The Bloomingdale Fire Department is compromised of two volunteer fire companies, Hook & Ladder Company and Chemical Company. The department operates from two stations, Station 1 is located at the Bloomingdale Public Safety Complex on Union Avenue with Station 2 located at Borough Hall on Hamburg Turnpike. The department operates two engines, a squad, and ladder along with several support vehicles. Ladder 664, Engine 661, Car 668, and our antique "The USA" are housed at Station 1 with Squad 663 and Engine 661 housed at Station 2.
Although Bloomingdale was a community before the Revolution, it had no fire department until 1910. Destructive fires in 1894 and 1905 razed most of the business section and produced a popular demand for fire protection. During Bloomingdale's early history, a lack of firefighting organizations in
There are no official records of any of the fires that occurred before Bloomingdale became a borough in 1918. For the stories of happenings before then, the memories of the older residents must be relied upon. There is general agreement that the $100,000 fire of 1894 started in a barn, part of the Ball Brother's Lumber Yard, near the intersection of Hamburg Turnpike and
From all points in the borough residents came to the scene. While some were active in the bucket brigade which reached to the Pequannock River 200 feet away, others hurried to spread wet rugs on the roofs and sides of nearby houses.
Rebuilding of the block was begun immediately, and
During the following decade, Bloomingdale's population increased to 1,500 and the village, still a part of
Among the organizers of the company, which met in the Grand Army Hall, an old building used for social functions and as an elementary school, were William F. Sisco, Wilson B. Hargreaves, Samuel D. Babcock, Martin Anderson, Frank Wyble, John Ackerman, Frank Reardon, Robert Mathews, Harry T. Post, and Roy Haycock.
The first fire commission included Fire Chief Wilson B. Hargreaves, Robert Mathews, and Abram Vreeland. The original plan called for the purchase of two small chemical tanks from Martin Anderson, the village smithy. The wagon was to have been constructed after plans made by the firemen. This transaction was never consummated, however and the two 20 gallon tanks and a two-wheel wagon were bought ready-made.
Gongs placed at strategic locations originally summoned the BFD. They were merely old train wheels attached like the gongs to wooden frames. One of these was displayed for many years in front of the Firemen's Hall. In the 1930's a Gamewell pull box and siren system was installed.
Three years after its formation the department acquired two used automobiles which were remodeled to serve as fire engines. One was a Cadillac touring car, which carried the chemical tank; the other, a Sterns, was equipped with makeshift hook and ladder equipment. Neither was large enough to carry the firemen. The purchase of these two automobiles made it necessary to split the original company into the Chemical Company #I and the Hook and Ladder Company #I, an arrangement that still exists today with a maximum of 35 members per company.
These fire trucks won no prize for efficiency. They balked and rattled and stalled. The carburetor of the Cadillac was so erratic that one man had to ride on the fender to prod the mechanism if relatively steady motion were to be maintained. Some of the older men still remember a race between the two engines; no record for speed was broken, but as an endurance contest for the operators, the race was a success.
On one occasion the Steams caught fire on the way to a building fire. The driver, Frank Miller, put out the fire in the Sterns, re-installed the carburetor, which had fallen out, summoned help to push it, and was off to fight the building fire. This earned the Bloomingdale Fire Department the distinction of being included in that year's edition of Ripley's Believe it or Not.
In January 1919, the BFD met in the new municipal building (just north of
Important steps were taken for the improvement of the department after Bloomingdale became an independent borough in 1918. In 1922, through the efforts of Chief John W. Francisco, the borough purchased the first new equipment. In 1922, the Chemical Company took delivery of a 1924 Mack 500 gallon per minute pumper. The Hook and Ladder Company took delivery of a 1922 Mack city service ladder truck. Both attain a speed of 45 miles per hour. Both were purchased for $8,500.00 each.
