SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains Fire Department hopes to make its celebration a community event for the residents to enjoy the festivities and come out to support them on the parade route.
The parade will begin at 1:00 p.m. on June 15, 2019, at Scotch Plains Fanwood High School and proceed onto Westfield Avenue, ending at Park Avenue. The community celebration will take place in the municipal parking lot at Town Hall immediately following the parade.
More than 30 fire departments from around the state are expected to participate, including a number of antique fire trucks. Historic horse drawn apparatus are also anticipated. Bagpipe bands and a New Jersey State Police escort will kick off the introduction of Scotch Plains’ bravest, led by Chief John Lestarchick, according to the department’s press release.
“For the 150-year celebration, we are having a parade and community celebration. We’re hoping to have about 50 pieces of fire equipment in the parade, ranging from horse-drawn trucks to 2019 models.” - SPFD Chief John Lestarchick
This year marks the 150-year anniversary of the Scotch Plains Fire Department. The residents of this town have been protected by volunteer firefighters since February 1, 1869. The station was originally located on Bartle Avenue, which was the center of town at the time. The Township then took over the once private fire department, and the headquarters moved to Park Avenue. Headquarters are now located on Senger place and a second station was built at the corner of Raritan Road and Martine Avenue and is still in operation today. The fire department now operates two fire stations, which includes four fire engines, one ladder truck, a rescue truck, and a number of specialized support vehicles.
“We’ve been looking back, and it’s been pretty interesting. I didn’t realize that going back 150 years to today, the membership has been in or around 30-35 members consistently. That was an amazing little fact that I stumbled upon," Chief Lestarchick said. "We’re extremely busy, we run 900 calls a year, which, for a volunteer company is pretty extreme.”
The fire department has evolved significantly over the course of its long history. It has seen numerous chiefs at the helm, and even shifted its focus to more preventative strategies during the past year. The anniversary is about celebrating the service of the volunteer firefighters, who train and serve for the benefit of the community.
“We’re a very tight-knit group, not only among our township family, but with surrounding municipalities, you now, it’s a tight group of individuals, and we work together very frequently. That’s the biggest part for me, that’s the part I like. You have the opportunity to get to know people in different ways once they’re under a stressful situation," Chief Lestarchick said. "It’s pretty intimate, your relationship with these folks, and I don’t know where else you could get that."
“‘We are looking forward to celebrating this milestone occasion with the residents that we protect every day," Lestarchick said. "It is great to have the opportunity to invite our community to share in the celebration of a century and a half of service.”