Carlstadt Fire Department

Organized 1872


John J. Harr

Chief of Department

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 The Carlstadt Fire Department was organized under the authority of an act of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, passed in March 1872.  Originally the Department was under the control of the Board of Fire Commissioners.  The Board consisted of the Chief of the Fire Department, three commissioners, and three members of the department.  Elected by the members of the Fire Department, each held office for three-year terms.



Organized on August 1, 1872, this Board continued to serve until Carlstadt was incorporated as a borough in 1894.  At the time of the organization, Carlstadt was an incorporated village in the Township of Lodi.  The officers were Joseph Fortenbach as Chief Engineer, and John Dechert as Assistant Engineer.



The department consisted of Friendship Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 which organized in February 1872, Bergen Hose Company No. 1 which organized in August 1872, and Carlstadt Engine Company No. 1 which organized in September 1872.  The Engine Company was equipped with a hand pump; the Hose Company had a hand drawn hook and ladder with a tiller in the rear.



The territory served by the department was known as the Fire District of Lodi Township.  It consisted of the northern section of Union Township (now known as Rutherford), all of Boiling Springs (now East Rutherford), East Passaic (now Wallington), Carlstadt, Wood-Ridge, and the southern part of Corona (now Hasbrouck Heights).  What today is known as Berkshire Road in Hasbrouck Heights was the northern boundary line.  Later the district was changed to exclude the section of Union Township.



In 1879 the Carlstadt Fire Relief Association was organized.  The charter members were William Clapp, President; Joseph Hermann, Vice-President; John Dechert, Secretary; and George Klug, Sr., Treasurer.  Additional members, selected from the Fire Department, were known as Delegates and Trustees of the Relief Association.



About 1890 an amendment was adopted which created an additional fire company.  This was Hook and Ladder Company No. 2, and it was located in the Wood-Ridge section of the district.  After the formation of the Borough of Carlstadt in 1894, it was reorganized as the Wood-Ridge Fire Department on July 9, 1897.



With the creation of the Borough of Carlstadt, the Fire Districts were abolished.  The Commissioners conveyed all properties previously owned by the Department to the Borough.  Releases were signed by East Rutherford, Hasbrouck Heights, Wallington, and Wood-Ridge, relieving the Carlstadt Fire Department of the responsibility for fire protection in those areas.



The first fire headquarters was completed in August of 1873.  It was located on Madison Street between Broad Street and Hoboken Road.  It was destroyed by fire on April 22, 1881.  Also destroyed with the building were a hand pump, engine and hose carriage, as well as 200 feet of leather hose.  Fortunately the hook and ladder truck was saved.  The insurance settled in the amount of $1,425.00.



With the payment of $350.00, a used pumping engine was purchased from the New York Fire Engine Company and a horse cart was purchased from the Heywood Company for the same amount.  Leather hose was purchased to replace the lengths lost in the fire.  That same year the first rubber hose was purchased.  During the following September, the first two rubber coats for the pipe men were purchased.  The newly acquired hand pumper was put into service on June 3, 1881 and removed from duty in 1920.



Following the tragic loss of the original firehouse, the Board of Commissioners decided that a more central location would be desirable.  Accordingly, two lots of Friedrich Strasse (now Third Street) were purchased on June 18, 1881 for the sum of $450.00.  The contract for the construction of a two story brick building was awarded on August 20, 1881, at a cost of $2,790.00.  It was completed and occupied on February 18, 1882.  Shortly after the completion of the building, an addition was constructed in 1884 that served for many years as the Borough Hall.



The bell of the Evangelische Kirche, now the Presbyterian Church, was the first fire alarm.  The church, which offered the use of it, provided the Chief with the keys to the church building for ready access in an emergency.  At a meeting held on February 20, 1875, the Board of Commissioners accepted this generous offer.  A bell was also placed atop the Firehouse on Third Street and it remained in use until 1920 when the Gamewell Alarm System, an air horn was installed.  The bell that is currently used as a monument outside the Jefferson Street Firehouse was taken from a tower that resided on Lincoln Street near Central Avenue after it was removed from the Third Street firehouse.  This bell was purchased from the Nutley Fire Department.



Another bell tower was erected to serve the members of the department that lived on the east side of town.  This bell was purchased from the Union City Fire Department and was located behind the firehouse on Washington Avenue.  This bell now forms the central part of the fire memorial monument in Memorial Park on Hackensack Street and Division Avenue.  Starting in 1962 firefighters began using plectron radio units as a supplement to the use of air horns for notification of alarms.



The opening years of the Twentieth Century saw the formation of several new fire companies.  In May 1904, Hose Company 2 was organized.  Hose Company No. 3 was organized at a meeting held in January 1907 at Mueller's Casino on Seventh Street.  A shed on the Wagner property on Sixth Street near Division Avenue housed their equipment.  It consisted of a horse drawn hose carriage and a thousand feet of hose.  Later in 1919 the Borough authorized the building of a new firehouse facing Division Avenue on Sixth Street.



