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History of the Teaneck, New Jersey Fire Department

Brief History, 1911-1966

By Edward T. Black

 

Many of you know that the Teaneck Fire Department is one of the finest in New Jersey. The Department is a fully paid unit, with the only volunteers being members of the Box 54 club and the fire auxiliary. This is part of a series of reports on the development of the Teaneck Fire Department, from founding to present in 1974.

Until the year 1775, there were only three Townships in what is now Bergen County.

The first Township, Hackensack, was formed in 1692. It was composed of land between the Hackensack and Hudson Rivers. In 1709, New Barbadoes Township was created, and it consisted of the lands between the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers. Lastly, Harrington Township was formed in 1775. Harrington was composed of lands from portions of both Hackensack and New Barbadoes Townships.

In 1871, Hackensack Township was reduced in size when Ridgefield, Englewood, and Palisades Townships were organized. Teaneck residents who lived in the northern section then paid their taxes to Englewood, and those in the southern end to Ridgefield.

The residents, being dissatisfied with the lack of public services which were supposed to have been supplied with, voted to form the Township of Teaneck in 1895.

The assets of the Township (land values, etc.) were valued at $377,650. The Township’s physical assets were:

  1. one hose cart valued at $600
  2. one hose cart valued at $75
  3. 500 feet of canvas hose
  4. 1,000 feet of rubber hose
  5. two sets of harnesses valued at $240
  6. six lanterns valued at $9
  7. one life net valued at $60
  8. nine nozzles valued at $50

In 1911, four companies, all volunteer, served the Township. Each company owned a hand drawn hose cart, and alarms were sounded by striking a hammer against a locomotive tire.

In 1915, the Volunteer Association's (as they were known) were organized into one municipal Department, with K.V. Ridley as Chief. The Township purchased badges, boots, fire extinguishers, and lanterns for the Volunteers.

During January of 1917, Chairman William Bodine of the Township Committee authorized the town to buy fire apparatus that was on sale in Edgewater, New Jersey for $125.

It was not until 1920, when Martin Veuve was Township Chairman, that an automotive vehicle was purchased. Upon his appeal to the Committee, an American LaFrance 350 Gallon per minute (GPM) pumper totaling $4,285 was obtained. Of course this called for a new building to house it in. Since none was large enough, a proposal to build a combined municipal Building/Fire Station put before the voters of Teaneck. The issue was defeated, but -the taxpayers did agree to a fire bond issue totaling $40,000,

Company No. 1 was established in 1904, and was quartered at the southwest corner of Teaneck Road and Forest Avenue. The Company protected the section of town known as Manhattan Heights, West Englewood Park and Upper Teaneck. Some of the organizers of the company were Walter Kaltenback (later to become the first paid fireman in Teaneck), K.V. Ridley (to become the first Chief) and Carl Carlsen. The company's protective district was north of Cedar Lane to the Bergenfield line, and as the second due engine in -the remaining three- districts.

The owner of the firehouse in which the Company was stationed decided that he no longer wanted the volunteers for his tenants, and they were forced too seek new quarters. A barn for sale on Lafayette Avenue was available, and the Company bought one half of the building and moved it to Fairview Avenue, directly behind the 1920 fire headquarters After clearing the road to make a path to move the structure, the barn was given a complete overhauling, and converted into a firehouse.

The Company operated a hand drawn hose cart and a hand drawn aerial truck. In 1920 a new station was erected, and this Housed the new 350 GMP LaFrance engine. In 1926, an American LaFrance Type 14 city service truck was purchased, and this replaced the hand drawn aerial. The city service truck, carried 235 feet of ladders, variously sized pike Poles and other miscellaneous equipment.

In 1929, the 1920 engine was replaced with a new 1,000GPM American LaFrance engine. The old LaFrance then became known as Engine Two, and the 350 pump was replaced with a 750 GPM pump.

In 1936, the city service truck was converted into a quad 1936, by the Department shops. It consisted of rearranging the superstructure to accommodate the 350 GPM pump which was removed from the 1920 LaFrance. Also, a 40 gallon booster tank was added, and a Hose bed to hold 1,000 feet of hose.

Cedar Volunteer Firemen's Association, or Hose Co. #2 was located on Kenwood Place. The Company also operated a handdrawn hose cart until 1920 when they received a now Reo chemical and hose wagon with 1,000 feet of hose,

The Company was formed in 1908, and the original cart was housed in a barn owned by Joseph Douglas on Linden Avenue until 1912, when a new station was built on Kenwood Place.

Company Two protected north to West Englewood Park, and west of the West Shore railroad to the Hackensack River.

Hose Company No. 1, the third Company was organized in October of 1911, and served the section of town known as Lower Teaneck.

