New NF ‘Rescue 1’ dedicated in honor of first African American firefighter

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — A state-of-the-art engine joining the fleet in Niagara Falls will bear the name of a revolutionary firefighter who made history as the first African American to join the Niagara Falls Fire Department.

Daniel Thomas joined Niagara Falls’ bravest in 1952, when it was still almost unheard of for an African American to be in such a position. He later ascended to the rank of fire captain and became highly decorated.

Many still remember Thomas, including his wife Dorothy Thomas, who said he put the safety of others ahead of his own until the day he died in 2013. She took a pause to remember how even when jumping into the line of duty, he would find a way to ease her nerves.

“He got hurt several times, he never told me, I had to hear it from somebody else, he said, ‘Why bother?'” she said.

Mrs. Thomas said she slept light, and she always worried when he would get up to leave for a fire call.

“Whenever he would go out he would come by, put the spotlight on the window to let me know he was okay,” Mrs. Thomas said. “To me, that was all the love I needed.”

The love the fire captain showed also shined through the Niagara Falls Fire Department Christmas Toy Fund. Those who remember him said he championed the cause over 33 years, even returning to western New York to participate in the fund when he retired to Florida. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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