BERGENFIELD FIRE COMPANIES REACH 100 YEAR MILESTONE

Posted on July 18, 2017

?On July 18, 2017 two of Bergenfield’s three fire companies, namely Bergenfield Fire Company No. 2 and Prospect Fire Company No. 1 reached their 100th anniversary of volunteer fire service to the Borough of Bergenfield.  Both companies were organized in 1917 and accepted by the Mayor and Council on the 18th of July 1917.  Both of these fire companies along with a third fire company, Alert Fire Company No. 1, continue to provide fire protection to this day.  Alert Fire Company reached its 100th anniversary milestone back in 2004. ?

The early history of the Bergenfield Fire Department is essentially the history of Alert Fire Company which was the only fire fighting organization in the Borough prior to the year 1917.  The town of Bergenfield was incorporated on June 11, 1894 and up until 1904, there was no organized system of fire protection.  If a fire broke out in any structure, it was doomed unless it could be subdued by bucket brigades hastily improvised by its neighbors.  Alert Fire Company was organized as such a bucket brigade in 1904 after a fire consumed the local railroad station.  Alert was organized with thirty charter members at a meeting of the citizens of Bergenfield held at Christie’s Hall, which at the time was used as the borough hall.  On January 3, 1905 the charter members unanimously voted to name the company Alert Fire Company No. 1.  Alert was reorganized as a fire company and accepted by the mayor and council on September 6, 1905 by passing ordinance #44 to establish, equip, and regulate a fire department in the Borough of Bergenfield.  

The first home of Alert was in a barn on the north side of East Main Street just east of Washington Avenue owned by a citizen who permitted the fire company to use it for the nominal fee of $1.00 per year.  About 1909, Alert purchased two lots at the corner of Bradley Avenue and William Street and moved the barn there, subsequently renovating it and enlarging it.  Alert remained at this site until 1962 when it relocated its headquarters to 61 West Church Street at the corner of Ralph Street (which was a commuter parking lot) where a new modern looking firehouse was erected and still stands today.  

About 1907, several citizens formed the Pioneer Engine Company to protect property on the west side of the railroad, but after a brief existence, this Company disbanded.  Thus, Alert served the needs of the borough for 13 years until 1917 when Bergenfield Fire Company No. 2 and Prospect Fire Company were both organized.  

Bergenfield Fire Company No. 2 was formed in response to a demand for another fire company because the citizens of Bergenfield felt one fire company was not enough to cover the entire borough.  Company No. 2 was organized on February 7, 1917 and accepted by the mayor and council on July 18, 1917.

When the Borough acquired the property where the borough hall stood, which at the time was located at North Washington and West Johnson Avenues, Company No. 2 requested and was granted permission in 1921 to establish its headquarters in what was known as the borough hall annex.  The annex was attached to the north side of borough hall and was essentially a garage. Company No 2’s first piece of firefighting equipment consisted of a Jumper (a four wheel hose reel) which was housed in various private barns in town prior to moving into the annex.  The Jumper was replaced within a year or so with a motor truck which had been converted by the firemen from a Pierce-Arrow touring car.  Sometime after moving into the annex, the mayor and council provided the fire company with a modern Reo fire truck and then in 1926, the Borough equipped the fire company with a LaFrance combination pumper and hose truck.  

Company No. 2 moved to its present location at 8 Home Place after being the highest bidder for a parcel of land put up for sale on December 10, 1934 by the Borough of Bergenfield. The Company bid $100 for the property and won the bid.

Prospect Fire Company was formed on June 6, 1917 and was also accepted by the Mayor and Council on July 18, 1917.  Prospect was formed as a result of a demand for better fire protection in the portion of the borough known as Prospect Manor which was then beginning to grow rapidly.  A meeting was called on the evening on May 23, 1917 to form and organize a fire company for the protection of life and property for the residents of Bergenfield. Membership was limited to the residents on the west side of the borough.  On January 9, 1918, a motion was made to change the corporate name of Prospect Fire Company to Prospect Fire Company No. 1 as it is known today. 

 ?Prospect purchased three lots on Williams Avenue (now West Clinton Avenue) and broke ground of its present firehouse on March 17, 1918.  Thomas J. Prime, one of its charter members and then mayor of the borough, turned the first spade full of earth.  Prospect is still serving the borough today in its original firehouse located at 238 West Clinton Avenue which isdirectly across from the Bergenfield High School.

?In 1919, seeing the need for unity among the three fire companies, the firemen came together and formed the Bergenfield Fire Department which today consists of 58 volunteer members complemented with a career staff of five members. In 1985, the fire department’s first female firefighter joined the volunteer ranks.  Over the years, six otherfemales joined the Department but today only one remains who along with her male comrades continue to proudly serve the residents of Bergenfield.