History of the Fair Haven Fire Department
Around 1900, the permanent population of Fair Haven and its surrounding area was about 1,000 persons. Naturally, fire always was a concern of rural areas and Fair Haven was no exception. Fire insurance was not carried by some residents and businessmen. A disastrous fire could literally wipe out an entire life’s investment and leave the victim ruined. It could be possible that a great fire involving several structures in the village could ruin the community itself. An effective fire fighting organization was what was needed if losses were to be kept to a minimum.
About ten years prior to the formation of a fire company in Fair Haven, a local Black man, William Henry Lyons, Jr., had organized a bucket brigade which included the following members: William Brown, Edward Hicks, Joseph Hicks, Frank Johnson, Herbert Johnson, and Joseph Johnson. Also C. Frederick Lyons and Mr. Woodson were part of this group who were volunteers without pay and provided their own pails. One of the fires which this group responded to was at the cigar factory of E. H. Wilber, known to residents as the “Eel Pot”. This fire occurred about 1895, and the “Eel Pot” was saved by the bucket brigade’s work. Another fire in the village had brigaders hastening the occupants of the burning dwelling out of the house before they could attempt to extinguish the flames. Little is known about the above brigade other than what is related here.
Fire protection by means of a bucket brigade was outmoded at the turn of the twentieth century.
The people of Fair Haven talked about the formation of a fire department for some time, and finally concentrated their efforts toward fire protection. The neighboring village of Oceanic and the town of Red Bank already had fire protection, but other parts of the township including Little Silver, East Oceanic (Rumson), and Fair Haven did not. East Side Park came under the protection of Red Bank and eventually Red Bank serviced a part of that area with the Red Bank water system.
While the talk on fire protection continued, so did numerous fires. On November 23, 1902, the stillness of an autumn Sunday night was broken by the ringing of the school bell, which was used as a fire alarm. The fire was in the kitchen of Josephine Hendrickson’s house. A large crowd was attracted to the blaze which burned the dwelling and its contents to a total loss, and no insurance was carried by the unfortunate owner.
The following afternoon, sparks from a chimney set the roof of James Van Brunt’s home ablaze. A few men were nearby, the women summoned help, and the fire was subsequently extinguished before much damage was done. Later that evening, Daniel Lee’s roof also caught fire, supposedly from sparks emitting from a steam roller in use on River Rd. Again this blaze was put out before much harm was done, but three fires in a twenty-four hour period was too much.
The fire situation had not improved during the following months and on Saturday night, May 2, 1903, another potential disaster struck the home of L. B. Battin. With the family assisting, William Bennett and Raymond Doughty saved the dwelling. During the blaze, it seemed for a time that the house would be lost but fortunately only the roof was severely damaged.
The above patterns of fires in Fair Haven continued for awhile longer before decisive action was taken. In January, 1904, at East Side Park, the potential loss from an overturned oil lamp was averted by the quick response and work by four men who were neighbors of the homeowner. A house on Haggers Lane was a total loss despite use of a bucket brigade and hand-pumping which caused three wells to go dry.
The people of Fair Haven now finally realized that a fire company must be formed. In February, 1904 some of the leading townsmen of Fair Haven set the date of Wednesday evening, March 9, 1904 for a public meeting on the subject of fire protection and formation of a fire company. This meeting in the hall of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics on Pearl Street (now Fair Haven Rd.) was set for 8 P.M. Notice of the meeting was signed by the following: George W. Smith, J. R. Scott, A. E. Smith, R. D. Chandler, Elwood Smith, Harry Dennis, J. J. Hendrickson, H. J. Schneider, Stanley Fielder, C. D. Chandler, John W. Fielder, John L. Bennett, R. S. Merritt, E. H. Wilber, W. H. Bennett, F. R. Smith, G. H. Minton and Frank Mulvihill.
Eight of the above signers and eight other members were later listed as incorporators when the company was incorporated on June 1. The result of that March 9 meeting produced a volunteer unit that was called the Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Company. By March 30 the initial phase of organizing was completed, with about fifty names on the roll. The charter membership list was closed that night, and as the initiation fee was one dollar to charter members, it can be assumed that the company started its long career with about $50.00 in its coffers.
On Wednesday evening, June 1, 1904, almost three months after it was formed, the Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Company was issued the Certificate of Incorporation drafted by Edward W. Wise, a Commissioner of Deeds for New Jersey.
