History of the Glen Gardner Fire Co.
The Glen Gardner Fire Company was formed on the night of January
15, 1923 at the P. O. S. of A. hall not long after the
separation of the Borough of Glen Gardner and Lebanon Township.
In the eighty years since, the Fire Company has been the one organization that has kept pace with the passage of time. Its activities have never ceased, interest has never diminished, and its unselfish service to this and surrounding communities has never waned.
The 1st officers of the Glen Gardner Fire Company were: President, Elijah Snyder; Vice President, Robert Houston; Secretary, George M. Drake; and Treasurer, F.C. Neiman. At a meeting the following week, George M. Drake was elected Foreman of the Company, and later became Chief. He continued in these positions until early in 1928 when he moved from the Borough. At the same meeting William Smith was elected Assistant Chief, and Peter Sigler was elected Captain.
Members of this new organization realized that their success would depend in large part on the effort they put forth and the money they were able to raise. An entertainment committee was appointed at the first meeting and a “Fireman’s Ball” was held March 2, 1923 at the Legion Hall in Hampton. The net proceeds were $166.00. This was the first of many affairs through the years which, while the purpose was to build up the Fire Company’s funds, brought entertainment to residents in general.
During the summer of 1923 a carnival was conducted at the upper end of the Borough. A group of ladies conducted a cake sale which netted the Company additional profit. Through the years the women of the firemen’s families cooperated generously in the Company’s efforts. In February 1946 they organized a Ladies Auxiliary and they were an active force in the Borough for many years. While the “official” Ladies Auxiliary is no longer active, the Firefighter’s families still volunteer their time whenever it is needed.
In August 1923 the Company decided to purchase uniforms and wear them in a parade in the Borough on Labor Day Weekend, and also in a parade in Hampton Borough. The Company also attended a carnival conducted by the Lebanon Fire Department, and for a newly formed unit did very well bringing home a silver trumpet trophy.
In its early days the Company was concerned with two things, property for a Firehouse and fire equipment. In the early fall of 1923 the Company purchased land on Main Street from Ervin DeReemer and soon began construction of a building which was taken over by the Borough about a year later.
One of the first fire calls after the Company’s organization, occurred at 11:30PM, November 10, 1923 and destroyed the home of Thomas Reilly. Another was the blaze at Hornby’s Hall at midnight, February 21, 1925.
Preceding the installation of an electrically activated system, the first fire alarm system was the type that was used universally, an iron locomotive wheel ring that was hit with a sledge hammer. Three of these were used to call out the Company in the event of a fire. After the installation of electricity throughout the Borough a modern box-type alarm system was put into service. This was hooked up not only to the siren atop the Glen Gardner building, but also to that in Hampton which until 1947, responded to Glen Gardner under contract with the Borough.
During the early years the Company obtained considerable equipment of its own but until 1942 depended on Hampton for pumping apparatus. In March of that year the Company purchased an engine from the Washington Fire Company, a 1926 American LaFrance for the purchase price of $200.00. During the war years, members that did not directly answer the Government’s call were active in the Civilian Defense Corps. There were eleven members that served with honor in the Armed Forces of the United States.
Ordinance Number 14 of the Borough of Glen Gardner passed on final reading and approved by the Mayor on March 10, 1944 incorporating the Fire Company into the Borough. That union of the Fire Company and the Borough over the years has proven beneficial to both organizations.
The Glen Gardner Relief Association was organized on September 12, 1944 and joined the New Jersey State Fireman’s Association. Service in the Association officially started July 1, 1945, unfortunately most of the founding members were over-age and therefore not eligible for the Association’s benefits.
With the end of the Second World War, the Borough was able to obtain a 1941 Ford government surplus fire truck. This vehicle was equipped with a 500gpm front mounted pump, a booster tank, and a hose reel.
1949 saw the purchase of a Dodge truck chassis from Zigler’s Dodge in Easton. The Company sent the chassis to L. M. Hart in Hackettstown where the body was built and installed. L. M. Hart used some parts from the American LaFrance on the Dodge and also mounted a government surplus 500gpm front mount pump on it.
