History From “Newark and Its Leading Businessmen” 1891

The Fire Department of Newark is admitted by all firemen to be one of the best in the United States.  The history of the department dates back to nearly a hundred years ago.  In January, 1797, the elegant residence of Judge Elisha Boudinot, on Park Place, caught fire and was burned down.  This led to the organization of Newark's first fire company. 

A call was issued for a meeting of the inhabitants of Newark, who had subscribed and were willing to subscribe towards the purchase of a fire engine, to meet at the Court House on January 17, 1797, for the purpose of consulting on the purchase of an engine, and the formation of two fire companies.  It does not appear, however, that an organization was effected on that evening, but on January 26th a company was formed, composed of the best men in the town. 

On February 6th 1797, the Newark Fire Association was formally organized.  The members of the association procured leathern fire buckets, and for many years afterwards these buckets were kept hanging in the halls of the leading residents of the city, where they could readily be grasped in case of fire.  The first fire engine was a very rude affair, and even the few small fires that occurred in Newark at that time taxed it to its utmost capacity. 

The first serious fie that occurred in Newark was in 1805, when the largest store in town, which was situated on the corner of Broad and Orange Streets, was burned down.  About 1815, a second fire company was organized under the name of Relief Engine Co. No. 2.  In 1819 Fire Company No. 3, was organized and a new engine, the first ever built in Newark, was brought into use.  Somewhere about 1831, fire companies Nos. 4 and 5 were formed. 

In June, 1854, the Town Council, who had become disgusted at the disorders and insubordination in the various companies, took possession of the engine houses and locked them up, and then began the work of reorganizing the department.  The rowdy element was eliminated from the various companies and effective and well disciplined companies were brought into existence. 

In 1860, there were thirteen fire companies in Newark and it was urged that there should be steam fire engines purchased.  The project was bitterly opposed by many of the firemen.  During this year, however, two steamers were procured, the Minnehaha and Washington.  The former was operated by members of Exempt Engine Co. No. 1. 

The Fire Department was again organized in 1888, when the control of the department was taken from the Common Council and placed in the hands of a non-partisan commission, composed of two Republicans and two Democrats, appointed by the Mayor.  During the year 1889, the department was made to consist entirely of men paid to devote their whole time to the service, and the call system as it had heretofore existed was abolished.  Up to that time there had been a few men attached to each company who were paid to give their whole time to the service of the department, but the bulk of the department consisted of what are known as "call men," who were engaged at other avocations, and who on the sounding of the fire alarm bells dropped their work, ran to the scene of the fire and found their respective companies.  Now the entire force is a permanent one, whose members are always on duty.  The doing away of the call system has made a marked improvement in the discipline and efficiency of the force, which even prior to that time had a most excellent reputation all over the Union. 

The department now consists of eleven steam fire engine companies, one chemical engine company and three hook and ladder companies.  The headquarters of the fire department are on the corner of Halsey and Academy Streets, and here the chief engineer has his office.  Here also the inspector of buildings is located.  The fire department consists of 138 men as follows: one Chief Engineer, eleven Captains of steam engine companies, three Captains of truck companies, one Captain of chemical company, eleven drivers of steamers, eleven drivers of horse wagons, eleven engineers of steamers and eight or nine men attached to each steam engine company, nine men attached to each truck company, for men attached to chemical company, and seven men detailed for other purposes.  The city has the Gamewell electric fire alarm system, which is in charge of Superintendent Adam Bosch, who has three linemen under him.