Retired EL firefighter pens book ‘Hit ‘Em Out’

EAST LIVERPOOL — A new book, now available, details the storied history of East Liverpool’s firefighters and the evolution of the city’s fire department.

Retired East Liverpool firefighter Gary Cornell authored the history book, titled “Hit ‘Em Out” — a comprehensive collection of stories, pictures, and information about the East Liverpool Fire Department, chronicling the department from its formation in 1884 to present.

The book, recently released, is available for $20 at Pottery City Antique Mall on Washington Street, East Liverpool, and at Two Smart Cookies, located in Dunham’s Plaza in Calcutta. Cornell will be on hand 1-4 p.m. April 8 at Two Smart Cookies for a book signing.

A little more than two years ago, Cornell released his first book, “Dark Days,” which chronicled some of the tragedies, unfortunate incidents and mysteries that have been recorded or talked about in southern Columbiana County and northern Hancock County in West Virginia.

In “Hit ‘Em Out,” Cornell takes a look at the East Liverpool Fire Department, where he served as a firefighter, lieutenant and assistant fire chief during a career than spanned 1975 through his retirement in 2007.

While serving in the fire department, Cornell also took time to research information about the department’s history, and eventually took on the unofficial role of ELFD historian.

“I started back in, probably 1983, just doing some research in the old fire department records,” Cornell explained. “It was a way to put in some time, and because of my love of history. I would find various items, whether they purchased a truck or a situation where this fire occurred or whatever, and I started writing them down because they kind of were lost memories for the department. People didn’t know.

“We had some pictures hanging on the wall of different firemen. Nobody knew who they were, and so I took it upon myself to try to find these things out.”

Among the historical information within the book is the department’s start in 1884, when the department relied on horse-drawn tankers to handle fires — detailing, as well, how firefighters were trained back then. It then continues into the evolution and progression of the department, and includes multiple fire stories, pictures, the formation of the fire department’s union, Local No. 24 of the International Association of Firefighters (which East Liverpool was one of the first charter members), and a complete list of fire chiefs who have served in that capacity in the 130-plus years in existence.

“I had listed every man who had served in a full-time capacity from 1885. The first guy was hired to take care of the horses when they first got horses, and from that until the present time, every guy who has ever served is listed in book,” Cornell said. “His service record and charts in the back, filled with charts. There’s three synopsises of probably about 100 major fires that had occurred in town, at least major in my mind.”

Cornell said once he came up with the idea of a book in 1984, his goal was to complete the book by 1996, which would have coincided with the 100th anniversary of the formation of the paid fire department in the city. Unfortunately, Cornell said publishing proved to be cost-prohibitive during the late 1990s and held off on publishing his writings, eventually adding to it.

After releasing “Dark Days,” Cornell realized how much easier it is to publish now, so he decided to go forward with “Hit ‘Em Out” and updated the book to post-1996.

“I believe at that time they had to set the type, and it was beyond my means to publish, so I didn’t do anything with it,” Cornell said. “And so for a number of years, it languished and I would write things down and kind of kept track of things because I was the unofficial historian.

“Then when I retired, my son had inspired me to write a book, and I wrote the book ‘Dark Days.’ Once I had done that and saw publishing was a different thing today with everything being digital, I decided, why not publish the fire department book that’s been sitting here the last 10 years or 15 years doing nothing.”

Cornell said many of the stories in the book piqued his interest while he researched, adding he hopes the stories may be of interests to the readers as well.

“It was written first and foremost for people who were interested in the fire department and fire service, but I think there’s enough in there that the casual reader of local history would find interesting,” Cornell said.

For more information, contact Cornell at darkdayselo@gmail.com or through the East Liverpool Fire Department.

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