Newark Fire Department
It will be remembered that a terrible fire in London occurred in 1666 with a property loss of over 13,000 buildings, including 89 churches. This was the year that Robert Treat and his Puritan settlers founded Newark. Perhaps the news of the London conflagration impelled the early townsmen to give heed to the dangers of fire. For it was in the year 1668 that notice was published that “every man provide himself with a good ladder within two months pay a fine of 5 shillings and maintain the same penalty of one shilling a month.
Further preventative measures against fire were adopted in 1678 as evidenced by the minutes of the town meeting held on March tenth of that year, which state, “it is agreed that no person whatsoever shall at anytime set or make fire in the woods or meadows on the penalty of paying all damaged they do by the fire so set”, “and to give notice by the beat of the drum, at which time every planter is to make their appearance at the commonplace of meeting, upon the penalty of 2s-6d – and then and there agree in the manner how to proceed for the best security of ye town”. So it was that the first procedures were adopted for answering alarms for fires within the City of Newark.
Several fires of note occurred in the latter half of the 18th Century. In the Year 1768, on May 23rd, a fire erupted at the town hall. The townspeople raced to its defense and only the roof was consumed. Several months later, on January 28th, 1769, a fire ripped through the home of Moses Ogden, an eminent townsmen. Ogden’s home was reduced to ashes and sadly a young boy perished in the blaze despite heroic efforts to save him.
Situated on Park Place, on the site of the old Public Service Headquarters Building, stood the house of Elisha Boudinot, his home being the finest in Newark. At 7 o’clock in the evening an alarm for fire was sounded. Flames were discovered pushing through the roof of an adjoining extension of the Boudinot House. Soon the entire population was at the scene and witnessed the total destruction of the mansion. As reported at the time, “The cry was echoed by the frightened inhabitants who haven’t been accustomed to scenes so awful, through the town in a few minutes and not less than five hundred of them were at the scene within thirty to forty minutes from its discovery. The want of proper fire implements such as engines, ladders, hooks, buckets and reservoirs for water were all discovered when it was too late”.
A fire brigade of 120 members was formed at once and each member was required to have a leather bucket which was to be kept at home that it might be available for immediate use.
This is the nucleus out of which the Newark Fire Department was developed. In February 1797, a fire association was organized at a mass meeting held in the Court House. The members were called “associates”. Thus the first fire company was formed in this manner. The sum of one hundred dollars was subscribed and various fire implements, principally hooks, ladders and leather buckets, were bought and two fire engines were ordered from Philadelphia. Over a year had elapsed before the Fire Association was informed that it might have one of the engines ordered “upon discharge of the remaining sums”. The engine was described as a “clumsy little tank on wheels, with long wooden bars fastened to an iron pumping gear”. Men lined up at the bars on each side of the engine while others filled the tank with water from buckets and the water was then thrown upon the fire through an iron pipe. It has also been said that, “such was the beginnings of the right arm of Newark’s municipal economy, safety and security”.
The Newark Fire Division currently operates nineteen engine companies, twelve ladder companies, and two rescue companies out of nineteen firehouses, located throughout the city. These nineteen firehouses are organized into six battalions, under the command of a tour commander (Deputy Chief) per shift. There is also an on-duty special operations battalion chief, as well as a safety battalion chief. In addition to the nineteen firehouses, the NFD also operates a special operations facility at 191 Orange St., which houses the Haz-Mat. Support Unit, the Haz-Mat. Mobile Lab, the Medical Ambulance Bus, the Air Cascade Unit, the Mobile Command Unit, the USAR Collapse Rescue Shoring Unit, the Special Operations Quick Response Attack Vehicle(QRV 1), the Marine Unit, and several other specialized units. The NFD also operates a Special Services Division at 56 Prospect St.
The headquarters of the Newark Fire Division is located at 480 Clinton Ave.