1953 & 1954 were the years that a large addition to the old Firehouse was built. It consisted of a furnace room, two bays with overhead doors, a third bay without a door for future development, and two bathrooms. The Ford and the Dodge fire trucks could be housed with ease along with all the additional equipment the Company was acquiring.
In March of 1958 the Fire Company became the Charter institution for the Glen Gardner Boy Scout Troop 125.
In 1962 the company purchased a GMC chassis from DeReemer’s GMC in Glen Gardner. Bruco of Altoona, PA built the body. This truck had a 750gpm single stage Hale pump mounted mid-ship and an 800 gallon booster tank. It also had a 120gpm high pressure pump capable of delivering true high pressure fog at 800-1000psi. The ensuing years saw the Company extinguish many involved fires using nothing more than high pressure fog. This meant a great savings in water that had to be used at any one fire. After the GMC truck was put into service the Fire Company sold the 1941 Ford to the Readington Fire Company in Readington, New Jersey. In 1981 the Fire Company sold the 1962 GMC to a fire company in Kentucky.
In 1972 another GMC chassis was purchased from DeReemer’s GMC. This time Darley of Melrose Park, Illinois was the successful bidder and built the body. This truck had a 750gpm mid-ship mounted pump, a 1000 gallon booster tank, and a 120gpm high pressure pump. After this truck was put in service, the 1949 Dodge was sold. The 1972 GMC was sold in 1989 to Hillbilly Fire Apparatus in West Virginia.
When the Company first organized, boys between sixteen and twenty-one years of age were allowed to join the fire Company as “Runners”. Their duties consisted of assisting the regular firemen at fires and drills. They were not allowed to get involved in any hazardous duty (such as entering a burning building). This was the forerunner of our present Junior Fireman’s program instituted in 1973. That program allowed up to ten youths between the ages of sixteen and eighteen to join the fire Company. They must attend County Fire School and company drills, and maintain a good attendance record. They are allowed to function at fires and drills, but must stay out of any hazardous situations. Many of our present adult members started out in the Company as Junior Firefighters.
In 1974 the junior firemen undertook their first project, the building of our first brush truck. This unit was originally a 1945 government surplus 4x4 Dodge Power Wagon. To this the juniors added a 250gpm pump and a 275 gallon water tank. The project was a complete success and provided the interest to get the Junior Fireman program off to a good start. When the railroad was still running through Glen Gardner, it was a common sight to see the Brush Truck driving along the railroad tracks to investigate flare-ups that were sparked shortly after a train would pass by. Sadly this truck was damaged beyond repair at a woods fire in 1985.
In 1979 a two story structure was build onto the Firehouse matching the appearance of the original building. The first floor included an office, radio room, and a workshop/storage room. On the second floor, there was a meeting and social room for the members. Funds for this addition were provided by the Borough, the Fire Company, and donations. All the construction work was done by the members with no outside assistance.
In 1981 a GMC chassis was purchased from DeReemer’s GMC in Glen Gardner. Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisconsin was chosen to build the body. This unit had two significant changes from our previous trucks. First, it had a diesel engine, and second, it had an automatic transmission. It was equipped with a 1000gpm pump and carried 1000 gallons of water. There was an abundance of compartment space and hose bed capacity for at least 2000 feet of 3 inch hose. Of all the trucks the Fire Company has owned, the 1981 Pierce was ranked as the finest and had won 2 awards including “Best Appearing Truck” during the 1998 New Jersey statewide parade held in Boonton, NJ. On December 5, 1998 this truck was destroyed in an unfortunate accident.
On August 13, 1983 our Fire Company celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a town wide parade and picnic in the park. Andrew Stevens at 77 years old was the only charter member still active, and serving as President of the Fire Company. Andrew started as a runner at age sixteen and over his 60 years of active service had served in almost every office. It was only fitting that the members chose Andrew as the Grand Marshall for this event. Andrew Stevens passed away in 1991 leaving 2 more generations to continue his involvement in the community.
In 1985 the Company’s first tanker was built by the members. It was a 1968 Diamond Reo with 4300 gallon capacity. It was able to dump its entire load of water in under 2 minutes. This was the largest water tanker in Hunterdon County for quite a number of years. The truck was advertised for sale in 1993 and a rural fire company in Nodaway, Iowa was interested in it but they couldn’t afford it. During a meeting of the Fire Company members and the Borough Council, a decision was made to donate the tanker to the Nodaway Fire Company.
