The First Fire Company
The first fire company was organized in Eatontown on June 15, 1881, and was known as “The Perseverance Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1” It was located on West Street. There are no surviving members of this original fire company; but many stories have passed down through the years regarding the hardships, almost unbelievable today, these men had to face in the performance of their duties. The first piece of firefighting apparatus was a hand pump manned by four men. Then the famous “Old Persevere” steamer was purchased and considered one of the most powerful pumps in the state.
At the time of the big fire in Red Bank, the men from Perseverance Company were called for assistance. Unable to obtain the services of a team of horses, the men from Perseverance Company hand pulled the steamer all the way to Red Bank. Upon arrival they were directed to the docks along the Navesink River and proceeded to draft water. During the fire, the tremendous weight of the steamer started to break through the dock planking. The quick thinking action of William Algor saved Eatontown’s steamer. By grabbing one of the wheels and picking it up, the other firemen were able to replace planking under the steamer. After the fire was over, the men from Perseverance Company again could not obtain the services of a team of horses and had to pull the steamer back to Eatontown by hand.
William Algor represents the dedication that these men had when it came to firefighting in Eatontown. He was the town’s blacksmith, working very long, hard hours to support himself and his family. It was said that every night before he went to bed, he lit a small lantern on his back porch and kept his boots and bucket of water there, always ready to answer the call to duty.
During the year 1886, a conflagration in Freehold necessitated their calling upon Eatontown for the use of their steamer engine. With no other means of getting the pumper to Freehold quickly, it was decided to tow it to Red Bank and have it put on a railroad car to be taken to Freehold. This involved tremendous effort on the part of those concerned, but they succeeded in getting it to Freehold to be of assistance. While there are many such stories in the early fire company days well worth repeating , this one alone serves to point out the odds these fireman faced in the performance of their duties.
On February 20, 1888, the Eatontown Hook and Ladder Company was formed. They were located on the west side of Main Street hill. In 1902, this company admitted twelve men for the purpose of manning a new hand pumper. It took three men on each side of the pumper to operate the handle to obtain the pressure for the hose lines. It was a back-breaking job for which these men, the first Junior Fireman in Eatontown, received the title of the ‘Dirty Dozen’.
The Dirty Dozen
Ray Van Keuren Ed Sanford
Bert Noe George Watkins
West Watkins William Kolb
William Taylor Arthur Taylor
Fred Morris Charles Roberts
Wilfred Haynes Millard Aumack
Chemical Engine & Hose Co.
On November 11, 1901, the Chemical Engine and Hose Company was formed and located on Lewis Street. At the time, the Township of Eatontown covered the present Borough of Eatontown, Borough of Oceanport, and the Borough of West Long Branch. It was decided that three chemical engines were to be purchased, one for each town.
The chemical engine was the first piece of motorized firefighting equipment that Eatontown had. It was a 1912 Locomobile and was considered a tremendous asset to the community. This Locomobile won many hose laying competitions in its day under the direction of Foreman S. T. Emmons.
It cannot be said that the Eatontown Hook and Ladder Company and the Chemical Engine and Hose Company functioned smoothly during the years that there were two companies in the same town. On the contrary, history tells us that one many occasions feuds developed to the point where the “Ladder Boys” would not even let the “Chemical Boys” have use of their ladders with which to take up their hoses to put out the fire. A few years later the Eatontown Hook and Ladder Company purchased an up-to-date, horse drawn, Seagrave Hook and Ladder Truck.
The present day Eatontown Fire Department was formed on February , 1917 and
is known as the Eatontown Engine Truck and Hose Company No. 1 It combined the
Eatontown Hook and Ladder with the Chemical Engine and Hose Company. At this
time, the firefighting equipment consisted of a combination transport truck, a
six-cylinder le-Compte hose truck, and a Seagrave hook and ladder truck.
Some of the disastrous fires which severely struck the heart of Eatontown were as follows: The old Crystal Brook Inn blaze during the 1940’s, in which five persons perished during the early morning blaze; including the owner, three members of his family, and a crippled musician.
Another spectacular blaze was the Shoe String Stables located on South Street. No one died, but dozens of riding horses had to be shot. One badly burned horse ran all the way to Red Bank before it was caught and destroyed by the State Police.
Around 1946 the fire company purchased a new American La France pumper and
in 1952 they purchased a custom-built GMC pumper.
During the year 1957, the Eatontown Fire Department celebrated their 75th Anniversary. They invited many fire companies and first aid squads throughout the state. This was the largest parade in Eatontown’s history. An estimated 5,000 spectators watched as 36 fire companies, 9 first aid squads, 850 fireman, 63 pieces of equipment and many area marching bands paraded past them. We also recieved delivery of a 1957 International pumper.
