COMPANY BEGINNINGS

Toms River Fire Company 1 


Station 25  Toms River New Jersey


By 1901, the company realized that, because of the town’s water system, the Howe Chemical truck was no longer practical for Toms River.  In August of 1901, the truck was sold to the Rockaway Fire Department for $200 and was replaced by a hook and ladder truck, built by blacksmith Abram Pittenger, a member of the company, for $102. 


            This new truck was outfitted with ladders, poles and axes.  It did not have a pump or hose on it.  In January of 1902, the Bayville Church bell was purchased and mounted in a tower behind the engine house to be used as a fire alarm. 


            Even though the fire company was well established by this time, the members were not satisfied.  As early as March 1902, the company started investigating the relocation of the engine house to the center of town.  In August 1904, a second hose cart was purchased and in November of that year, after being available in town for only two years, electric lights were installed in the engine house.


            In January of 1909, a committee was formed to look into installing an electric fire alarm system in town.  By March of 1910, the system has its first test.  A third hose cart was purchased in August of 1910 and a telephone for reporting fires only, was installed at the electric plant, which was manned 24 hours a day.  When a fire was reported, the watchman at the plant would sound the whistle, alerting the firefighters.


            Even with all of the advancement the company made in the first ten years of the century, probably the most significant event for the future of the company happened in the early morning hours of April 17, 1910.  A fire started in a barn on the west side of Robbins Street and burned the entire block.  Firefighters from Lakewood and Lakehurst were called for help, but when they arrived it was found out that their hose would not connect to Toms Rivers hydrants, because the threads were different.  The firefighters fought bravely and by dawn the danger had passed.


            This fire, although it destroyed a large section of the business district, gave Toms River Fire Co #1 an opportunity they had been waiting for some time.  By 1911 a suggestion was made to the Township Committee to purchase Abram Pittenger’s lot (his blacksmiths shop burned down in the Robbins Street fire) and build a town hall/firehouse for the town.  The committee agreed and on September 25, 1913 the new building was dedicated with a large firefighter’s parade and celebrations, with hose laying and other contests.  The Township Committee granted the fire company life rights to the building.  This is the same building that Toms River Fire Co. #1 occupies today.


            During this time period, the fire company would pay teamsters in the town, to pull their Hook & Ladder Truck to the fire with their teams of horses or mules; while the firefighters would pull the hose carts themselves.  The teamsters, upon hearing the fire alarm, would rush to the fire house and the first one there would hook up the truck.  After the teamsters got the truck to the fire, they would unhook their team and leave the truck to be pulled back to the firehouse by the tired firefighters after the fire.  The teamsters would then submit a bill to the company for their services.  Some would charge $1.00, but others would charge as high as $2.00.


            In June of 1918, the fire company again went through another major change by taking possession of their first motorized apparatus.  Although this was basically a hose truck, without the pump or water tank, the company had launched itself into the motorized age.


o now a fire company was formed, but this was not enough.  Almost immediately, the company members started raising funds to purchase a fire engine and to build an engine house.  

 

In April of 1896, there was $250 in the fund already, a large sum of money at the time.  The members, realizing that they had the full support of the town, decided to take a chance and signed a contract with the Howe pump and Engine Company of Indianapolis, Indiana for a hook and ladder truck, outfitted with ladders of various lengths, axes, poles, buckets and lanterns.  The truck also had a chemical tank and a hand pump with suction hose for the water.  Two men were required to operate the pump, which was attached to 100 feet of hose with a nozzle on the end of it.  The truck was painted red, white and blue and was lettered on each side “Toms River Fire Company.”  The truck was claimed to be “the first of its kind” and cost $600.

 

            When the truck was delivered, the fire company put on a demonstration for the whole town.  A building was built on the shore of Robbin’s Cove and filled with dried cedar brush and other in flammables.  The building was then saturated with kerosene and set ablaze.  The firefighters pulled their new apparatus to the scene and out the fire out by using the chemical engine.  Again the building was lit up and this time the firefighters used the pump, drawing water from the river.  Both times the fire was extinguished in an expeditious manner, amidst the cry of praise from the hundreds of onlookers.

 

            While the company was waiting for their new truck to be delivered, they began planning to build an engine house.  A lot was secured on Horner Street (School Street), across from the school.  The members began constructing a two story building, the first floor to house the truck and other firefighting equipment and the second floor for meetings.  Unfortunately, the engine house was not finished by the time the new truck was delivered; forcing the firefighters to store the truck in R.B. Gowdy’s shed on Water Street.  Work continued on the engine house, but because of a lack of funds, it was not completed till the spring of 1897.  In July of that year, the railroad donated a locomotive wheel ring to the fire company to be used as a fire alarm.  This was hung at the engine house and was rung for fires and drills.

 

            On December 22nd, 1896, the fire company members, through the State of New Jersey, incorporated the fire company and in 1898, the fire company petitioned the Township Committee and proposed to form a fire district.  An election was held on May 28, 1898 and Fire District No. 1 was formed, with a budget of $500 for the first year.  Also in that year, the Toms River Water Company became operational and the town now had a hydrant system.  This change allowed the fire company to purchase hose, nozzles, and hose carts for firefighting.  When there was a fire, the members would pull and push the hose carts to the scene, hook the hoses to the nearest hydrant and fight the fire.  This was a significant improvement to the fire protection of the town.