Detroit Firemen’s Field Day – A Long Standing Tradition

Detroit Firemen’s Field Day holds a special place in the hearts of those who grew up the child of a Detroit Firefighter. Every year Dad would the pack family and as many neighborhood kids as he could fit in the car to go to Field Day. One, now grown, firemen’s kid wrote “To me, Field Day was the same portent of fall that the State Fair is. It made me feel so proud!”

The First Detroit Firemen’s Field Day

The first Detroit Firemen’s Field Day was held at Navin Field (at Michigan & Trumbull) in 1922. The tradition has continued every year since, with the exception of 1933. It has been held in a variety of locations including: Briggs Stadium, University of Detroit, Tiger’s Stadium, Hart Plaza, Ford Field, and is currently held at Historic Fort Wayne.

Apparatus Parade from the 1974 Field Day held at Tiger's Stadium

Apparatus Parade from the 1974 Field Day held at Tiger’s Stadium

Those who attended Field Day would be treated to games, clowns, the Fire Department Band, exciting acts relating to firefighter skills, fire apparatus displays, dignitaries would attend, for many years there would be a raffle of 25 new cars (now replaced with a 50/50 raffle) and in years gone by the day would end with a fireworks display.

Detroit Fire Clown Team’s ties to Field Day

The Detroit Fire Clown team has it’s roots in Field Day. The Clown Team was officially formed in 1947 by Firefighter Larry Scarpace with seven firefighters to perform for the annual Field Day. Prior to that, clowns had been a part of Field Day, but not as an official team. The Clown Team continue to be a highlights of today’s Field Day activities. Continue reading

Detroit Firemen’s Field Day Tickets – A Historical Perspective – 1922 to Pre World War II

Shortly after the article on the Tradition of Detroit Firemen’s Field Day our friend, retired Detroit Firefighter Wayne Isken, emailed pictures of Field Day tickets from various years. These tickets give clues to how Field Day has evolved throughout the years. You can also see how popular culture and current events influenced Field Day.

Ticket from the 1922 (First Annual) Detroit Firemen's Field Day

Ticket from the 1922 (First Annual) Detroit Firemen’s Field Day

A Tradition Begins With Baseball
1922 - The first Detroit Firemen’s Field Day was a one day event held at Naven Field (Michigan & Trumbull).  Tickets cost $1.00 and were war tax exempt. The event began to raise funds for the Detroit Firemen’s Fund Association for the benefit of injured Detroit Firefighter, and firefighters’ widows and children.

In the 1920’s baseball entered it’s golden era of popularity, so it is no surprise that one of the main attractions of the early Firemen’s Field Day events was Baseball.  

Read more about the many factors that made baseball popular in the 20’s here.

Also in 1922:

  • The Detroit Fire Department celebrated the last running of the department horses.
  • The Capitol Theater (now the Detroit Opera House) opened.
  • Radio’s were just becoming popular. Detroit’s first radio station, which began broadcasting 2 years earlier, was officially assigned the call letters WWJ.

 

The Depression Era
1933 - No field day was held. The reasons for this are unclear. More than likely that year’s field day was another causality of the depression. 1933 was the worst year of the depression. During this time of such widespread economic hardship, it would have been very difficult to get enough tickets sold for a successful fundraising event.

Also in 1933 –

 

1937 - By this time Detroit Firemen’s Field Day had become a two day event featuring Class “A” Baseball and other amusements. Tickets Continue reading

Detroit Fire Department History – July 23rd-28th – 1967 Riots

Today in DFD history – July 23rd – 28th, 1967

During Detroit’s worst civil disturbance the Detroit Fire Department was taxed beyond its limits.

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The department fought 1,682 fires.  Including 276 runs responded to by mutual aid companies from 45 fire companies from surrounding communities and across the river (Windsor). 

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More than 5,000 citizens’ homes were burned.  Total fire loss was estimated at over $12.7 million.

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Detroit Firefighters Carl Smith and John Ashby died as a result of the rioting.

Questions: 
Were you, your husband, or father a firefighter on the department during the ’67 Riots?  Please share your memories.

 

 

Visit our RESOURCES PAGE for answers to the 
most common questions we get.

38 Years – A Detroit Firefighter’s Story

Detroit Firefighter’s Story Revealed in a Recently Released Book

Recently one Detroit Firefighter’s story was revealed in a new book titled 38 Years a Detroit Firefighter’s Story.  It is a memoir written by retired Detroit Fire Department Senior Chief Bob Dombrowski.  In it he recalls the highs and lows of his nearly 4 decades with Detroit Fire.

