Fire Nerd: Pat Coghlan
Meet retired Lt. Patrick Coghlan from the Buffalo Fire Department, a 34-year veteran of the fire service. Like many firefighters, Patty, as his friends refer to him, is a real character with a bit of a crusty exterior — but when you peel that away — you find a big guy with an even bigger heart and a very special fondness for telling stories and preserving the rich history of the fire service.
A self-proclaimed “nerd” for the fire service (a real “two-hander” as he says), Pat is the Vice President of the Buffalo Fire Historical Society and a hoarder of fire memorabilia. A buff’s buff, Pat has passed down his love for the fire service to his daughter Margaret, the museum’s secretary.
Pat Coghlan is the son of a Buffalo firefighter and a nurse. Like me, he kept a journal of the calls he responded to – except his log starts even before he was a firefighter, chronicling fires and calls that he buffed and took photos at. He buffed 210 runs in 1964 alone.
Appointed to the Buffalo Fire Department in October 1965, his class was the last class appointed for the creation of a new company: Ladder 16. Fresh out of the academy, Pat was first assigned at Ladder 3 on Spring Street where he served as a tiller man. He served as the driver for Chief Harvey Supple from 1969 to 1976. From there he went to Engine 21 and was appointed lieutenant in 1978.
Newly annointed Lt. Coghlan was assigned to Engine 33 where he worked from 1979 to 1988. He was the officer in charge of Engine 33 on the fateful night of December 27, 1983 when his company responded to the propane explosion that killed five of his fellow firefighters. Mike Lombardo, who was a rookie firefighter on Pat’s crew the night of the explosion, went on to be commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department. Mike will retire as a Battalion Chief this Friday-December 10, 2010 after 27 years in service to the Buffalo Fire Department.
Coghlan was re-assigned to Buffalo’s busy Rescue 1 in the spring of 1988 where he served the remainder of his career until retiring in October of 1999 after 34 years on the job.
While still on the job, Pat was one of many folks who helped start the Buffalo Fire Historical Society. According to Margaret, when the department celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1980, there was a display of fire memorabilia at a downtown bank and when the display ended, no one wanted their stuff back. There were meetings and lots of ideas exchanged, and the museum started to take shape in 1982. Pat Coghlan was president of the museum early on in its existence.
Pat is a mainstay at the museum and is known for his great stories, his quick wit and wry smile and his uncanny ability to match old box alarm numbers with their street location.
Erie County is fortunate to be home to not one, but three great fire museums. In addition to the Buffalo Fire Historical Society, there is the Firemen’s Memorial Exhibit Center in West Seneca and the Greater Lancaster Museum of Firefighting in the Village of Lancaster.
Merry Christmas to all of you who work so hard to preserve the rich heritage of the fire service. Best wishes for the happiest and safest of holiday seasons.
Links in this story:
- The Firebrary – Digital Collection of the Buffalo Fire Historical Society
- The Explosion – Firehouse.com article by Mike Lombardo
- Compilation of News Information regarding the Propane Explosion of December 27, 1983 by Christopher Naum
- Museum Photo Gallery posted by IAFF Local 282
- An article I wrote after my first visit to the Buffalo Fire Historical Society – Night at the Museum
- The Buffalo Fire Historical Society Official Website
- Obituary for Pat’s good friend: Cliff Preisigke II – www.ccpreisigke.com/obit1.html
- Pat Coghlan talks about the brotherhood of the fire service during funerals of Lt. Chip McCarthy and Firefighter Jonathan Croom – WIVB.com Video
- Average Joe Learns Fire Service History – WIVB.com Video
- The Erie County Fire Blotter – www.eriecountyfireblotter.com
Patrick Coghlan is a retired firefighter from the Buffalo (NY) Fire Department. Pat brings his passion for what brought him to the fire service and for the importance of sharing stories to everyone who visits the Buffalo Fire Historical Society Museum, where he serves as Vice President. A “Run-to-the-Curb” kid, Pat was Tiger Schmittendorf’s guest on a special Christmas edition of his “Firefighter Storytellers” live radio talk show on the FirefighterNetcast.com Radio & Podcast Network on December 8, 2010. ©2010 http://www.runtothecurb.com
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