Cranbrook Fire Department

Recently, the Center for Collections and Research received a Cranbrook Fire Department Firefighter’s Helmet. It had been given to Charles Zimmerman while he was a Police Officer at Cranbrook by one of the Vettraino brothers. Because of the new acquisition, I decided to read up on the Cranbrook Fire Department.

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Cranbrook Fire Department Firefighter’s Helmet. Gift of Frank M. Edwards.

In 1934, George G. Booth asked the Cranbrook Foundation to purchase a fire truck and equipment, essentially beginning the Cranbrook Fire Department. A fire hall was built in early 1935 to house the new truck – a 1934 Ford Truck V8 Chassis with a Proctor-Keefe Company body and fire equipment, including a 500-gallon Barton-American Pump mounted on the front of the truck.

In the existing Tower Cottage fire hall (built in 1921) was a 1934 Ford Pick-up with fire equipment and a Barton-American U-355 pump mounted on the front of the car; booster tank and fittings, 2 lengths suction hose, and a hydrant adapter. It had been purchased by George and Ellen Booth for use at the homestead property.

In 1935, after studying at the University of Michigan’s Fire School, Dominick Vettraino was named the Fire Chief. The Assistant Chief was his brother John Vettraino. All other firefighters were volunteers from the maintenance staffs of all the Cranbrook institutions. Because they were paid, the Chief or Assistant Chief was always on call, including Sundays and holidays, and lived on campus, but it was not until 1938, that the Cranbrook Foundation decided a residence for the Chief should be built next to the fire hall.

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Cranbrook Fire Department Chief Dominick Vettraino. Dominick Vettraino Papers. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

To cover the cost of the department, and to pay the Chief and Assistant Chief, proportional interdepartmental support was required. The insurance savings to Cranbrook for having its own fire department ended up offsetting the cost of having the department and gave Cranbrook a better insurance rating than even the City of Bloomfield Hills.

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Left to right: Louis Larson, Ed Morrow, Homer Murphy, Walter Powell, Donald Tompkins, Pete Peterson, Chief Dominick Vettraino, and Floyd Pickering, members of the Cranbrook Fire Department in 1944. Not pictured, George Leslie, John Winfield, O.D. Hillman, and John Vettraino. Dominick Vettraino Papers. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The Cranbrook Fire Department protected all the Cranbrook institutions and residences as well as the nearby homes of the Booth’s children: the Beresfords, the Henry S. Booths, the Warren S. Booths, and Harry L. & Grace B. Wallace. Though strictly a Cranbrook institution, the department was always willing to assist neighbors in the community when possible.

For more great images related to the Cranbrook Fire Department, click here.

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Election Day: Mayor Vettraino

Dominick Vettraino at the wheel of Cranbrook's Fire Truck, ca. 1936. Vettraino Family Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Dominick Vettraino at the wheel of Cranbrook’s Fire Truck, ca. 1936. Vettraino Family Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

In honor of Election Day I wanted to feature Cranbrook and the polls! In 1958, Cranbrook’s Dominick Vettraino was elected as mayor of Bloomfield Hills, the first native born Bloomfield Hills resident to hold the position!

Dominick Vettraino was the eldest son of Michael and Michaela Vettraino.  Mike was grounds superintendent for Cranbrook from 1905-1955 and all of his children except Dominick were born at Cranbrook. Dominick started working with his father on the grounds when he was 16 years old, and after Mike’s retirement, took over the position of superintendent.  In addition, he contributed substantially to the surrounding community.   After studying at the University of Michigan’s Fire School he was named chief of the Cranbrook Fire Department. He and his brother John Vettraino converted a Ford chassis into Cranbrook’s first fire truck, and eventually Dominick served as the head of Cranbrook’s Police Department.

After his many Cranbrook achievements he went on to serve the larger community of Bloomfield Hills.

Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

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