In 1986, having to replace the 1945 brush truck, the Company purchased a 1985 GMC from William Berg GMC in Easton, PA. This unit was a ¾ ton pickup truck with 4 wheel drive. A skid mount consisting of a large volume pump and a water tank were installed. This unit is currently in service as a utility unit.
1989 saw the Fire Company purchase a custom built truck from Pierce Manufacturing. It was a conventional cab truck equipped with a 1500gpm two stage pump, 750 gallon tank and the hose beds carried 1500 feet of 5 inch supply hose, and 600 feet of 3 inch hose.
During the late 1980’s the Readington Fire Company asked if the Company was interested in the 1941 Ford. Without hesitation the members said yes and the 1941 Ford returned. Upon its return Fire company member Jim Stevens performed minor body repairs and applied a fresh coat of red paint.
In 1993 the Fire Company purchased our current Tanker, a 1993 Peterbuilt chassis with a Walter 3,600 gallon tank. This tanker also is able to dump its water load in under 2 minutes. Because of these capabilities, not only is this tanker invaluable to Glen Gardner, it is used both in the Hunterdon County Tanker Task Force and the Warren County Tanker Task Force. Over the years the tanker has also provided coverage in several New Jersey counties including Bergen County and Middlesex County.
The Fire Company purchased a GMC Suburban in 1997 from Rossi GMC in Washington, NJ. Odssey Conversions in Wharton, NJ was chosen to convert this 4 wheel drive 8 passenger vehicle into a Mobile Command Unit.
The Firehouse on Main Street provided a nice home for many years. Not only did this building house the Fire Company, it also provided office and meeting space for the Borough as well. Like everything else, the Fire Company grew out of their space. When it came time to replace apparatus it was discovered the truck bays were not deep enough to accommodate newer standard sized trucks. It would be very costly to have to custom build trucks to fit in the bays the Fire Company had. Not only was the Fire Company outgrowing the building, the Borough Hall was also in need of more space and needed to expand its public meeting room and office space. It was decided that building a larger, more efficient firehouse was inevitable.
Mayor Stanley Kovach, Fire Chief Paul Drake, and Geleen Donovan approached Senator Robert Littell with the idea of acquiring funds from State grants to build a larger firehouse and an evacuation center. Senator Littell along with Senator Leonard Lance, who at the time was an Assemblyman and Chairman of the New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee, worked hand in hand on funding this project. Senator Littell sponsored three grants over a three year period and the State of New Jersey granted three payments of $300,000.00 each year to fund the building of the Firehouse/Evacuation Center.
In 1999 the Borough purchased property on Route 31 next to the Sailboat Shop and adjacent to the Department of Public Works from James Stasyhyn to build the new building. Architect Ed Gagne of Glen Gardner designed the building to be constructed of prefabricated steel. This type of construction would be more economical to build than a typical “brick and mortar” type of building and have minimal maintenance. Building construction began in August, 2001 and November 7, 2002 the Glen Gardner Fire Company moved into its new home.
Bids were accepted in November 2002 to build a new engine, and Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisconsin was awarded the contract. This truck has a 2,250 GPM pump, 1,000 gallon tank and seating for eight firefighters in an enclosed cab.
On February 21, 2003 the Glen Gardner Fire Company regretfully announced the passing of Alton R. Stevens. Alton was the company’s longest active member having serving 56 years in many offices including Fire Chief and President. He was also a member of the Hunterdon County Chiefs Association, and served on the Glen Gardner Borough Council for 11 years. Alton was also a driver for the Hampton Emergency Squad. At the time of Alton’s passing, four generations were continuing the Steven’s family involvement in the Fire Company.
In 2004 our 1989 Pierce custom was rebuilt into a cab-over truck with seating for six firefighters. Currently, the Glen Gardner Fire Company has about 25 members, and our Junior Firefighter program is the best it has been in years, with 8 juniors. We are proud of our history and look toward the future with confidence that we will continue to be a vital part of the community.