Laconia firefighters mark 100th anniversary of death of first member of their department to fall in the line of duty
LACONIA — Members of the Laconia Fire Department gathered at old Meredith Bridge Cemetery Monday morning to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Firefighter John Laurence Sanborn, the first line of duty death of a Laconia firefighter.
Sanborn, who was only 20 years old, died on August 26, 1913, while responding to a tenement fire on Jackson Street when he was thrown from Ladder 1. He was run over by the rear wheels, which were made of wood with a steel belt on the outer section.
Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that the box fire was reported at 9 a.m. and that the horses which pulled Ladder 1 had to be harnessed and hitched up before firefighters could respond and that once they left the station and turned onto Water Street, the rear wheels went over an obstacle which resulted in Sanborn and another firefighter being thrown into the street.
Sanborn was carried by firefighters from the street to the second floor of the Water Street Station, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Erickson noted that Sanborn had grown up in a city which had experienced several devastating fires, including the Great Lakeport fire of 1903, which destroyed 108 homes, two churches, two factories, two blacksmith shops, a vacant mill, a fire station and electrical light department.
In 1903 the city completed construction of a new Water Street fire station which five bay doors, a hay loft and storage room for oats on the second floor and stables for five horses at the back of the building.
In 1916, Laconia Fire Chief Arthur Spring recommended motorizing the fleet owing to the high cost of horses (the department had eight at that time and it cost $6,000 to feed them) and in 1917 the city got its first motorized fire truck, an American LaFrance which cost $8,100.
Erickson said that other Laconia firefighters who lost their lives while on duty were:
— Milo Judkins, a captain at the Lakeport station who died on Nov. 12, 1949 at the station after returning from a call,
— Maurice Benwell, who died on May 5, 1987, while working a pump at the Laconia Water Works;
— Lt. Mark Miller, who died in a training accident with the underwater rescue team at Weirs Beach on March 11, 2004.
CAPTION for Firesalute:
A ceremony was held at the Meredith Bridge Cemetery in Laconia on Monday morning to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Firefighter John Laurence Sanborn, the first line of duty death of a Laconia firefighter. Firefighters salute as a wreath is placed at his grave site. (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)