Fire Department - History

History of the Fire Department

The early history of the Fire Department can be traced back to the early existence of the volunteer fire service in the area. As early as March 23, 1897, a group of 26 men met in a classroom at School Number Three on Clifton Avenue to discuss the formation of the first volunteer Fire Company. They procured a two wheeled-hand drawn cart with two and a half inch hose. Since there were no hydrants, they carried connectors which coupled the hose to house faucets. The firehouse for this cart was completed in 1901 and was located on Harding Avenue between First and Second Streets. The firehouse not only stored the apparatus, but also usually served as a social hall for local meetings and dances.

To call volunteers for fire fighting duty, a large iron ring was pounded with a hammer. In later years this was replaced with bells, sirens, radios, and plectrons. Around the turn of the century, a fire alarm headquarters was established at the William C. Berger pharmacy at the corner of Main and Clifton Avenues. Mr. Berger held the title of Honorary Chief and would transmit any alarms received to the engineer at the Pikin and Holdsworth factory located at Main and Highland Avenues. The factory whistle was then used to alert the firemen to the address by a series of one long blast and several short blasts.

As Clifton grew in population, so did its fire fighting resources. In 1901, the Albion Place Fire Company was formed as part of the community improvement association. Later, in 1904, it separated from the association and became a separate fire company, incorporating in 1905. A fund raising effort was held in 1904 and a building was erected on Valley Road where School Five presently stands. A hand drawn chemical tank was the first piece of apparatus purchased used by this company. After a fire destroyed the firehouse, they sold the property and erected a new building across Valley Road. An American LaFrance Pumper later replaced the early chemical tank, and the all-volunteer force was supplemented with 2 paid firemen.

As the Albion Fire Company was establishing its roots, so were the Duttonville(Botany) residents. They met in 1903 to discuss the establishment of a volunteer fire company. Mr. Thomas Dutton was named the first president of the Botany Volunteer Fire Company. A plot of land was later purchased on Arthur Street and a building was erected with a bell tower. In 1907, the company was incorporated and had procured the necessary fire fighting equipment. A hand drawn hook and ladder truck was purchased in 1909. The company later relocated to 47 Arthur Street but was later disbanded.

In October of 1903, the residents of the Clifton section had met to organize the West Clifton Volunteer Fire Company Number Four. They used the salt houses at the old Clifton Racetrack to store some equipment including buckets and ladders. In 1908, they purchased a hand drawn four wheeled cart and hose reel. They later built a firehouse at Main and Luddington Avenues. The company was disbanded on April 4, 1921 and the building was sold.

Clifton Volunteer Fire Company Number Three was organized on January 4, 1909 at 95 Mahar Avenue. The company obtained a two-wheeled hose cart and four hundred feet of hose. Before disbanding in 1919, the company fought fires along Clifton Avenue between Lakeview and Randolph Avenues.

In September of 1908, Lakeview Volunteer Fire Company One was organized. A firehouse was erected on West Second Street between Main and Getty Avenues. They obtained a large two-wheeled hand drawn hose cart and five hundred feet of hose. The company operated until 1915 when it was disbanded.

After finding itself without a fire company, the Lakeview section organized Lakeview Volunteer Fire Company Six. They started operation on July 15, 1915 with approximately forty men. They operated a two-wheel hose cart out of small barn on West Second Street. They later used a converted school bus as a hose wagon. Later, in 1930, the city provided them with a new hose truck. This company continued to operate until 1956 when it was disbanded. During its time of operation, this company built a new firehouse and formed a ladies auxiliary to help with the companies operations.

The Athenia Volunteer Fire Company was organized on April 22, 1909. A hose cart and twelve hundred feet of two and a half inch hose was procured in May 1909. It was kept at the homes of the firemen until a firehouse was built in December 1912. On November 1, 1918 the City replaced the hose cart with a motorized hose and chemical truck. The Fire Company operated until 1937 when it was disbanded and the property sold. The building still stands today on Clifton Avenue and is occupied by the Colonial Pharmacy.

Dutch Hill was the next section to organize fire protection. Clifton Hose Company Number Five was organized on November 17, 1911. They had no equipment at first, but the volunteers assisted other companies in extinguishing fires. The company purchased a new hand drawn hose cart, which was later replaced by a horse drawn hose cart. They built a firehouse on Highland Avenue near Second Street. They continued to operate until 1924 when they disbanded.

The Five volunteer fire companies serving Aquackanonk Township organized into a Fire Department on October 12,1909. On January 18, 1912, the township committee met to read the Ordinance establishing the "Aquackanonck Fire Department". Lakeview Heights Volunteer Fire Company Number Nine was organized in 1914. The Township Committee promised hose with other equipment to follow. A hose cart and more hose came from the Township and was stored on the corner of South Fourth Street(now East Fourth Street) and Trenton Avenue. In 1915 a firehouse was built on Crooks Avenue near Vernon Avenue. They continued to operate until the 1920's when the company disbanded.

The Delawanna section of the Township organized fire protection in 1914. They purchased a chemical apparatus from Nutley and stored it in a coal yard on Oak Street until a firehouse was built on Delewanna Avenue. They became known as Aquackanonk Volunteer Fire Company Number Eight and continued to operate until they were integrated into the Clifton Fire Department as a part paid Fire Company on August 16, 1925. In 1936, the Delawanna Fire Company received a five hundred-gallon American LaFrance Pumper. In 1968, the company received a new fire station located at 144 Main Avenue.

In 1916, the Richfield section of the Township organized a fire company. A small firehouse was built on Van Houten Avenue and a pumper truck was stored inside. They opened a new Fire Headquarters at Broad and Van Houten Avenues on July 6, 1932. This company came to be known as the Richfield Volunteer Fire Company and operated until August 16, 1932 when they disbanded. Engine Company Six still uses the firehouse today. It served as fire headquarters until 1980 when the headquarters office was relocated to City Hall.

In 1918, the Allwood Hose Company Number Two was organized. It was located on Brighton Road between Market Street and Chelsea Road. It was the center of the local community activities. Later, on March 11, 1931, it was established as a part paid Company called Clifton Engine Company Five. In 1936 it was equipped with a combination chemical and hose truck. A new firehouse was opened on June 1, 1970 at 51 Brighton Road. The old firehouse still stands two doors down as offices.