The history of most fire departments across the United States includes pets and the animal most commonly associated with firehouses, firemen and fire engines is the dog, especially the Dalmatian breed. These faithful and intelligent animals represent an old breed that were originally know as "carriage dogs." They had a natural affinity for horses and loved to run alongside their owners coaches. So it is easy to understand how they became known as "fire dogs" during the 19th and early 20th centuries when horses were prevalent in firehouses. Almost all of the old fire department lithographs and photos show dalmatians leading horse drawn steamers or even sitting on the later motorized engines. There have been many Dalmatians associated with the Paterson Fire Department but few records exist detailing their stories.
During the Ahrens Fox era several dogs were mascots in Engine Company 3, 4 and 6 ,Trucks 1 and 3. Truck 3's dog was called Smokey (seen below) and when he rode with the apparatus he was decked out with a red and gold blanket bearing his name. There is a famous picture from the Paterson News with Smokey sitting up high in the tiller seat with his front paws steering the apparatus.
Men of Truck Co 3 on Godwin Ave with "Smokey". L-R: William Flynn, Aurelio Riga, Captain Joseph Dayspring in center & Angelo Contini and Tommy Ingram
Circa 1949 -- Dayspring Collection
Below is a handwritten incident report filed by acting Captain Edward Heitzman regarding Smokey and some children
Circa 1949 at Godwin Avenue -- Dayspring Collection
Below on driver's seat is the Dalmatian of Truck Co 1 on Jackson Street, circa 1940s
Dalmatian with men on apron of 72 Jackson Street and at "party scene" below
Beatrice and Dorthy Salmanowitz dancing! (Anthony Natoli Collection)
Engine Company 4's dalmatian was named Fritz and on his collar wore a special badge engraved with his and the Company name making it official for him to accompany the men as they worked. After he passed away, the men of E4 obtained a female dalmatian called "Princess."
Fritz sitting atop the Ahrens Fox pumper of Engine company 4 at the Slater Street Firehouse
Engine 3 on 12th Avenue had two Dalmatian pups called "Chief" and "Mate." The firemen of Engine 6 regarded their dog "Buttons" as a good luck charm. Engine 3 also had a Dalmatian called "Skipper" who is seen below (sitting in the driver's seat of the cab of the company's Ahrens Fox pumper) with Captain Lester Reiche.
Captain Lester Reiche and Skipper
1948 NJ Exempt Fireman's Parade in Paterson: L-R: Unknown FF, John Rankin and Paul Shaw with Dalmatian on Old Gooseneck float
Among the most famous Dalmatians was "Cindy" who was given to the men of Engine Company 3 on 12th Ave in 1956. Her markings were quite distinct in that she had a large patch over the right side of her face and ear. In her early years with the company she had her own seat on the apparatus and often entered buildings with the firemen. During her first pregnancy she became too heavy and then retired from active firefighter to house watchman. She developed a habit of gathering the men's scattered shoes and placing them at the rear of the firehouse after the apparatus left quarters.
Cindy's favorite fireman was Captain Lester Reiche who often took her swimming in a nearby park. The dog took it very hard when the Captain made the Supreme Sacrifice.
The most amazing statistic regarding Cindy was her abilities as a mother. In her years at Engine 3 she produced 90 pups, each of which found a home (many with firemen). In 1962 she made the transition to a new firehouse on Lafayette Street and became a good friend of the men of Truck Company 3. In the new location she became a formidable guard dog and few people could enter quarters without her approval. Legend has it that she was not particularly fond of chief officers or priests. There was also a story when a stranger was held captive in the firehouse for a number of hours until firemen returned from a call and rescued him. Cindy never failed to get excited over the ringing of the bells and never had a day off or vacation. She is seen below with the FMBA Softball team at Riverside Firehouse. Cindy had over 90 puppies over time.
Top- Joe Brower, Tom Alala, Howie Marcom, George Maloney, Frankie Calamita & Bill Savage. Middle- Joe White, Mike Ross, Fred Ricciardi, Bill Vitale, Mel Gabriel, Joe Saia & Randy Reid. Bottom-Angelo Maza, John Mauro, Tippy Nicolazzo, Frank Malzone, Bill Shortway & Red Mosca.
