By Life Member James Delawder
February 23, 2022

The Village of Brewster, New York is surrounded by reservoirs. They were built from 1890 -1915. Before they were built, a number of people in NYC died because of tainted water. The reservoirs are named the Croton Falls Reservoir, The Diverting Reservoir, The Bog Brook Reservoir (also called the Sodom Reservoir), The Middlebranch Reservoir, and the East Branch Reservoir. The water is supplied by the Croton River and The Great Swamp. They supply about ten per cent of New York City's drinking water.

It was a HOT summer day. Smoke obscured Route 202 from Peach Lake Road, past Dingle Ridge Road, to Starr Ridge Road and even reached Lisi's Automotive. Cars had to turn on their headlights in the middle of a summer day to see in the limited visibility. The Brewster Fire Department (BFD) was alerted by the Sheriff's Department over what was then called 40 Control. The fire was coming from the East Branch Reservoir! (Photo #1) The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) called Chief Tommy Hughes (photo #3) to complain. They were concerned over possible water pollution of New York City's water supply. Close inspection revealed the smoke coming from the Big island in the middle of the East Branch Reservoir.

The BFD answered the call with its Power Wagon (photo #4) which towed the boat trailer. The boat was a 16' metal row boat similar to the row boat pictured in photo #5. It was propelled by four oars. We responded to Old Miltown Road which is just past the end of I 684 and the beginning of Route 22 with the Power Wagon. After making a right on to Old Miltown Road, we went a short distance to a boat launch on the right.(photo #6). Tom Palmer was promoted to Commodore of the rowboat.(photo #7). "Chuck" Charles Gallagher (photo #8), was one of the several shipmates who sailed with him that HOT day in the reservoir. The crew rowed out on the metal row boat (The SS Brewster ??) to the island with just a portable pump (photos #9,10,11), a fifty foot length of 1.5 '" fire hose (photo #12), and a variable discharge nozzle (photo #13). They drafted from the reservoir and wet down the island and started extinguishing the island fire . (Fire Island?, photos #14 &15) I remained on the dock (photo #15) keeping watchful surveillance on the fire, the rowing crew, the Power Wagon, as well as the other equipment we had brought to the dock

While the firefighting was going on, DEP complained to Chief Hughes about the slow progress in extinguishing the fire.. His reply: "Why don't you help us by flying out a fire-boat, and drop it into the reservoir! I am fighting this fire with a rowboat and a portable pump."

Finally, the fire in the reservoir was out on that HOT summer day. Commodore Tom Palmer had the brilliant idea of having the portable pump provide the propulsion required to return to shore. The suction end was drafting water from the reservoir and the nozzle supplied the propulsion! Since no one had to row to shore, he received a fire ground field promotion to Admiral of the BFD Navy. As the metal row boat got close to shore, the mutinous crew decided to use the portable pump to discharge water and get me soaking wet! They turned the discharge on to me. I made my way to the edge of the reservoir under the deluge. I could not believe the liquid gold I had found at the edge of the water!. There were six-packs and they were labeled Schaefer. At least two of them!

Through the downpour, I started opening the cans, turning them upside down and then emptying them in the clear view of the boat crew. My revenge was quickly acknowledged as a great hue and cry arose from the crew of the rowboat. They saw the contents of several cans emptied into the water. When they stopped dousing me with the portable pump, I stopped emptying the cans. I wonder if any fish near the shore became inebriated that hot summer day?

We, as usual, did our job that day and had some fun doing it.

1. Brewster Historian Denis Castelli supplied information on the reservoirs.
2. Interviews with Chief Thomas Hughes and Admiral Palmer supplied much information.
3. Unfortunately Tom Palmer did not patent his version of a Jet-Ski.
4. Chuck Gallagher in photo #8 recently passed away. I have many fond memories of him. His son, Sean is currently a valuable member of the BFD.
5. I would like to thank Fred Bomba for proofreading this article.


Tommy Regan February 28, 2022 at 8:30 AM
GREAT story! Well done gents