The new organization was quick to proceed with plans for the first priorities, such as fire house, equipment, funds to defray the expenditures, and membership. Frank Mulvihill, a plumber by trade, was selected as the first Fire Chief. He had been a signer of the original petition that called for the March 9 meeting, as well as later becoming one of the sixteen incorporators. Frank Mulvihill, whose term as chief lasted until July, 1907, started a family tradition as subsequently his brother, John, and nephew John Mulvihill, Jr., and his great nephew Jack Mulvihill, became chiefs in 1920, 1955, and 1989, respectively.
Little details about the actual offices and committees that were formed in the early years have been passed down to us. Quite certain the meetings were conducted by a presiding officer. Officers were to be elected at the March 30, 1904 meeting at which time it was also decided that an annual meeting should be held in July. At the first annual meeting in July, 1904, all of the officers were continued in office. Committees mentioned in those formative months of 1904 included subscriptions (seeking fund for equipment), whose report at the Monday, May 2, meeting stated that nearly $400 had been pledged towards the needed apparatus. Other committees were designated to plan the company’s first ball that May, select the fire equipment, and make plans for building the new fire house.
Records indicate during the year of 1920 the fire company opened their roster to include “social membership”. These men were over the acceptable age limit of active firemen. However, they perform such duties as serving on committees, hold office other than line office and serve as first aid or fire policemen. They have proven to be a valuable asset to the fire company.
In June of 2004 the Fair Haven Fire Company Celebrated 100 years of service to the Borough of Fair Haven with a large parade and after party on the firehouse grounds at 645 River Road. Many departments from New Jersey came out to show support. Brookdale Community College also created a documentary on the history of the department and the day celebrated.
Present Day, the Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 operates with three Class “A” Pumpers (1500 Gallons Per Minute), an Air-Rescue Unit, a Water Rescue Truck, three boats used jointly between Fire Department and First Aid, and two Command Vehicles given to the Chief and Deputy Chief of the Department respectively. A Fire Police Unit Consisting of a utility truck and Fire Police Captain’s vehicle, and First Aid Squad consisting of two ambulances and a First Aid First Responder Unit also fall under the Fair Haven Fire Department as their own organizations including an Auxiliary which supports the Company when called upon.
With respect to her many years of service and reliability, as well as the amount of generations and awards she has earned, the Fair Haven Fire Department’s former second due piece, the 1954 American Lafrance “Quad”, has since been acquired by the Fire Company upon her retirement in 2008 after “54” years and is now used as a parade piece and funeral truck. A 2008 Pierce Velocity “Quad” has since taken over her duties as second due and was the first engine built with the now mandated completely enclosed cab to ensure firefighter safety. This engine features an eight man cab, a 177 feet of ground ladders, LED lighting, and 1500 GPM pump, 500 Gallon Water Tank, and much needed compartment space.
In 2009, a new building was erected adjacent to the main building as an addition to an existing storage building that once housed the Air-Rescue and Water Rescue Units and equipment. This building was built at the time to further add more storage space and secure the now department maintained “Antique Quad” pumper. This building was built in anticipation down the road of larger apparatus and further storage needs associated with newer fire apparatus.
In 2014, a New Truck Committee was once again formed to begin the process of building a “New” first due engine to respond to all calls in Fair Haven taking over from the 1981 Pierce which members no longer can ride tailboard. In 2015 it was decided after careful and strategic decision to retire the nearly forty year old Mack CF which has served the department well. This engine was officially removed from service April 21st of 2016.
In March of 2016, a new Pierce Enforcer, eight man cab, Class “A” engine 1500 GPM/500 GWT pumper arrived and was officially placed in service as first due to all calls on April 21st 2016. This pumper now has all the most up to date technology currently in the department and can fit down all streets in town. Upon replacing the Mack and 35 year old Pierce’s duty of first due, the 1981 Pierce Arrow has since been pushed to third due or the final engine out of the house when needed. This pumper will now acts as the hydrant hog or act as a backup to the new first due when it is serviced. A “Wetdown”, a tradition that which firefighter’s christen a new piece of apparatus, was held on June 3rd of 2016 for the new apparatus and two new 2016 Chevy Tahoe Command vehicles; one for the Fire Chief and one for the First Aid Captain.
The Fire Department now responds out of the rear building as the need for space to operate and store equipment has since increased as anticipated. The main building is still active for the remainder of the organizations, also housing the now third due pumper.
The 110th Anniversary of the Fire Company was held in June of 2014.