Brief History of the Milton Fire Company
From a meeting of six concerned men in January 1936 in George Varick’s little store, to the present two structures housing eight trucks, there has been a continuing story of concerned and dedicated citizens. Soon after forming the Jefferson Township Fire Co. No. 1, interest began to grow. The first truck was purchased in 1936, from the Lower Berkshire Valley Fire Company for $210.00. It was a 1913 White Chemical truck and was housed in a barn across from the present firehouse. The first fire on a bitter cold night in November 1936 found the water tanks frozen! Shortly thereafter, the company began to rent space in the present building at 162 Milton Road, then owned by the Junior Order of United American Mechanics. All firemen were assessed one dollar in advance dues to cover remodeling expenses.
In September 1937, the first electric siren was installed. Prior to this the men had been sounding the alarm using the hand cranked siren mounted on the truck. In January 1938, a 1922 Reo was purchased, which gave the firemen a pump to work with. In May 1939, a 1926 Larrabee fire truck was purchased to replace the Reo. This lasted through the war years of 1941 to 1945. During this time Chief Ed Headley had the assistance of several women of the community, due to the manpower shortage.
In 1946, a new Army surplus 1944 Chevrolet fire truck was purchased, followed by a much needed Ford tank truck in 1949. In 1951, the men purchased a Chevrolet Auxiliary truck with their own funds, which was later donated it to the town for use by the public works department.
In 1955, the Fire Company took their biggest step yet by purchasing the building from the JOUAM, giving them a permanent headquarters, and a large mortgage. Donkey Baseball was organized as a fund raiser, and when the dust settled one fireman had a broken wrist, and one spent a week in bed with bruises. Most of the funds to pay the mortgage came from the weekly Bingo games run by the company, although Donkey Basketball was added in 1967 and 1968.
In 1959 several members of the Fire Department organized the Milton First Aid Squad, which is now a separate organization. The ambulances were stationed at the Firehouse for many years, until the Squad built their own building, also on Milton Road. The two bays where the ambulances were kept are still today called the “squad bays”.
With the growth of the Milton area, and the building of many new homes, a new American LaFrance pumper was purchased in 1959. Following that a new Ford/LaFrance tanker was added in 1965, a new Chevrolet Rescue Truck in 1968 replacing the 1951 unit. A Hahn Pumper was bought new in 1971, replacing the faithful 1944 Chevrolet Pumper. The ’71 Hahn is still in active service today, in immaculate condition, and is the pride of the company.
The company continued to expand the alerting system as well, adding more sirens, and in 1964, the first Plectron Home Alerting System. The Plectrons were activated and the Fire Company dispatched by Police Headquarters, with a base station at the Firehouse as well. In 1965, an additional 1 3/4 acres of land was purchased, bringing the total property area of 2 3/4 acres, for use as a training ground, parking, and any possible expansion. The mortgage was paid off in 1969, however, a new mortgage was obtained in 1974 for a complete remodeling of the Firehouse.
In 1976 a large parade was sponsored by the company, celebrating 40 years of service. Parades have also been hosted in 1986, and 1996, all of which were attended by many local and out of area departments. The Fire Company has also attended many parades in other townships, and collected quite an array of trophies for our shelves, in both marching and truck competition categories, the team even got a flatbed truck rental to travel.
In 1976 with the township continuing to expand, a substation was added on Cozy Lake Road, which can house two trucks. In 1979 a new Continental Pumper was added to the fleet, and in 1983, another Hahn Pumper to replace the ’59 LaFrance. 1986 saw the replacement of the Ford/LaFrance Tanker with a new Mack, which carries 3000 gallons of water, twice the capacity of the older vehicle.
With the coming of condominiums and new taller building popping up along Route 15, plans were made to purchase a ladder truck in the early 1990’s. The building needed to be expanded. Another mortgage was obtained and the newest portion of the firehouse built (left most section from the front). This addition added four large drive-thru bays. In 1991 a 95-foot E-One platform aerial ladder was purchased and housed at the main building. 1997 brought the arrival of two units, a new 1997 Freightliner/Marion rescue which replaced the 1968 Chevrolet (which had an open back), and also the construction of a brush unit out of a 1976 Dodge Power-wagon army surplus unit. All the work was performed by members of the department, keeping costs to a minimum. The new brush unit replaced “The Beast”, the 1954 Army Surplus GMC deuce and a half, which many members were very fond of.
As the millennium approached, a 2000 Seagrave Pumper was purchased to replace the 1979 Continental, which was sold to a Fire Company in Missouri for $1, replacing their 1950’s Young Fire Apparatus. The company also acquired a 1984 Chevrolet Pickup, which operates as a supplemental brush unit and rescue unit, being equipped with the Jaws of Life. This truck is a cooperative effort between the Company and the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service. This truck is also used to pull our trailer, which is in the process of being outfitted for special needs and services.
Since our humble beginnings in 1936, our community has grown much, and the Fire Company has grown with it, adding many new responsibilities and services. Our Company provides mutual aid support not only to our sister company in Lake Hopatcong, but also into Newfoundland, Hardyston, and Sparta. The Company has also seen a continuing increase in calls for service over the years, not only with the addition of new housing, but responding to many alarms which have now been installed. Currently the Company answers over 200 calls for service each year, which range from false alarms, to flooding conditions, smoke in the house, brush fires, vehicle fires, and of course, structure fires.
Today, our firefighters receive continual training beginning with Fire Fighter I, a 180 hour intensive course of instruction followed by regular in-house training drills once a month. Most members go to the Morris County Firefighters and Police Academy for the initial training, but have in the past attended schools in Wayne (North Jersey School), and Sea Girt (NJ State Fire School). Continuing education seminars and special courses have been presented by Rutgers University, New York City Fire Dept. members, Hazardous Materials Handling Companies, and on occasion the manufacturers of special equipment. Members also get training in Fire prevention and safety, and also bring Fire Awareness into our township school system with programs presented every October during Fire Prevention week. Most of our members continue their training at the Morris County Firefighters Academy with courses ranging from Firefighter II, to rope rescue, vehicle rescue, truck company operations, and many others covering almost every facet of the modern fire service.
Much credit must be given to the six men who started the Company, and the now 58 members who drop everything when the alarm sounds, responding to the call of a community in need, 24/7.