The History of Bergenfield Firemans Mutual Benevolent Association Local 65
When the Borough of Bergenfield was founded in 1894, it had no organized fire department. But it became evident that such a service was needed after the town railroad station burned down in 1904. As a result, the first volunteer company, Alert Fire Co. No. 1, was organized. In 1917 it would be joined by two other volunteer companies, Bergenfield Fire Company #2, on the east side of town, and Prospect Fire Company #1, in the Prospect Manor section of the west side of the borough.
As Bergenfield was a bedroom community, there was a severe lack of volunteers to protect the town during the day, and in 1923 it was decided that a paid staff was needed to fill the void. In June of 1923, Joseph Lomax and F. Paul Libonati were hired as the town’s first paid firefighters, and given the title Fire Mechanic. In 1925, a third man, known to us as only Mr. Taylor, was hired. Carmen Constanzo soon replaced Taylor, and these three career men had their job title changed by the town to Paid Drivers.
From the 1920’s through the mid 1950’s, the Paid Drivers worked a ten-hour day, Monday through Friday, and an additional four hours on Saturday. By the end of that decade the work hours were reduced to forty-five hours, and the Paid Driver job title was changed to Paid Fireman.
Bergenfield FMBA Local 65 was incorporated in December of 1958. Prior to that year, as to the best of our knowledge, the Paid Firemen were associated with our union brothers from Teaneck FMBA Local 42. Both Joseph Lomax and his son William, who had also been hired and would replace his father, signed the incorporation papers. With the retirement of the initial career firefighters, the 1950’s saw the hiring of James Diana and Charles Rosien. Because of the increasing number of fire responses, inspection duties, and apparatus maintenance, the paid staffing was increased to four members, with the hiring of Evans (Rod) Kessler in 1955.
The 1960’s saw the hiring of George Braeske and Joseph Scherb, the latter of which left Bergenfield in 1974 to take employment with the Air Force Academy in Colorado. The 1970’s also had the hiring of Robert Byrnes in 1974 and James McGoldrick in 1978.
The 1980’s reflected an increase in fire inspection and prevention duties and the need to use career firefighters to help staff an ambulance during daytime hours. This increased workload, along with the retirement of Rod Kessler, led to the hiring of Thomas Rose in 1982, Don Ebhardt in 1985, and James Kirsch in 1987,
Ambulance duty continued through the 1990’s and into the new century, until Ambulance Corp staffing increased. Although we no longer provide manpower to assist the ambulance, our duties still include firefighting, fire prevention inspections, public fire prevention education, and apparatus maintenance. Career staffing currently stands at five firefighters and a Captain.
Retired Members of FMBA Local 65
Evans R. Kessler
Robert Byrnes, Sr.
Active Duty Members of FMBA Local 65
Captain Robert Byrnes, Jr.
FF Kevin Cook
FF Darren Orta
FF Damont Brown
FF Ken Wise
FF Nick Garofano