In 1958, the Women’s Auxiliary reorganized after a lapse of many years. At this time the Women’s Auxiliary started a recruiting drive to boost its membership.
In 1960, Eatontown Fire Department had 85 fireman and 30 Women’s Auxiliary members. At this time they had four pieces of firefighting equipment. There was a GMC 750 gpm pumper, an International 750 gpm pumper, an American La France 1000 gpm pumper, and a 1959 Ford utility truck. The Eatontown Fire Department had a very unusual mascot at this time. It was a black cat named “Blackie”. Although Blackie never rode the fire apparatus, he did take the place of a dog, temporarily.
In the fall of 1963, the fire department was proud to be moved into their new firehouse, located at its present site on Broad Street. In the Spring of 1964, the building was officially dedicated. At this time the building housed four fire trucks, two ambulances, and a utility truck.
In 1964, Eatontown purchased a Mack 1000 gpm pumper and then a few years later Eatontown purchased a new fire truck which was a 1968 1000 gpm Mack pumper.
During the next few years, Eatontown was rapidly expanding with many new homes, businesses, and people. The Eatontown Fire Department kept up with the growth, when in 1969, we purchased a GMC utility truck which carried rescue equipment, emergency lighting and Scott air packs.
In 1971, a fire which started in an apartment at the Country Club Apartment complex spread throughout the entire block long building. Firefighters battled the blaze and kept it from spreading to other buildings. The fire also displaced many residents from the building.
Once again times required Eatontown Fire Department to purchase firefighting equipment, when in 1976, Eatontown received twin 1250 gpm Mack pumpers.
In the winter of 1978, Eatontown had its largest and most expansive fire in several years. The X.S. Smith Corp. Located on Old Deal Road caught fire. It took many fire companies from the surrounding towns of West Long Branch, Oakhurst, Oceanport, and Shrewsbury to battle the blaze. Lack of water at the fire scene and the extreme cold hampered the firefighting effort.
In 1980, Eatontown was proud to be the owner of a 1980 Pierce LTI 85′ ladder tower which enables fireman to reach the tops of larger buildings in Eatontown. Also this truck carries the rescue equipment and breathing apparatus which enables fireman to make rescues in a burning building.
The Eatontown Fire Department celebrated its 100th anniversary on June 21st, 1981. A large parade and celebration, well attended by many area fire departments and first aid squads was viewed by the citizens of Eatontown. The Borough of Eatontown has continued to grow and along with it, so has the fire Department.
The Decades Roll On
In the Spring of 1985 the Fire Department received a Pierce Dash 1250 gallon per minute fire engine to replace aging fire apparatus. In the Fall of 1989 Eatontown received a Pierce Lance fire engine. This fire engine had a completely enclosed cab to better protect the firefighters from road hazards as well as the weather.
Old firefighting apparatus has been replaced with new and specialized apparatus added as needed. In 1995 the Eatontown Fire Department received a Freightliner Fire-Rescue truck which carries spare breathing air, confined space, high angle rescue, and extrication equipment.
In the Fall of 1996 Eatontown received a Pierce Dash 1500 gallon per minute fire engine. This fire engine is currently “first-due” to emergencies in Eatontown. This particular piece of apparatus carries typical fire engine equipment as well as Hurst Jaws Of Life tools, auxiliary lighting as well as smoke removal fans and Emergency Medical equipment including a defibrillator.
This year, 2006, Eatontown is eagerly anticipating the delivery of a new “quint” apparatus to replace our aging and decommissioned Pierce ladder tower. This new piece will also be a Pierce, equipped with a 75 foot straight ladder as opposed the platform on our last ladder. This apparatus will also contain a water tank and pump so it function as a ladder truck, a fire engine or both at the same time.
Despite all the advances in fire protection equipment large fires still burned. The largest fire in recent memory occurred on June 8th, 1987, when the Long Branch Pier burned. Conservative estimates state over 500 firefighters battled this fire, hampered by winds and high temperatures. The pier was a total loss despite the efforts of so many valiant firefighters. Eatontown responded to the call for help from the City of Long Branch.
As times continue to change, the field of firefighting has evolved to a science. All active members of the Eatontown Fire Department have Firefighter I certification. Many of our members possess Firefighter II, Fire Officer certifications, First Responder, Emergency Medical Technician and Paramedic certifications. Our apparatus operators are trained on how to properly operate an emergency vehicle as well as operate the pumps that supply water to our firefighting forces. Our members are constantly attending formal training sessions at fire academies as well as attending in-house training and drills. This annotated history of the Eatontown Fire Department shows that the volunteers of the Eatontown Fire Department meet all the challenges before them and lay their lives on the line to protect the lives of each and every citizen of Eatontown since the beginning of the department’s history up to and including our present time. During our 125 years of proud service we still embody the Fire Department motto “Perseverance Fire Fighting Spirit Is Still Paramount.”