Prior to 1904, there was no organized system of fire protection in Bergenfield, and a building in which a fire broke out was doomed unless it could be subdued by bucket brigades hastily improvised by neighbors. These bucket brigades known as the "Alerts," formed into an organized fire company with thirty charter members at a meeting of the citizens of Bergenfield held at Christie’s Hall, then used as the Borough Hall, on January 3, 1905, when it was unanimously voted to name the new company "Alert Fire Company No. 1."
The first home of Alert Fire Company No. 1 was a barn on the north side of East Main Street, just east of Washington Avenue, owned by Mr. Slingerland, who permitted the fire company to use it for the nominal rental fee of $1.00 per year. About 1909, the Company acquired the old barn it had occupied on East Main Street and moved it to the corner of William Street and Bradley Avenue after purchasing two lots at that location. From time to time, enlargements and improvements were made by the firemen to their headquarters.
Alert’s first piece of equipment was a hand drawn hose reel. In 1905, Alert acquired a horse drawn hook and ladder truck from Tenafly, which was used for six years, sometimes being drawn by a horse if available, but more often by hand. Several years later, a hose wagon was provided by the Borough to be propelled in the same manner. On November 7, 1906, the Mayor and Council formally accepted Alert Fire Company No. 1, Inc. along with the following equipment: 1 hook and ladder truck, complete with straight and extension ladders, axes, hooks, reels, a heavy drag wagon equipped with a Rumsey pump, complete with platform, suction reel, 300 feet of 2” hose with nozzle, couplings for 2” and 3” hydrants and one brass and two composition working trumpets.
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, the Alert Company served the needs of the Borough until 1917, when on February 7th, Bergenfield Fire Company No. 2 was organized, and on June 6th, Prospect Fire Company No. 1 was organized. Bergenfield Fire Company No. 2 and Prospect Fire Company No. 1 were both formally accepted by the Mayor and Council on July 18th of that year paving the way for creation of one fire department two years later. Each fire company owned and maintained their respective fire houses.
Bergenfield Fire Company No. 2 was formed in response to a demand for more extensive fire fighting facilities than those afforded by one existing company, and the formation of Prospect Fire Company No. 1 was the result of a demand for better protection particularly in that section of the Borough known as Prospect Manor, which was beginning to grow rapidly.
In 1917, the Borough provided Alert with its first motor driven apparatus. A few years later, a used truck was purchased and converted into a hook and ladder and hose carrying apparatus that served until 1926 when the Borough equipped the Company with a modern combination chemical and ladder truck.
The first equipment for Fire Company No. 2 consisted of a jumper which was housed in various private barns. This was replaced within a year or so with a motor truck which had been converted by the firemen from a Pierce-Arrow touring car. This was housed for a time in M. Saibin’s barn on Washington Avenue. When the Borough acquired property where the former site of the original Borough Hall was built, Company No. 2 requested, and was granted, permission to establish its headquarters in then what was known as the Borough Hall Annex, and about that time, the Mayor and Council provided this Company with a modern Reo fire truck. In 1926, the Borough equipped Company No. 2 with a LaFrance combination pumper and hose truck.
At the time of Prospect Fire Company’s acceptance by Borough officials, this Company had a four-wheel reel and 650 feet of hose, which was housed in S.D. Halahan’s garage, without expense to the Borough. The Company purchased three lots on Williams Avenue (now West Clinton Avenue) from the Twentieth Century Realty Company and broke ground for its firehouse on March 17th, 1918. Thomas J. Prime, one of its charter members and then Mayor of the Borough, turned the first spadeful of earth.
On August 5th, 1919, Prospect purchased a Regal car and converted it into a fire apparatus. This truck was kept in service until December, 1920 when it went out of commission. The Company used a jumper from that time until September, 1921, when the Mayor and Council purchased a Brockway apparatus for its use. In the latter part of 1931, the Borough equipped Prospect with a Reo pumper and hose wagon. In 1932, a hose drying tower was erected at the rear of the Borough Hall.
Up to 1923, fire alarms were sounded by tapping out code signals on discarded steel locomotive tires suspended from frame supports at strategic points in the town. In 1923, a manually operated compressed air siren was installed at the Borough Hall and a system of police and fire alarm call boxes maintained by the Telephone Company replaced the old ring fire alarms. The siren was electrically operated from police headquarters in the Municipal building sometime in the 40’s and an auxiliary siren was installed in the southern part of the Borough in 1946; also operated by police headquarters.
In 1941, the Fire Department solicited $4,000 from a fund drive of the residents of the Borough for the purchase of an ambulance. On December 27, 1941, a modern Cadillac Ambulance was placed in service inaugurating the Bergenfield Volunteer Firemen’s Ambulance Corps. By April 1947, the Corps had answered its 1000th call responding to all fire calls, accident cases and transportation of sick and injured to and from area hospitals. The Corps had a membership of 35 volunteer firemen and was operated by a Board of Governors consisting of two firemen from each of the three companies, the fire chief, the two assistant chiefs, the fire Commissioner, a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer as well as an ambulance manager, captain and lieutenant. The ambulance was housed at Fire Company No. 2. In 1953, the original ambulance purchased in 1941 was replaced by a modern, up to date vehicle costing $13,000.