38 Years - A Detroit Firefighter's Story new book from Detroit Fire Chief Bob Dombrowski

Chief Dombrowski began his career as a trialman with the Detroit Fire Department in 1972.  Over the years he rose through the ranks to retire as Senior Chief in 2010.  He served through some of the busiest years the Detroit Fire Department has experienced.  He recalls that “In the late sixties and early seventies, Continue reading

Read a Free Chapter of “38 Years – A Detroit Firefighter’s Story

Below is Chapter One from “38 Years a Detroit Firefighter’s Story” by retired Senior Chief Bob Dombrowski. The book is a memoir in which it he recalls the highs and lows of his nearly 4 decades with Detroit Fire.Chief Dombrowski began his career as a trialman with the Detroit Fire Department in 1972.  Over the years he rose through the ranks to retire as Senior Chief in 2010.  He served through some of the busiest years the Detroit Fire Department has experienced. The book is available in paperback and kindle edition from Amazon.

Chapter One

“Pans open,” yelled the cook. I dropped the Detroit Free Press I was reading and headed
back to the kitchen. There, half a dozen guys were herded around our big old Garland
cast-iron stove with all its burners on. On top of each burner was a cast-iron frying pan with
little chunks of fat burning to grease up the pan. In the center of the small kitchen was a
square, green table piled high with food. Front and center were nine beautiful rib steaks (my
favorite) sitting on the white wrapping paper they came in.

“Looks like the cook finally spent the money,” somebody joked.

I grabbed the big fork, stabbed one of the steaks, plopped it in one of the sizzling pans,
and sprinkled on salt and pepper and garlic powder. I grabbed a platter, scooped up a pile of
mashed potatoes and some green beans, then stood around with everyone else, waiting for
my rib eye to finish frying.

I finally headed, platter in hand, to the dining room, a long, narrow room adjacent to the
kitchen. I found my seat at the heavy, oblong, fifteen-by-three-foot wooden table that was
standard in every Detroit fire station. It could probably fit both units, about eighteen men, if
you had to. I always sat Continue reading

Detroit Fire Department History – Engine 17 and Ladder 7 Established

Detroit Fire Department Steam Fire Engine Company No. 17 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 7 Established

June 1st, 1893 Detroit Fire Department established Steam Fire Engine Company No. 17 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 7.  They went in service at a new fire station located at the corner of Cass Avenue and Amsterdam Street. At the time this was the far northern section of Detroit. The area had been annexed by Detroit in 1891.

Detroit Fire Department Detroit Fire Station Steam fire Engine Company No. 17 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 7

Detroit Fire Department fire station located at Cass and Amsterdam. Opened June 1st, 1893. Housing Steam Fire Engine Company No. 17 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 7

In the 1890’s this area was rapidly expanding due to the building of a major railroad infrastructure known as the Milwaukee Junction. Several industrial plants quickly sprung up in the area to take advantage of rail transportation for incoming materials and outgoing products. Many of these plants were related to Detroit’s growing Continue reading

Detroit Fire Department History – Largest Purchase of Fire Apparatus

Today in Detroit Fire Department History – 1969

The largest purchase of fire apparatus by the Detroit Fire Department happened in 1969.  A total of 16 fire engines and 7 ladder trucks went into service.  They replaced obsolete and riot damaged rigs.

Detroit Fire Department Engine 31 in 1974

The 16 fire engines were a Mack cab-forward model.   They had a 1000 gallon per minute capacity.

American LaFrance supplied the 7 ladder trucks.  Each had a 100′ areal ladder.

Question: If you were ordering new apparatus for the Detroit Fire Department today what rigs would you choose? 

 

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Detroit Firefighter Line of Duty Death – William O’Brien

Today in Detroit Fire Department history – May 30, 1919, Detroit Firefighter Line of Duty Death

Detroit Fire Department Pipeman William Christopher O’Brien made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of Detroit. At the time of his death William was assigned to Flying Squadron Company Number 1.

Detroit Firefighter William OBrien died in the line of duty

A fire was reported in the basement of the plant of Berry Brothers Varnish Company around 2:00pm March 29th, 1919. Pipeman O”Brien was overcome Continue reading

Detroit Firefighter Line of Duty Death – Peter J. Condry

Today in Detroit Fire Department history – May 30, 1919, Detroit Firefighter Line of Duty Death

Detroit Fire Department Pipeman Peter J. Condry made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of Detroit. At the time of his death Peter was assigned to Flying Squadron Company No. 1.

Detroit Firefighter Peter Condry Died in the line of duty

A fire was reported in the basement of the plant of Berry Brothers Varnish Company around 2:00pm March 29th, 1919.  Pipeman Condry was overcome by Continue reading

Detroit Firefighter Story – You’re Too Short to be a Fireman

Not so long ago you couldn’t get on the job as a Detroit Firefighter if you were too tall, too short, too heavy, or didn’t have all your own teeth. 

Being the problem solvers that firefighters are, guys found creative ways to deal with their shortcomings.  Here’s a Detroit Firefighter story that illustrates how creative thinking led to a 25 year (and one day) career .

Detroit Firefighter Story – Too short to be a fireman.

You can hear all our stories and read more in our archives.

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