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Old Fort Niagara receives new fire equipment

Old Fort Niagara

If you’ve ever been to Old Fort Niagara, perhaps you can picture the narrow 19th-century gateways that lead into the popular Youngstown tourist attraction. Getting fire equipment into the fort has long been a problem for local firefighters.

That’s why officials recently announced a new fire safety system capable of squeezing into such a tight space.

The Youngstown Volunteer Fire Department and Niagara County Legislator Clyde Burmaster worked together to develop the system. Some have called the new apparatus a "portable firefighting kit."

The custom-built trailer, equipped with nearly one thousand feet of hoses, a generator, dry hydrant, ladder and other tools, was funded by a $20,000 state grant. Old Fort Niagara Executive Director Robert Emerson told WBFO  the previous method for dealing with fires was inadequate.

“Before the trailer, if the fire was close to the hydrant, it was ok,” Emerson said. “But if it broke out in another area, the fire company had to bring hoses from another hydrant outside the fort. And that was time consuming, and there was also a concern about water pressure.”

The fort, a Registered National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site, is home to numerous wooden gates and structures built during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Emerson noted that during the site’s construction, there was no need to factor in accommodations such as firetrucks.

“Before we had this trailer, the local fire company could not access the interior of the fort because the trucks were too large to come through the gates,” Emerson said. “The gates were built in the nineteenth century when horses and wagons could fit through them, but a modern firetruck cannot.”

While small, the trailer has a big job: protecting one of Niagara County’s most treasured landmarks. The 22-acre fort has experienced numerous fires. In the early 1990s, the French Castle suffered substantial damage after a roof fire. In 2013, the wooden Gate of Five Nations also suffered minor fire damage.

Emerson said some of the damage caused by these fires was  the result of "lack of access“ to proper firefighting equipment and hydrants.

In addition to receiving the grant for the trailer, the fort received $30,000 in state funding to fix the damaged Gate of Five Nations.

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