The Fire Department:

The fire department in Ashtabula at the time was more like a gentleman's club, as were many volunteer fire departments across the county. It's not that the firefighters didn't care or didn't want to do a good job, but the idea of professionalism in terms of training, safety, and expertise was still in its infancy in America. The Ashtabula fire department, along with many other small city fire departments across the country, suffered because of a lack of training and professionalism. America's small cities and towns were still at the crossroads of developing full-time professional fire fighting units. Even though Ashtabula had a volunteer fire company of over 200 men, a number of hand fire pumpers and even a horse drawn steam powered fire engine, they were in no way even close to being prepared to deal with a disaster like this one.


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FD G.A. Knapp

The man on the left in this photo is Glen A. Knapp the fire chief at the time of the disaster. He became a very controversial figure the night of the disaster, because he showed up at the fire after he had been drinking with friends at the "Odd Fellows Hall." Many said he seemed dazed and confused and never took real charge of the scene. After the investigation he was relieved of his command.