In 1902 it was felt there was a need for a Fire Department, but nothing was done until the fall of 1903, when a group of citizens and property holders met at the school house to discuss the matter.
The objective of the meeting was to talk about entering into an agreement with Robert F. Oram to supply water from his water company for fire fighting purposes.
Present at the meeting were:
- Charles M. Hance
- Robert F. Oram
- William Webber
- Dr. H.W. Kice
- Charles Pfiefer
- William Tyak
- Joseph Kaiser
- George Farr
- Dr. Daniel Walters
- John McKenna
- Car Bergt
- E. W. Rosevear
Since this was a formal meeting, Charles Hance was elected as committee Chairman, and E.W. Rosevear was elected secretary. At this meeting definite proof was submitted showing the advantages to be derived from a reduction in insurance rates as soon as a fire department was established.
A committee was appointed to contact all property owners and get their cooperation in this proposed agreement. At following meetings, this committee continued to bring the matter of forming the fire companies by ordinance before the common council.
After the original meeting, there were four meetings of this committee which was known as the "citizens committee interested in fire protection," and they were now being held in the council room. At the third meeting, Dr. Kice was elected to serve as the new chairman and E. W. Rosevear continued as secretary. Also at this meeting, estimates were furnished on the cost of the required equipment and it was decided to assess the property holders in proportion to their assessed valuation to defray the cost of this equipment. And finally at this meeting, Mr. Oram offered to loan his hose carriages along with 500 feet of hose until the time when the committee could purchase one.
At the fourth meeting, a committee reported that they had been to New York City to inspect fire equipment and recommended the purchase of a used hand-truck for $325. A motion was made to put a $50.00 deposit on the hand-truck and Mr. Oram was instructed to place the order for the apparatus and necessary supplies.
And at the June 28, 1904 meeting, a final letter was drafted soliciting subscriptions, and arrangements to make final payment on the apparatus ordered.
While this "citizens committee was continued, the common council was busy drafting an ordinance with these significant dates:
Original ordinance drafted November 16, 1903, and referred to committee first reading December 21. 1903.
A second reading January 18, 1904.
A Third and final reading February 15, 1904. At this February 15, 1904, the ordinance was declared law by Mayor Harry J. Williams.
The title of the ordinance was "ordinance to provide for, establish and regulate a fire department in the Borough of Wharton, and prescribing rules and the government there of", and it was designated ordinance #52. The ordinance designated a Chief, First Assistant Chief, and Second Assistant Chief. The fire department would be composed of three companies. The three companies would be called the Active Hose Company with twenty members, the Independent Hook and Ladder Company with forty members, and the Board of Fire Wardens composed of twenty members. The fire department was not a reality until Borough Clerk William H. Force submitted to the council, a list of names, which were read and approved on April 4, 1904. The name of Charles M. Hance was submitted and approved as the first Chief of the Wharton Fire Department. Robert f. Oram was approved as the first Assistant Chief, and John Mckenna was approved as the Second Assistant Chief. Thomas Champion was appointed as Foreman of the Hose Company, and William Somerville was appointed Assistant Foreman of the Hose Company. D.J. Kettrick was appointed Foreman of the Hook and Ladder Company, and Harry Hance the Assistant Foreman of the Hook and Ladder Company. No reference was made to the Board of Fire Wardens at this meeting. Appointments were made to the Wardens on May 16, 1904, and the company organized on July 26, 1904. My source of information does not state who the first officers were. The ordinance was amended on October 19, 1908 increasing the Hose Company membership to forty (40) men. The ordinance was amended again in 1968 increasing the Board of Fire Wardens membership to forty (40) men. The list of the charter member of the Wharton Fire Department is attached at the end of the document.
The first apparatus were two (2), two wheeled, hand drawn hose carriages lent to the fire department by Mr. Robert Oram. Each was equipped with two hundred and fifty feet (250) of two and one half (2-1/2) inch hose.
Shortly here after, was the hose cart ordered by the "committee" and later this was augmented by a hand drawn "hook & ladder truck." this hook & ladder was outfitted with axes, lanterns, pike poles, pails, and a thirty (30) foot ladder.
Sometime later, around 1911, another two wheeled hose cart was added bringing the apparatus strength up to two hose carts, and one fully equipped hook & ladder truck, all hand- drawn of course.
The second hose cart was purchased in 1911 by the Active Hose Company Number 1, and because of its high wheels, it was nicknamed "jumper." Mr. Ed Hicks, charter member provided this information.
The Wharton Fire Department still owns this unit today. The unit was stored in many areas of the Wharton Library basement until 1994. At this time the unit received a moderate reconditioning and was reassembled so as to be displayed during the 100th anniversary calibration of the department. In 1995, the unit was on loan to the museum at the New Jersey Fireman’s Home in Boonton, New Jersey until approximately the year 2000. At this time the unit was returned to the Wharton Fire Department and underwent a three year complete restoration. The restoration was totally conducted by members of the department. Since its completed restoration in 2004 the unit has won numerous awards at fire department parades throughout the state. “Jumper” is maintained by the membership of the department and continues to attend parades to this day.