In those days Berry Lane, Hoboken Road and Center Street, were the only ways to drive the apparatus below the hill.  Hose Company No. 3 was housed in this new brick building.  It was restored in 1994 and is currently utilized by the Carlstadt Historical Society and Recreation Commission as a youth center.



Another fire company was formed in the far eastern part of Carlstadt and East Rutherford.  The company was housed in part of the carriage shed of the Leive Halfway House Casino that was located on the corner of Washington Avenue and Paterson Plank Road.  Originally the membership consisted of residents of Carlstadt and East Rutherford, but with a reorganization in 1913, East Rutherford members were no longer eligible.  The newly formed company, Hose Company No 4, was incorporated as a unit of the Carlstadt Fire Department.



In 1918, Bergen Hose Company No. 1 purchased a Steams automobile chassis from Sam Dressler of Rutherford.  This was dismantled, reassembled, and put into operating condition.  Charles Kaiser built and mounted a hose compartment body on this chassis.  His brother Henry was a member of the department.  Following a demonstration before the Mayor and Council, it was purchased.  Previously the apparatus of the Friendship Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 had been equipped with a White tractor.  This was the first motorized apparatus in the Fire Department.



The Fire Department was reorganized in 1920.  Bergen Hose Company No. 1 and Engine Company No. 1 were consolidated and named Bergen Engine Company No. 1.  It was equipped with a modern 750-gallon pumper.  Hose Companies 2 and 3 were consolidated under the name of Chemical Hose Company No 1 and was equipped with a modern motor apparatus.  Hose Company No 4 was reorganized as Chemical Hose Company 2.  The Friendship Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 continued without reorganizing.



In 1920 the Carlstadt Fire Department was host to the New Jersey and New York Volunteer Fire Association Convention and Parade.  All Companies of the Fire Department were members of the Association.  Later that year the Mayor and Council decided to consolidate the Fire Department and house all the apparatus in the firehouse on Third Street.  The only exception was Chemical Hose Company 2 that remained housed on Washington Avenue.



On July 24, 1932, a group of firemen decided to organize an Emergency Squad, a volunteer group to administer first aid in any emergency.  Having accumulated a sum of money through solicitation, the Squad purchased an inhalator (a breathing apparatus).  This first piece of equipment was stored in the Fire Headquarters on Third Street.  Whenever needed, it was transported by the private automobile of a member of the Squad.  The first instructor was Jacob Goldschwer.  With money partly through a second solicitation and partly through an appropriation made by the Mayor and Council, the first emergency apparatus was purchased in 1936.  Five years later an ambulance was purchased.  About this time, Everett Shorter, a member of the Squad, helped the Wood-Ridge squad get its start.



In 1940 the Ladies Auxiliary of the Carlstadt Fire Department was organized.  And for the second time, the New Jersey and New York Volunteer Firemen's Association Convention and Parade was held in Carlstadt.



In 1948 a Seagrave pumper was purchased for use by Bergen Engine Company No. 1.  Their 1920 Seagrave pumper was turned over to Chemical Hose Company No. 1, since their apparatus had been declared obsolete and unfit for service.



 The Department underwent another reorganization in 1951.  Bergen Engine Company No. 1 and Friendship Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 remained, but Chemical Hose Company No. 1 was reorganized as Engine Company No. 2 and Chemical Hose Company No. 2 became Engine Company No. 3.  There have not been any further changes since then.



In 1951, Engine Company No. 2 received a Mack Pumper.



In 1962 the Emergency Squad received a new emergency truck and about 2 years later put in service a Cadillac ambulance.



Around 1965 a thousand gallon Mack pumper was ordered to replace the 1948 Seagrave pumper used by Bergen Engine Co. No. 1.




The office of the President of the Department was created in 1968.  This position was to be elected annually.  Harry Hess was elected the first president.  During the following year, a modem firefighting apparatus was purchased for Hook and Ladder Company No. 1.  This was a 75-foot snorkel (boom type) apparatus mounted on a Mack Diesel Engine chassis.  Replacing the 1954 Maxim truck, it was immediately put in full service.



A Retirement Plan was adopted in 1969 permitting the volunteer firemen to retire at age 65.  It also permits retirement after 25 years of service.



Around 1970 a used police car was put into running condition by men of the department to be used by the Chief.  In 1972 the first new Chief's vehicle was purchased.  In 1971 Engine Company No. 2 received a new R-Model Mack with a 1250-gallon per minute pump and diesel engine that replaced a 1952 Mack with a 750-gallon per minute pump.  The R-Model Mack is still utilized as caisson.




In November 1971, for the first time, there were three assistant chiefs.  These offices were created at the regular election held at that time.  Also in 1971, the Emergency Squad purchased the Department's first boat.



In 1973, the Carlstadt Ambulance Corps was formed and the Emergency Squad stopped responding to medical emergencies.  The Emergency Squad continues to this date and performs search and rescue responsibilities.  In addition, it also serves as a communications and command vehicle.  In 1980 the Emergency Squad put in service a 1980 Mack.  With it came the "Jaws of Life" known for its ability to assist victims trapped in severely damaged vehicles.




The Carlstadt Fire Department has always been a leader in firefighter safety.  The air bottles used by firefighters are known as Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBA.  Carlstadt had been using SCBA since the 1950's, more than 20 years before they were mandated.



