Chief Charles A. Cameron

Charles Aubrey Cameron was born on February 28, 1872, in Kingsport, Nova Scotia.  He began his career with the West Haven Fire Service in 1892 as a member of the James Graham Hook & Ladder Company and, upon their demise in 1902, continued as a member of the West Haven Hook & Ladder.  He served as Assistant Chief under Chief Frank Sohn and became the department’s fifth Chief on January 10, 1905. Charles Cameron would hold the office of Chief for 12 years until December 31, 1917, becoming, by far, our longest sitting Chief prior to the modern era. In his quest to modernize our department he would often travel to other larger fire departments and bring their knowledge and experience back to West Haven, adopting these valuable ideas to further fire protection.  Most times he did this at his own expense.

In 1911, Chief Cameron purchased our first mechanized (motorized) piece of apparatus. Built by the Knox Company of Springfield, MA, this chemical combination engine so impressed the Chief that he purchased two more, one for North End Hose and one for Savin Rock Hose, as well as a three wheel tractor for Hook & Ladder to pull their ladder wagon.  These four pieces of apparatus were all in service by the end of September, 1911, making the West Haven Fire Department the first fully mechanized fire department in the United States.

In 1917, after serving as Chief for twelve years, Charles Cameron would fall out of favor with the firemen and be replaced by Chief Arthur Travis. This was not to be the end of Charles Cameron however. On January 1, 1918, just one day after the end of his term as Chief, he was appointed as Fire Commissioner along with James M. McDermott. They would be the first two official Fire Commissioners appointed under the new law (House Bill 177) and would prove (with great controversy) that the law was flawed and needed to be revised. Ironically, upon the revision of the bill neither man would retain his position as commissioner, however, Charles Cameron would be appointed Fire Commissioner once again on May 1, 1921 and would serve as Chairman of the Board for only two months before his death on July 7, 1921.