Posts tagged ‘fire department’

November 25, 2012

Leather hats

Firefighter gear

I’m sure this is one of those many things that’s obvious and known to everyone but me, but I didn’t know that firefighters had leather helmets. I always see the cheap red plastic things they make for kids, and I guess I assumed the real thing was just a steel version of the same thing. I never really paid attention. But no— there’s lots of hand-rendered craftsmanship in each hat— they’re carefully stitched from black and brown leather (and probably lined with other fire-retardant things).

Or maybe they’re made by machine. Or maybe only the Millburn Fire Department has hats like these. I don’t really know. I just thought it was interesting.

(from the Millburn Fire Department Open House)

October 14, 2012

Millburn Fire Department Open House 2012 – An Interesting Map

The pushpin marks the location of the firehouse.

At the Millburn Fire Dept. open house, a five-foot-wide map of Millburn attracted some attention.

(As ever, conversations are paraphrased from memory as faithfully as possible, but they are not actual quotes.)

“Oh that’s interesting,” said one mom. “What do all the colored dots mean?”

“Well,” answered one of the captains, “each dot represents a fire hydrant; they’re mostly on street intersections. The different colors tell us how many GPM, or Gallons Per Minute, the hydrant can produce.”

Firehouse colored dot map key!

“So what if one hydrant runs out of water?” asked the woman, skillfully corralling her rowdy son while maintaining eye contact with the fire captain. “Could you tap into another hydrant?”

“That… yes, we could,” said the captain, “but the problem is more about running out of water pressure, not running out of water. And because of these things up here,” he gestured to two large reservoirs just north of Millburn on the map, “we don’t have to worry about running out of pressure here!”

“But what if you’re in an area with crummy hydrants?” I piped in, and waved my hand over a group of streets dotted with orange. “Do you need to tap into other hydrants when there’s a fire over there?”

“Well. Even the weak ones— 500 gallons per minute isn’t bad,” the captain corrected me. “but yes, if there was a really big fire, we’d probably need to connect to a stronger hydrant.”

“How do you do that?”

The captain guided me to a nearby firetruck. “See this hose? It’s 1000 meters long.”

“A full kilometer!” I marveled.

“And when it’s full of water, it gets to about 5 inches in diameter.” He indicated a softball-sized circle with his hands. “That’s practically another water main for us to use. And if it’s a really big fire, we’d be calling in trucks from other towns anyway. They call us, we call them.”

I nodded knowledgeably. I’d seen that happen with the big Westfield fire back in January.

“Thank you. This has been informative,” I said.

“Yeah, sure, that’s why we do this open house thing,” he smiled.

October 13, 2012

Millburn Fire Department Open House 2012

Car fire! Well, they set the car on fire themselves, so I dunno if it counts.

The Millburn Fire Department had its 15th annual open house today, where it opens its doors to the curious public, and puts on demonstrations of the firefighters’ firefighting prowess.

Extinguishing a car fire was their last demo. (I was downwind of the smoke, and I smelled like a cigarette for the rest of the day. Still do, actually.)

Firefighting is one of those things that I’m kind of in awe that people actually DO. I’m terrified of everything, and I can’t IMAGINE voluntarily waltzing into an exploding/ collapsing/ flame-filled death trap, even if it is for a great reason.

September 18, 2012

Summit Antique and Classic Car Show – 2

Chemical Engine No. 1 is up and running!

You may (or may not) recognize Summit’s Chemical Fire Engine No. 1 from last year, and you may (or may not) note that it is in fact RUNNING, which was NOT the case when I last saw the truck.

Look! It runs!

I’m not sure how stable the job is— apparently the carburetor floods if you don’t start it right (which apparently gave the fireguys a bit of fun to contend with this weekend)— but I’m told it’s running as well as it was in 1927, back when it was built.

When it’s not out for shows and parades, it’s still stuffed into a back corner of the firehouse, but the fire department and the Summit Historical Society are joining fundraising forces to build a garage-type house for the truck next to the Carter House.

This truck served from 1927 through the 1950s, which may seem like a long time to keep a car, but that’s pretty standard, even now. The fireman I spoke to said that a modern engine costs about $650,000, which is probably the modern equivalent of what Chemical Fire Engine No. 1 cost back in the ’20s. And when you buy something that expensive, you want to hold onto it for a while! Even nowadays, departments keep fire trucks for 25 years before they’re retired, which seems to be a pretty rigid guideline. (Summit has a truck that’s got only one more year before they have to get rid of it, so I guess they’re counting down the days.)

Yeah, so. FIRE TRUCKS.

May 31, 2012

Memorial Day Parade 4

Hello firefighters!

Remember how I said that most towns have their own parade? Chatham doesn’t! So the Chatham fire department came across the river and tagged along with us New Providincians.

During the closing ceremony, though, they got a call, and had to run— literally.

Sprinting firefighters!

January 23, 2012

Fire in Westfield

Six-alarm fire in Westfield, NJ

I was passing through Westfield last night when I saw a very interesting cloud that turned out to not be a cloud at all.