One of the first recorded large fires that the BFD fought was a few days before July 4, 1929. Fireworks had been stored in a large two-story frame building at
On March 27, 1933, 32 women of the borough met in the municipal building to form the Ladies Auxiliary of the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department. Its original function was to raise money for the department through various fund raising events. Eventually their duties were expanded to include bringing refreshments to the firefighters battling large fires. The Ladies Auxiliary is always there with hot coffee in the winter or cool water in the summer, then as now and is greatly appreciated by the firefighters. The first President of the Ladies Auxiliary was Clara DeVourney.
In 1938, the borough purchased another Mack ladder truck to replace the 1922 model. In 1942, the borough purchased an U.S. Army 750 gallon per minute pumper. The 1942 pumper stayed in service until 1979 as a back up and parade piece. Both trucks were housed at the municipal building, near
One of the largest and most spectacular fires the BFD has fought was the Great Rubber Mill fire, Feb. 26, 1957. The Rubber Mill, running from the
In 1960, a Mack 750 gallon per minute pumper was purchased to replace the 1938 ladder truck. Shortly after purchasing this truck, to increase the borough fire protection rating, it was decided to build an addition fire station in the lower end of town, preferably near Delazier Field. An existing building was modified and the new truck accommodated. The Hook and Ladder Company operated out of this station located on
In 1964 the fire department broke ground on what was to become our meeting and drill hall, on property we had obtained in 1946, located at
During the 1960's the BFD fought some rather spectacular blazes, which included a forest fire in
By the 1970's the population had risen to well over 7,000. This increase dictated that an additional apparatus be acquired to keep up with pace of the ever increasing amount and complexity of the alarms. In 1971 a major expansion took place. A new fire station, police station, municipal complex, and library were build adjacent to the Firemen's Hall, on property that the fire department donated to the borough. The new fire station sported three bays and was home to the Chemical Company. An additional pumper was purchased, a 1971 Mack 1000 gallon per minute model. The price tag on this engine was $63,000.00. It and the 1961 Mack and the Army pumper responded from this station. In 1973 a Ford utility truck was purchased and assigned to operate out of the Ballston Street Station. In 1978 with the addition of two large garden apartment complexes, a senior citizen retreat at Cold Spring Lake and expansion along Main street it was determined that an aerial ladder was needed. In September 1979 we took delivery of a Mack-Telesqurt that had a 1000-gallon per minute pump as well as a 55 ft. aerial ladder at a cost of $147,000.00. Due to space limitations at the Ballston Street Station, the telesqurt, which was assigned to the Hook and Ladder Company, was housed in the Headquarters Station. This apparatus had the ability to flow 1000 gallons of water per minute on a fire from 50 feet above the fire, and rescue capabilities on buildings up to three stories tall. It has proved itself time and again over the years. One of the distinct improvements on the newer trucks over the old was the enclosed cab that the earlier ones lacked. They were safer for the crews to ride on, not to mention a lot warmer in the winter.
In 1977 due to the tremendous growth that the area had undergone, area fire chiefs under the guidance of Chief William Sondermeyer Sr. met to discuss the need for a formalized agreement to render assistance to one another when those incidents were too large for one department to handle. A formal agreement was drawn up and became known as the Lakeland Mutual Aid Agreement and included Bloomingdale,
In 1979 it was apparent we needed to improve our alerting system as the Gamewell siren system had been in place since the 1930's and had not seen very many improvements since. After investigating all the possibilities, it was decided that portable pagers would best fill our needs. These units, carried by members on their belts, not only would alert you to a call, but also tell you what and where it was. They have the capability of alerting members up to 10 miles away. Even with the pagers there was still the need to upgrade the Gamewell system with the most recent upgrade in 2000 that activates the sirens by radio signal eliminating the need for a hard-wired system. In 2006 a system was installed to send out text and voice messages over members cell phones to back up the paging system. Now there was an unlimited range to which members could be notified.
In 1978 the Bloomingdale Fire Prevention Bureau was formed. Its purpose is to enforce the N.J. State Uniform Fire Code, make inspections of all life hazard occupancies, commercial establishments, investigate all fires that occur, and to educate the public in fire safety.
