THE EARLY YEARS
In the year 1913, the citizens of Pine Brook decided to get together and organize a Volunteer Fire Department to protect their community from fires. The 41 citizens met at Kerris Hall every week. A decision had to be reached whether to use the old schoolhouse or build a new firehouse. A firehouse was decided upon because of the donation of land on Bloomfield Avenue by Abram A. Van Wert. The firehouse was started and a frame structure, measuring 26’ x 40’, with a gable roof, was erected. All the lumber was cut and sawed by the citizens in the town.
That original firehouse site is still in use, with modernization changes having been done through time.
The fire boundaries were set for the protection of the citizens in Pine Brook. One hundred and seventy-five ($175.00) dollars was donated by the citizens to start the fire company rolling.
Incorporation papers were filed at the County Clerk’s Office in Morristown. The first fire-protection equipment purchased was two hand-pulled chemical fire extinguishers. The bell code and zones were established to designate the location of fires. The men met at the firehouse on June 23, 1914, eight months after the first meeting was held. Money was raised by holding raffles, giving away pigs, ponies, clocks, watches, etc. The first fire truck that was considered was a Pape Hartford 50HP. This truck was rejected and a 1.5 ton chassis was ordered from Republic Truck with two chemical tanks, a 150-foot reel of hose, and a small chemical holder and acid receptacle. The bumpers and lights were not purchased until two years later.
Electrical lights were installed at the firehouse in June 1921. Also, in the same year, the town of Pine Brook held its first election in the firehouse. In the year 1924, the Republic truck was sold to Hanover for $500 and Pine Brook purchased an American-LaFrance truck. During this year, and years to follow, the Fire Department gave fire protection to the towns of Hanover, Parsippany and the Township of Caldwell.
The department struggled through the years to keep itself in sufficient funds to maintain operation. At this crucial time, a meeting was called with the citizens of Pine Brook to find out what the sentiments were in turning the fire department over to the Township. The citizens were informed that because of their lack of interest and support, the fire department would have to be turned over to the Township of Montville. They were against this being done and pledged greater support in the future.
Two years later the department passed a petition for incorporation into the township, with 10 taxpayers signing it. It was presented to the Township and accepted on February 6, 1936. The first fire commission board was set up in the same year.
Two years after the incorporation, in 1938, a 750 gallon Mack pumper truck was purchased with a bed for 3,000 feet of hose and was used all the way into the 70’s.
A First Aid Squad was organized and added to the department with the donation of an ambulance from the O’Dowd family. In the year 1949, the First Aid Squad was dissolved and the ambulance was sold.
Santa’s annual visit to the town children was started in 1952. Every year until 1968, the Department packaged fruit, candy and cookies and on Christmas Eve the trucks rolled out with Santa to make his visits. Since 1968 Santa has continued to visit all homes within Pine Brook, however, candy canes are now given out.
In the year 1954, the Department joined the North Jersey Volunteer Firemen’s Association. The following year, 1955, the Pine Brook Volunteer Fire Department joined the Montville Firemen’s Relief Organization.
During the early fifties, the department was in a dilemma because of the population increase on the mountain. No water supply was available to cope with fires in that area. Wells, piping water, more hose to reach the river…were all put under consideration, but none were feasible.
A 2,000 gallon fuel tank truck was finally decided upon, and, if available, would be converted for the use of the department. Unable to purchase a truck in reasonably good condition, a 1,500 gallon tank truck was built in 1955 especially for the department and was the only one of its kind in the area for decades, before it was eventually sold.
A trial test was made of a home alarm system in the homes of a few members. Because of its tremendous advantages, it was accepted wholeheartedly as a part of our equipment. All members now have a home alarm.
Throughout the years, men in the department attended (and still do) schools in Dover, Sea Girt, N.J., and the Morris County Police and Fire Academy, to further their knowledge in fire safety. These schools have afforded the men comprehensive instructions and practical experience in modern fire-fighting methods.
Members were also sent to Rutgers to be instructed on fall-out and different types of radiation.
A Fire Prevention Bureau ordinance was introduced to the Township through the efforts of our department. The Montville Fire Prevention Bureau ordinance was passed on April 19, 1962, and, in 1986, New Jersey passed a uniform fire code.
For over 50 years now, the firefighters visit the schools during Fire Prevention Week to educate our children on Fire Safety. Due to the efforts of the Pine Brook Volunteer Fire Department, a lower fire insurance rate has continuously been available to all home owners in our district.