The fire was large enough that the Westfield fire department needed to call in reinforcements from New Providence, Berkeley Heights, Scotch Plains/ Fanwood, Mountainside, Elizabeth, Cranford, Roselle Park, and Garwood to help fight the flames.

It started around 3:25PM. I think it may have been about four or five alarms when I took this photo, but it was a six-alarm fire by the time it ended. Reportedly, it was brought “under control” by 6:45PM, but crews continued to monitor for hot spots throughout the night.

According to, “the cause of the fire is unknown but initial reports indicated that the fire may have begun in the loft area of the building” (para. 2).

Several businesses were destroyed, including Clyne & Murphy (restaurant and catering), Rocky the Tailor, the Sound Station, Figaro’s Hair Styling, and about two to four others. I don’t know if anyone was caught in the fire; I saw stretchers being wheeled to the site, but I didn’t see anyone on them.

EDIT, 1/23/12, 8:00PM: One firefighter may have injured according to, and may not have been injured according to the Star-Ledger.

Also: Check it out, Westfield Patch featured my photo in a follow-up article, out of over 100 photos submitted to the original article. I’m a little proud.



Antonelli, T. and L. Mitchell. (2012). “Update: Clyne & Murphy Fire Hits Six-Alarm Status.” Westfield Patch.

Paik, E. (2012). “Firefighters battling six-alarm fire in Westfield.” The Star-Ledger.

Star-Ledger Staff. (2012). “Five-alarm fire in Westfield destroys several businesses.” The Star-Ledger.

January 8, 2012

Another fire department

Berkeley Heights Fire Department

Well, between two books on Berkeley Heights and an internet full of information, I can’t find any information on the history of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Fire Department.

But click here for a link to their modern website.

November 13, 2011

Fire fire fire

Fire fire fire

This is the Mountainside Fire Station.


Mountainside Fire Station, 1975

…and THIS is what it looked like in 1975.

…as I’ve said, folks, sometimes I just don’t have a lot to say about these things.




McNamara, C. (2010). A History of Mountainside, 1945-2007: It Was Only Yesterday. The History Press: Charleston, SC. ISBN 1596298014.

November 4, 2011

Chemical Fire Engine No. 1


When I visited the Carter House, this lovely piece of machinery was parked out front.

“Cool! So… has it always belonged to Summit?” I asked the fire volunteer standing beside it.

“Yes, ever since it was built in 1927,” he answered.

“No buying it from some other town and saying ‘Hey, it’s ours now’ or something?”

“Nope! Ours from the start.”

“Cool,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s actually been housed in our own fire house since 1927. We’re trying to get it permanently moved over here, to the Carter House, because space is getting kind of tight in the fire house.”

“Ouch, I can imagine,” I replied. “This must take up a lot of valuable room!”

“It’s actually a lot smaller than a modern fire engine,” he said, “but… as you can see, it’s still not exactly tiny!”

“No,” I said.

“People just kind of hang their wet coats on it,” he continued, “like the exercise bicycle in your room that you never use.”

I laughed. “So aside from being a coat rack, nowadays it’s just used for, what, parades and stuff?”

“Well,” he said, “not now. Right now it doesn’t run.”

“Oh. So… you had to tow it here for today?”

“Yeah, we had to have it towed,” he said. “But we’ve got guys working hard on it, trying to get it to run again. Then hopefully we’ll be able to store it over here and take it out for… parades and stuff.”

“Cool,” I said. “Um… may I take a picture?”


(The conversation above has been paraphrased as closely to truth as memory will allow, and factually confirmed by an article by S. Duetsch and J. Gasso in the Autumn 2011 edition of the Historian, the Newsletter of the Summit Historical Society. Errors are possible, though.)

June 20, 2011

Ring of fire!


In a recent post about the New Providence Presbyterian Church, I showed an old image of the church with a fire gong in front of it. Careful reader KK asked if it was the same fire gong that currently resides in front of the New Providence Fire Department, and I had no answer.

New Providence Presbyterian Church, c. 1910

Having since investigated the situation, I will hazard a guess: No, probably not.

The Old Fire Ring, circa 1899. Dedicated to all the past and present firefighters of the New Providence Fire Dept. Fireman's Day, September 11, 1999.

(1) The New Providence Fire Department wasn’t formed until 1902/1903. The plaque above the gong dates it to about 1899. While it’s possible that New Providence initially reused some other town’s four-year-old fire ring, it seems fishy.

(2) If it were indeed one of New Providence’s own originals, wouldn’t that be something worth noting on the plaque?

(3) Why would they wait until 1999 to dedicate a fire ring that had already been sitting around here for almost 100 years?

I’ll bet it was a special occasion, and the department thought an old fire ring would be a cool thing to put in front of their new building (c. 1995), so they found one (on eBay?) and bought it and put it up. But that’s just what I’d do.

(If you know more about this, please tell me in the comments!)

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