The History of Volunteer Fire Co. #1
“The Working Company”
On January 10, 1908, a group of forty-three concerned citizens met with Mayor Henry R. Crews, for the purpose of organizing the first Totowa Fire Brigade. The entire group agreed to volunteer their time and service to this task. The name was easily selected. Since they were all volunteers, they called themselves the Totowa Volunteer Fire Brigade. Later, the word Brigade was dropped and Company was added. On January 23, 1908, Volunteer Fire Company #1 was officially incorporated as the first fire company in the Borough of Totowa.
At this point in time there weren’t any fire hydrants. Large water barrels were placed in different areas of town and the men used water buckets and brooms to fight fires. The fire alarm system used was a large iron wheel wagon wheel rim and a hammer. These were strategically placed around town. The first Fire Chief, William Wilson, was elected on October 12, 1908. A fire committee was formed to gather information on purchasing a fire apparatus and other necessary fire equipment.
Mayor William Acorn, on the recommendation of this fire committee purchased a Kanawha hand pumper for $250.00 on April 5, 1909. The Kanawha Pumper had a chemical tank, two ladders and a hose. It had to be pulled by the firemen to the fires. The Mayor and Council decided to pass a resolution to pay $2.00 per fire to have horses pull the pumper. Our first firhouse was located on Union Boulevard between Church Street and Totowa Road. In 1921, a Rea-Auto fire engine was purchased for the sum of $1,514.10. Requiring bigger quarters at this time, the Volunteer Fire Company bought a building located at 266 Union Boulevard.
From 1908 until 1923 there were only two companies in town; the Volunteer Fire Company, who were known as “The Hill-Toppers,” and Lincoln Fire Company, known as “The Swamp Hoppers.” In 1931, we received a new Ahrens-Fox ladder and pumper. The truck was so big the firemen had to enlarge the firehouse so that it would fit. We received an American LaFrance pumper in 1954 which cost a whopping $18,000.00.
In 1964, we sold our building at 266 Union Boulevard and moved to our present location at 11 Mitchell Avenue. In 1973, a Tele-squirt was purchased at a cost of over five times that of our American LaFrance. The “Squirt” was a needed addition because of the growth in industry our town had been experiencing.
In 1983, we celebrated our 75th anniversary with a full complement of active firemen and we are still going strong today. This is truly a great achievement in this day and age when volunteers are extremely hard to come by. In June of 1992, the State of New Jersey set new requirements for all new active members. To be an active member now, you must qualify by undergoing 120 hours of classroom, field training, and pass a state required test. This training is done at night and on weekends without any monetary gain. This shows the true perseverance and dedication by these men to their town and their fire department.
Chief Allen Del Vecchio held office as Department Fire Chief from May 1980 until December 31, 1999. Allen had actively held that position for 19 ½ years; this is longer than any other Chief since the Department started in 1908. Chief Del Vecchio helped organize the County Fire School and set-up the intensive classroom and field training courses where he was also an instructor. He started one of the first Haz-Mat (Hazardous Material) teams in the State of New Jersey with the help of volunteers from all four companies. Chief Del Vecchio has also held the positions of Fire Marshal and OEM (Office of Emergency Management) Coordinator for our town until his retirement. He did an outstanding job for our town and our Fire Department, and we are proud to have him as a member of our company!
In 1996, we received a new Smeal 75-foot aerial ladder truck. We also refurbished our 1973 “Squirt” at a cost of $45,000.00, which was paid for by our annual fund drive and our company carnival. The “Squirt” was retired in May of 2008.
Currently, our company has 35 active members and a Junior Firefighter program, which recruits young people between the ages of 16 and 18. The Junior Firefighter program has helped supplement our department with “man-power.” When a Junior Firefighter turns 18 years of age, they become a fully active Firefighter in our company.
On January 1, 2008, Vincent Marciano was sworn in as Department Fire Chief after working his way up through the ranks during his twenty-one years of service. During Chief Marciano’s tenure, he has upgraded the department with the latest training and newest technology available for the fire service.