THE GROWING YEARS
Since 1963 substantial growth has taken Pine Brook from a sleepy rural community to an area diverse with industrial, commercial, and residential properties, thus replacing the sparse farmland, residential pockets and Mom and Pop type stores.
Recognizing the growth and the need in the community for additional facilities and apparatus, the Pine Brook Volunteer Fire Department secured voter approval in 1965 for another fire station to be built on Konner Avenue. Station #2 was dedicated and placed into service in June 1969.
Subsequently in 1965 the Department purchased a 1250 GPM (gallons per minute) Mack Diesel Pumper. This truck was the second diesel fire truck to be delivered in the State of New Jersey. The first was delivered two weeks earlier to Cherry Hill. Although great fun was poked at us for having purchased a diesel fire truck, today Underwriters Laboratories will only recognize and test diesel powered fire apparatus.
In 1969 a Hahn 1500 GPM Pumper was purchased, and in 1972 a 50’ Tele-squirt 1500 GPM Pumper was also added to the department.
In 1970 the Township of Montville, recognizing the growth in the Pine Brook area, started to expand the water system by installing water mains and hydrants in the township.
In 1975 plans for a new headquarters firehouse located on Bloomfield Avenue, next door to the existing firehouse, began. The volunteers purchased the house and property and donated this property to the Board of Fire Commissioners, District #3, for the construction of offices and three bays.
Construction began in 1974 and we occupied the station in 1976.
As our residential, commercial and industrial population grew, so did the demand for our services. In 1978 the Department purchased a Saulsbury Rescue and Salvage Truck. In 1981, after a review by ISO (Insurance Service Organization), a 106’ Hahn Aerial Ladder with a 1500 GPM pump and a 2000 GPM Hahn Pumper were added to the department. This insured a continued favorable insurance rating and allowed the department to meet the growing needs of our community.
In 1986 the State of New Jersey enacted the Uniform Fire Code. With the introduction of this Code, Montville Township established three separate Local Enforcing Agencies; the Pine Brook Fire Prevention Bureau serves under District #3 LEA. Subsequently, the Pine Brook LEA hired a part time Fire Official and Fire Inspector. These men were hired to meet the inspection and code requirements of our business and residential community.
As the services and needs of the community increase, so do that of our department. With this in mind, the Pine Brook Board of Fire Commissioners completed the expansion of the Bloomfield Avenue Firehouse in the early 90’s.
The Department had to update equipment to keep up with new advances in technology. In 1998, we added a 2000 GPM pumper to replace a 1965 1250 GPM Pumper. The following year, we added 2000 GPM pumper that replaced a 1969 1500 GPM pumper. In 2005, a 100 foot tower platform ladder replaced a 1983 106 foot aerial ladder. In 2012, a 1500 GPM rescue pumper replaced a 1972 1500 GPM/50 FT teli-squirt.
Training and educating a volunteer fireman has come a long way from one hundred years ago. Today, the volunteer spends 120 hours in training at Public Safety Training Schools. In addition, monthly drills are held to effectively deal with all types of adverse situations they may encounter in the future.
The new millennium brought the Fire Department into a new level of community service. The wind and rain storms caused extensive devastation to our town. Countless hours were spent by the Pine Brook Volunteer Fire Department to assist all affected by them. Fire House Number One on Bloomfield Avenue actually became a full-service shelter, available to everyone during 2012’s catastrophic Hurricane Sandy.
The very first volunteer fire department was founded by one of our country’s original “fathers,” Benjamin Franklin…in Philadelphia in 1736. Volunteers are part of this heritage. As Americans, we volunteer to join any of our Armed Forces, we also volunteer to join Fire Departments. Fully understanding the time and energy that will be taken away from our families and other activities.
The Pine Brook Volunteer Fire Department is proud of its members for their dedication to their community. Families from two generations to five generations have served in the department over the past 100 years.
We would like to thank all businesses and our citizens of Pine Brook for their moral and financial support. Special thanks go out to our Ladies Auxiliary for all their time and fund-raising in support of the Fire Department. Since your founding in 1955, you have been an integral and profoundly appreciated part of our Department.
We are all looking forward to dedicating our services for the next 100 years.
PINE BROOK VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
JUNE 15, 2013 CENTENNIAL
Note: Past history records are not as precise and complete as they should be. Although there may be errors or omissions, it has not been the writers’ intention to slight anyone. Special thanks to Ron Cain, Jr., Edward Rosenbergen, and, particularly, my wife Diane Dayermanjian.
Submitted by Richard Dayermanjian and Carl L. Patterson. Sr.