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'Water witch' gets new life at Nassau museum

This water witch was purchased by the Farmingdale

This water witch was purchased by the Farmingdale Fire Department in 1893 and remained in service until 1979. It is now on display at the Nassau County Fire Museum in Garden City. Photo Credit: T.C. McCarthy

The Farmingdale Fire Department placed a tool from its earliest roots in the Nassau County Fire Museum last month.

The “water witch” was used by the department from 1893-1979 to fight fires, and then was used for musters -- antique fire apparatus competitions -- until recently.

According to John Murray, the East Garden City museum’s chief instructor, the apparatus worked by having its hose dropped into a water source, like a cistern or a lake, and a team of firefighters would hand-pump water onto a fire using handrails on either side of the witch.

According to an appraisal by antique fire apparatus appraiser Ed Lawrence, the witch is one of seven left in the country that are still functional. It is valued at between $50,000 to $60,000.

Although Murray said he didn’t know specifics, he believes the department moved the water witch to the museum to make room for something else in the firehouse.

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