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Leominster's heroes will never be forgotten
By Diane C. Beaudoin   - 08/28/2009

Leominster Champion

More Info on This Book: Leominster Firefighting

The deep, rich and dangerous history of Leominster's bravest men that battled blaze after blaze from the time the city was a settlement to the present day is now preserved forever thanks to the efforts of firefighter and historian Roger LaPointe.

The new book, titled "Leominster Firefighting" has come to fruition, cataloging the earliest firefighters, stunning photos of fires in progress, many which changed the face of the city, and putting the spotlight on the lives and times of the men who fought fires with nothing more than bucket brigades and hand pumps.

LaPointe, who actually began this project back in 1986, spent countless hours identifying old photos, speaking to hundreds of residents, and putting in chronological order some of the most devastating fires in Leominster's history.

"We have so much history it should be shared," LaPointe said.

The book is a prestigious tribute thanks to many photos, interviews and notes taken by LaPointe over the years.

"There were photos taken on glass slides of fires, and without the help of the Leominster Historical Society, namely Linda Pinder, and the Leominster Historical Commission, namely Rocco Palmeiri, I wouldn't have been able to get this done," he said.

LaPointe does not look to take the credit for the book, but fellow firefighter Bob Penning sees it differently.

"Roger did this all. Many nights when we weren't out on a call, we'd be trying to get some sleep, and all you could here was Roger typing info into his computer. This guy worked non stop to get this book done," Penning said.

Penning's father, Bill, also served on the Fire Department. Many members of LaPointe's family have served on the Leominster Police Department and worked for the Department of Public Works.

"Back in the early years, the guys who worked for the DPW also had to be call firefighters. If a fire call came in, they were expected to respond and help out," LaPointe said.

The book contains 207 photos, although many more are in LaPointe's archives.

"The way I found out about the old guys was when I had a last name, I would get out the phone book and call every person with that last name," said LaPointe. "I'd ask if they had an ancestor that was on the Fire Department. Eventually I would find someone that knew who I was looking for the info on."

LaPointe would tell them what his project was, and many times a family member would be happy to share any photos or stories that had been passed down.

"It's been a long time coming, and now I'm just waiting to hear from the publishing house when the books will be shipped," a very excited LaPointe said.

He was told the books should be in stores by Oct. 12.

One driving force to get the book completed was the fact that LaPointe does not want the history of the department to be forgotten.

"It seems to me that we currently are the last generation that wants to know about the history, and I don't want these guys to be forgotten," he said.

One item that is in many photos is the old hand tub that was the main firefighting piece of equipment in the olden days.

The horse-drawn piece of equipment took many hours of manpower to operate.

"Guys would make lines and take turns pumping to fill the tub with water, all the time the fire was still burning. It was the same principle in mechanics we use today, only now it's done with a switch instead of our arms," he said jokingly.

LaPointe is hoping his book is well received by all.

"It's the only way to keep this part of our history alive, and I am so glad it's almost complete," LaPointe said.

Buy It Now: Leominster Firefighting $21.99




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