Some of the more spectacular fires fought during the 1970's included The Kochka Bros. Ford Dealership, Hamburg Tpke. Feb. 4, 1970, The Alamo Nite Club, Glenwild Ave, Feb. 1974, The Alamo Nite Club, Glenwild Ave Nov. 6, 1975, The Cefaratti House Fire, Glenwild Lake, Sept. 1976, the Maloney Enterprise Co. fire.
The late 1970's saw many changes to the BFD. New and better personal protective turnout gear was made available and well as advances in the breathing apparatus we used was undertaken. Where there were no formal training requirements before, the Bylaws were changed to reflect these changing times. Today the BFD meets or exceeds all Local, State, and Federal requirements.
In 1980 an E-One/GMC 750 GPM quick attack pumper was purchased at a cost of $68,000.00 to replace the 1960 Mack. Its short wheelbase and low profile let it go where the larger apparatus could not. In 1985 a Mack 1500 GPM pumper with a 1000-gallon water tank was purchased to replace the 1961 Mack at a cost of $179,000.00.
In May 1983, the BFD was dealt a shocking blow when Fire Chief Duane Muldoon suffered a massive heart attack just as the annual Memorial Day Parade had ended in Kinnelon, prior to the start of the memorial services. Despite the best efforts of those there he could not be saved. The Ballston Street Station was dedicated in his memory for the many years of hard work and dedicated service to the BFD.
In 1987 the BFD took in its first female firefighter when Karen Davis joined, following her father and brother's footsteps. Amy Demarest in 1991 and Tammy Farrell in 2000 followed her.
One of the big changes to take place in the BFD was that each member was assigned his or her own gear, doing away the the old system of storing the gear on the apparatus and grabbing what ever seemed to fit. Sometimes it fit, sometimes it did not. The addition of more and better portable radios also was a big plus to our operating efficiency. It was during the 1980's that we began to designate our apparatus with call numbers that included 661: 1985 Mack, 662: 1971 Mack, 663: 1981 E-One, 664: 1979 Mack Telesqurt, 665: 1975 Rescue/Utility truck and 666: Chief vehicle. These codes are still in use today.
During the 1980's the BFD was very busy fighting some very large and spectacular fires which included: Chets Bar and Grill, Main St., Oct. 23, 1982, 143 Union Valley Road, (mini-mall) West Milford, Sept. 16, 1985, Powder Horn Mill, Riverdale, Sept. 4, 1985, Excelsior Lumber Yard, Butler, Feb. 1988, and a large house fueled by a propane leak/fire on Kinnelon Road, Kinnelon Aug. 1989.
But without a doubt the fire of the decade occurred on June 30, 1986 at
In 1988 it became clear with all the changes in regulations, tactics, and procedures it was getting to be too much for any one person or group of members to keep track of. Chief Robert Sabo appointed a committee consisting of Michael Wanklin, Thomas Webber and William Hulme to write the first Standard Operating Guidelines for the BFD. After nearly a year's worth of work in compiling all the information the first SOG's were published. This had a dramatic effect on our operations as we no longer had to rely upon memory or past practice when problems arose. It adopted the Incident Command System as the basis for all operations bringing uniformity, efficiency and effectiveness and most of all safety to level never before seen. It included an accountability system that is still used today. It was the single largest change with a positive impact on the BFD. It let every firefighter from the Chief to the newest rookie know what was expected of them. The SOG's are updated every two years.