The next apparatus was a horse drawn hook and ladder truck with a running board which permitted some firemen to ride the vehicle, it had assorted ladders, and two thirty (30) gallon chemical tanks. This vehicle was drawn by a team of horses on loan from Oram's lumber & coal yard and Fichters livery.
The hand-drawn and horse-drawn apparatus finally gave way to the first gasoline motorized equipment when in 1916, a "REO" fire truck was purchased and placed in service. This apparatus had large solid rubber tires with wooden spoke wheels, a siren and bell, ladders, 2-1/2" hose with accessories, lanterns, and the two 30 gallon chemical tanks from the horse-drawn ladder truck.
This was followed in 1927 by a "Buffalo Pumper" which had a 500 gallon per minute pump, carried 650 feet of 2-1/2" hose and a booster tank. In 1949, it was outfitted with a windshield and an overhead bed, which carried a 3 section, 45 foot aluminium ladder. In 1941, a "white" fire engine with a 500 gallon two (2) stage centrifugal pump and full compartments was purchased. It also carried 150 gallons of water in a booster tank.
In 1950, the Wharton Fire Department purchased a 1931 American La France salvage & rescue truck from Dover, and a 1927 American La France hook & ladder truck from Nutley. Since more time was spent repairing these last two pieces of apparatus than operating them, they did not stay around long.
These were replaced in 1954 by a "Ward La France quadruple combination truck. This truck had a 750 gallon per minute pump, a 300 gallon booster tank, carried 1000 feet of 2-1/2" hose, and 300 feet of 1-1/2" hose. In addition it carried a 50 foot, 3 section ladder, a 28 foot 2 section ladder and various smaller ladders. This truck was a "jewel."
This "quad" was followed in 1955 by a Ward La France 750 gallon per minute pumper which carried 500 gallons of water in a booster tank, and carried 2000 feet of 2-1/2" hose and 600 feet of 1-1/2" hose.
Because two way radios were installed in these two vehicles, they were given apparatus numbers of engine 320 for the Ward La France pumper, and truck 321 for the Ward La France "quad."
In 1965 a "young" 1000 gallon per minute pumper was purchased which carried 500 gallons of water, and 2000 feet of 2-1/2" hose, 600 feet of 1-1/2" hose, one 28 foot, and one 14 foot aluminium ladder. This pumper was given the radio number of engine 322.
In 1973, the Ward La France pumper (engine 320) was replaced by another "young" 1000 gallon per minute pumper which was powered by a V6 Detroit Diesel. This pumper also carried 500 gallons of water, 2000 feet of 2-1/2" hose, 600 feet of 1- 1/2" hose, one 28 foot, and one 14 foot aluminium ladder. This pumper had the radio call sign Wharton Engine 320.
In 1976, it was felt that there was a need for a fire chief's vehicle. The first Chief's vehicle purchased was a 1970 Nash Rambler. It was equipped with a red light bar, siren, and two way radio. This chief's car was purchased by and owned by the Fire Department, not the Borough of Wharton. At present, the fire Chiefs vehicle is a 2013 Chevy Tahoe. This vehicle has the radio call sign Wharton Chief 1.
In 1977, the Ward La France "quad" was replaced by a 75 foot Pierce-Pittman Snorkel. In addition to the 75 foot articulating boom, the snorkel had a 1000 gallon per minute pump, carried 2000 feet of 3" hose, 300 feet of 2-1/2" hose. The ladders consisted of a 3 section 40 foot ladder, a 2 section 32 foot ladder, and 6 smaller ladders, all aluminium.
In 2008, The 75 foot Pierce Snorkel was replaced by a Pierce Arrow XT 95 foot mid-mount tower ladder. This truck has a 2000 gallon per minute pump and 10kw on board generator. This eight passenger truck has a full complement of ground ladders, emergency saws, water rescue equipment, seven 4.5 SCBAs, exhaust fans, hand extinguishers, rope rescue equipment, stokes basket, 500 foot of five inch supply hose, 500 foot of inch and three quarter connected attack hose, and 300 gallon tank.
In 1987, a Pierce Arrow 1250 gallon per minute pumper was purchased, replacing the 1964 Young pumper. This engine has 500 gallons of water in it's tank and carries 2000 feet of 3 inch hose, 300 feet of 1-3/4 inch hose, 26 foot extension ladder, and one 14 foot roof ladder. This engine has the radio call sign Wharton Engine 322.
In 1996, a Pierce First Responder 1250 gallon per minute pumper was purchased to replace the 1973 Young Diesel pumper. This engine has a 750 gallon water tank, carries 2000 feet of 3" hose and 600 feet of 1-3/4" hose. The ladders are a 24 foot two section ladder and a 12 foot roof ladder. in 2016, a pierce saber replaced the first responder engine. This engine has been assigned the radio number of Wharton Engine 320.
