It was March 29, 1898, in the old Public School Building on Main Street, that a meeting was called to order by David Outcalt. The purpose of this meeting was to organize a fire company to protect Spotswood, which, at that time was part of East Brunswick. The Borough of Spotswood was not incorporated until 1908. The Enterprise Hook & Ladder Company of Spotswood was incorporated on May 10, 1898 in order to protect life and property from fire. At that time thirty two men were elected as members. By August of that same year the membership had increased to sixty eight men.
The first firehouse in Spotswood was built at a cost of $130 and was located in the rear of Underhill and Cornell’s store on a piece of property owned by Mr. A. DeVoe. A fire alarm was donated by the South Amboy Fire Company. The first piece of fire apparatus was purchased from a Long Branch company on June 6, 1898. The cost was $56 plus $45 for repairs and alterations.
On the night of October 31, 1898, the Enterprise Hook & Ladder Company answered its first ‘alarm of fire’. The fire was located in a building owned by George Appleby near “Little Pond”. The building was of little value and the pumps were not turned on until the fire was well underway. When the water was turned on, the firemen were gratified to see that the pump was performing satisfactorily.
In 1905 the old school house on Main Street was purchased for $800. It was in this building that a new firehouse was established. In 1912 the fire company purchased and installed a new bell in the tower of the firehouse. Today, this bell is a part of the Firefighters’ Memorial located in Triangle Park.
The first piece of motorized apparatus, a 1921 Ford Model “T”, was purchased by the fire company at a cost of $3,346. This truck has been restored and is our jewel in parades. In 1925, six rubber coats, six helmets, and four pairs of boots were the first pieces of personal protective equipment were purchased. Also that year the company bought a Ford Model “T” Chemical truck for $1,975. At the same time, pumping stations at the lake and other streams were being completed in order to obtain water to extinguish fires.
At the fire company’s annual meeting held on January 24, 1928, William McMulkin offered a resolution, “that the members of the Enterprise Hook & Ladder Company desire to comer under Borough control.” A second resolution offered by Frank Vliet, “Whereas the members of the Enterprise Hook & Ladder Company have voted for in favor of Borough control, that we offer for sale, and will sell to the Borough of Spotswood, New Jersey, the firehouse and lot situated on Main Street. Also the fire apparatus, consisting of two engines, a pumper, and a chemical truck will be sold for the sum of one dollar.” This action was taken to permit the firefighters to join the New Jersey State Firemen’s Relief Association, and also prompted the company’s name to change to the Spotswood Volunteer Fire Department. Spotswood’s Relief Association was formed on March 28, 1928 with Arthur D. Appleby serving as President.
Fire alarm call boxes were installed within the Borough during 1929 in order to provide a more effective method of reporting fires; this system became obsolete and fell into a state of disrepair, and was removed in 1971, by the time most fires were being received by telephone.
When a municipal water system was installed in 1935, it was then possible to install fire hydrants and mains throughout the Borough, thus eliminating the need for the old pumping stations at the lake. The following year a Diamond “T” pumper, capable of pumping 500 gallons per minute, was added to the fleet.
On November 14, 1938, thirteen wives of the firefighters met with two representatives of the South River Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary. Subsequently, these thirteen plus another joined together as the charter members of the Spotswood Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary. At a special meeting in September of 1943, it was decided to discontinue meetings for the duration of World War II. The Auxiliary was reconstituted in February of 1949 and has continued to serve to today.
During 1954, a Ward LaFrance Pumper, capable of pumping 750 gallons per minute, was purchased for $15,000. When this apparatus arrived it was realized that there was not enough room in the firehouse. The planning and construction of a new firehouse began, and it was a sad day for many firefighters when the old firehouse, home to the department for fifty years, was torn down in 1958.
In 1961, the Bureau of Fire Prevention was established. Independent from the Fire Department, Fire Prevention conducts inspections of schools, places of assembly, commercial and industrial buildings, and multi-family houses on a yearly basis.
During the holidays, Fire Prevention in cooperation with the Fire Department and Recreation Department sponsor the annual Santa Claus tour of Spotswood, giving candy canes and gifts to all borough children. They also conduct visits to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Raritan Bay Medical Center: Perth Amboy Division with gifts to sick children on Christmas Eve.
As Spotswood’s industrial and residential sectors grew, the need for additional apparatus in the department was needed. In 1964, a 750 gallon per minute Hahn pumper was purchased. In 1967, an International Brush Truck replaced the 1928 Ford Model “A”. In 1971, an additional firehouse was constructed at the current location of the Borough Yard/Recycling Center. This house is still used occasionally, when the manpower will allow for it.
In 1973, during the 75th Anniversary of the department, Engine 74, a 1,250 gallon per minute Hahn was purchased to replace the 1936 Diamond “T” (which had been refurbished to allow for such a long service life). A new chief’s car was also purchased during this year.
In 1980 and 1981 renovations took place in the rear of the firehouse.
Formerly a basketball court, the back hall, the lounge, and the chief’s
and president’s offices were built by the members on a volunteer
Shortly thereafter, a pocket pager alerting system was installed to replace the antiquated home alarm system that had been in service since 1968. These pagers are much more effective in alerting firefighters to an emergency since they are portable.
The Department acquired Brush 73, a Ford F-350, in 1988, replacing the International Brush Truck. This unit is also still in service today, acting as both a brush truck and a command vehicle during snow storms.
In 1991, Engine 72, a 1,250 gallon per minute Pierce Lance pumper, was purchased to replace the 1964 Hahn. This engine is still the workhorse of the fleet despite it being the second due engine today.
In May of 1998, the Spotswood Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its 100th Anniversary, what is recalled by many as the wettest day ever. Though despite the extraordinarily heavy rain, the Department had the longest parade in Borough history and threw one heck of a party afterwards.
In July of 2001, the Department acquired the new Engine 74, a 1,500 gallon per minute Pierce Quantum pumper, to replace the 1973 Hahn at an estimated cost of $400,000, quite the difference from the first Model “T”. This engine is the first enclosed cab truck in department history.
The Department is constantly changing to deal with today’s challenges of firefighting, vehicle extrication, and homeland security. A completely different entity of that founded 106 years ago, but the goal remains the same to best serve the people of Spotswood and protect life and property.
Source: “The Spotswood Volunteer Fire Department 1898-1998”