It was a very sad day when she finally passed away in 1967. She was so famous that the Paterson Evening News ran a obituary story with a picture on September 12.
Courtesy Dennis Morrison
An unusual way of obtaining a Dalmatian occurred in 1969 when then Assistant Chief William Comer wrote a winning essay in a contest sponsored by the International Municipal Signal Association. The puppy was presented at an official ceremony in the presence of the Mayor and Fire Commissioner.
May 1971: The men of Engine 3 adopted another dalmatian to replace Cindy. He was named Smokey and was actually rescued from the dog pound by fireman Herbert Donnellan.
Smokey on Engine Co 3 Seagrave
Smokey of Engine 4 (Northside Firehouse)
Summer of 1992 - Craig Lauten photo
Summer of 1992 - Craig Lauten photo
Northside Temple Street Firehouse: Battalion Chief Michael Fleming, "Smokey" and Company members: Tour 4, Battalion 3, Engine 4 and Ladder 2. Smokey was adopted from the Newark Humane Society.
June 11, 1995: Liberty Street fire scene with Smokey on porch
August 17, 1995 - Incident # 953208 – 347 Belmont Ave. @1322 Hrs. Tour 4 on-duty. Mutual aid to Haledon.
L-R: Captain Tony Maldonado, F/F Robert Stemmler. F/F Carlos Pagan, F/F Glenn Calamita,
Captain William Henderson,
Battalion Chief Mike Fleming, F/F Andrew Ackerman, F/F William Taylor, F/F Rocco Alliotta, Smokey "the dog. "
Smokey was written up in the New York Times CLICK HERE
Smokey, works as a fire department mascot and guard dog in Paterson, N.J.; The firefighters at the Northside Firehouse on Temple Street in Paterson call Smokey, a friendly 9-year-old mixed breed who looks mostly like a German shepherd, a ''Paterson street dog.'' But it's a compliment to his street smarts, not a slur on his lineage. Smokey has lived and worked at the firehouse since he was a puppy and two firefighters brought him there from an animal shelter in Newark.
Dave Coughlan, a Paterson firefighter who usually watches after Smokey, says the dog doesn't go on as many fire calls as he did when he was younger. ''We watch him a little more carefully now,'' he said. ''We don't want him to get hurt.'' But that hasn't stopped him from working: when he's not on a fire call, he stays behind and guards the firehouse until the firefighters return. ''He's had his share of battle wounds -- stitches for cuts from broken glass and stuff like that,'' Mr. Coughlan said. When Smokey goes to a fire, he often beats the firefighters inside a burning building. ''He's looking for people and pets,'' Mr. Coughlan said. ''Many times he's beaten me into a building and then come out choking while I'm still getting my gear on. Later, he'll check to make sure we're all safe.'' Mr. Coughlan sometimes takes Smokey to his house for a visit. ''But after a few hours, he wants to get back to the firehouse,'' Mr. Coughlan said. ''It's his home.''
July 20, 2001: Smokey the fire dog responds to its last alarm. The plaque reads: SMOKEY - A True and Loyal Fire Dog - Date of Appointment October 15, 1991 - Answered Last Alarm July 28th 2001 - Sadly missed by members of Eng Co. 4 - Ladr Co 2 - Batt 3. Smokey's ashes are encased within wall of the firehouse.
Below is "Nozzle" at Southside Firehouse with BC Robert Meyers (1st Battalion) and men of E6 and R2. L-R B/C Robert Meyers, F/F's Paul DiFalco, Charles Onorato, William Henderson, Captain Bruce Selowentich, F/F's Robert Poloniak and Andrew Ackerman circa post 1991. Nozzle passed in 1993.
Elmo Engine 1
1995 100th Anniversary Parade: L-R in front: Thomas Alala Jr with the Dalmatian from Southside, Andy Ackerman (shades), Victor Stewart, Anthony Vindeed, Captain Vince Zito. Behind Alala is Carlos Pagan, Manny Rivera and Wayne Walden
Below in the Captain's seat is "Chief" of Engine 5 at The Riverside FH: So beloved that a commemortive memorial plaque exists on the Firehouse outside entry wall
1996: Captain Edward Conklin holding Chief the Dog
June 14, 1996 -- Hancock Collection
2016: Engine Company 6 and Captain Mike Caposella - with dog at fire scene