The few original SCBA units were replaced in 1983 with modern positive pressure units, and a full compliment of them were purchased to safely equip the Department.  Around 1983 the Department adopted new turn out gear, which included the use of "bunker" pants and short coats, and hoods to be worn under the helmet.  This protective equipment was not common at all during this period and it was more than 10 years before the New York City Fire Department adopted use of the pants.



In 1981 Bergen Engine Company No. 1 received a 1500 gallon per minute (GPM) Grumman/Duplex pumper.  This apparatus was restored in 1989 and again in 1991.




 In 1983, Engine Company No. 3 received a 1500 GPM Mack pumper with a 750-gallon water tank.



Since 1991, members are now provided their own Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device.  This is a device that sounds a loud alarm to notify other firefighters that a firefighter is in trouble or has been exposed to an unsafe amount of heat.  Since 1996, each member is provided with their own personal mask used with breathing apparatus that is specifically fitted to their face.



An explosion at the Arsynco Chemical plant on 13th Street in 1991 received world media attention.



In 1990 the Emergency Squad put in service a 17-foot Boston Whaler boat.



In 1992, Engine Company No. 2 received Pierce Lance pumper with a 2000 gallon per minute pump and a 500 gallon tank. This apparatus still serves as a spare engine company.



In 1993, John Brentzel from Engine Company No. 3 drove the engine to an alarm of fire and suffered a fatal heart attack while on the scene.  His death marks the only in-service fatality ever suffered by the Department.



In 1993, the Carlstadt Emergency Squad was requested by the New York City Fire Department to respond to the terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center.  In 1995 Bergen Engine Company No. 1 responded to the fire at NAP Chemical in Lodi.  A water relay using well over a mile of hose was established at that fire.



In 1997, the Friendship Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 received a Schwing 115-foot articulating boom with a HME 10 man enclosed cab and Marion body.  This unique apparatus is the first of it's kind in the United States for a municipal fire department.



The Emergency Squad has placed in service a new 2000 Rescue 1 vehicle with a Spartan Gladiator cab, communications center, and a state-of-the-art Amkus rescue tools.



In 2004, Engine Company No. 1 received their current apparatus, a 2004 Sutphen pumper, with a 2000 gallon per minute pump and a 750 gallon water tank.



In 2007, Engine Company no. 3 received their current apparatus, a 2007 Pierce Velocity, with a 2000 gallon per minute pump and a 750 gallon water tank.



In 2014, Engine Company No. 2 and the Friendship Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 both received their current apparatus. Engine Company No. 2 operates at 2014 Pierce Velocity, with a 2000 gallon per minute pump and 500 gallon water tank. Ladder Company No. 1 operates a 2014 Pierce Velocity 100 ft. aluminum aerial.




 In general, the Department responds to over 300 calls per year.  This includes commercial and residential alarms of fire, motor vehicle fires and entrapments, brush fires, floods, and boat calls.  The Carlstadt Fire Department is part of the South Bergen Mutual Aid Association.  This organization consists of the Fire Departments of 17 communities in southern Bergen County.  We readily, and often, assist our neighboring communities as requested.



On an annual basis the Department conducts a fundraiser in the form of a calendar drive.  Our volunteer department is very appreciative of the generosity of the people of our community and is proud to serve them.  We remain ready, willing and able to respond at a moment's notice.




 1865 James P. Smith Handpumper

The Carlstadt Fire Department is the proud owner of an 1865 James P. Smith Handpumper. The Handpumper was custom designed and built for Edmonds Hose Company Number One, of the Hudson New York Fire Department. The Handpumper is of "piano box" style and has two 2 1/2 inch discharge’s.


The Carlstadt Fire Department purchased the Handpumper in the year 1881 for $350.00. In addition to serving the Borough of Carlstadt, our Handpumper also responded to many other towns in South Bergen County.


The Handpumper was "retired" from service in the early 1900’s. An "overhaul" was completed in the 1920’s. For many years after its retirement from service, the pumper was stored in a garage owned by Bill Pforte, a member of the Carlstadt Fire Department. Bill kept good care of our unit, applying coats of polyurethane to the wood, and keeping it covered with a tarpaulin.


In 1978 a committee of firefighters was formed to perform a complete restoration on the Handpumper. Starting in the spring of 1980, our Handpumper was completely dissembled and the restoration process begun. Over the course of the next 12 years the committee went to painstaking lengths to repair the unit to the most intricate detail. Restoration was completed in 1992.


For his years of dedication to our Handpumper, and because it takes forty people to properly use the engine, the Committee has named our unit, "THE FIGHTING PFORTE".


To date, our most famous parade pull occurred on July 11, 1992, in Hudson, New York at the New York State Firemen’s Home Centennial Parade. The "FIGHTING PFORTE" was drawn through the same streets it protected back in 1865. After the celebration, members of the Carlstadt Fire Department took the ‘FIGHTING PFORTE" to the Edmonds Hose Co. 1 Firehouse and pushed it back into it’s original bay symbolizing a return from an alarm.

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