moved to a new station at 752 South 16th Street, just below Fitzwater Street.
Numbers replaced letters for designated truck companies on July 11, 1900. Truck E became Truck 5. In 1950, the term ladder companies replaced the term truck companies.
In 1952, part of a city capital improvement plan was the consolidation of engine companies and ladder companies into one firehouse to cut costs. Ladder 5 was the last single ladder company station in the city to be combined with an engine company when it moved in with Engine 1 and Battalion Chief 5 at a new station at 711 South Broad Street on December 15, 1964 where it remains today.
In 1966, it was the first ladder in the city to receive an 85-foot Hi-Ranger Snorkel. This apparatus, developed by the Chicago Fire Dept., had an articulating, water-piped, aerial device with a bucket on the end that could hold two men.
Throughout its existence, Ladder 5 has served areas of both Center City and South Philadelphia.
A reader has questioned whether the photo of Ladder 5’s Snorkel above is really Ladder 5 since it’s at a 1982, 3-alarm clothing store fire at 4047 Lancaster Ave., rather than Ladder 6, whose local the fire is in. In the photo above it’s hard to really make out the metal number on the piece’s front bumper, whether it is a 5 or 6.. But looking at the original glossy photo it is definitely a 5.
While in the Museum today, I did some research. Ladder 5 did respond on the 2nd alarm to this fire. Up until 1980, this new, 1971 Oshkosh/Pierce snorkel was assigned to Ladder 6, but then was assigned to Ladder 5. At this fire, Ladder 6 would’ve had a 1978 Mack Aerialscope assigned. So, I guess you could say the reader was half right.
The late 1960’s was a period of civil disturbances in urban areas across the nation. Because fire departments were considered symbols of authority, bottles, rocks, etc. were sometimes thrown at responding fire apparatus during these disturbances and other times. To protect men and equipment, the PFD placed fireproof covers over the apparatus. A photo of this arrangement can be seen at the bottom of Engine 25’s post in this blog.
Much of the projectiles and hostility came from hi-rise public housing projects. One such project in Philadelphia was the three Hawthorne Towers around the intersection of 13th & Fitzwater Sts. just behind Engine 1 and Ladder 5’s station. They often were dispatched there for smoke from clogged incinerator chutes, stuck elevators, alarm systems and an occasional fire.
From that era, I knew a member of Ladder 5, Charlie Calter, and in a conversation, asked him if when responding there, the residents ever gave his crew a hard time. He said, “No,” and as opposed to the police “because we never did anything to them”. A rather astute observation, I thought, and a testament to the decency of a majority of the residents.