Fire hazards increased as Newburgh became more industrial. The first firefighter to die in the line of duty, Joseph Tillotson, burned to death in a fire at The Bleachery on Lake Street in 1887. In 1904, a devastating fire followed an explosion at the Fabrikoid Company on South Street and the blast was felt as far away as Walden and Peekskill.
Alarms for fire in Newburgh had been sounded by church bells for almost 100 years. The system was confusing whenever a fire happened at a day or hour when a church service might be in session.
In March 1889, the city purchased and installed a modern electric telegraph fire alarm system with 23 alarm boxes placed around the city. A small bluestone building on City Terrace within Downing Park houses the alarm system circuits.