TOMS RIVER FIRE COMPANY # 1
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.