In 1912, the Company obtained a used hand drawn hose cart with 500 feet of hose. In 1913, to better equip the cart, an additional 500 feet of hose was purchased from the Diamond Rubber Hose Company.

During 1914, the members erected a sub-station in Fred Damrau's greenhouse. This 'station' as you may call it, housed a push cart equipped with a ladder, hose and nozzles.

Shortly before World War One, the Company acquired two building lots on a cowpath named Morningside Terrace, and built their quarters (this building today houses TFD Engine three), in 1920, the Company received a 1920 Reo engine,

Company Four, or the Glenwood Park Volunteer Firemen's Association was organized in 1911. Their original truck was a Phaenton straight body hose wagon which was housed in the blacksmith shop of John J. Kennedy. In 1920, the Company also received a 1920 Reo chemical/hose wagon with 1,0OO feet of hose. Due to the extensive areas of brush and meadow, and the heavy usage of the truck, a new 1933 Reo hose/chemical truck model JB was purchased. The truck came equipped with 750 feet of 2 ½ inch hose and a 110 gallon booster tank.

In 1938, the Fire Underwriter's suggested that a new company be established in the west Englewood Park section. Because of the proximity of the Glenwood station and Hose One, it was recommended that the Glenwood Company be shut down, because Hose One was at this time had some paid firemen. The 1933 Reo which they operated then became a reserve engine in 1939, and in 1948 it was converted into the present light truck.

After their dissolvement, the members founded the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which is the predecessor of the Corp today.

The last and by far the most mysterious company was really never a part of the Municipal Department. Known as Defender Hose Company No. 1, they served the New Bridge sections of both Teaneck and New Milford (then known as Palisades Twp.).

The Company got its start in 1913 when a group of citizens from both communities decided that more fire protection was needed. Up until that time, whatever coverage there was had been supplied by the Germania hook and Ladder Company (present day New Milford Co. 1) located in Peetzburg, and by the Teaneck Company No. 1 on Teaneck Road. In 1915, Defender Hose moved from their station on New Bridge Road to Trenton Street, New Milford, where they were re-chartered as New Milford Co. 2 on September 1, 1915.

The town furnished the fire equipment only, and allowed 250.dollers per Company per year to Companies 2, 3 and 4 for housing and maintenance of the apparatus. Each Company purchased its own equipment and had to pay for it itself. The houses and the furnishings were the sole property of the individual Company. The only source of revenue outside of the Township funds was from dances and entertainment.

In 1932, there were 370 hydrants, twenty of which were from the Bogota water and Light Company in the Bogota section (Hose No. 2's district), and the remaining 350 were from the Hackensack Water Company. Prior to 1923, the hydrants, were mainly six inch gated branches, and the barrels either had two 2 ½ inch stems, or one 2 ½ inch stem with one five inch steamer connection. Those placed after 1923 had two 2 ½ inch outlets and one four and one-half inch steamer connection.

Some recommendations from the then Fire Commissioner, J. W. Supfer in 1924 reported that the hoop alarm system (locomotive tires) was obsolete and inadequate. The Township checked into a Gamewell box alarm system and found the cost too prohibitive, In Hackensack, the report states that of all of the alarms received, eighty percent were telephoned in via the operator.

The Commissioner also submitted that the New York Telephone Company install a new system whereby all alarms could be transmitted from Headquarters to the Companies automatically. The system would also operate the sirens on each firehouse automatically.

It was also recommended that the Township take on an insurance policy for the Department personnel, as there wasn't any protection covering death or disability to firemen while on duty.

Mr. Supfer also noted that a third man should be hired to reduce the workload from twelve hours a day to ten, and from seven days a week to six. The cost of adding another man on was whopping $1,800 a year

GOING PAID

The first paid fireman in Teaneck was Walter Kaltenback of company No. 1. He was appointed in 1920. In 1924, W. Lutthans was hired, and in 1925 and 1926, H. Gogolen and J. Crane were appointed. In 1927, two additional men were added, J. Donnelly and W. Jahnes. In 1929 H. Davis, R. White, Nels Johnson and William Lindsay were appointed. In 1935, the Department had a total of 24 Paid officers and men.

Francis A. Murray (father of the present Chief, Joseph R. Murray) became the first paid Chief of the Department in 1932, succeeding. Coming from Morris Cove, Connecticut, Chief Murray came to teach efficiency in firefighting to both the paid and volunteer firemen. He served the position well for twenty-two years, and brought the Fire Underwriter's rating (New Jersey rating) from a class 'E' to a very high 'B.'

In 1954, Chief Murray was succeeded by William Lindsay, and, an ex-Glenwood Park volunteer member, and one of the first paid men.

When Chief Lindsay retired in 1966, he was succeeded by Joseph R. Murray.

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