Sunday, February 21, 2010 -
On this date, 140 years ago, the South Washington Fire Company No. 4 was established and housed in the middle of the 400 block of Virginia Avenue, S.W. Within two years time, an all paid firefighting force known as the District of Columbia Fire Department would be formed. On the date of September 23rd, 1871 (The birth of the paid DCFD force), the South Washington Fire Company No. 4 was merged into the District of Columbia Fire Department as Engine Company No. 4. The same designation it carries today. The unit would continue to operate in Southwest Washington, D.C. until 1940 when it was relocated to 931 R Street, N.W. (Box 219). Engine Company No. 4 served out of their home in the Shaw neighborhood until 1976 when they were relocated once again to their current Engine House at 2531 Sherman Avenue, N.W. (Box 8473).
Engine Company No. 4 is one of the most history rich companies within the District of Columbia Fire Department. In 1919, just after the completion of World War I, Engine Company No. 4 became the first all African-American staffed unit in the city. At one point during their time on R Street, N.W., the Wagon and Pumper were said to have gotten out the door of their Engine House so fast, that one young rookie at the watch desk was left behind when a run rang in. The watch desk in that house sat between the two bay doors, approx. three feet from the apparatus. The all African-American unit would remain in place until 1962.
Over the past 140 years several members assigned to Engine Company No. 4 have been recognized for acts of heroism and bravery. A couple examples would be that of the several people saved from the great Knickerbocker Theater collapse and the rescue of two families from a neighboring R Street row house that was well involved in 1966.
Unfortunately, since the inception of the company, three members have been killed in the line of duty. On October 14th, 1911, Captain Timothy J. Brown and Private Michael A. Downs were killed while operating on the roof of 618 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. (Box 16). On July 4th, 1944, Private Joseph A. Carter, Jr. succumb to his injuries sustained in the line of duty while operating at 2214 Georgia Avenue, N.W., when he fell from a roof at that location (Box 822). All of these men have been eternally remembered on Engine 4's current rig (S169), the sitting room wall/table and by a restored box and pedestal located at Georgia Avenue and W Street, N.W. (Joseph A. Carter, Jr. - Box 822).
Throughout the years, the pride and tradition that was developed in decades past has been passed along from generation to generation. The current members assigned to the Sherman Avenue Engine House, now affectionately known as "The Hornets Nest" take pride in keeping with the traditions put into place by the firefighters before them. In current times the members still pride themselves in delivering the quickest and most efficient Engine Company service to the neighborhoods they serve in the Northwest/Northeast sections of the city. It is very apparent that the mentality displayed by those individuals currently assigned to Engine Company No. 4 will continue to progress and drive the unit well into the future. Developing new traditions along the way and never forgetting about the ones put in place by those that served prior.
An official reunion of Engine Company No. 4 and Rescue Squad No. 2 will take place on June 5th, 2010. The location and details will be provided shortly. We hope to see all members past and present in attendance.