In 1990 the borough purchased an E-One 1500 GPM/ 1000-gallon tank pumper to replace the 1971 Mack (662) at a cost of $225,000.00. The apparatus were now set to respond in certain fashion: 661 and 663 as attack pumpers, 662 as a supply pumper and 664 was set for truck company functions, with 665 as rescue and salvage. Turn out gear was taken off the apparatus and stored on racks in the fire stations. This was done to meet the requirement that everyone who rides the apparatus must be wearing their gear. Firefighters respond to the station, don their gear and then get on the apparatus. All new breathing apparatus was purchased in 1991. Every member who is qualified to wear them received their own personal face piece. Personal Alert Safety Signals or PASS devices were purchased in 1999 and each firefighter was issued one. When activated they send out an ear piercing signal letting other crews know that someone is in trouble and needs help and the loud signal pinpoints their location. The borough bought out its portion of the water system from
In 1988 the BFD joined another mutual aid association, this one was an agreement between all 16 municipalities of
In 1992 the PCMAA work with the Freeholder Board to establish the
There was still the need to have a fixed facility with all the teaching tools right at hand. In a joint effort with the
Currently 4 members of the BFD serve as instructors with the Academy: Michael Wanklin ( Level II), William Pomeroy ( Level II), Michael Westdyk ( Level II), and Frank Nueberger ( Instructor in training)
The County Mutual Aid Plan was put to the test on Jan. 17, 1991 when a major fire broke out on
With a series of serious technical rescues occurring, there was a need to address these rescues with the proper equipment, manpower and training to execute them effectively, but safely also. Chief Michael Wanklin and Kinnelon Chief Robert Appledorn met in 1996 to brainstorm the idea of a regionalized technical rescue corps. They contacted officials from the Butler FD and Triboro First Aid Squad and began selling the concept and the results of their efforts became known as the Triboro Rescue Coalition and once again the Lakeland Mutual Aid Agreement was utilized. Each agency would take a portion of the different aspects of technical rescue and specialize in the aspect. If the need arises for that aspect the agency in that specialty would respond and become the lead agency, with the local fire chief as the incident commander and his department serving as a support group to the lead agency. The breakdown goes like this: Triboro Rescue Squad: vehicle extrications, Bloomingdale FD: ice and swift water rescue, Kinnelon FD: high angle and deep woods Search and rescue, and Butler FD: confined space and building collapse.
The concept was tested on April 17, 1997 when a front-end loader tumbled down a hill in Kinnelon trapping the operator. After a two hour meticulous extrication the operator was successfully removed and living testimony today that the system worked as designed: the right resources, the right training resulted in success. The Coalition was tested again on April 11, 1998 when two fishermen became trapped in the suddenly rising
Unfortunately in 2000, the Rescue Coalition concept was abandoned due to a lack of support by some of its members.
Once again in the 1990's the BFD responded to and battled some of the largest fires in the area. In addition to the Meyer Bros. fire we responded to two fires in condos under construction on Mathews Ave. Riverdale (it should be noted that in the morning we fought a fire in one group of condos and then again that evening we were called back to yet another fire in another group), Vernon tanker incident, July 16, 1992, Valley Spring Lake administration building, DeGraw Road, Riverdale, April 1994, Powder Horn Mill, Riverdale April 22, 1995, Governor Street Brewery, Paterson April 25, 1997, 4 South Glen Road, Kinnelon, Aug. 20, 1997, Klugetown Mall, Pompton Lakes, Oct. 27, 1997 and Diamond Spring Road and Lafayette Ave., Hawthorne Jan. 1999.
In 2000 the BFD took delivery of a Pierce 75 ft. aerial ladder to replace the 1979 Mack Telesqurt (664) at a cost of $417,000.00. That same year we received a thermal imaging camera from the State of
In 2002 the Boro purchased a piece of property located at
The project was completed by late November 2007. The station houses Ladder 664 and Engine 661, a utility vehicle for OEM, and a Mass Decontamination trailer for
On December 1, 2007 the official ribbon cutting and dedication of this new station took place. A half hour before the ceremony was scheduled to begin, the BFD was dispatched to
In May of 2007 took delivery of a Pierce 1500 GPM rescue-engine replacing Engine 663 (1981 GMC pumper) and Rescue 665 (1974 rescue unit). Squad 663 as it is been designated be known will run from the Hamburg Tpke. Station. Having much in the way of storage space, Squad 663 ( a squad is a term for an engine company that can do all aspects of firefighting: engine, truck and rescue work) is equipped with a 1500 GPM pump, 750 gallon tank, elevated light tower, and reels for the hydraulic lines that run the hydraulic rescue tools. It seats 8 firefighters and carries a wide variety of tools for both firefighting and rescue incidents. This unit cost $450,000.00.