In 2004, a PL Custom 1st Response/ Kenworth tactical support unit was purchased to replace to the 1991 Dodge Utility vehicle (Plumbers Truck). This unit carries multiple Jaws of Life hydraulic tools, hydraulic rams, air bags, 30 spare 2.2 SCBA cylinders, forcible entry tool, complete set of hand tools, air tools, haz mat clean up equipment, and many additional items needed for fire fighting and rescue operations. This unit also has a 10 kw on board generator and thirty foot 4000 watt light tower. This truck has been assigned radio number of Wharton Rescue 323.
In 2007, a 1994 Chevy Suburban was obtained as a personnel transport. This unit is utilized for transfer of equipment and manpower to larger scale emergencies. When in operation this unit has the radio call sign of Wharton Truck 324.
In 2008, a Zodiac fourteen foot inflatable boat was added to the fleet. This unit is equipped with rescue rope, life jackets, and ores. This unit has the radio call sign Wharton Boat 1.
Today our compliment of fire apparatus consists of:
- 1996 Pierce First Responder pumper – Wharton Engine 320
- 2008 Pierce Arrow XT 85 foot Tower ladder – Wharton Truck 321
- 1987 Pierce Arrow pumper – Wharton Engine 322
- 2004 PL Custom 1st Response/Kenworth – Wharton Truck 323
- 2008 Dodge Durango – Wharton Truck 324
- 2013 Chevy Tahoe – Wharton Chief 1
- 2008 Zodiac Boat – Wharton Boat 1
The first method of alerting the firemen was by means of striking large locomotive rims located in several sections of town.
Then in December 1904, a 8 inch steam whistle was installed at the Hurd Mine. After the mine was closed, the whistle was transferred to the furnace and then to the Gunther Silk Mill, and in 1918, a manually controlled electric siren was installed in a cupola atop the borough hall.
In 1929, the first of 19 sterling system street fire alarm boxes were installed through the borough. As the population of the town increased during the 1950's, two additional electric sirens were installed (one in Luxemburg and one in St.Mary's) to help alert the firemen in these sections of the borough. One more electric siren was added to the woodland section in 1955.
The Saturday noon fire alarm system test dates back to the action of the borough council requiring a test of the fire alarm as early as December 26, 1904.
Through the years additional street alarm boxes were added and when the system was finally removed in 1981, there were a total of 41 alarm boxes and four sirens. Why were the alarm boxes removed? It was due to maintenance expenses and the high number of false alarms we were receiving.
Today we still have the four (4) sirens, but the fire department is dispatched by home radio receivers and personal pagers. The sirens are activated by radio tones as are the home receivers and pagers.
The Wharton Fire Department has always been known for it's marching ability and drill team. The first parade attended in dress uniform was at Hackettestown in August 29, 1907. No mention was made of receiving any prizes. The first prize dates back to 1908 and throughout the years, we have appeared throughout NJ, NY and Pa. Today over 200 trophies adorn the walls of our meeting room, recreation room and truckroom. The oldest trophy we have dates back to 1908. The inscription on the trophy states that it was awarded to the Hook and Ladder Company for running 1000 yards and extinguishing a fire in 1 minute and 20 seconds. I believe that it should state 100 yards.
The original uniforms of 1906 were the long coat, red flannel lined variety with square peaked hats. In 1916, the second uniforms were purchased with round peaked hats.
In 1935, the New York Fire Department officer’s uniform style was adopted and we still have this style today.
In 1952, the chief officer’s hats were modified by changing from blue to white crown.
Charter members Active Hose Company No. 1
Wharton Fire Department
April 11, 1904
- Thomas Champion, Foreman Wm. Hitchens
- Wm H. Somerville, Assist foreman Joseph Schiffne
- Wm. H. Force Wallace Fitcher
- James Saundry Ed Williams
- Henry Wilcox Thomas H. Rowe
- Ed R. King John Saundry Jr.
- George Lewis W. J. Chegwidden
- James Lewis Frank Singleton
- Joseph Tregenza Charles Mohler
- Chas. Mclaughlin John Cole
- P. K. Flannaga
Wharton Fire Department
April 11, 1904
- Daniel Kettrick Foreman Frank Spargo
- Harry Hance, Assist. Foreman Agustus Mathews
- Fred Kernick Martin Morris
- Edward Hicks Jr. Frank Guest
- Agustus Stephens William Rusch
- John Hitchens Martin Carberry
- Noal Wilcox Thomas Wilcox
- Wm. Rosewaren Frank King
- J. J. Huff William Kennedy
- Joseph K. Williams William Dorman
Wharton Fire Department
July 26, 1904
- A. M. Ryan Michael Kennedy
- James T. Spargo Williams Foley
- Richard S. Hart W. H. Whitham
- E. W. Rosevear Joseph Mankee
- Dr. H. W. Kice John Kernick