100 years later, much has changed in the east Bronx.
But the firefighters at Castle Hill’s Ladder 47 are still going strong.
Fire Department officials, firefighters and their families packed the Castle Hill Avenue firehouse Wednesday, Dec. 4 to celebrate the unit’s 100 years of service.
It’s been a busy year for FDNY centennials. Ladder 47 was one of over 30 companies the city opened 100 years ago, in 1913, to serve an increasingly spread out population.
Capt. Joseph Biggers took the helm of the company in those first years. The house’s nine firefighters back then served an area of mostly rural farmland.
The area has since been transformed into urban sprawl, sparked by the construction of train lines and highways. As more and more people flooded the area, generations of firefighters kept up with the demand.
“The population here was once a fraction of what it is today, but the dedication here has never waned,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano at the event.
Today the company has a team of 26 firefighters serving out of the firehouse alongside Engine 64. The ladder company is responsible for rescuing residents out of homes and venting roofs to let smoke escape, while the engine company uses its fire engines to extinguish blazes with pumps and hoses.
The stairs of the firehouse are lined with plaques commending the crew on jobs well done.
“Every time the Four-Seven is mentioned, it’s with respect,” said FDNY Chief of Department Edward Kilduff. “These guys know what they are doing.”
Veteran firefighters were on hand to catch up with old friends. Good times were toasted: The company has saved countless lives over the years, as well as dealt with smaller community concerns, like keys locked in cars.
The station’s tough times were also remembered. Ladder 47 had firefighters responding to the scene of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, for example.
“During all of those tough moments you gain strength knowing that we all came through that together,” said George Holzmann, who served as a firefighter here for 26 years, following in the footsteps of his father Franz. “It’s pretty emotional for the guys to come back and relive it.”
Lieutenant Ernesto Tirado, who started at the station as a fireman and now is back with the unit, said that he’s honored to work with a team that stays consistent day by day.
“Everybody I’ve worked with has always taken saving lives as their goal in life,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Irish Bagpipes cascaded through the room as the company received a commemorative plaque honoring 100 years of serving an area that stretches into West Farms, Hunts Point and Throggs Neck.
That’s 100 years of hard work and lifelong friendships.
“It really is, at the end of the day, about the relationships,” said Holzmann, the 26-year FDNY vet. “We all depend on each other.”