Passaic Department Celebrates Anniversary
The fifteenth anniversary of the Passaic, N. J., fire department was celebrated by the Firemen’s Mutual Benefit Association, of that city, on November 22 by a dance and reception. The mayor, city commissioners and fire department officials were guests on the occasion. A feature of the event was a souvenir program handsomely printed and containing portraits of the city commissioners and fire department officials, besides complete rosters of all of the companies.
Fifteen years ago, at noon on November 22. Chief Reginald H. Bowker pulled station No. 25, in indication that the city’s first part paid fire department was a thing of reality. At that time the department consisted of 21 men, and its apparatus was all horsedrawn.
Passaic was one of the early fire departments to adopt the motor apparatus. There were, in 1909. six fire companies and two truck companies, under Chief Bowkcr, who is still at the helm of the department. When the paid department went into effect, its roster contained the names of twenty-one men, including First Assistant Chief Walter S. Gibson, who is now the city electrical inspector. Second Assistant Chief William Nelson was also among the first men with the department.
The first twenty-one men appointed with pay were named by the old council board, under the then Mayor Frederick R. Low, November 15, 1909. These appointments marked the beginning of Passaic’s paid fire department, which was augmented, one week later, by the appointment of three other men, bringing the number to twenty-four on November 22, when Chief Bowker pulled the first alarm from Station 25, in the Municipal Building.
The department functioned with horse-drawn apparatus until the following year, when General Bird W. Spencer was elected mayor. A consultation was called with Chief Bowker, Myron B. Matthews, Alexander Henderson and John J. Welsh, the latter three all members of the fire and water committee. As a result of this session, the motorization of the department was first taken into consideration, and before Mayor Spencer left office the department was strengthened by the purchase of apparatus costing approximately $65,000, the money being raised by bond issue. About this time, the entire fire alarm system, which had been in service since 1888, was entirely rebuilt, and many wires were placed in underground cables.
When Passaic changed its form of government, from the councilmanic to the commission form, Commissioner John H. Kehoe eventually entirely motorized the department.
Since then, the department has been increased from twentyfour men to ninety men, and. by vote of the citizens of Passaic, the department men have been granted the two-platoon system and two substantial increases in salary. During the past two years, two powerful pieces of apparatus have been purchased, and it is said that, at the next meeting of the Board of City Commissioners, the purchase of two other trucks for the Eastside districts will be recommended and considered, as will be the purchase of additional hose.