It was quickly tested at a working structure fire at
In May of 2007, Engine 661 (1985 Mack-Ward 1500 GPM pumper)was found to have serious motor problems. All avenues of possible solutions were explored, and with the Boro strapped for financing it was determined to purchase a used 1984 Mack CF 1500 GPM engine from the Haledon Fire Department. This transaction was finally approved in late September 2007 and the unit was placed in service shortly thereafter. This was a stop gap measure to buy time for the Boro to get its finances in better shape so as to be able to purchase a new replacement for 661 which is due to be replaced in 2010. In the summer of 2008, the Boro allocated $300,000.00 to order a replacement for 661. The Salvation Army, which is the largest landowner in the Boro and runs two facilities on those parcels, donated $30,000.00 towards the purchase of this vehicle.
In 2003 an ordinance was passed was passed by the Mayor and Council establishing a Junior Firefighters Program open to youths ages 14-17 in an effort to promote some added interest to the BFD as well hopefully gain members. Bernie Vroom III became the first BFD Junior Firefighter in January 2004 and was followed by Edward Ball and Emily Wanklin in late 2004. The current Juniors Squad has 6 members, which prove their value as members at every alarm.
Firefighters now are required to have a physical every year along with a fit test for their face piece to be certified to be an interior firefighter. All firefighters must complete the Firefighter I and I-200 National Incident Management System (NIMS) course of study at the
In addition to the firefighting and NIMS training required, the BFD membership is trained to perform ice rescues, swift-water (river) rescues, high angle (rope) rescues, vehicle extrications as well as hazmat decontamination. They also support the BOEM Deep Woods Search Team. These incidents are referred to as technical rescues because of the technical and complex nature that they present to the BFD.
In 2004, the BFD was notified that is was a successful applicant for a federally funded F.I.R.E. Grant totaling $105,000.00. The grant was used to replace all of the BFDs aging self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and spare cylinders as well as to purchase an air bottle re-fill system for the cylinders. The advantage of this re-fill system is that firefighters can train with live air on the SCBAs at all times, and not have to call in a company to re-fill them and the cost associated with the re-fill. This makes them better firefighters, as they are more comfortable and confident with the SCBA which their lives depend upon in a fire.
March 9, 2008 the BFD received the shocking news of the LODD of WMFD Co. 1 Ex-Chief Raymond Barrett, who died while fighting a kitchen fire. Chief Barrett had strong ties to the BFD, being born in Bloomingdale. His brothers Phil, Bobby, and Kenny all served on the BFD. His wife, Elaine, is a cousin to BFD Ex-Chief Michael Wanklin. BFD members stepped up to the plate for the better part of that week covering WMFD Co. 1.
In May 2008, the Bloomingdale Fire Police where established by Boro ordinance and 10 current and former members took advantage of this opportunity to continue to serve in this capacity. A training class was held at the new Station 1 by the Passaic County Community Colleges Public Safety Academys Fire Division. The Fire Police will man the radios in each station as well as assist the BPD in traffic and crowd control at incident scenes.
On August 4, 2008 the BFD was a recipient of a $25,000.00 community service grant from United Parcel Service (UPS). This grant will be used to upgrade some of the current equipment the BFD currently has on hand. The grant came about through the efforts of BFD member Carlos LeDuc, a UPS employee.
On August 25, 2008 the BFD, along with the
One benefit that BFD members enjoy is member retention plan that the Boro implemented in 2001 was a Length of Service Awards Program or LOSAP. This program rewards the firefighters with a cash allotment that is placed in an interest bearing account and is given to the member when he or she retires from active duty. Based on a 100-point requirement for the full amount, each alarm, drill, meeting as well as firematic officer positions, and of course years of service in the department has a point value. A member has to acquire 100 points to earn the full amount of the yearly allotment.
The BFD responds on average to 150 fire and rescue calls per year, with approximately 5% of these calls being working structural incidents. Vehicle, brush, and technical rescue calls make up about 35%, with the remainder being activated alarms and public service calls. In addition to this there are 11 department drills and 22 company drills to attend during the course of the year and three SCBA qualifying drills. On average the BFD expends 4500-5500 man-hours in responses and training.
Michael G. Wanklin
Bloomingdale Fire Department